Venison Barley Vegetable Soup

Photo by Nikki Bennett

I feel a little bad for my husband. Let’s be real — he married a dietitian and food isn’t exactly something you can avoid on a daily basis. Something my husband can freely admit is that he has a sweet tooth. I can be quick to remind him that many sweets are high in saturated fat, which is not good for the heart.

On the flip side, he's a deer hunter, and he brings home venison to contribute to our family meals. Venison is a good choice of meat for heart health due to its low fat content.

I hear many complaints from people, including clients, who don't like the taste of venison. Venison’s flavor is affected by what the deer ate, where it ate it and how the meat is prepared. If you didn’t like venison at one time in your life, try again — there are many factors that change the taste! There are some meals in which I don’t prefer the taste of venison, but others in which I can’t tell if it is beef or not.

If you’re not wild about the taste of venison, I would recommend marinating it or preparing it in a casserole, soup or sauce. I recently made venison barley vegetable soup. This is a great soup with a lean meat, vegetables and whole grains all in one! My 1-year-old daughter loves it, and it’s a great way to get her to eat meat and vegetables!

Venison Barley Vegetable Soup

Recipe developed by Nikki Bennett, RD, LD

Serves 12

2 lbs. venison, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons cooking oil
6 cups water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
3 teaspoons instant beef bouillon granules
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
2 quart jars of home-canned crushed tomatoes (or use 16 oz. canned diced tomatoes, but you may need to add more beef bouillon)
1 cup barley


  1. In a large saucepan, brown meat in hot oil.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.
  3. Discard bay leaves and serve!

Food safety tips for cooking with venison:

  • When doing roasts or steaks, cook to 160 degrees F.
  • Always wash hands before and after touching raw meat. Beware of cross-contaminating other foods with raw meat. Do not share cooking equipment between raw meat and other foods.
  • Thaw venison in the fridge or microwave and use immediately. When thawing or marinating venison, store on the lowest shelf in the fridge to reduce risk of cross-contamination through raw meat juices.
  • To reduce “gamey” taste, wash venison thoroughly and marinate. Simple marinades I’ve used include beer, cola or grape jelly.

Nikki Bennett
Nikki Bennett, RD, is based in Duluth.