Teriyaki Meatballs with Venison

5 from 21 votes
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Like most normal humans, I have a thing for meatballs. And as a hunter, I love teriyaki meatballs — because, well, teriyaki seems to be one of the primary flavors American hunters turn to for cooking wild game.

Obviously, I also love Italian meatballs, Greek meatballs, Laotian meatballs, German meatballs, etc, etc. Pretty much every culture that eats meat, which is almost all of them, has some sort of a meatball.

Japanese teriyaki meatballs on a plate with chopsticks
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

This style of meatball, called niku dango, is damn good. It’s basically teriyaki meatballs, normally made with pork, and if you are not a hunter, use pork or beef or even ground chicken or turkey.

I used venison to make these meatballs instead, because that’s what I had at hand. It’s a pretty simple meatball, made “Japanese” with the addition of ginger, green onion, coarse panko breadcrumbs and soy sauce in the mix. All by itself, it’s a nice meatball.

The star of this show is the sauce, which is a homemade teriyaki. Could you use store-bought teriyaki sauce? I suppose, but I always prefer cooking from scratch.

Teriyaki, if you’ve been living in a cave near the Arctic Circle your whole life, is a salty, sweet, slightly acidic sauce that goes well on everything. In Japan it’s a sort of BBQ sauce. Here it’s become a universal seasoning; I’ve even seen teriyaki potato chips.

That’s really all there is to this recipe: Easy teriyaki meatballs glazed with a homemade sauce, dusted with sesame seeds. Stick a toothpick in each meatball and you have a great party appetizer. Toss a few on top of some steamed rice and you have an easy weeknight meal.

But a fair warning: Make more than you think you’ll need. People seem to be unable to control themselves while eating these…

For another take on Japanese meatballs, here’s one I like from Saveur.

Want more teriyaki? Try my teriyaki duck legs, teriyaki grilled doves, or teriyaki mushrooms.

Japanese teriyaki meatballs on a plate with chopsticks
5 from 21 votes

Teriyaki Meatballs with Venison

Honestly, although I made these with venison, pork is more traditional. And you can basically use any ground meat here. But, the ground meat needs to be fatty, at least 15 percent fat (20 percent is better), and it should be ground relatively fine. A coarser ground meatball will still taste great, but it won't be as refined. Your choice.
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 6 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients 

MEATBALLS

  • 2 pounds finely ground venison, pork or wild boar
  • 3 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 eggs

SAUCE

  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons potato or corn starch
  • Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Instructions 

  • Mix all the meatball ingredients together in a bowl. Mix all the sauce ingredients in another bowl.
  • Form meatballs anywhere from the size of a walnut to the size of golf ball. For best results, set the meatballs on a baking sheet and put it into the fridge for an hour to firm up. But you can cook the meatballs straight away if you'd like.
  • Cook the meatballs. You can deep fry them at 360°F for about 5 minutes, or you can poach them in simmering water for about the same amount of time (they're ready when they float); or you can bake the meatballs at 400°F for about 20 minutes.
  • Glaze the meatballs. Whisk the sauce together so the starch doesn't stick to the bottom of the bowl, and pour it into a large saute pan. Bring it to a boil and add the cooked meatballs. Roll them around in the hot sauce to glaze for 30 seconds or so. Move the meatballs to a serving plate and sprinkle sesame seeds over them. Serve hot as an appetizer or with rice.

Notes

I don't like a super sweet sauce, so I only use 1 tablespoon of sugar; mirin is also sweet, so that's enough for me. Feel free to increase the amount of sugar if you like.

Nutrition

Calories: 362kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 176mg | Sodium: 2162mg | Potassium: 610mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 110IU | Vitamin C: 0.6mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 5.8mg

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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36 Comments

  1. I plan on cooking a big batch of these soon. Have you had any luck freezing the leftovers? Also, do you have any recommendations on how much fat to add if I use lean ground venison?

    1. Matt: I would freeze the meatballs before you make the sauce, then make batches of sauce when you’re ready. I prefer something around 15 to 20% fat in meatballs.

  2. Absolutely perfect. I used some trim from this year’s whitetail and a half pound of pork fat. My wife doesn’t let me deep fry anything in the house, so I baked them in the oven and finished under the broiler for some texture. I didn’t have any sake, so I added a splash or two of rice vinegar in the sauce. Two and a half pounds were devoured by my wife, three daughters, and myself. Thanks, Hank!

  3. Really fast to make and tasty. We’ll be taking to potlucks when COVID allows. Oven baked, glazed, then sprinkled chopped green onion over them as well as the sesame seeds.

  4. I made these for a Super Bowl party and they were AWESOME. Liquor stores were closed here so I used a local teriyaki sauce and kept them warm in the slow cooker. In addition to sesame seeds, I added a sprinkle of sliced green onions and chopped cilantro to add a little color.

  5. Hey bud just wanted to say your cookbook is awesome . Heard about it on the meat eater podcast . Now I listen to your pod cast . You guys are the best keep it up completely changed the stuff I do with my wild game