Food & Drink | March 9, 2021 12:04 pm

Venison Is Tricky; These Hawaiian Meatballs Are Not

The number-one rule of cooking deer meat is a simple one: Don't. Overcook. It.

Venison meatballs with creamy dill sauce.
Venison meatballs with creamy dill sauce.
Maui Nui Venison

A good source of iron, riboflavin, niacin and vitamins B12 and B6, venison is tender, naturally juicy and delicious when prepared properly. And when it’s sourced from the population of axis deer that is currently running rampant in Hawaii, it also devoid of the gamey taste that’s sometimes present in venison derived from the lower 48 due to differences in diet and harvesting methods.

That being said, preparing venison can be a little tricky despite it being a red meat, according to Jake and Kuulani Muise, the husband-and-wife team behind Maui Nui Venison. The Muises, who provided the recipe for venison meatballs with dill sauce that can be found below, say the biggest rule of thumb for preparing deer meat is a simple one: don’t overcook it.

“It’s a lean meat. So low and slow or small and fast. Just don’t overcook it and it’ll be amazing,” Kuulani says. “Just don’t let it get over 140 degrees and you’re fine.”

Ground venison made from axis deer.
Maui Nui Venison

With the exception of ground venison, which can be treated like any other ground protein., the Muises suggest cooking steaks, chops and other venison cuts that are going to be served individually until the internal temperatures reach 130 or 135 degrees. That can usually be accomplished by searing on high for two minutes per side and then throwing the venison into the oven while covered at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes, depending on piece size. As with other meats, let it rest before serving.

If the venison is going to be used in a stew or soups, they recommend cooking it on low for at least three or four hours in a slow cooker or one hour in a pressure cooker. The longer, the better.

“There are folks that enjoy our venison raw and use it for sushi thanks to its flavor profile,” Jake says. “But what I’ve landed on over the years is some avocado oil, Hawaiian salt and cooking it to 135 degrees. Do that and any cut on axis deer is good.”

As is the meatball recipe below.

Venison Meatballs With Dill Sauce


For the meatballs 

  • 2 lb ground venison (or other red meat, if you have none on hand)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups bread crumbs/wheat bran 

For the dill sauce

  • ½ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 cup bone broth (half a pack)
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
  • ½ tsp allspice 


  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Lightly drizzle a rimmed baking sheet with olive or avocado oil.
  3. To prepare the dill sauce, whisk flour into melted butter until smooth then stir in bone broth. Lastly fold in the sour cream and seasoning. Set aside.
  4. In another large bowl, combine breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, beaten eggs and cream. Allow to soak for 1-2 minutes. Add onions and ground venison, mixing gently by hand to combine. Do not over-work. 
  5. Roll out golf-ball sized meatballs.
  6. Place meatballs on baking sheet. Lightly drizzle melted butter on top of meatballs.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn and bake for 15 more or until browned and cooked through. 
  8. To serve, drizzle meatballs with dill sauce. For added fun, add small skewers to each meatball.