Venison Pierogis

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A plate of venison pierogi with gravy.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

If you don’t love pierogis, you need to see someone because something is seriously wrong with you. And while I love my recipe for mushroom pierogis, I actually prefer my venison pierogis.

It’s a meat thing.

If for some unknown reason you don’t know what a pierogi is, it is Eastern Europe’s gift to the world of dumplings. And while it looks like a Mexican empanada, or an Italian mezzaluna, or even a little like a Chinese potsticker, it’s not.

The secret is not only the seasonings, it’s the dough,which is neither bready nor pasta-like. I owe my dough recipe to my friend Casey Barber and her excellent book Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food, which I can highly recommend.

overhead view of venison pierogis recipe
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

As you read through my rendition of venison pierogis, you will notice it starts with a whole cut of meat, not ground. That’s just my choice. I feel that starting this way make a better pierogi, and in fact will often just use leftover meat from, say, my Polish pot roast recipe. These two dishes make a perfect tandem.

If you did want to just use ground venison, proceed with my recipe as normal, adding all the stuff to the braise, but do it on the stovetop and boil it down until most of the liquid is gone, then buzz in the food processor as you would the shoulder or shank. If you want the gravy as well, just let it boil down halfway and strain off the meat and veggies, saving the liquid.

Your other option is to caramelize some onions and serve your pierogis with that plus some sour cream. Also great.

As you may imagine, this recipe works with any meat. Beef is the most traditional, but use whatever you have.

A plate of venison pierogi with gravy.
5 from 4 votes

Venison Pierogis

As I mentioned above, this is my recipe for meat-filled pierogi. I use venison here, but pretty much any meat is fine. These freeze very well if you make a double batch. Freeze on a baking sheet until solid, then put in a freezer bag. Boil straight from the freezer.
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine: Polish
Servings: 8 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients 

FILLING

  • 3 tablespoons butter, lard, duck fat, or the cooking oil of your choice
  • 2 pounds venison shoulder, shank meat, or neck meat
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • A handful of dried mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • A 12-ounce bottle of dark malty beer such as stout, porter, or a brown ale
  • cups venison or beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

DOUGH

  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream (4 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter, unsalted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (4¼ ounces)
  • 1 cup dark rye flour or whole wheat flour (3¾ ounces)

Instructions 

  • Heat the butter in a heavy, lidded pot large enough to hold the venison. Salt the meat well and brown it on all sides. Don’t crowd the pot, and do this in batches if need be. As the venison browns, remove it from the pot and set aside.
  • Add the vegetables and cook over medium heat until they begin to brown on the edges, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the Worcestershire sauce, beer, and about ½ cup of broth. Return the meat to the pot and add more stock until it comes halfway up the sides of the meat. Cover the pot and simmer gently over medium-low heat until the meat is very tender. This could be anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours, depending on how old your animal was.
  • When the meat is ready, shred it roughly. Put 1 cup of this meat in a food processor and add 2 tablespoons of cooking liquid. Pulse until coarsely ground.
  • Depending on what sort of cuts you use, you may have extra meat. You can eat the rest of the meat as a cook’s snack, or drop it into soup. Strain the cooking liquid and reserve it to make gravy later. All of this can be done up to a day or two before you make the pierogis.
  • To make the dough, mix 1 egg, the sour cream, and melted butter into one bowl, and the remaining ingredients into another bowl. Stir the wet into the dry, then knead until the dough comes together—this should only take a minute or three. Cover the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  • Cut the dough in half. Cover one half while you work with the other. Roll the dough into a snake and cut it into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and set aside, covered. Repeat with the second half of the dough.
  • Ideally you have a tortilla press; they are cheap and available online or in any Mexican market. It makes the process of forming all sorts of dumpling wrappers (and, of course, tortillas) so much easier it’s worth the $20. If you have one, line the press with cut pieces of a plastic bag and press each ball of dough into a flat disk.
  • If you don’t have a tortilla press, flatten each ball of dough with your hands, keeping it as round as possible. Finish rolling the wrappers out on a well-floured surface with a rolling pin. You want them as thin as possible, like 1/8 inch. Alternately, you can roll the whole batch of dough out thin and cut out 3-inch circles with a cookie cutter.
  • Beat the remaining egg for the dough with some water to make an egg wash. Get a baking sheet out and either line it with parchment paper or dust it with semolina flour or cornmeal.
  • Fill each circle with about a heaping tablespoon of the venison. Using your finger, swipe a little bit of the egg wash along the edge of the dough circle, then fold the dough over the filling to make a half moon. Seal the dumplings with your fingers and set them on the baking sheet.
  • When you’re done, you have a choice: Fry your pierogis or boil them. If you boil them, get a large pot of water boiling and add enough salt to make the water taste a little salty. Boil the pierogis until they float, then boil a minute or two more. If you fry them, get a wide frying pan and add 3 or 4 tablespoons of your favorite fat—duck fat and butter are mine—and fry the pierogis over medium-high heat in one layer until nicely browned, about 2 minutes.
  • You can eat them all this way, with sour cream and caramelized onions, or you can make a gravy with your cooking liquid by heating it up to steaming, then adding the cornstarch. To do this without clumping, mix the cornstarch with about 1 tablespoon of water to make a slurry, then stir it into the hot liquid. Keep stirring, and bring the gravy to a boil. That will set the corn starch. Drop the heat back to a simmer and you’re ready.

Nutrition

Calories: 464kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 199mg | Sodium: 613mg | Potassium: 663mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1761IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 58mg | Iron: 7mg

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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9 Comments

  1. These came out fantastic! I boiled half and fried half. My daughter preferred fried we liked boiled. I served them with just the sauce which was great, but next time with also make up a bunch of caramelized onions to go with.

  2. After you pulse the 1 cup of meat, are you then mixing it back into the roughly shredded stuff? And do the vegetables and mushrooms wind up inside the pierogis, or are they just there to add to the braising liquid? Thanks!

    1. Ben: No, you only need the 1 cup of meat. And the vegetables and mushrooms flavor the liquid, which becomes the basis for the gravy.

  3. We just made this tonight with some 2 year old Elk boneless shank (cleaning out the freezer!), and it was delicious! We are calling this recipe the Hank Shaw Shank Redemption, as it “redeemed” our frozen shank….?

  4. Looks yumcious! Would you happen to know of a gluten free version that is successful? If I eat too much wheat, I don’t feel so well…I love pierogi and would be so glad to be able to make them wheat-free (so I can enjoy more than one.)

    Thank you for your site, so interesting!

    1. Jacque: I don’t, but look up Casey Barber of Good Food Stories. She’s a pierogi wizard, and might be able to help.

  5. i cannot WAIT to make these!!! pierogi is my all time favorite food and we sure do have plenty of venison to try these out! can these be made in large batches for freezing do you think? Thanks Hank!