Tired of all the heavy holiday food? Start your cleanse with this healthy soup over some sturdy brown rice!

Show me the Xochitl!

It’s not often you get a food that is both really comforting and really good for you. And it’s Mexican. Surprise! Mexican food doesn’t have to be starchy, heavy or cheese-laden. Mexican food is typically synonymous with warm weather, probably because Mexico has an abundance of it. We think of margaritas, grilling fajitas, and anything that might take us away from where we are for a moment and plant us, if even just in spirit, on a beach. Sometimes, though, you want all those delicious Mexican flavors when it’s cold outside. This is what I like to call a “year round soup” because while it is quite wonderful on a blustery day, it can also be eaten slightly warmed (but not piping hot) on a hot afternoon.

venison recipes

I came up with this recipe because my sister was in town from living overseas and would be joining our little cooking escapades for the evening. I asked if she had any dinner requests, and she simply said “something homecooked!” as she had been traveling and eating out most meals for a few weeks. I wanted something homey but also healthy, because eating out usually isn’t, and I’m sure she was missing the flavors of Tex-Mex while she’s been gone. My mom found this recipe for Chicken Xochitl in her cookbook of traditional El Paso dishes (from our time living there) and I thought it would be wonderful with venison steak.

I used round steak – the big ‘ol round hunks of steak that aren’t really good for eating like regular steak because they are really just a little too tough for that. I tried to boil it tender enough to kind of fall apart and shred, but that was seriously not happening. Taking it out of its little bath and slicing it thin, however, did just the trick.

Venison Xochitl Soup


  • 1 1/2lb venison round steak (or stew meat, tenderized if desired)
  • 2 tablespoons olive or other oil (separated)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil (chopped; you can omit this if fresh basil isn't available)
  • 6-8 cups water, stock, or a combination of the two
  • 1 Large onion (diced)
  • 1 Large zucchini (diced)
  • 1 Large bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 Large celery stalk (diced)
  • 1 Large carrot (diced)
  • 1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • green onion (sliced, for serving/garnish)
  • cilantro (roughly chopped, for serving/garnish)
  • 1 avocado (chopped, for serving/garnish)
  • 1 jalapeno or other chile (sliced, for serving/garnish)
  • 1 lime (sliced in wedges, for serving/garnish)
  • cooked rice (for serving)


  • dashground cloves


Step 1
Heat 1 T of oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Sear the meat, about 3-5 minutes on each side. Then add the water/broth, cumin, bay leaves, garlic, oregano, cloves, basil and salt and pepper to taste, bring to a boil, and simmer while prepping your veggies. Heat the other T of olive oil in a small sauté pan and sauté the onion until translucent. Take off the heat and set aside for later. Once the meat is cooked through (after about 15 minutes, less if you're really in a hurry), if using a full round steak pull it out and thinly slice it against the grain, then return it to the pot to continue to soften and cook.
Step 2
Add the cooked onion and all the veggies except the zucchini to the pot, bring to a boil, and simmer until tender, about 7-10 minutes. Add the zucchini last, giving them about 5 minutes to become tender. Serve in a bowl over a small mound of cooked rice. Top with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, avocado, sliced chiles (if desired), and green onion.

Non game substitution: This soup is traditionally made with chicken.

Vegetarian substitution: Honestly, with the abundance of veggies and the chickpeas in this soup, it would be pretty damn good without any meat at all and still hearty and full of protein. Done and done.

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