Yellowstone Elk Chili

A Taste of the Wild: Warming Yellowstone Elk Chili Recipe

Calling all chili enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers! Have you ever dreamed of whipping up a hearty meal fit for a day exploring Yellowstone National Park? Well, look no further! Today, I’m sharing my delicious Elk Chili recipe that I prepared at the first annual Cabineering Cook-off held at West Yellowstone’s Explorer Cabins.

The challenge? To prepare a comforting dish using only the equipment and utensils available in the cabins – perfect for a family returning from a long day of soaking in the park’s breathtaking beauty. My solution? A steaming pot of tender elk chili, served alongside a satisfying side of jalapeño cheese toast.

This recipe is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. It’s perfect for a cozy winter meal, and the leftovers transform beautifully into chili omelets or chili nachos the next day. Don’t worry if you don’t have access to elk – ground beef or ground turkey work wonderfully as substitutes.

Now, let’s get cooking!

Photo of elk chili

Elk Chili Foundation: Garlic Shallot Puree

This aromatic blend forms the base of our chili, adding depth and complexity of flavor. Simply toss your shallots, garlic, and olive oil into a mini chopper or blender and blitz until smooth. Set this fragrant puree aside for later.

Building the Elk Chili Layers of Flavor

First things first, fire up your stockpot over medium-high heat. Crisp up the chopped bacon, then add the onions, bell pepper, and fresno chiles (remember to seed them if you prefer a milder chili). Once softened, toss in the garlic shallot puree, letting its aroma fill your kitchen.

This is where the magic happens. Crumble in your ground elk (or substitute) and brown it thoroughly with the bacon and vegetables. Next, sprinkle the New Mexico chile powder and cumin over the browned meat, stirring well to coat everything in these warm spices.

🎬 Watch How to Make This Recipe

Want to see this recipe come to life? Check out this video where I walk you through the entire process, step-by-step!

Deglazing and Simmering

Here’s a fun trick – grab your favorite pilsner, amber ale, or IPA (Yellowstone Road Block Lager is what I used at the cook-off, but feel free to experiment!). Deglaze the pan with the beer, scraping up any browned bits clinging to the bottom. This step adds a wonderful depth of flavor and prevents burning.

Now, stir in the chipotle chile in adobo sauce (for a smoky kick!), fire-roasted diced tomatoes, dried oregano, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Don’t forget the drained kidney and pinto beans – they’ll add protein and heartiness. Give it all a good stir, then drop in a bay leaf for extra fragrance.

Let the chili simmer for a while, allowing the flavors to meld and mingle.

Seasoning and Serving

Finally, the moment of truth! Taste your creation and adjust the seasoning with salt and cayenne pepper to your liking. Remember, you can always add more cayenne pepper later for an extra kick.

Now, ladle the chili into deep bowls and get ready for the applause. Top it with a generous helping of shredded pepper jack cheese, a dollop of cooling sour cream, and a sprinkle of chopped green onions. Consider adding a slice of garlic-jalapeño toast alongside your bowl.

Leftover Magic: Elk Chili Nachos or Omelets?

This recipe yields a generous amount of chili, perfect for feeding a hungry crowd. But fear not, leftover chili transforms beautifully! Repurpose it the next day into delicious chili omelets packed with protein and flavor. Or, for a fun twist, create your own chili nachos with chips, cheese, and all the delicious toppings you love.

So there you have it – a heartwarming Yellowstone Elk Chili recipe that captures the spirit of adventure in every spoonful. Give it a try, and don’t forget to share your creations on social media! Let me know in the comments below if you prefer ground elk, beef, or turkey, and be sure to tell me about your favorite chili toppings. Happy cooking, and happy adventuring!

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Photo of elk chili

Yellowstone Elk Chili Recipe with Smoked Applewood Bacon and Fire-Roasted Tomatoes

Recipe by Jason Hill –
Chef Jason Hill shows you how to cook the best elk chili recipe while on location at West Yellowstone's Explorer Cabins during their annual Cabineering Cook-off. Jason's elk chili recipe is great served as an dinner, or in a elk chili omelet or elk chili nachos the next day. You can even use it as inspiration for your next chili cookoff! 
This is the PERFECT dish for fall, and the elk makes it a pretty healthy chili recipe! 
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 12


Garlic Shallot Puree

  • 1 shallot bulb
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Chili

  • 6 slices Applewood Bacon chopped frozen
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 bell pepper sliced
  • 2 fresno chiles seeded and minced
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1 bottle Yellowstone Road Block Lager or your favorite pilsner amber ale or IPA
  • 4 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 3 14.5 ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 29 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained
  • 1 15 oz can pinto beans, drained
  • 2 pounds ground elk

Homemade Chili Powder

  • 3 tablespoons cumin
  • 2-4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper or more to your taste
  • 2 tablespoons New Mexico chile powder
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Salt and more cayenne pepper to taste at end of cooking


  • 1 pound grated Pepper Jack cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Green Onions
  • Pepper flakes for more heat


  • Make up garlic shallot puree by blending the shallots, garlic and olive oil in a mini chopper or blender.
  • Heat a large stockpot on medium-high heat. Saute the bacon, onion, garlic and bell pepper. Add fresno peppers.
  • Mix in elk, breaking up and browning it with the bacon and onion. Add New Mexico chili powder, cumin and mix well.
  • Deglaze pans with the Yellowstone roadblock lager. Stir in the chipotle pepper. Add fire-roasted tomatoes, dried oregano, tomato sauce and the tomato paste. Stir well. Add drained kidney beans and pinto beans to chili. Mix well. Drop in a bay leaf and let simmer. Taste for seasoning, then add salt and cayenne pepper.
  • Serve in deep bowls, topped with shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, chopped green onion and garlic-jalapeño toast.
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Keyword chili, elk, kidney beans
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AboutJason Hill

Hi, I’m Jason Hill, host of YouTube’s “Chef Tips” series. I graduated from culinary school in 1998, and gained my experience working the lines in Southern California. I launched my cooking videos in 2007. I love sharing quick and easy recipes that get people back in the kitchen.

5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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