The Chile (Chili) Debate

 National Chili Day is on Febraury 28

Red or Green

Cultivated chiles of the kind we celebrate in the Southwest today don’t seem to have been a major part of the diet north of the Mexican border until about the 1700s, and even then they were used primarily in areas with a substantial colonial presence. Chile plants are not native to the southwestern United States and require massive amounts of water- a resource not highly abundant to New Mexico. However, the chile thrived due to its versatile and unique use as food, spice, and medicine.

While many dishes are flavored with either red or green chilles, there are two main southwestern dishes that rely entirely on either red or green chiles. Historically, game meats, the primary proteins consumed in the early history of the chiles, were used. Not surprising, today almost any meat can be used in making a red or green chile and the character and flavor is different each time it is made.

Chili Con Carne (Red)

While many food historians agree that chili con carne is an American dish with Mexican roots, Mexicans are said to indignantly deny any association with the dish. 

In the 1880s, a market in San Antonio started setting up chili stands from which chili or bowls o'red, as it was called, were sold by women who were called "chili queens." A bowl o'red cost diners such as writer O. Henry and democratic presidential hopeful William Jennings Bryan ten cents and included bread and a glass of water. The fame of chili con carne began to spread and the dish soon became a major tourist attraction. It was featured at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893 at the San Antonio Chili Stand.

Green Chile Stew (or just Green Chile)

Thought to be a fusion in the southwest of European and Pueblo based native american foods and traditionally named “Caldillo” in Spanish, Green chile is a thin, green chile stew (or soup) made with a meat base (usually beef, pork, chicken, mutton or a mixture), potatoes, and green chiles. Dating back as early as the 1600’s! 

There is a long-standing battle between Colorado and New Mexico for who has the best green chile. We say: "who cares". It is all a joy to prepare and consume.

 Green Chile Stew Recipe(s)

Like stews, and the only difference between stew and green chile is the use of chiles, if you follow some simple basics, the rest of the creation is entirely up to your imagination. 

Step 1. Prepare Meat

First you must select the meat to use. If the meat is ground, you would skip this step. Many use pork (shoulder roast) or whole chicken. There are so many more choices from Elk and Venison, Bison or Boar, or goat or goose. See our Chile and Stew meats selections.

Next, slow cook by covering the roast or meat in water with celery, quartered white onion, and carrots with cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, red peppercorns, and cumin seeds. Low simmer for serveral hours but before the meat becomes stringy

Remove the meat from the water and let cool. Reserve the broth, after straining out the other ingredients for use in the chili. Cube the meat and then fry in a bit of oil on high heat to add texture - but only brown, do not burn.

Step 2. Prepare a Roux

Combine equal parts oil (butter, lard, or oil of choice) with flour. Not all at once. Heat oil in the large pot/ dutch oven in which you will prepare chile. Slowly whisk in flour, a little at a time, after oil is hot - making sure that no lumps are formed. Continue to whisk frequently while the flour toasts. When the roux is a light chestnut brown, the roux is ready.

Step 3 . Prepare Base

Into the hot roux, with heat still on medium high, add minced garlic and chopped onion. The stew loves garlic so do not skimp. For a chile that will be 8 to 10 cups, use 8-10 cloves and two onions. Saute until onion is translucent. Add prepared Meat.

Step 4. Imagination

You are now ready let you imagination go. First, what kind of chiles to use? Never canned. Choose form Anaheim, Problano, Pueblo, Hatch, or any chile you desire. Remove skin with a fire roasting method either on grill or Broiler. This adds more flavor. Coarsely chop and add to chili base. How much? One to two chiles per finished cup of chile.

What else will you add? Options include, but are not limited to, tomatillos, potatoes, tomatoes (fire roasted and skinned), and Napalitos (Cactus). I rarely use potatoes or tomatoes and I know I have not yet identified the ingredient that will make the huge difference. Chop coarsely and add to chile.

Now add the broth you reserved. The spices you flavored the meat with will be great. Let the chile thicken and add more chicken stock if you need additional liquid.

Step 5. Season and Serve

Season the chile with salt and pepper to taste. Other seaoning to taste that are entirely your choice include: Cumin, oregano, agave syrup (or sugar), cinnamon, and a little ancho chile powder. Be sure to add a little at a time so as to keep from over-powering with any spice. If the chile is too hot ,use lime juice and a bit more sweetener to temper. If it is not hot enough, add diced jalapenos. 

Let the chile simmer for at least an hour or more to let flavor all combine. Serve with chopped scallion, diced jalapenos, cilantro, and tortillas. 


Wild Game Nacho Chili Bowl 

By: Julie Golob, Field to Fork with Julie Golob


  • 2T dried onions
  • 1T olive oil
  • 2 lbs. ground chile meat
  • 2 cans black beans
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 24 oz of your favorite salsa verde
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 1 pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • tortilla chips
  • sour cream
  • shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • avocado
  • jalapeños



On medium high heat add olive oil to pan. Once hot add ground meat, onions and a pinch of salt. Let venison cook until brown.

Drain and rinse the cans of black beans and pour into a crockpot set on low. Add tomatoes and salsa. (I used one 16 oz jar of Pace Garlic & Lime Verde and 8 oz of La Victoria Thick ‘n Chunky Salsa Verde, medium heat.) If you want a little more kick, add red pepper flakes. Once the ground meat is browned pour into the crockpot.

Finish by adding the last pinch of salt, stir and leave on low for a couple of hours and until ready to serve.

Scoop into bowls filled with tortilla chips and top with Mexican cheese, avocado, jalapeños and sour cream (or plain greek yogurt).


Red Chili Recipe




  • 3 lb ground meat - game or domestic
  • 4 yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 4 cups homemade tomato sauce
  • 4 cups tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cup kidney beans, drained
  • 1 cup green chilies, diced
  • 4-6 TBS  chili powder
  • 1 tsp  garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 cup brown sugar, packed

Serve with:

  • sliced jalapenos
  • chopped green onion
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • sour cream
  • crackers


In a large skillet fry the ground elk with onion and green pepper until browned. Drain off excess grease.

Pour the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, kidney beans and green chilies into the skillet with the meat, and stir to blend. Season with chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder and brown sugar. Cover, and simmer over low heat for at least one hour.

You can also mix this together in the morning and cook in the crock pot.


Western Chili Recipe


By Jim Zumbo (Amazing Venison Recipes cookbook)


  • 2 pounds ground chili or stew meat
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 cups whole tomatoes
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon flour mixed with 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 cups cooked kidney beans


Brown ground venison in oil in a Dutch oven until meat loses its pink color. Add onion, garlic, and green pepper. Cook for 5 minutes longer. Add chili powder, tomatoes, tomato sauce, water and salt. Simmer for 2 hours. Add the flour paste and cook until mixture thickens. Add the kidney beans and cook another 15 minutes. Serve hot with French bread or hot biscuits. Serves 6 to 8.



  • 3 dried Guajillo chiles
  • 4 dried New Mexico Chiles
  • 2 dried Chile de Arbol chiles
  • 4 cups chicken broth or beef stock, divided
  • 1 tomato roasted
  • 4 pounds chili or stew meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons masa harina
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To Make the Chile Paste

  • Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles.
  • Place the chiles on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high for 30 seconds total (2 intervals of 15 seconds each).
  • Heat 2 cups of chicken broth until warm - you can do this in the microwave by using a microwave safe 2-quart liquid measuring cup or bowl. Submerge the chiles into the broth, cover and microwave for about 2 minutes.
  • Place the chiles and liquid into a blender and process until smooth. About 1 minute.
  • Add the roasted tomato (roasting instructions on the notes area of this recipe), and blend for about 2 minutes or until smooth.

The Meat

  • Coat a large, wide pan or Dutch oven with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add the meat to the hot pan in batches and in a single layer making sure you do not over crowd the pot. Sear on all sides until the meat turns golden brown. Remove the seared meat to a plate and continue searing until all the meat is browned. 
  • Add the onions to the pot (add a bit more oil if needed), and sautè for about 3 - 4 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the spices and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly.
  • Add the meat (and any collected meat juices) back to the pot. Add the chile paste and the remaining broth. Stir to combine.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook stirring occasionally until the meat is tender, about 2 hours.
  • If Cooking in the Oven: Preheat the oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the covered pot in the oven and cook for 1.5 hours or until the meat is tender.
  • If Cooking In the Slow Cooker: Place the seared meat and vegetables, chile paste and broth into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 - 7 hours, or on high for 4 hours or until the meat is tender.

After the Meat is tender (for all methods)

  • In a small bowl mix the masa harina with 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid (meat juices or use water or broth) Mix well until smooth.
  • Stir the masa harina mix and the vinegar into the beef stew and simmer on the stove top for 5 minutes. (If using a slow cooker, set the crockpot to high and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper. You can season with bouillon as well (optional). Serve!

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