Small in size but powerful in flavor, these Venison Meatballs with Bourbon Cream Sauce, are one of the best things I have ever eaten. There is nothing like taking a bite of food that has a ton of flavor packed into it and these meatballs do not disappoint. They are easy to make, low carb, keto, gluten-free, & absolutely delicious.
Many times when people think about cooking venison, or wondering what to do with it, they tend to think of stews, roasts, or chili. Venison is very lean can have a gamey taste, so many times people will try to mask those instead of working with them to highlight the venison. A stew, roast, or chilis can be a wonderful meal on a cold day, but finding some new ways to present this healthy meat is a lot of fun. This ground venison meatballs recipe is hopefully going to provide a fun and elegant way to enjoy deer meat.
Ingredients For Venison Meatball Recipe
Venison - Ground venison is a great alternative to ground beef. It's lower in fat and calories and sodium, but it tastes just as good as beef. It is packed with protein and tastes delicious. If you hunt or know someone that does, getting your hand on some ground venison is no problem. I have a friend that is gracious enough to supply me with venison. If you need to purchase it, depending on where you live, it might not be cheap. You might have to find it in a specialty store or butcher shop. There are also some online stores where you can purchase quality deer meat.
Ground Pork - Venison is very lean meat. We do need to add some fat to it so that it doesn't dry out. If you are using your own grinder to grind the venison yourself, be sure to grind in some beef fat or pork fat. If you aren't grinding it yourself, you can do what I did. Just add ground pork to the recipe. I use a two-to-one ratio. I added half a pound of pork to the one pound of venison that I used. I also use a combination of meats in my venison sliders.
Sage Leaves - Fresh herbs are underrated. They add a ton of flavor to whatever you are cooking. If you have the opportunity to use fresh herbs or even grow your own, give it a try. I have sage in our garden so I used that. It goes great with game meats and poultry as well.
Egg - This is our binder to help hold the meatballs together as they cook. You can whisk this in a small bowl before adding it to the meat mixture.
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper - These are the keys to well-seasoned food. You will use about a teaspoon salt per lb of meat. The nice part of having a sauce is that if you slightly under season the meatballs, we can make that up a little with the sauce. It gives you a little more margin for error.
Ingredients for Bourbon Cream Sauce
Heavy Cream - This gives the sauce a smooth creamy texture and adds another level of flavor to an already yummy dish. If you don't have heavy cream, you can use some butter to create that creaminess as well.
Bourbon - I like to cook with bourbon, occasionally I'll put it in the food...ba dum tss! I couldn't resist it. But seriously, this makes it delicious. Several cream sauces rely on stock or white wine to deglaze the pan. I love using whiskey. Just be careful to deglaze away from the open flame or you might lose some eyebrows.
Shallot - A little shallot adds a lot of flavor to the sauce. Other times, I might add some garlic or onions, but I really want to capture the flavor of the venison and let the hint of the bourbon compliment it.
How to Make Venison Meatballs
Step One: In a large bowl combine the pound ground venison, half a pound of ground pork, finely chopped sage, along with an egg and salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix everything together and make sure that all the ground meat and seasonings combine thoroughly.
Step Two: Form the meat into small one and half inch sized meatballs they should be about three-quarters of an ounce each. If you have a cookie scoop for the appropriate size, you can use that. I just take a small amount of the meatball mixture into my hands and roll it into a ball.
Once the ground venison meatballs are all formed, preheat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. You will also need to preheat the oven to 350°F.
There are several ways to cook venison meatballs. I have seen them done in an instant pot or just baked. I like to sear them in a hot pan to give them nice caramelization on the outside. It will keep the inside moist and give a nice contrast of texture when people take a bite. You can also smoke them as I do in Smoked Meatballs.
Step Three: Once the pan is hot, add a tablespoon of olive oil to help prevent the meat from sticking to the pan. Place the meatballs into the pan one at a time. Sear them on each side constantly rolling them over to the next side. Total stovetop cook time will be about 5 minutes. If you don't have a large enough pan, you will have to do these in batches.
The reason I am making this small is to serve them as an appetizer. You can also use this size when serving as the main course of a meal. If you do make them larger, be sure to adjust your cooking time appropriately.
Step Four: Once the meatballs are all seared, place the whole pan into the oven. You will need to make sure your pan is oven-proof. Let the venison bake in the oven at 350°F for five minutes. Once the meatballs are done, take the baked venison meatballs out of the pan and let them rest while you deglaze the pan and make your Bourbon Cream Sauce.
How to make Bourbon Cream Sauce
Step One: Deglaze the pan with the bourbon. Be sure to move away from any open flame so that you don't start a fire. We want to loosen up all the fond that has built up while we were cooking the meatballs.
Step Two: Once the alcohol has burned off, add the shallot. Cook for about a minute until they are translucent.
Step Three: Slowly add the cream as you whisk to incorporate it into the shallots and whiskey.
Step Four: Allow the sauce to cook and thicken. Be sure to taste it and make sure the seasoning is just right. Once the it is done, pour it over the meatballs or have it available to dip the meatballs.
How to serve Venison Meatballs
I made these as an appetizer to be served with a toothpick or small fork. These can be fun if you are planning a tapas-style meal and this is one of your small plates. If you are planning to serve these along with other appetizers, consider including Smoked Jalapeno Poppers, Smoked Cheesy Potatoes, Lamb Chops, and BBQ Ribs.
An Italian variation on Venison Meatballs
You can use venison and pork. Swap the sage out for a blend of fresh parsley and basil or your favorite Italian seasoning blend. Add an extra egg and some Italian bread crumbs to the meat mixture. Cook it all the same way as above.
For the whiskey sauce, use white Italian wine in place of the bourbon, in addition to the heavy cream, also add some parmesan cheese to the sauce along with some garlic cloves. Once the meatballs and sauce are done, you can serve it over spaghetti pasta.
Some other great ground venison recipes
- 1 lb venison ground
- ½ lb ground pork
- 3 sage leaves finely chopped
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ tsp pepper
Whiskey Cream Sauce
- ½ cup cream
- ¼ cup bourbon
- 1 shallot chopped
- Combine venison, pork, egg, and seasonings. Mix well.
- Form into approximately thirty two 1.5 inch balls.
- Heat a heavy skillet over high heat until very hot. Add a little olive oil. Add the meatballs, searing them on each side for about 5 minutes. This may need to be done in 2 batches.
- Turn off the skillet. Transfer to an oven-safe dish and cook for an additional 5 minutes at 350.
- Deglaze the skillet with the whiskey. Turn the burner back on medium. Add the shallots. Whisk, using the whisk to loosen the browned bits on the pan. Add the heavy cream and let it simmer until it gets thick.
- Transfer meatballs to a serving tray and spoon the sauce over the meatballs. Serve immediately.