Not-your-average Buffalo Chili

Buffalo chili

Winter is coming… LA. That’s right, people – this week we finally have highs in the low 60’s and lows in the mid- 40’s.  Anyone who knows me is well aware that I abhor cold weather, so that means I have to prepare myself as much as possible….which means I have already made a giant pot of Bison Chili.

I have been a  big fan of bison meat for awhile now. I think it actually tastes better (but not vastly different)  than its much more popular  cousin beef, yet is way more healthful. Pound for pound, bison meat packs in more protein and less calories and saturated fat than beef. Even better, due to the way most bison are raised (very differently than poor factory-farmed cattle), you stand a much better chance of getting nutritionally superior grass-fed meat from animals that have been free to roam.  I get my bison from Lindner Bison at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market or from Whole Foods. Many major grocers now also sell buffalo meat, but be aware that odds increase that the meat has been grain-finished (check the label, if that matters to you).

I have been pretty  obsessed with the Buffalo Chili at LA’s health-food-mecca Erewhon since I first tried it. It caught me by surprise with its slightly-sweet, kind of tangy flavor  – loaded with spices, chickpeas and raisins (weird!), giving it a very Moroccan flavor profile.  I find myself craving it regularly, but especially when I feel cold (which, as already  established, does not take much). So, using their list of ingredients (and adding a few of my own after some experimentation and online research), I give you my riff on Erewhon’s Buffalo Chili:


  • 1 TBSP grapeseed oil
  • 2 lbs Bison/Buffalo Meat
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped ( about 1 1/2 cups or 250g)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 green/red bell peppers, chopped (about 2 cups or 260 g)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 1 28 oz can crushed  tomatoes ( I like San Marzano)
  • 2 15 oz cans chickpeas
  • 1 TBSP ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 TBSP freshly grated ginger (us
  • 1  tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cayenne (you can use 1/2 if you want your chili less spicy)
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 4 TBSP fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup raisins *(see note)
  • 4 cups water
  • kosher  salt

In a big heavy pot, heat the grapeseed oil; add in your buffalo meat and cook for approx. 4-5 mins, until it is browned and cooked through. Once cooked, remove  meat from pot and put aside, leaving approx.  1 TBSP fat/oil in the pot; drain the rest.

Add in your peppers and onion, cooking over medium heat for approximately  4- 5 mins. Then, toss in  garlic and cook for another minute or so. Next, add in all your spices, including the ginger, as well as 1 teaspoon  of salt. Incorporate everything together, and then add  the bison meat back in the pot and cook for a minute or so. Next,  add the can of crushed tomatoes, followed by 4 cups water, the bay leaf,  and tomato paste. Stir everything together well and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30-35 mins; add in your chickpeas, and raisins, 3 tsp salt, and then cover and simmer  for another 30-35 mins. Finish by adding the lemon juice and salt (to taste). This will yield you a LOT of Bison Chili, so make sure to invite your friends over, since they will probably be cold and hungry.  You can freeze the rest.

*  A note about the raisins: I know, I know  – this sounds totally gross in a chili recipe (at least it did to me). BUT – it totally works! The raisins are key in imparting a sweetness that really complements all the spices in this recipe, so if you  want this chili to be as awesome as it’s meant to be, add ’em.



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