What Is Buffalo Chili?

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Buffalo chili is a spicy dish popular in New York City which, as the name suggests, traditionally uses buffalo or bison meat in place of the usual ground beef that is present in these dishes.

What Is Buffalo Chili?

This creates a unique and delicious flavor combination that fans find irresistible, and it’s one of the most popular foods served at Coney Island hot dog stands.

The origins of this dish are uncertain.

Some sources say it was invented by Italian immigrants who brought their recipes with them to America; others claim it originated among Native Americans.

Regardless of its origin, Buffalo chili has become an American classic, and it can be found all over the country today.


As we mentioned, some sources claim that buffalo chili is believed to have been created by Italian immigrant families living in New York City’s Little Italy neighborhood, while others credit Spanish or Texan chefs with creating the dish.

What does seem accurate is that the chili was originally made using buffalo meat instead of ground beef because of the far more distinctive flavor of buffalo meat.

In addition to being cheaper than beef, buffalo meat also required less cooking time, making it ideal for quick meals like chili.

Easy Buffalo Chili Recipe

Buffalo chili is usually served with cornbread, but you can serve it on top of spaghetti or rice if you prefer.

The best way to make buffalo chili is to use canned beans rather than dried since these tend to be much easier to prepare.

If you want to add extra heat to your chili, try adding jalapeño peppers or cayenne pepper.

You can also experiment with different spices such as cinnamon, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and even curry powder.


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 2 ½ pounds of ground bison or buffalo meat
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 jalapeños, diced and seeded
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can tomato purée
  • ½ cup chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground chipotle pepper
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 2 cups beef broth, or water
  • 2 (15-ounce cans) pinto beans, drained


  1. Cook the buffalo or bison meat in a large pot over a medium-high heat, until well browned and broken down into smaller pieces.
  2. Add the onions. Sauté for 5 minutes, and then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Then, add the other ingredients – minus the beans – and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  4. Add the beans, and allow to cook for another 15 minutes. If you find that the chili is too thick, add more water as desired. If the chili seems too thin, reduce the amount of water or broth that you include.

What Can I Have With Buffalo Chili?

What Can I Have With Buffalo Chili?

Buffalo chili works well with a number of tasty accompaniments, and these include:


Cornbread is a traditional option to serve alongside buffalo chili, and it’s easy to make at home.

Simply combine 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of cornmeal, ⅔ cup of sugar, 3 ½ teaspoons of baking soda, ½ cup of oil, 1 cup milk, an egg, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a bowl.

Mix dry ingredients together thoroughly, and then add the dry ingredients, stir and bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve hot with buffalo chili.

Creamy Cheese Sauce

If you like creamy sauces, you might enjoy this cheesy sauce that goes perfectly with buffalo chili.

You will need 3 tablespoons of butter, 3 tablespoons of flour, half a teaspoon of salt, an eighth of a teaspoon of pepper, a cup and a half of milk and a cup and a half od cheddar cheese.

Melt the butter over medium-low heat, whisk the flour and cook for two minutes.

Add salt and pepper, and then add the milk and stir slowly. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. 

Pico De Gallo

This Mexican condiment is made from fresh tomatoes, onions, and peppers. It’s typically served with tacos, but it also makes an excellent topping for buffalo chili.

To prepare, chop 4 tomatoes, a red onion, 1 tablespoon of jalapenos, 2 garlic cloves, the juice from a lime and a small bunch of chopped coriander.

Toss the ingredients together in a bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for 20 minutes

Tortilla Chips

To accompany your buffalo chili, consider serving tortilla chips instead of cornbread.

You can use store-bought chips, or if you prefer homemade, simply cut 8 corn tortillas into wedges, place them on a cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes, turning halfway through.


Rice is a classic accompaniment to chili, and it’s easy to prepare. Simply bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.

Add 1 cup of long-grain white rice, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Sour Cream

Sour cream is another classic topping for chili, and it pairs perfectly with the spicy flavors of buffalo chili.

Simply dollop a spoonful of sour cream on top of each bowl before serving.

Tortilla Wraps

If you’re looking for a lighter option, try serving your buffalo chili in tortilla wraps.

Simply warm up some flour tortillas and fill each one with a scoop of chili. Top with shredded cheese and diced tomatoes, and enjoy!


A simple side salad is a great way to round out your buffalo chili meal.

Simply combine ¼  cup of chopped lettuce, ¼ cup of diced tomatoes, and ¼ cup of shredded cheese in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Is Buffalo Chili Healthy?

Buffalo chili can be a healthy option, depending on the ingredients you use.

If you opt for lean ground buffalo meat and low-sodium canned beans, your chili will be lower in fat and sodium than traditional beef chili.

Additionally, adding plenty of vegetables like onions, peppers, and tomatoes will boost the nutritional value of your dish.

Topping it with plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream will also help to reduce the fat content.

If you’re looking to make your buffalo chili even healthier, try using quinoa instead of rice.

Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.

It’s also high in fiber and low in fat, making it an excellent choice for those watching their waistlines.

To prepare, simply bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add 1 cup of quinoa, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

To finish off your buffalo chili, consider adding a few fresh herbs. Chopped cilantro and parsley are both excellent choices that will add a bright flavor to the dish.

You can also sprinkle some crumbled feta cheese on top for an extra layer of flavor.

Finally, if you’re looking for a bit of heat, try adding a few dashes of hot sauce or diced jalapeños.

Final Thoughts

Buffalo chili is a delicious and nutritious meal that can be enjoyed any time of year.

With the right ingredients, it can be a healthy option for those looking to watch their waistlines.

Serve it with tortilla chips, rice, sour cream, or quinoa for a complete meal that’s sure to please everyone at the table.