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The Best Venison Meatloaf

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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.

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.

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, or the flavors would be slightly off, or I would honestly 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 liked it, the kids liked it, and it has quickly become one of my favorite venison recipes.

Topped with a tangy glaze, this classic venison 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.

How to Make Venison Meatloaf

Ingredients for venison meatloaf are laid out on the counter.

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.

A bit of parsley as it can’t be overpowered and compliments venison well, some apple cider vinegar to cut down on any musky flavors, ketchup to add a little tang and sweetness, Italian seasoning, and a touch of sage all come together to make the perfect flavor profile for this meatloaf.

All the good, complimenting flavors in the world can’t save a meatloaf if it turns into a dried-out brick, though. So, adding a bit of fat, in this case, a bit of diced raw bacon, can help everything come together and not dry out. But a mistake a lot of people make is overworking the meat mixture.

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

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

Put the loaf pan on the center rack in the oven, which has been preheated to 375°F. Bake for 45 minutes, uncovered.

After 45 minutes, 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.

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.

Ingredients

Meatloaf

  • 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

Instructions

  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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