Venison Meatballs


Venison is similar to lean, grass-fed beef with a finer texture. It's very low in fat, and because it is denser than beef, you can fill up on less. Cookbook author Hank Shaw likes to use ground venison for his British take on cocktail meatballs. He seasons them with warming spices and herbs and leavens them with ground oats—a Scottish twist that also makes them gluten-free. Because ground venison tends to be quite lean, Shaw includes the succulent fat from thick-cut bacon, which lends a pleasing richness and rounded flavor, and serves the meatballs in his version of the classic Cumberland sauce. You can find frozen venison in many Whole Foods markets and also independent butcher shops. Texas-based Broken Arrow Ranch and New Jersey–based D'Artagnan Foods sell venison online.

Venison Meatballs with Cumberland Sauce
Photo: Photo by Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen
Active Time:
1 hrs 5 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 45 mins
16 to 18 servings


  • 3 ½ thick-cut bacon slices (about 5 ounces)

  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion or white onion

  • ¾ cup uncooked old-fashioned regular rolled oats

  • 2 pound ground venison (less than 5% fat)

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • 3 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage

  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg or ground mace

  • Cumberland Sauce


  1. Place bacon slices in a single layer on a plate. Freeze, uncovered, until partially frozen, about 45 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool 10 minutes.

  3. While onion cools, pulse oats in a food processor until a coarse meal forms, about 8 pulses. Transfer to small bowl. Do not wipe food processor clean.

  4. Coarsely chop bacon slices. Pulse in food processor until fine crumbles form, about 18 pulses.

  5. Preheat oven to 425°F with racks in upper third and lower third positions. Using your hands, gently combine venison and bacon crumbles in a large bowl. Add egg, parsley, salt, thyme, sage, nutmeg, ground oats, and cooked onion; mix using your hands until thoroughly combined. Shape venison mixture into 70 small meatballs (about 1 tablespoon each). Divide meatballs between 2 large rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing evenly.

  6. Bake in preheated oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest portion of meatballs registers 160°F, about 10 minutes, rotating baking sheets between top and bottom racks halfway through cook time. Transfer meatballs to a large bowl; toss with 1/3 cup Cumberland sauce. Serve remaining sauce on the side.

Make Ahead

Meatballs can be prepared through step 5, frozen, and stored in resealable freezer bags up to 3 months.


Find ground venison online at

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