Chipotle Deer Jerky

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Jerky, the ultimate meat snack. Beef leather. Chewy, savory, spicy, sweet, it’s my favorite thing to gnaw on when I’m on the road. Making your own deer jerky at home is a snap: Slice, marinate, dry, eat. You’re going to love this venison jerky recipe, which was praised as the “One Jerky to Rule Them All” by Petersen’s magazine. It’s won lots of awards. 

Slices of chipotle deer jerky
Photo by Hank Shaw

Here are a few tips and techniques for making really good deer jerky.

I’ve made venison jerky a lot in recent years, and I’ve come to learn that nuances matter. How thick do you slice the meat? Across the grain or with it? What do you marinate it in? Or do you do a dry cure instead? How long is enough? How long is too long? Dry in an oven, smoker or dehydrator? Again, how long?

This deer jerky recipe is the culmination of those years of tinkering. 

Tips for Better Deer Jerky

Use hind leg roasts that are mostly free of sinew for a nicer venison jerky. If you use gnarlier cuts, you will be chewing a long time.

Slice thickness determines whether you will have chewy jerky or the really brittle stuff you need to moisten with your saliva before you can even begin to eat it; this latter stuff will last forever at room temperature. The thicker jerky is more fun to eat, but doesn’t last as long. 

Either way, if you can slice your venison partially frozen, it will make things easier. 

Slicing your venison across the grain makes it easier to tear with your teeth, but the shorter strands are a little less satisfying as you gnaw them. Slicing with the grain can make for a challenging chew, but the fun lasts longer this way; African biltong is cut with the grain.

Venison Jerky Marinades

Pretty much every deer jerky recipe uses a marinade of some sort; the exception is the simplest of all jerkies, Mexican carne seca. Brining, marinating or dry curing is virtually freestyle. So long as you have ample salt (or something salty, like soy or Worcestershire) you’re in business.

Long-time readers of this site know I am not normally a fan of marinating meats because marinades penetrate only about 1/8 inch into the meat per day. See my article on venison marinades for more on this. (Most of those marinades will work for jerky, incidentally.)

Chipotle deer jerky marinating
Photo by Hank Shaw

But considering that I slice my venison jerky thin anyway, marinating works here. How long? Longer than you think you might need. Seasonings in jerky tend to fade a lot with the drying process, so you really want them to get in there.

Drying Venison Jerky

As for the drying process, a dehydrator beats an oven hands down. Even a low oven cooks the meat a bit too much, leaving it crispy. Of course, if you like crispy, go for it.

I prefer to dehydrate my deer jerky at about 145°F to 155°F. This leaves the meat in the danger zone for bacteria at the outset, so I use Instacure No. 1, which protects the meat as it slowly cooks in the dehydrator. You don’t need this if you use an oven. And you can skip the curing salt if you dehydrate hotter, at about 160°F.

You can also dry your venison jerky in a smoker. Set it as low as it will go, 165°F in my Traeger, and use whatever wood makes you happy. For this recipe, I prefer mesquite. (I also have a smoked venison jerky recipe specifically designed to be smoke-dried.)

Chipotle Deer Jerky Recipe

Through a lots of trial and error I’ve come up with this, my favorite deer jerky recipe. It’s not complicated, which is a bonus, and it really packs a lot of flavor into the meat.

The key to this is the chipotle in adobo. Don’t worry, it sounds more esoteric than it really is. It’s basically smoked jalapenos canned in a rich, spicy adobo sauce. There are several makers of this magical stuff, and the little cans are widely available in Latin markets and in really any supermarket that has a “Hispanic” section. If all else fails, you can buy chipotles in adobo online.

You mix them with soy sauce, onions and garlic, a little sugar and let it sit in the fridge for up to two days. The longer the venison marinates, the spicier and saltier it will be. I let the deer jerky marinate for a day. 

Don’t rinse off the marinade, just wipe it off with a paper towel, then dehydrate or smoke until it’s dry, but still bendable, usually about 6 hours. 

The end result is a chewy, slightly thick deer jerky loaded with an almost “spicy BBQ” flavor. It’s an addicting flavor — I ate three pieces one after the other, unconsciously, as I was trying to evaluate the flavor. That instinctive taking another bite is always a good sign.

Want to do a different route? Use my duck jerky recipe and substitute venison. Works great.

Slices of chipotle deer jerky
4.88 from 54 votes

Chipotle Deer Jerky

Obviously this recipe can be used to make virtually any sort of jerky, wild or domesticated. Duck or goose jerky spring to mind, but this would also be great with turkey, as turkey and chipotle seem to go so well together. Use hind leg roasts in deer, elk, pronghorn, etc.
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: American
Servings: 15 servings
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 5 pounds venison roast
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 7 ounce can of chipotles in adobo
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon of Instacure No. 1 (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons salt

Instructions 

  • Put the soy, sugar, onion, garlic, chipotles and the adobo sauce, lime juice, curing salt and enough water to fill the can of chipotles into the blender and blend until smooth. Taste it (it will be a bit zippy), and add salt if you need it -- the marinade should taste pretty salty.
  • Cut the venison roast against the grain into roughly 1/4 inch slices.
  • Mix the marinade into the meat really well. The slices are going to want to stick to each other, so you need to use your hands (wear gloves if you are very sensitive to chiles) to make sure each side of every slice gets well coated with this marinade. It's enough for a full 5 pounds of meat. Pack the mixture into a non-reactive (plastic, ceramic, stainless steel) container, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, and up to 48 hours. How long you take it depends on your personal salt tolerance and on whether you plan on storing the finished jerky for months or not. If not, go less salty.
  • When you are ready, lay the meat on dehydrator trays in one layer. Don't let the slices of meat touch. Set the dehydrator to 160°F for 2 hours, then drop the temperature down to 145°F until the jerky is ready. You know this because the jerky is still sorta pliable, but when you bend it, the meat starts to fracture and crack a little -- this is how I like my jerky. All told, the jerky should be ready in about 6 hours. You can, if you are planning to store this at room temperature for a long time, dry it until the meat is brittle.
  • If you are using an oven, set the oven as low as it will go and use something to prop open the door, which lets air circulate inside the oven. If you have a convection oven, use it.
  • Store it in the fridge for uh... a long time. Or freeze it until the Second Coming. I vacuum seal packages of it and take them on road trips. They've been fine for weeks at room temperature this way.

Notes

If you want to try another flavor of jerky, use my duck jerky recipe and sub in venison. I also have a great smoked venison jerky recipe
This recipe makes about 3 pounds of finished jerky.

Nutrition

Calories: 237kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 128mg | Sodium: 2039mg | Potassium: 527mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 662IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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155 Comments

  1. I don’t usually make deer jerky but I’d found some roasts in the bottom of my freezer that were a perfect candidate. They were vac sealed and had minimal freezer burn but were from the 2019 season. I sliced a little thicker than I should have but otherwise the jerky was amazing. I brought a bag of it to work and folks were coming by a week later asking if I’d brought anymore. It’s a very simple recipe and is a great snack! I used half of the amount of salt and curing salt and it was perfect for me.

  2. This is my go to jerky recipe now, absolutely love it! I was wondering though could you use the same recipe for ground jerky that you do for whole muscle or would it need to be altered? I have a bunch of ground I’d love to shoot into strips.

  3. Made this last year and liked the flavor, although it was pretty salty for my taste. Revisiting the recipe I notice the only place regular salt is specified in step 1. is in “add salt if you need it.” Was it a mistake to just dump in the 2 Tablespoons of salt with everything else (what I did)? Can you say if it would limit shelf life to use less?

    Also, FWIW I really appreciate your outlook and writing about hunting and food!

  4. Love this recipe and fixing to do up another batch with this years bull. Hank, you think this could be used in a ground Jerky strip recipe? I like making jerky strips out of some of my excess not fat added ground. If so, how much of this per pound to mix into ground? 1/4 cup ish?

  5. Concerned about using fresh venison. I have insta-cure. Does this keep the bacteria away and dehydrating at 160 make it safe? Also. Is this recipe spicy. My grandkids will be eating it and won’t do spicy?

    1. I just marinated 7lbs of venison/sandhill crane and this recipe was plenty for all of it. Might do up to 10lbs.

  6. Fixing to make some more of this today! Excellent recipe. I have tried some of the premade spices although good they tend to be too salty. I have a friend who is a butcher and he brought me some meat that he ran through a tenderizer. Seems to soak more marinade. I am hooked now!

  7. What do you think about making this with wild pig instead of venison? Any changes to the recipe/process? Thank you!

      1. Holy moly this jerky is good! Thank you for all of your recipes and cookbooks and blog! I love them and use them all the time.

    1. Do it in a smoker if you gave one. Great for pigs because you can set it to a higher temp than most dehydrators. We’ve done this and it turned out delicious.

  8. Hi Hank! I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your work. It’s brought me and my family a lot of joy over the years. I just noticed a measures typo here that I wanted to alert you to. I noticed it says here a ’17-oz can of chipotle in adobo’ rather than the more usual 7-oz can that you list for this recipe in your book.

  9. Hank,

    I’ve found a curing salt locally called Bolner Fiesta Curing Salt. Fiesta brand is popular here in TX. Ever used it? Recommend as a substitute for curing salt?

  10. After years of searching for a go-to jerky recipe, I finally landed on Hank’s. My yearly ritual (if I was lucky enough to bag a deer) used to look like this. Butcher the deer, slice anything other than steaks into jerky meat, google around for a recipe, make the jerky. Some years it was okay, others sub par. That ritual lost the step of googling recipes once I stumbled upon this one!

    While I still make jerky with every deer I harvest, I no longer deviate from this recipe as my base. While I alter portions of each batch (dredge some in cracked pepper, add dehydrated or fresh chili peppers to other portions, etc.) I can’t bring myself to make jerky any way other than using this recipe.

    This recipe actually served as a gateway to the vast culinary world that Hank has created and refined. I love the diversity among his recipes and the way that they tie in wild and natural ingredients. No matter what you are hunting or foraging, there are so many recipes out there for you, with more being created on a weekly basis! The Hunt Gather Cook Facebook group is also such a great resource for the world of wild foods.

  11. This turned out great. I have made jerky many times over the years with good results but I always hesitate, thinking of my finite supply of venison and what I might be missing in terms of roasts and braises. But this recipe leaves me with no regrets. It has a perfect combination of spice and salt and sweet. Finally a jerky worth the use of my precious venison.

  12. This recipe is perfect. Just follow his directions and do not overthink it… Insanely good. Great way to clean out the freezer a week before opener!

    Charlie from Saint Paul

  13. Made this with white tail and axis strips. Followed the recipe exactly and left it in the sauce for three days; amazing flavor and really easy to make. Almost gone with no time to vac seal and freeze.