This Venison Ragu recipe is perfect for weeknight dinners served over top of spaghetti squash. It's Whole30-approved, dairy-free, gluten-free, and Paleo too. Deer spaghetti sauce is in our Whole30 menu rotations because it freezes well and tastes great reheated!
This deer ragu recipe is not an authentic ragu sauce. Instead of milk or cream, we use full-fat coconut milk for the creaminess. We wanted to create an Italian venison ragu that was Whole30-friendly.
Choosing the cut of meat will determine the texture of your wild game ragu. You can make a braised venison ragu or ragout out of diced venison steak or neck meat. Using an Instant Pot or Slow Cooker makes braising meat a game changer!
We chose to make a ground venison ragu. It's quick and delicious! You can buy frozen venison at specialty grocery stores or if your father-in-law is an avid hunter!
This recipe calls for beef stock. You can use store-bought or make my Instant Pot Beef Bone Broth.
What Makes this recipe so good
- Quick venison ragu in under 1 hour! This recipe is geared towards home cooks that want a delicious venison bolognese for weeknight dinners.
- Healthy bolognese sauce without milk. For all my Whole30 and Paleo readers, we swap out the milk for coconut milk for a dairy-free option.
- Serve wild venison ragu over anything! Serve over creamy polenta, pappardelle pasta, spaghetti squash, gnocchi, or steamed broccoli.
Here is a visual list of the venison ragu ingredients you will need.
- Venison - Ground venison meat is leaner than ground beef and lower in fat. Typically you can buy ground deer meat in specialty markets in the meat freezer section.
- Veggies - Onions, celery, and carrots are the base of any classic bolognese meat sauce.
- Coconut Milk - We use full-fat coconut milk to make this sauce dairy-free.
- Marinara Sauce - RAO marinara sauce is the best store-bought option, or you can make my Whole30 Marinara Sauce.
- Spices - Dried oregano, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, and bay leaves are used in this game ragu.
See recipe card for quantities.
How to make this recipe
Learn how to make the best venison ragout recipe with step-by-step instructions below.
Step 1: In a large dutch oven, cook bacon until crispy. Add in onions, celery, and carrots. Cook until veggies are soft, about 4 minutes.
Step 2: Add venison to the pot and cook until browned and season with salt and pepper.
Step 3: Stir in tomato paste, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaves, oregano, and thyme. Cook for 2 minutes so the spices toast and release their flavor.
Step 4: Pour in beef broth, marinara sauce, and coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes over low heat. Adjust seasonings and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
Recipe Tips and Variations
Venison Ragu Substitutions: If you are not into venison, swap it out for ground beef, lamb, bison, or elk meat. Try changing up the spice profile of the sauce and use heavy cream if you are not dairy-free.
Leftover venison ragu: Bolognese sauce if the perfect make-ahead whole30 recipe! I will make a large batch of ragu and freeze the sauce for an easy and quick weeknight dinner.
Meal Prep: Portion out 2 cups of spaghetti squash and 1 cup of ragu sauce into meal prep containers for the week.
Instant Pot: Using the saute function, follow this recipe like you are using a dutch oven. Place bone broth and marinara sauce into an instant pot and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. Quick release the pressure, add in coconut milk, and adjust the seasonings.
Slow Cooker: In a cast-iron past saute bacon and veggies. Add in venison meat and cook until fully browned. Transfer to your slow cooker and add in the rest of the ingredients. Cook on low for 6 hours.
- Dutch Oven - We use a cast-iron dutch oven in this recipe
- Instant Pot - Great option to make ground venison or braised venison ragu in half the time
- Slow Cooker - Perfect for a set-it-and-forget-it method!
Venison is a red meat that comes from deer. It's lean and low in fat, making it healthier than red meat from cows.
No, even though they seem very similar, there are some differences. Ragu is an Italian meat sauce made from ground meat, vegetables, wine, and tomatoes. Bolognese sauce is also a meat sauce made from beef or pork, vegetables, milk, tomato paste, stock, and no garlic.
It's an Italian meat sauce made from ground meat or braised chunks of beef or pork and cooked low and slow for a long time. Other ingredients include carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes, wine, and aromatic herbs.
The best cut of meat for braised ragu is beef brisket or roast. The best way to cook ragu is low and slow for hours allowing the meat to get tender. In our recipe we used ground venison for a quick venison ragu recipe.
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What to serve with this recipe
These are my favorite dishes to serve with venison ragu:
- 1 large spaghetti squash
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 slices Whole30 bacon chopped
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1 large carrot peeled and finely diced
- 2 large stalk celery finely diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 1 pound ground venison
- 2 bay leaves dried
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups marinara sauce sugar-free
- 1 cup beef bone broth
- ¼ cup coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
- salt and pepper too taste
- Preheat your oven to 400°F and line your baking tray with parchment paper. Cut the squash in half crosswise to get longer spaghetti squash noodles. Scoop out the seeds, brush with avocado oil, and season with salt and pepper.
- Place squash face down on the baking tray and cook for 30 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.
- While the squash roasts, heat olive oil up in your dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until browned and fat is rendered, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add ground venison, and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add in bay leaves, thyme, oregeno, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute to toast the spices. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Pour in beef broth, marinara sauce, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil while stirring occasionally, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes to thicken the sauce.
- Discard the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper too taste.
- Use a fork to scrape the spaghetti strands from the squash and place in a serving bowl. Serve topped with Ragu sauce and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.