Slow Cooker Barbecue Venison Chili

This slow cooker barbecue venison chili is packed with veggies and gets it’s sweet, tangy flavor from homemade sweet potato sauce

Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.

It is 5:45 on a Saturday morning when I am woken by the gentle thud of my sweet dogs tail rapping against my foot at the end of the bed. I open my eyes and even though it’s still dark out he senses my movement and begins frantically wagging his tail in sheer excitement.


I roll out of bed and he leaps in front of me. Our other dog lets out a groan from his corner and joins us at the bedroom door. We go out, they eat, run outside, come back in and we shuffle back to bed and assume our previous position while my husband sleeps soundly. I close my eyes, but the damage is done. I am wide awake.

I wait until the sun starts to come up before peeling back the covers again and heading for the kitchen. Fresh coffee in hand, I then make my way to the couch. I fling open the blinds to let in the light only to find the sun has been eclipsed by the 31 foot vessel propped up on its trailer in the driveway.

A few weeks ago the ‘Double Trouble’ was pulled from storage and parked in the drive marking the beginning of the fishing season. Since then, Jay has been busy prepping, waxing, painting, and repairing. In another week he will trailer the boat to St. Joseph to officially kick off the spring salmon season.

It’s a bitter sweet time of year. Spring is here and I’m filled with joy. But with the warmth comes time alone and separation while Jay is working. I’m trying to soak up this time we have together as much as I can before he leaves to fish the still frigid waters on Lake Michigan.

I do what I can to ease the challenge of the inevitable the only way I know how; I cook. Partly because it’s cathartic, and partly so Jay and I can sit and enjoy the few nights we still have together over a good meal.

Being on the Whole30 has challenged me to cook dinner just about every night. And if you’ve done the Whole30, you know the authors stress eating animal protein with every meal. Although this is in direct opposition to my usual ‘toast for dinner’ way of thinking, Jay has been happy with all of the full meals we’ve been enjoying.

So this week we have hot bowls of chili to enjoy. Warm, cozy chili made with a tangy bbq sauce that’s Whol30 compliant and delicious on just about everything. The recipe for the bbq sauce makes about double what you’ll need, but you’ll want to store the leftovers in the fridge and use it as a condiment.

I’m using venison, too. It’s what we have and it’s what we typically use for beef. But by all means, use beef if you have it. Or turkey. The beauty of chili is it’s flexibility.

Flexibility is also a theme I’ll be adopting in the next few months when Jay gets back to it. But for now, chili. Don’t let the laundry list of ingredients intimidate you. All the meat and veggies get cooked before getting dumped in a slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients. Most of the work is in chopping the vegetables for both the bbq sauce and chili.

I like to serve this over roasted sweet potatoes. 4 ingredients and a few minutes in the oven and you’ve got a great side for this chili. Try it out and tell me about it in the comments below!

Slow Cooker Barbecue Venison Chili

For the Chili

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Lb Cubed Venison or Beef Steak(Can sub 1 lb ground meat)
  • 1 Medium White Onion, diced
  • 1 Medium Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1 Medium Orange or Yellow Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1 Lb Ground Venison or Beef
  • 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 28 oz Can Tomato Puree
  • 1 28 oz Can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 Cup Sweet Potato Apple BBQ Sauce, recipe below (Or any favorite sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

For the Sweet Potatoes

  • 2 Medium Sweet Potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Chili Powder

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. If using cubed steak, season the meat with salt and add to the pan. To avoid overcrowding the pan, work in small batches if necessary. Cook the meat for just a few seconds on each side then remove and set aside. Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion and bell peppers to the pan. Cook until the peppers are soft and the onion is translucent. Add the ground meat to the pan and cook through. Pour the entire content of the pan into the slow cooker and add the steak, if using. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8.

About 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve the chili, dice your sweet potatoes, toss in olive oil, season with salt and chili powder, and roast until fork tender. Serve with chili and enjoy!

For the Sweet Potato Apple BBQ Sauce 

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Sweet Potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 Medium Apple, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 Medium White Onion, diced
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt

Make the bbq sauce by heating a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, sweet potato, apple, and onion and cook until the onions are soft. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and allow the to cook for 10-15 minutes, until the apples and sweet potatoes are fork tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the apple cider vinegar, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. Either use an immersion blender to blend until smooth or pour the mixture into a blender and blend until it’s reached your desired consistency.