12 Venison Marinades from Ingredients Actually in Your Pantry Right Now

If you're a true wild game fan, then you may think that venison steaks are best marinated with a sprinkle of salt and ground black pepper and shouldn't even think about bathing in an acidic sauce. While those who reside in the purist camp do have a fair point, there is always an exception to the rule. If you're looking for that exception, here it is: venison can absolutely benefit from being marinated. You just have to know the proper venison marinade to use for the job.

The real trick is knowing which ones will give your meat the most flavor while tenderizing it to the ideal texture when cooked to medium rare. Marinated venison is truly an art form.

Why Bother Using a Marinade?

So why would you even use a marinade in the first place? Well, besides adding additional flavor to your venison, marinades will infuse the muscle tissue with acidic enzymes to help break it down and add to the sensation of tenderness that is so enjoyable when you savor your meat. This is why lemon juice is such a popular marinade ingredient.

In particular, marinades will give an edge to your cooking when you are working with tougher cuts of meat such as leg and steaks. Naturally tender cuts such as venison backstrap and tenderloin (please note the name) really only need to be marinated when they come from older animals, particularly rutting bucks.

However, be aware that a marinade will not penetrate deer meat in the same fashion that a heavy-duty salt-based brine will. So if your meat is extremely tough, you may want to consider another approach to tenderization. That being said, a marinade will penetrate the muscle tissue of most meats for up to 1/8 of an inch during the course of a day.

Therefore, marinades are an effective choice to add both flavor and tenderness to your venison. So grab a plastic bag or two and let's get some marinated venison on the table.

1. Italian Dressing Marinade

Five Heart Home

Sure, you could use it on your salad. But why waste such a great sauce on your plate's garnish. We all know, that the meat is the star of the show and should get the best treatment!

Also, don't just think you can pour sauce out of a jar from a grocery store and call it Italian dressing. No, no. You need to experience this marinade recipe when it's made from scratch, especially with good quality olive oil. Get the recipe here.

2. Soy Sauce Marinade


If you like Asian flavors, but don't like them to overtake your dishes, then a soy sauce marinade will be a happy choice. Lemon and garlic cloves (or lemon juice and garlic powder, if you're in a pinch) cut the more distinct flavor of soy sauce to create a nice balance of sour and umami flavors.

This is the perfect marinade to give the familiar taste of venison just that little extra something. Get a recipe here.

3. Teriyaki Marinade

A Cozy Kitchen

If you've every used a marinade, you've probably used teriyaki. Although you can use store bought sauces, often they are too sweet and overpower the nuances of your venison. Instead, try a homemade version.

It will complement instead of overpower the flavor of your meat and you may find that it gives you a whole new outlook on this classic sauce. If you're concerned about the high sodium content in soy sauce, use a low sodium soy sauce instead. Get a recipe here.

4. Red Wine Marinade

red wine marinade
Food & Wine

Red wine is the perfect accompaniment to game meats when it's served alongside them. It is also a great option to marinate the steaks.

In fact, wine may be one of the oldest marinades - the French have been using bottles of red wine to cook their meats for centuries because it's just so unbelievably delicious Try a recipe here.

5. South Carolina BBQ

Our Best Bites

This style of BBQ is known for its tangy mustard base that is the perfect partner for the rich flavor of venison. It not only makes a wonderful choice for a marinade, but it is also an excellent sauce for after you've grilled your meat.

Amp up your flank steal and get the recipe here.

6. Kansas Style BBQ

Taste of BBQ

If you're into BBQ sauces, then you can't skip Kansas style. This style is ketchup-based, and if you know anything about tomatoes, you will know that their acid content makes them unexpectedly wonderful tenderizers.

This recipe also includes brown sugar and strongly brewed coffee that lends a smokey flavor to your meat. There may not actually be a more perfect flavor to pair with grilled venison. You'll want to drink this stuff as a venison steak sauce. Get the recipe here.

7. Honey Ginger Marinade

honey ginger marinade
Just A Taste

If you really like Asian flavors and want an effective wild game marinade for a less tender cut, try a honey ginger marinade. The soy sauce and ginger will do an excellent job softening your meat and the honey will not only add a subtle sweetness, but it will leave a glaze that will crisp as soon as you cook the meat. Get a recipe here.

8. Greek Style Marinade

Simply Scratch

This marinade is a variation on the Italian dressing marinade and is perfect for big game. Hardly surprising as it comes from a county just to the east of Italy.

A little extra citrus and oregano make this marinade great when you want something light and bright to complement your game. Get a recipe here.

9. Apple Cider Marinade

apple cider marinade
Canadian Living

Apple cider is a fantastic meat tenderizer. When you combine it with thyme, shallots, allspice, and Dijon mustard, you are in for a marinated venison treat. This marinade will leave your meat with a buttery soft texture and a subtle flavor that will not overpower the natural gamey overtones of your venison.

Apple juice and apple cider vinegar are also great substitutions, but be sure to monitor the acidity if you use ACV. Get a recipe here.

10. Tex Mex Marinade

Flavor Mosaic

This is a classic and perfect grilling marinade that is most often used on fowl, but it is also delicious on venison. The cumin and pepper will subtly remind you of Southwestern flavors while the lime juice and pineapple juice will keep things fresh while it tenderizes your meat.

If you want to add something extra, a dash or two of onion powder will add depth to the flavor. Get a recipe here.

11. Korean Bulgogi

The Modern Proper

This marinade is sweet, savory, spiced, and sour all at once. Yet once this complex symphony of natural flavors begins to meld, somehow the resulting scents that waft out of your kitchen will seem perfectly harmonious. What more could you ask for?

Plus, so few ingredients are required that you may find yourself making this marinade regularly for all kinds of meat. Get a recipe here.

12. Chimichurri

Gimme Some Oven

This sauce is an herb lover's dream. It's fresh, zippy, and in Argentina, it's like ketchup - it goes on EVERYTHING.  It's also one of those great marinades for true carnivores to claim that they're getting their greens. A spring of mint in this marinade also makes for crazy good flavor.

However, the very best thing about this marinade is that it can also be used later as a sauce for your deer steaks. Get a recipe here.

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