These Ground Venison Tacos feature smoky and umami flavors that play off the earthy flavor of deer meat. Pair with a super simple Red Wine Vinaigrette Slaw to take these deer meat tacos to the next level of awesome.
Venison (or deer meat) is a lean, flavorful meat that makes a fantastic taco filling, especially when you play up its unique flavor with bold chipotle and well-balanced umami flavors. This Ground Venison Taco recipe is fairly easy to execute using common grocery store ingredients. And it makes one memorable deer meat recipe you'll want to add to your game meat dinner rotation.
What is venison? And why can't I find it in my grocery store?
Venison is meat that comes from deer. You likely won't find deer meat in your local grocery store because there are strict food-grade guidelines around how meat must be processed before it can be approved for commercial sale (read a bit about game meat and food safety here). Most venison is harvested via hunting deer in the wild. It's difficult to ensure that the deer meat your uncle Randy harvested during hunting season meets those strict food guidelines; therefore, you won't find it for sale in stores.
It's also uncommon to see venison served in restaurants. If you do ever encounter it on a menu, you can be sure that it was farm-raised venison and processed within food-grade guidelines.
For the purposes of this recipe, I am referring to venison that has been harvested in the wild (during deer hunting season). Hunting deer is a popular outdoor activity in Minnesota, one that my family and I have participated in for many years. The ground venison for this recipe was provided by a deer my little 'bro harvested.
A note on wild venison's (deer meat's) flavor
For the uninitiated, eating ground venison meat can be an experience, especially wild venison. Its flavor can be a bit unpredictable but it has a very distinct earthiness to it; it's also not as juicy as beef and is super lean and firm. In my opinion, deer meat can range from overwhelmingly (read: unpleasantly) gamey to possessing a lovely lean earthiness. Fortunately, my experience has overwhelmingly been with the latter.
I've never eaten farm-raised venison, but I've heard it's very similar to wild hunted deer meat (though I'd wager more consistent in flavor since the diet is controlled as well as the age of harvesting).
If you want to introduce venison to the uninitiated or those who haven’t had good experiences with previous gustatory introductions to deer meat, try laying this ground venison taco recipe on them. I opted for smoky and umami flavors here to compliment the earthiness of ground venison.
And as for that troublesome issue of dryness when cooking venison? Add some bacon grease.
How do you make Ground Venison Tacos?
This ground venison taco recipe uses a few select ingredients to compliment the flavors of deer meat, and give it a southwestern edge worthy of tacos. Noteworthy ingredients used here are:
Red wine vinegar
Brings an acidic punch to help reign in gamey-ness.
Adds a splash of umami to round out and unify flavors.
Chipotle en adobo peppers
Leads the way into taco territory with a decidedly smoky slant.
This is how you season venison for tacos. Acidity + umami + smoke = delicious venison tacos.
INGREDIENTS FOR VENISON TACOS
- 1 ½ tablespoons bacon grease
- 2 pounds ground venison
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ (7.5 ounce) can chipotle en adobo peppers
INSTRUCTIONS FOR MAKING VENISON TACOS
Add ½ can of chipotle en adobo peppers to a food processor and process for 20-30 seconds. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in a large pan over medium heat. Once liquified, add onion and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add garlic, and cook for 45 seconds, stirring frequently.
Next, add in ground venison and cook for around 10 minutes, or until completely browned.
Add cumin, paprika, processed chipotle en adobo peppers, red wine vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir until well combined. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat.
Serve with Red Wine Vinaigrette Slaw (recipe below!) or any garnishes you'd like.
Note: If you’re short on time, you can simply add garnishes of your choosing to these Ground Venison Tacos - such as shredded lettuce, pico de gallo or other salsa, shredded cheese, and/or sour cream - but if you have the time and the inclination, a Red Wine Vinaigrette Slaw (recipe below) pairs beautifully.
How do you make Red Wine Vinaigrette Slaw?
Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar pair well with ground venison meat, offering bold flavors that complement the unique flavor of deer meat without overpowering it. These two ingredients make this slaw a perfect accompaniment to Ground Venison Tacos.
The following Red Wine Vinaigrette Slaw makes enough to pair with the provided ground venison taco recipe without leaving much (if any) leftovers.
- ½ small head of cabbage, shredded
- ½ small shallot, diced (you can also use 2-3 tablespoons diced yellow onion)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon honey
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (use a mild-flavored olive oil)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Add diced shallot, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, and extra virgin olive oil to a food processor or blender. Process or blend for 20-30 seconds.
Taste and adjust flavors by adding salt and pepper. Pour over shredded cabbage and toss until well coated.
Refrigerate in a lidded container until ready to serve.
Note: Make this slaw a few hours in advance to give the flavors of the slaw time to meld before serving.
I certainly think venison tacos are good! Though they definitely require a little more finesse in the flavor department vs. ground beef. To ensure venison tacos turn out delicious every time, follow these cooking tips:
Cook lean ground venison in a fat, like bacon grease or olive oil; otherwise, you risk serving dry venison.
Don't be stingy with the seasoning! Venison can be gamey, it's definitely got a mellow earthiness to it. Bold seasonings can really help punch up (or cover up) venison's flavor.
You should definitely consider these slammin’ sides to go along with deer meat tacos:
Spicy Pico de Gallo and tortilla chips
Restaurant Style Refried Beans from a Can
Easy Seasoned Refried Beans
Tex-Mex Pasta Salad
Corn and Quinoa Salad with Jalapeno Lime Vinaigrette
Store any leftover deer meat in a lidded container in the refrigerator and use it within 3-4 days.
For optimal flavor and freshness, use any leftover slaw within 2 days.
Ground Venison Tacos
- Add ½ can of chipotle en adobo peppers to a food processor and process for 20-30 seconds. Set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in a large pan over medium heat. Once liquified, add onion and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add garlic, and cook for 45 seconds, stirring frequently.
- Add ground venison and cook for around 10 minutes, or until completely browned.
- Add cumin, paprika, processed chipotle en adobo peppers, red wine vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir until well combine. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat.
- Serve with Red Wine Vinaigrette Slaw or any garnishes you'd like.