My tender and meaty venison meatballs are a welcome change from traditional beef or pork meatballs, and they are not gamey whatsoever! Venison is a great low-fat alternative to beef, it's just as easy to work with, and the meatballs fry up quickly!
Tender, juicy venison meatballs will make a welcome addition to your favorite pasta!
Venison isn’t a staple of everyone’s meals, but it is an excellent lean protein that can be spiced up just about any way you could beef or pork. These meatballs are incredibly flavorful.
Mixing in optional bacon amplifies the already delicious taste of venison with aged Parmesan and breadcrumbs. Butter takes it up another notch!
Aside from the party your taste-buds will be having, this is a strategic dish. If you’re into cooking at the beginning of the week and sliding through a few days on leftovers, it’s a great recipe to plan meals around.
You can really get creative. On day two, make fantastic subs on a toasted baguette with provolone and tomato sauce. And the next day, top off a new pasta dish or eat them for snacks with toothpicks as a party appetizer.
❤️ Why You'll Love This Recipe!
They’re Unique! If you haven’t had venison, give it a try, you'll be amazed at how flavorful it is!
Family-Friendly! Kids tend to be big fans of meatballs. Serve with their favorite sauce for a crowd-pleasing snack or meal!
Easy to Make Ahead! You can keep these in the freezer until you’re ready to eat them at any time!
You probably already have most of these ingredients. Venison might be a little more challenging depending on where you live.
- ¼ pound Streaky Bacon (optional) - Use a good, fatty, thick-cut bacon. It’s delicious!
- 1 pound Ground Venison - If not at your local grocer’s, you can find this at a specialty meat shop or butcher.
- 1 cup Breadcrumbs - Plain and Italian are both great.
- 2 large Eggs - Set these out when you get ready to cook in order to bring them to room temperature.
- 1 teaspoon each, Salt & Pepper - Keep the seasonings simple!
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan Cheese - A strong, aged Parmesan is all you need to create mind-blowing flavor to these meatballs.
- ¼ cup Butter (optional) - Freeze half a stick and grate it for optimal results. Keep it cold!
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil - Extra virgin olive oil will brown these up in no time!
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for ingredients, amounts & instructions!*
Garlic Powder or Garlic - Garlic is the natural next addition to anything that calls for Parmesan. It’s not necessary, but it’s a tasty extra!
Italian Seasoning - If you’re using Italian breadcrumbs and want to further highlight those spices, add some extra!
Diced Onion - These will add a bit of a crunch and savory juices. Remember, onions will add extra liquid when they cook, so you might need some extra breadcrumbs to compensate.
Thyme - Bring out an earthy taste with thyme. Remember to use less if using dried spices vs. fresh.
Fennel Seeds - Fennel is a licorice-tasting seed that is often added to pork sausages. It is equally as good in venison if you prefer.
Pecorino or Romano - Either of these strong, hard cheeses would be flavorful enough to make these meatballs delicious. Pick your favorite or use whatever you have on hand.
Hot Italian Sausage - There’s no reason you can’t combine traditional with the unique! Try using a blend of venison and sausage in a 3:1 ratio.
🔪 Step-By-Step Instructions
No complicated steps in this recipe! Just be sure you have a cast iron skillet, a food processor, and a wire cooling rack.
- Grind bacon (optional). If adding bacon, finely dice it or pulse it in a food processor until it looks like ground meat. You’ll want to keep the texture consistent with the venison.
- Mix the meatballs. In a large mixing bowl, combine diced bacon, 1 pound ground venison, 1 cup breadcrumbs, 2 large eggs, 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. If you are using the optional butter, add that now, just before shaping the meatballs. Grate ¼ cup frozen butter into the bowl.
- Shape meatballs. When everything is combined, shape the meat mixture into 1 to 1 ½-inch balls. You should have about 12 to 16 meatballs if using all the meat.
- Transfer to pan. Pour 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pan or cast-iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Carefully transfer the meatballs to the pan when it’s hot. Be sure to leave enough space between each so as not to be touching. You can work in batches, if needed.
- Cook. Fry the meatballs, browning them on all sides. Roll them around as they cook. The internal temperature should reach 160℉ (71℃) before removing from the heat.
- Cool. When they are completely cooked, move the meatballs to a wire rack to cool. Place paper towels underneath to catch excess grease.
💭 Angela's Tips & Recipe Notes
- Bake your meatballs. Not into frying stuff? No problem. These meatballs can also be baked at 375℉ (190℃) for 18 to 20 minutes. The internal temperature should reach 160℉ (71℃). Use a meat thermometer to check.
- Try it with the butter! I highly recommend using the optional butter. It really is fantastic with lean ground venison.
- Don’t over-knead. Over-mixing the meat mixture will lead to tough meatballs. Stir until everything is just combined. They should be tender and delicate.
- It’s possible to overcook meatballs. They will get softer up to a point when cooking, but if on the heat for too long, they’ll fall apart and be mushy. Stick to the instructions, and start cooling them down once they reach 160℉ (71℃) inside.
🥡 Storing & Reheating
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
To keep them longer, freeze in a plastic freezer bag or in a single layer in an airtight container. Eat within 3 to 4 months.
Reheating Venison Meatballs
Try reheating these in an air fryer at 350℉ (175℃) for approximately 5 minutes depending on size and how hot you want them.
You can also use an oven at the same temperature. For the latter, place meatballs on a baking dish, cover, and cook until heated through.
😋 More Delicious Dinner Ideas!
- Cajun Cabbage Stew
- Venison Chili
- Doritos Chicken Casserole with Cream Cheese
- Chicken and Peppers
- Cajun Sausage Pasta
Definitely. First, however, I’d recommend browning them in a skillet with olive oil. It adds a nice color and texture you won’t get in a sauce. Plus, the middle will stay juicy as it cooks.
Most of the time, the eggs and breadcrumbs are responsible for this issue. If you have too much of one or the other, things won’t stick together. Every meat is a bit different. If the meat mixture created in step 2 is too wet, add breadcrumbs.
Too dry? Add another egg. Use your best judgment. Another way to keep things together is to bake the meatballs (see tip above). The less you touch them, the less of a chance there is for breakage.
- (OPTIONAL) Start out by finely dicing or grinding the bacon (if using) in a food processor on pulse until it resembles ground meat.¼ lb streaky bacon
- Combine meatball ingredients (bacon, ground venison, breadcrumbs, eggs, salt & pepper, and Parmesan cheese) in a large mixing bowl. *If using optional frozen butter, use a cheese grater to grate it and quickly mix it into the meat right before forming meatballs.1 lb ground venison, 1 cup breadcrumbs, 2 large eggs, 1 teaspoon each, salt & pepper, 1 tablespoon Parmesan, ¼ cup butter
- Once combined, portion and shape the meat mixture into 1 to 1 ½-inch balls. There should be about 12-16 meatballs once all of the meatballs have been shaped.
- Heat a large heavy-bottomed pan or cast-iron skillet with the olive oil to medium-high heat. Place the shaped meatballs into your fully heated pan, leaving space between the meatballs so they do not touch while cooking. Work in batches if needed.1 tablespoon olive oil
- Fry the meatballs until browned, rolling them so that each meatball cooks on all sides, until the internal temperature reaches 160°F (71°C).
- Once cooked, remove the meatballs to a wire cooling rack over paper towels so that excess grease can drain before serving.
- Optionally, meatballs can be baked at 375°F (190°C) for about 18-20 minutes or until the internal temperature is 160°F (71°C).
- The added fat from the butter is great when combined with lean venison, I highly recommend it.
- Do not over-knead the meatball mixture or it will become tough, just work it until everything is fully combined.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!