Follow up to Bean Selection I am planning on making a new chili using grilled venison, Great Lakes Black Out Stout, and roasted corn. There was a sister thread to this about deciding on a bean. Thanks to @justkt 's suggestion i am keeping it simple with chili beans (the kidney beans in sauce). However, as i was thinking about the heat, i forgot the other crucial element: the sweet.

For me a good chili isnt just kinda hot: It should be perfectly good and hot, but kept in check with sweet. This in particular is why you see a decent habanero hot sauce with lime, lemon etc in it. Normally I add citrus fruits to my chili.

Since I am cooking Venison, stewed in Stout beer, and hoping for a dark woods moodiness to the food I am thinking of breaking away from the norm. What sweet would you bring to chili in this case?

  • I googled 'what fruit pairs well with venison' and cherry (for its acidity) was suggested. This is a really sexy idea to me, but i am unsure if thats just my brain overthinking it. if added, i suppose it should be as a salty puree, probably quite early in the staging (ie when the meat is prepared and added with the beer).

  • normally i add the components in this order (and it works well): garlic, onions, spices, beer reduction, tomatoes, meat, [fruit x?] beer reduction, beans... and typically have it simmer for 4-6 hours. Will this make a grilled venison steak tough or tender?

  • I chose three answers because i think i am going to be toying with this recipe for a while. I think I am going to add some black (rather than red to cut back the tartness since it is going with corn) currants (according to wikipedia they are added to guiness to heighten the flavor) and some brown sugar to the initial reduction to get a good base going. Also, I think I am going to try out some dark chili chocolate added once the stout is added to the second reduction. Thanks to all of you!
    – mfg
    Aug 21, 2010 at 19:33
  • It may be simpler to just stick to 2/3, or even 1/3 of these, so we will see where each gets us...
    – mfg
    Aug 21, 2010 at 19:33

6 Answers 6


I know that you specifically mention fruits, but I must admit, I personally haven't used any sweet fruits (except basic citrus fruits) in chili so I favorited this question to see what the community has to say.

That said, I have made chili with a combination of sweet and spicy, and I used one of my new favorite things: Jaggery. This unrefined sugar can be considered similar to brown sugar in use (I substitute equal amounts jaggery when a recipe calls for brown sugar), but not in composition - there are a lot of mineral salts left in it, because of the lack of refining and absence of chemicals that are usually used to process sugars. It's made similar to maple sugar; essentially it's boiled down to a syrup and dried.

I've used it in sweet and savory dishes, and it adds a depth of flavor that I find can't be matched with any other sugars I've used. I have a hard time describing it, because it's new to me, but it tastes very...complex, for lack of a better word. Its taste is kind of between brown sugar and molasses. It is sweeter than table sugar, but less sweet than honey. I do think that jaggery might add that "dark woods moodiness" element that you're looking for - in my opinion, it can take the simplest of dish and add a significant amount of depth and interest.

It's used to add a sweet element to a lot of hot curry dishes in India, which is why my mind immediately when to it the first time I thought of adding sweet to my chili.

If you're interested in using it you can find it at your local Indian grocer, or purchase it online, I first got it through Amazon just to try, but have since sought out local ethnic grocers because it's significantly cheaper that way.

  • this actually might be a terrific idea considering the roasted maltiness of stout beer actually. i hadnt considered brown sugar, much less Jaggery.
    – mfg
    Aug 20, 2010 at 17:14

Traditional Cincinatti chili calls for half a square of grated baker's chocolate. I don't know how set you are on fruit, but given the gaminess of venison, this might be less of a flavour clash than actual fruit.

Unsweetened chocolate is usually used in the former, but if you want something sweeter, then you could substitute bittersweet chocolate here.

If that idea doesn't turn you on, I would stick with a mild unrefined sugar (i.e. brown sugar) or maple syrup. The notion of chili peppers, beer, kidney beans, venison and a sweet fruit in the same stew sounds like a risky combination to me (but then again, I can't claim to have tried it). Personally, I'd have to recommend a subtler sweetener.

  • 1
    if you hadn't suggested chocolate, I would have. Also an option would be one of the trendy flavored chocolates. Chili or cherry, perhaps?
    – justkt
    Aug 20, 2010 at 19:22
  • @justkt: They have chili flavoured chocolates? I'm trying to imagine the board meeting where somebody proposed that idea and the blank stares and apprehensive "ooo...kay"s that almost certainly followed... Anyway, personally, I'd still stay away from fruit flavours - even fruit-flavoured chocolates, unless it's a subtle citrus flavour. Maple or a similar flavour would definitely complement the ale, as long as it's decent quality and grate-able.
    – Aaronut
    Aug 20, 2010 at 20:06
  • +1 for maple syrup (real stuff not aunt jamamia)
    – mohlsen
    Aug 20, 2010 at 21:49
  • yeah, trader joe's has a dark chili chocolate that is terrific; good call mentioning cincinnati chili that might be a great angle to play
    – mfg
    Aug 21, 2010 at 19:16

How about using dried apricots? I use them frequently with couscous and they give dishes a really nice rich sweetness. The beer/stock will rehydrate them to be lovely pockets of sweetness.

  • good idea. you have to chop them, right?
    – Ocaasi
    Aug 20, 2010 at 16:58
  • I'm assuming you're using stoneless dried apricots which will have a hole in so you don't have to. That said, I usually halve them.
    – Bluebelle
    Aug 20, 2010 at 17:07
  • will they be rather chewy when they reconstitute? Its actually a terrific idea, I am trying to imagine how they would merge with the whole of the chunks of venison and the beans...
    – mfg
    Aug 20, 2010 at 17:15

I'd be tempted to try these fruits because they are acidic and tart and generally go well with gamey meats: red currants, blueberries, cherries, gooseberries could be really interesting or totally weird!

I could imagine roasting off really ripe peaches with a bit of sugar, salt, pepper and olive oil, then pureeing/mashing it into the chili during the middle stages of cooking. I honestly don't know if you'd really taste anything besides "acid" which you'll get from the tomatoes as well, so it might be a lot of work for nothing. Like some of the other commenters, I can't say I'd be super stoked about finding a cherry in my chili but who knows it could be really interesting! I do think any of the fruit used should probably be roasted off a bit before added so it will intensify in flavor.

With lean meat like venison, I'm not sure I would bother grilling it unless you have easy access to a grill. I would sear it in the bottom of the pan I wanted to make my chili in. Remove it once it is browned on all sides, then add my onions, garlic, etc. and saute that down. Then add beans, spices, tomatoes, and the meat back in. Venison is pretty lean, so the longer that can cook low and slow (a slow cooker would be ideal for this project), the more tender the result. If you had 8 to 10 hours that might even be ideal - if you have a dutch oven you could put that pot into your oven and let it go for most of the day.

I would probably add the beans in a little later to the mix depending on how much time I had to cook this thing and how hearty the bean you decide to use is. Let us know how it turns out!

  • the grilling was to get it nice and smokey while pre-cooking it before putting it in the chili to simmer; great suggestions all around though
    – mfg
    Aug 21, 2010 at 19:15

I'm tempted to go with:

  • plum
  • date
  • fig
  • peach

Dried, in all cases except the peach.

  • I'd also definitely recommend the dark chocolate idea, including possibly some pre-browned butter melted with it. The flavor match is surprising, but undeniably good.
    – zanlok
    Dec 2, 2010 at 23:26

I don't know if peaches would necessarily complement Venison, but they can go with chili, as many years ago I used to buy a really great Peach salsa from Waitrose (sadly, it was discontinued).

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