Venison Tenderloin with Blueberry Sauce

4.88 from 57 votes
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Icelandic venison with blueberry sauce recipe
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Venison and blueberry sauce, or huckleberries if you live here in the West, is an ancient and well-respected combination. One that I’d hated for years. Every version I’d had was cloying, sticky, a weird sweet and not very sour flavor that just didn’t suit me. Long ago I told myself that I’d just avoid this particular classic.

And then I read a quirky little book on, of all things, the food of Iceland. Icelandic Food & Cookery, by the memorably named Nanna Rognvaldardottir, has all kinds of cool recipes in it, and you can expect to see some here in the coming months.

Her version of this dish, done with lamb, was the first one I’d seen that was not obviously sweet. Her use of mushrooms in a berry sauce was pretty unusual, too. So I studied the recipe, made a few changes and gave it a go.

I am glad I did. This dish is a knockout.

The venison itself is cooked very simply — just seared medium-rare in a pan with some clarified butter — but the sauce has all kinds of layered flavors. Seared onions and wild mushrooms, a little garlic, wine, stock, the mushroom soaking water, and only then the blueberries. I used wild huckleberries I had frozen, and they are smaller and more acidic than store-bought blueberries. They actually act as a zippy tart balance to the savory sauce, not as a sugary bomb.

One cool option might be to use pickled blueberries, which last forever in the fridge. That adds even more tartness to the dish.

I served this alongside some Irish colcannon, which is a fancy name for mashed potatoes with a green thing mixed in. I used nettles I had from the freezer, but any green will do. Spinach would be easiest, but kale is pretty traditional in Ireland, and the Icelanders eat it, too.

The blueberry sauce is a must-try with your next piece of venison tenderloin or backstrap. It’s a date night dish that takes less than an hour to put together, too.

Venison tenderloin with Icelandic blueberry sauce
4.88 from 57 votes

Venison with Blueberry Sauce and Colcannon

I love this recipe with tenderloins, but backstrap or even a well-cut leg steak would work. And of course this will work with duck, goose, beef or lamb, too. You'll notice I use both clarified and regular unsalted butter here. I like the clarified because it has a high smoke point and is better for searing than regular butter; milk solids burn easily. You can buy it in many markets labeled as Indian ghee, or you can make your own. Or use another fat or oil. As for the mushrooms, I used dried morels. Any good dried mushroom will do. You want that mushroom soaking water, so don't use fresh mushrooms. Port wine can be a nicer kick in the sauce than red wine, but it's strong -- if you use Port instead of red wine, use only 1/4 cup. Finally, remember that this is a savory sauce, despite the blueberries (or huckleberries). If this is weird to you, add some sugar.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Scandinavian
Servings: 2 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour


  • Tenderloins from a deer or 1/2 pound venison backstrap
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons clarified butter, regular unsalted butter, lard, duck fat or vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, peeled and sliced root to tip
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 ounce dried mushrooms, wild if possible, reconstituted in 1 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup venison stock or beef stock
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup blueberries or huckleberries, fresh or thawed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary minced
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Malt or red wine vinegar to taste
  • Sugar optional


  • 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • Salt
  • 2 or 3 three tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 or 2 heaping tablespoons sour cream or heavy cream
  • 1 cup chopped spinach or other greens


  • Take the venison out of the fridge and salt it well. Let it set on the cutting board while you rehydrate the mushrooms and boil the potatoes for the colcannon.
  • Put the diced potatoes into a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender. Drain the potatoes and put them back in the pot. Turn the heat to low under the pot and let the potatoes steam for a few seconds.
  • Beat in the butter, sour cream and chopped vegetables. You want nice mashed potatoes with green streaks. Add salt to taste, cover the pot, turn off the heat and set aside.
  • Get a large saute pan and put 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter into it. Turn the heat to high and when the butter is hot, add the sliced onion. Saute over medium-high heat until browned along the edges, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the onions and set aside.
  • Wipe the pan with a paper towel. Pat the venison dry and put the clarified butter into the pan. Set it over high heat until the butter is very hot, but not smoking. Add the venison and sear until medium-rare. If you don't know to tell when the meat is done, use the finger test for doneness. When the venison is done, move it to rest on a cutting board.
  • Return the onions to the pan, add the mushrooms and garlic and saute over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle some salt over everything and add the wine.
  • Boil this down until it's almost gone, using a wooden spoon to stir up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and mushroom soaking water (strain the water if there is any debris in it) and boil this down by two-thirds.
  • Add the huckleberries or blueberries and cook another minute or two, Add black pepper, salt and vinegar to taste. If you want it sweet, add some sugar now; start with a teaspoon or two. Garnish with the rosemary.


I served this with a really good Spanish red wine, but any full-bodied red will work, or if you are a beer drinker, a malty Scottish ale or porter is the ticket.


Calories: 597kcal | Carbohydrates: 60g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Cholesterol: 86mg | Sodium: 151mg | Potassium: 1431mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1931IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 60mg | Iron: 3mg

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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Recipe Rating


  1. I have made versions of this recipe about a dozen times over six years now and it never fails to wow. Most recently, I made it with a backstrap from a wild pig my wife shot while we were quail hunting with friends in January. I used bacon fat in place of most of the butter in the recipe, and gosh dang it was it great!! The folks we were hunting with had never eaten wild pig before and were skeptical when we started cooking. There were no leftovers.

    If you haven’t made this recipe, you should. It could well be the best dish you have ever cooked!!

  2. Absolutely delicious! The blueberry sauce makes it almost refreshing. I’ve tried it with other berries, too…wild huckleberries and blackberries…and it worked well with both.

  3. A wonderful recipe for the modern hunter-gather to put on the table. I made this with venison, morels, and blueberries from the woods of Wisconsin and my wife was amazed!

  4. This has got to be our favorite way to make backstrap. The first taste left us in awe, staring at each other. The recipe is straight forward, make this ASAP

  5. I made this with whitetail doe backstraps. It was awesome and a great introduction to venison for some friends who had never eaten game meat

  6. Wow, this was so much better than I expected. My three children (11,10,7) devoured every bit of the meat and the veggies. This recipe will impress anyone you prepare it for. I only had deer loins rather than tenderloins, but never knew the difference.

  7. I can’t even describe how amazing this tastes….you just have to make it yourself to find out. Great, straightforward, simple recipe that achieves outstanding results! I served mine with MN wild rice & used wild blueberries harvested in Northern MN which made it a truly Minnesotan dish!

  8. My husband and I made this recipe with deer blackstrap for a stay at home date night and it was fantastic. We hardly even talked to each other – too busy savoring the dish! Definitely a keeper recipe.

  9. Do you have any experience using chokecherries in a sauce for meat? We have loads of chokecherries and I would love to use them for something more than syrup and jelly.

    1. Kstrina: Yes I do. They can be subbed in for the blueberries here. You might need to add just a pinch of sugar to offset how sour they are.

  10. A friend just gave us some tenderloin and I will be making this next week. Did you do anything to the tenderloin prior to cooking it? It’s been years since I cooked deer meat although I grew up eating that and squirrel.

    1. Vicky: I just salt it well and let it rest on the cutting board for 30 minutes or so before cooking it.

  11. My wife and I have prepared this dish several times for ourselves and once for a couple of friends who were effusive with praise over it. Backstrap is amazing as-is, but add the blueberry sauce and it goes to another level. Thanks, Hank!

  12. Thanks Hank. I’ll have to find yet another work around with the flour. 3 of the 6 people in the family are highly sensitive to wheat. By the way, we just made the chipotle jerk. Everyone raved about it!

  13. We love venison and usually make medallions with a cranberry and port wines sauce for Thanksgiving. However, this dish sounds and looks absolutely perfect for this year’s Thanksgiving table fare. Unfortunately, we have trouble with sour cream or heavy cream. Is there something that I could substitute for either? Possibly homemade blueberry yogurt?

    1. Chris: If you can eat yogurt, plain or Greek full fat yogurt works well. Stir in about a teaspoon of flour and let it come to room temperature. Then add a little bit at a time to the sauce, otherwise it’ll curdle.

  14. Made this dish with antelope tenderloin. Loved it.

    On the red wine vinegar is just used a dash and it turned out fine. Not too strong or weak. When I cook this again, I would consider grilling the meat while brushing butter on it instead of searing it in the pan. I like a lighter touch with the char.

  15. I made this tonight. Wonderful!! I have made a few of your recipes and every one has been great! Thank you. I was scared of venison until I found your recipes.