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Easy Classic Venison Meatloaf with Ground Deer Meat

Savory and loaded with flavor this venison meatloaf is topped with a delicious tangy sauce. This comfort food is easy to make, it will quickly become a favorite way to use up ground venison.

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Venison meatloaf topped with a tangy sauce sitting on a serving board.

A lot of folks turn most of their venison into ground deer meat, and while I would argue there are many, many wild game recipes to really utilize deer meat like venison stew, venison steaks, and even smoked venison shanks, roasts, and more, I can see the appeal.

The problem isn’t that a lot of people turn their deer meat into grind, it’s that they typically limit the uses to things like deer sausage, venison chili, and maybe, maybe some shepherd’s pie or another type of casserole.

Yes, deer meat is very lean and it can be a little bit of a learning curve to turn it into delicious things like venison burgers, venison enchiladas, or, in this case, meatloaf. But, it’s not impossible to do, and once you get the flavor profile and learn how to work with this lean meat, the sky is the limit.

The Perfect Venison Meatloaf

Sliced venison meatloaf on a serving board

I have made burgers and venison meatballs and the like for several years and felt quite confident in my abilities, but I’ll be honest, for whatever reason venison meatloaf didn’t seem to want to turn out.

I would wind up not adding enough liquid, and have a dry meatloaf or the flavors would be slightly off. I also had a tendency to just overcook it.

But, after some trial and error, I managed to make one of the best venison meatloaf recipes, the best meatloaf, I’ve ever tasted. My husband likes it, the kids like it, and it has quickly become one of the favorite venison recipes for the whole family.

Topped with a tangy glaze, this classic meatloaf is full of flavor and absolutely delicious. Like any meatloaf, it does need a bit of fat added to it.

Since we butcher our own deer, our ground deer meat is 100% venison, which is very lean. But, even if you already have other meat added to your grind at the butcher, it’s worth it to add the bacon.

Perfect Ground Venison Meatloaf Ingredients

While any ground beef meatloaf recipe could be converted into a venison meatloaf recipe, the flavor profile of deer is so much different than beef, it really benefits from having ingredients tailored to bring out the richness of the meat.

Parsley – fresh parsley can’t be overpowered and complements venison well.

Apple Cider Vinegar – helps cut down on any musky flavors

Ketchup – to add a little tang and sweetness

Seasonings – Italian Seasoning and sage come together to make the perfect flavor profile for this meatloaf

Bacon – adding a bit of fat helps keep a moist meatloaf

How to Make Venison Meatloaf

This is a great recipe that doesn’t require much, just a bit of finesse so you don’t overwork the meat. Because all the good, complimenting flavors in the world can’t save a meatloaf if it turns into a dried-out brick.

A mistake a lot of people make is overworking the meat mixture.

Ingredients for venison meatloaf are laid out on the counter.

To ensure a nice, tender meatloaf that you can actually chew, you’ll want to break your ground meat up gently, sprinkle with all of the ingredients and just mix well enough to combine. Don’t overdo it, it will incorporate into the meat with just a few turns, I promise.

Begin by combining ketchup, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl to make the glaze. Set aside.

So, to begin, gently crumble two pounds of ground venison into small pieces in a large mixing bowl, mixing the chopped bacon, diced onion, and minced garlic in as you crumble.

Next, gently sprinkle the top with the bread crumbs, parsley, salt, black pepper, Italian seasoning, and sage and give it a gentle mix.

Mixing venison meatloaf in a large bowl.

After, add in the milk, beaten eggs, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup and gently mix those in.

Using the ketchup mixture for the glaze, put a few tablespoons in the bottom of a loaf pan and smooth it around a little.

Then, place the meatloaf mixture in the meatloaf pan, gently pressing it into the sides of the pan to form it in a loaf shape.

Venison meatloaf pressed into a loaf pan ready to be baked.

Put the loaf pan on the center rack in a preheated oven of 375°F. Bake for 45 minutes, uncovered.

After 45 minutes of cooking time, remove the meatloaf and place the remaining glaze on top of the meatloaf, brushing it evenly over the top. Place back in the oven for 20-25 minutes longer or until the meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 160°F when a meat thermometer is inserted in the middle.

Allow meatloaf to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Other Ground Venison Recipes to Try:

If you try this amazing venison meatloaf, feel free to give me your thoughts and questions in the comments. Also, I’d love it if you’d leave me a five-star recipe card rating on the recipe card below and you can tag me on Instagram with your recipe creations @therusticelk!

Venison meatloaf topped with a tangy sauce sitting on a serving board.
Yield: Serves 6

Venison Meatloaf

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Savory and tender this classic venison meatloaf topped with a tangy sauce is full of flavor and the perfect use for deer meat.



  • 2 lbs Ground Venison
  • 4 Tbsp Bacon (diced)
  • 1/3 Cup Onion (finely diced)
  • 3 Cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1 Cup Dried Breadcrumbs (plain or Italian)
  • 1/4 Cup Parsley (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Sage
  • 3/4 Cup Milk
  • 2 Eggs (beaten)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Ketchup

Meatloaf Glaze

  • 3/4 Cup Ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Onion Powder


  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 375°F. Then start combining 3/4 cup ketchup, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon each of black pepper, salt, and onion powder in a small bowl to make the glaze. Set aside.
  2. Next, gently crumble two pounds of ground venison, four tablespoons of diced bacon, 1/3 cup of diced onion, and three minced cloves of garlic in a large mixing bowl, intermittently adding the ingredients so they're partially mixed.
  3. Next, pour one cup of breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup finely diced parsley, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper, 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground sage on top of the meat mixture. Gently mix with fingers to lightly combine.
  4. Lastly, add the 3/4 cup milk, 2 beaten eggs, 1/2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and two tablespoons of ketchup to the meatloaf mixture. Gently combine, do not overmix.
  5. Taking the glaze, pour a few tablespoons in the bottom of a loaf pan and smooth it to cover the bottom of the pan. Taking the meatloaf mixture, press it into the loaf pan, including down the sides and in the corners to form a loaf.
  6. Bake meatloaf, uncovered for 45 minutes on the center rack of the oven.
  7. Remove the meatloaf, and cover the top with the remaining glaze. Place back in the oven and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until a meat thermometer placed in the center of the meatloaf reads 160°F.
  8. Allow the meatloaf to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Thursday 9th of May 2024

Do you cook the bacon first? Also, what spices are in the Italian seasoning?

Danielle McCoy

Thursday 16th of May 2024

No, it cooks when you bake it. There are numerous dried seasonings in Italian seasoning. If I make my own, I generally combine parsley, thyme, marjoram, basil, oregano, and garlic powder.


Wednesday 17th of January 2024

This is it, the only meatloaf recipe you need. My wife loved it and she typically stays away from venison. Hands down the best meatloaf I have eaten. Thank you

Danielle McCoy

Wednesday 17th of January 2024

Thanks so much, Josh! So glad you and your wife both loved it!

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