Cowgirl Elk Chili with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

by Marla on September 9, 2011 · 69 comments

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Cowgirl Elk Chili with Roasted Sweet Potatoes | recipe on

In my dreams I am a cowgirl. I ride the mountain range, heat food over an open flame and breath in the fresh air….

If you are not a meat eater then you might want to tune me out for a minute. You could also sub out the elk with any ground meat or poultry of your choice. If you are vegan then you could go with tofu crumbles, beans or a meatless substitute. You would still benefit greatly with all the other ingredients in this chili. I mean really, sweet potatoes and spices all done up cowgirl or cowboy style. Bring it.

Marla Meridith at Circle K Ranch in Colorado

The heat driven blackouts in Southern California are not reflective of crispy fall days right now but in other parts of the country there is a hint of fall in the air. That hint makes me very, very happy.

I eat my chili over a big green salad. I love a bit of cool crisp with my warming foods.

Cowgirl Elk Chili with Roasted Sweet Potatoes | recipe on
Every time we travel to Telluride I prepare two things within the first few days of arrival. A giant pot of homemade applesauce and an even bigger pot of chili. Sometimes I use bison, other times lean ground beef. Turkey or chicken can find their way in the pot too. Just depends on what I find at the market and what I am in the mood for.

For this batch I scored ground elk at the local farmers market. Each and every Friday throughout the summer there is an amazing farmers market with the freshest produce, artisan creations, flowers, meats, cheeses, chocolate, pastry, breads….you name it, it’s there. All on one small block. Spectacular if you ask me.

Cowgirl Elk Chili with Roasted Sweet Potatoes | recipe on

Have you ever had elk meat? It is lean and full of flavor. I would say it is a cross between bison and ground beef. I got mine from the awesome High Wire Ranch.

I added ground cinnamon to this recipe. It ponies up nicely to the cumin and chili powder.

James Ranch, Durango ~ Colorado Cheddar Cheese |

One of my other favorite vendors at the market is James Ranch. The 400 acre ranch is located 10 miles outside of Durango, CO. Here’s what they say “….irrigated pastures, crystal clear flowing water, 100% grass fed and finished beef cattle, grazing Jersey milk cows, a spruce tree nursery, an organic vegetable and flower garden, and busy families who utilize organic growing practices in the day-to-day operation of the ranch and their enterprises.” Idealic huh!

It is my plan to visit there someday, the ranch is about 2 hours from where we stay, perhaps next summer. I was too busy hiking & mushroom hunting this visit.

Cowgirl Elk Chili with Roasted Sweet Potatoes | recipe on

We enjoyed plenty of their artisan, raw milk sharp cheddar cheeseBlissful. I had the opportunity to meet the owners Kay and Dave James at Mountain Film this past May. A lovely couple if you ask me. They take great pride in their family, food and sustainable farming practices.

Cowgirl Elk Chili with Roasted Sweet Potatoes | recipe on
This recipe is featured on the Chef Marcus Samuelsson blog too…..

What is your favorite chili recipe?

Cowgirl Elk Chili with Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 65 minutes

Total Time: 75 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Cowgirl Elk Chili with Roasted Sweet Potatoes


  • 1 large Sweet Potato, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • a few dashes of ground Cinnamon + 1/2 teaspoon
  • fine Sea Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 pound ground Elk (you can also use chopped meat or bison)
  • 1 Leek, cut into small pieces
  • 1 Zucchini, cut into small pieces
  • 2 cloves chopped Garlic
  • 26 ounces strained or chopped canned Tomatoes
  • 1 cup Vegetable Broth
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 tablespoon Chili Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin
  • a handful of fresh chopped Cilantro leaves
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F with the rack in the middle. Toss sweet potato with a few dashes of cinnamon, sea salt and a splash of olive oil until they glisten slightly. Place the sweet potatoes in a single layer on a sheet pan. Bake about 30-35 minutes until soft and slightly browned. Toss once during baking.
  • In a large sauce pan add leeks, zucchini, garlic and a splash of olive oil. Soften and slightly brown over medium high heat for a few minutes. Brown elk in the same pan with the mixture for about 5 minutes, breaking up any large pieces with the side of a spoon.
  • Add tomatoes, broth, chili powder, cumin,1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and lemon juice to the pan. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 25 minutes. Add sweet potatoes. Adjust seasoning according to taste. Add fresh cilantro at the end.
  • Serve with grated cheese, a dollop of sour cream or thick greek yogurt. Garnish with more fresh cilantro.

Relevant Recipe Links

Lots of links for you today. I tweeted for you guys to send me your favorites and boy did you send me great recipes!

Tidy Mom

This post has been included in TidyMom’s I’m Lovin it Fridays

{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

1 aida mollenkamp September 9, 2011 at 7:52 am

I’ve never had elk but this seems like a great way to try it. Any chance you froze the leftovers and brought them back west? 😉


2 Marla September 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Ha! Aida, no I did not freeze the leftovers ~ but this chili sure would freeze well for lazy nights when a cowgirl cannot cook up a meal.


3 Allison September 9, 2011 at 7:53 am

This sounds delicious!


4 Rosa September 9, 2011 at 7:58 am

I would love to live in the mountains somewhere in cowboy country…

Congrats on being featured on Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s site!

That chili looks amazing! Wow, elk meat, how intriguing.




5 Marla September 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Thanks Rosa! I know you and I are mountain gals. Now we just need to get together & cook for one another. Colorado or Switzerland? …your choice. OK how about both!


6 Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray September 9, 2011 at 8:01 am

Looks delicious, headed over there to check out the recipe. Thanks for including my link!


7 Marla September 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Rachel, you are so welcome. Your chili looks great girl!


8 Laura @ SweetSavoryPlanet September 9, 2011 at 8:02 am

This recipe looks delicious and so do the pictures. I love making chili in the winter because of the layers of flavors and spices and it can be a “stick to your ribs” nutritious dish. Here is a chili recipe you might be interested in – it is one I will make over and over again, although unconventional!


9 Marla September 9, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Laura, your chili verde looks awesome. Thanks for sharing the link. I have never tried one like this (always the red) but need to pronto! Not only do I love a steamy bowl of chili on the cooler days for all the reasons you mention, but I love the fact you can make a big batch & freeze it for lazy winter nights. More cuddle time 😉


10 Heather @ Heather's Dish September 9, 2011 at 8:05 am

It’s totally getting to be chili season…and coincidentally elk season too! Can’t wait :)


11 Marla September 9, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Heather have you had elk….I am thinking yes??


12 Allison [Girl's Guide to Social Media] September 9, 2011 at 9:06 am

You’re so cute in your cowgirl photo. Love it!

I look forward to making more chili this fall. It’s such a great dish when it’s cold and crisp out!


13 Caroline @ chocolate and carrots September 9, 2011 at 9:06 am

I’ve never tried Elk before…I think I would be afraid to. And I love love love that you added cinnamon. That makes chili so good! Thank you for including me in your round up! 😀


14 Kankana September 9, 2011 at 9:24 am

I am a meat lover and have eaten a lots of different kinda meat. I ate dear too but not sure if that was elk or something else. This dish is looking so yum and spicy, just the kind I enjoy :)


15 Amanda September 9, 2011 at 9:37 am

I dont know how you do it… but you manage to make foods that I wouldnt normally consider beautiful look just amazing Marla!! Great recipe!


16 HeatherChristo September 9, 2011 at 9:37 am

Marla- I do LOVE chiil, and have certainly never had elk chili before! Would love to try this!


17 Kimby September 9, 2011 at 9:48 am

Fun post, fun photos — really captured the cowgirl side of you!


18 Manding September 9, 2011 at 10:12 am

aaah ! so need to go to James Ranch. also, love elk meat. just tried all the game meats at Half Moon around here in Kennet Square. love.

ps, !


19 Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga September 9, 2011 at 10:21 am

The pictures are stunning, as usual.

This time, not JUST of the food. Because YOU look awesome! You look like a natural next to that horse.

And the cowgirl that’s printed on that dishtowel or napkin…oh, that is too cute :)

Just got power on over here & blogged. WHAT a harrowing 24 hours it’s been. Coffee with you is going to taste so good next week :)


20 Jill May 13, 2013 at 5:18 pm

If any of your readers are looking for that super-cute cowgirl towel, we sell them on our online store – We specialize in vintage-inspired kitchen and home items, including many western and cowboy themed items.


21 Marla May 14, 2013 at 4:50 am

Thanks Jill! I am gonna go & check out your website now :)


22 Esi September 9, 2011 at 10:30 am

Awesome looking chili. Hope you’re having a great birthday :)


23 Caroline September 9, 2011 at 10:43 am

Oh wow, this sounds fantastic! Can’t wait for winter season so I can make chili all the time.


24 Shawnda September 9, 2011 at 11:05 am

Elk? How exotic! That market sounds really close to my version of heaven. Beautiful photos!


25 Bev Weidner September 9, 2011 at 11:21 am

I looooooove chili. So much that I can barely see what I type through the tears.

Dear. Babies.


26 Angie September 9, 2011 at 11:36 am

Yummy! Love the cowgirl napkin!!!
Happy birthday sweet friend! xo


27 Katrina September 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm

What an awesome recipe! Yum!


28 Maria September 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Love your photos! Thanks for linking to my chili. I am excited for chili season. Happy birthday to you:) xoxo


29 Kiran @ September 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Congrats on the feature!!!

I’ve never tasted chili or elk, for that matter. Shocker?!? 😀 It looks tasty though.


30 Lisa {With Style and Grace} September 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Love that you added sweet potato to your chili, might need to try a vegetarian version of this! xx


31 Deliciously Organic September 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Wow, this chili looks so good. After seeing all of your gorgeous photographs from Telluride, I need to go see it someday! You look adorable, by the way. :)


32 Georgia Pellegrini September 9, 2011 at 6:08 pm

This looks so tasty. I think you and I need to sit around a campfire together one day soon!


33 Marla September 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Georgia, can I tell you how much I LOVE that idea. Where? When? We need to plan some outings soon :)


34 Valentina September 9, 2011 at 10:03 pm

marla, your images are simply stunning! i’m always in awe when i read through your posts. :-)


35 Marla September 10, 2011 at 5:38 am

Valentina, you are the sweetest. Thank you!


36 Jeanette September 10, 2011 at 4:47 am

I’ve never tried or seen elk or bison around here, but it sounds interesting. Love that cowgirl napkin 😉 Happy belated birthday!


37 Kristi Rimkus September 10, 2011 at 7:43 am

Love the pictures! I’ve not tried elk. We don’t have much of an opportunity here to get it, but I’m sure beef would work fine.


38 Marla September 11, 2011 at 5:59 am

Hi Kristi, beef would be perfect! Hope you enjoy your Cowgirl Chili :)


39 Katie @Epicurean Mom September 10, 2011 at 9:19 am

YUM!!! This sounds delish! My moms side of the family is from Texas and chili is a staple in our household!!


40 Marla September 11, 2011 at 5:58 am

Katie, isn’t chili the perfect staple! Love that you can make a huge batch & freeze some for lazy days. I need to get me some of that awesome Texan chili :)


41 Monica @ TheYummyLife September 10, 2011 at 10:23 am

Well, I can’t say I’ve ever eaten elk, but this chili looks delicious. Love the sweet potatoes in there. Another inventive Marla recipe that I want to try. :-)


42 Marla September 11, 2011 at 5:57 am

Monica, the roasted sweet potatoes add so much to this chili. So does the dash of cinnamon. I hope you do get to try it!


43 Miri Leigh September 10, 2011 at 10:58 am

Yum, what a wonderful recipe! Thanks for sharing :)


44 Barefeet In The Kitchen September 10, 2011 at 3:15 pm

As always, your photos are gorgeous. I just love that tea towel!


45 Cakelaw September 10, 2011 at 5:34 pm

I love a good chilli. We will never get elk meat here, but I think beef or venison (hard to get here too) would do the trick.


46 Marla September 11, 2011 at 5:54 am

Hi Cakelaw, any of those meats you mentioned would be perfect. What I love about chili is how versatile we can make the ingredients. That dash of cinnamon adds a little something special to this recipe.


47 Barbara @ Barbara Bakes September 11, 2011 at 3:40 am

Love your cute cowgirl towel. Such a great idea to whip up big batch of chili to have ready and waiting after hiking. Thanks for including my link!


48 Marla September 11, 2011 at 5:52 am

Barbara, I am so in love with that little cowgirl. She is so happy & precious! Your chili looks great too :)


49 Aggie September 11, 2011 at 6:11 am

You’ve got me in such the mood for chili right now girl! I love your photo of you and the horse. I LOVE it. I kinda want to be a cowgirl sometimes too, though I have no idea how to be :)

And since you mentioned it…chili over salad sounds absolutely delicious!!!

Thanks so much for including me in your link love!


50 Nancy@acommunaltable September 11, 2011 at 8:13 am

Hi Marla!
I love elk… and venison and bison and…. to be blunt – “game is good”!! This chili sounds wonderful and a great way to showcase game! Wish it were easier to get in our neck of the woods though!!


51 Cara September 11, 2011 at 5:53 pm

My favorite chili recipe involves cinnamon too. And pumpkin! Kind of like sweet potato :)


52 Marla September 11, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Cara, I tend to use the two interchangeably. Both pumpkin & sweet potatoes are favorites in sweets and savories. So is cinnamon for that matter.


53 Lucy September 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm

It’s all about the boots really – but where’s your hat?! You have the horse, the chili and the back drop – you so so so need a ten gallon hat!


54 grace September 16, 2011 at 1:47 am

my brother shot an elk a few years ago, and he’s still working on that meat–it was huge! there have been more chilis than anything else, i’m sure. :)


55 Marla September 16, 2011 at 6:32 am

Ha! That is the best thing to do with all that elk meat. Slow cooker stews too :)


56 Courtney September 18, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Looks delicious!! I love any chili as long as it’s spicy! :)


57 Marla September 18, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Courtney….I love spicy chili too!


58 bridget {bake at 350} September 19, 2011 at 6:19 am

Oh, that sounds just delicious! I’ve only had a *bite* of elk when my husband ordered it at one of our favorite places in Austin. It was delicious!


59 Kelly Senyei September 19, 2011 at 6:19 am

With the weather just starting to turn chilly (pun intended) in NYC, I could really go for a big bowl of this for lunch today! Your photos are stunning!


60 kaceyt @ om& September 19, 2011 at 11:49 am

This recipe looks absolutely fabulous and even though I’ll be making it with ground beef, I can’t wait to try it! Thank you for such a wonderful cool-weather recipe!


61 Marla September 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm

It will be equally amazing with beef. Enjoy :)


62 kaceyt @ om& September 21, 2011 at 11:08 am

Made it. Loved it! Thanks for a new spin on an old favorite!


63 Andrea DiGeronimo September 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Looks fantastic! Love the picture of you with the horse, cute jeans too. I also love the cowgirl tea towel, adorable.


64 Diane {Created by Diane} September 20, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Looks great Marla,we eat lots of Elk Chili over here and Elk everything else for that matter. I have a freezer full of Elk :) Just make Elk Stew yesterday. Will have to give your recipe a try…with one of the umpteen pounds of elk we have. Last one my husband got was 700 lbs. yea….that’s a lot of Elk :)


65 Marla September 21, 2011 at 4:52 am

Wow Diane! Had no idea your hubs was a hunter. Very cool. To think you have a freezer full of Elk is awesome. Could you imagine how much you would pay for that at the butcher??!! Let me know if you try the chili. That dash of cinnamon & sweet potatoes adds so much fun flavor.


66 Kirstin November 3, 2011 at 5:45 pm

YUM!! LOVE ELK! LOVE CHILI! And my daughter and I were just talking today about how we secretly think we’d love to live on a ranch!

I made chili last week with a can of pumpkin in it….it was pretty good!


67 Marla November 3, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Kirstin, I think the same thing all the time. How I would love to live on a ranch! So glad you love elk chili too! Chili with pumpkin is amazing. Have you checked out my Pumpkin Coconut Curry with Chicken Meatballs??


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