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Elk Meatballs

Tender, flavorful elk meatballs are easy to make, and you can serve them with your favorite sauce or homemade beef gravy. Prepare the meatballs for a lean, protein-packed dinner the whole family will love. If you love wild game recipes, try bison steak next!

Elk meatballs with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Why Elk Meat?

Elk meat offers a nutrient-dense, environmentally friendly red meat option. With its mild, slightly sweet, and gamey flavor, elk is a tasty alternative to traditional ground beef, veal, chicken, or pork meatballs. Ground elk is high in protein and low in cholesterol, making it an excellent part of a well-balanced diet. Plus, they are perfect for meal prep.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Ground Elk: I use ground elk or ground venison for this recipe, but you can also prepare the meatballs with ground pork, beef, veal, turkey, or chicken.
  • Onion: Half of a white onion will do, but finely dice them so they combine with the meatballs rather than causing them to break apart.
  • Garlic: I use four garlic cloves for additional flavor.
  • Eggs: Bind the meatball ingredients with one egg.
  • Mayonnaise: Wild game meat is lean, so keeping the meatballs tender and moist can be tricky without extra fat. I combine the ground elk with mayonnaise but try using duck or leftover bacon grease. 
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Add moisture and a ton of flavor to the meatballs with umami-rich Worcestershire sauce.
  • Spices: Flavor the elk meatballs recipe with kosher salt, coarse ground black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and dried parsley.
  • Olive Oil: Oil your hands before rolling the meatballs to prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands.

How to Make Elk Meatballs

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Then, combine the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl, careful not to over-mix. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Ground elk in a mixing bowl.

Step 2: Preheat the oven to 350℉ (176℃). Then, remove the mixture from the refrigerator and roll it into 1-inch balls. Line them onto the baking sheet.

Ground elk formed into meatballs.

Step 3: Bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on the strength of your oven), flipping the meatballs halfway through.

Elk Meatballs baking in the oven.

Step 4: Broil on high for 2 minutes. Flip and broil for another 2 minutes. Let the finished meatballs rest for 10 minutes before serving, and enjoy!

Elk meatballs on a sheet pan.

Expert Tips

  • Increase the moisture in the meatballs by incorporating onions, garlic, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce. I recommend fine-dicing the vegetables so they don’t cause the meatballs to come apart.
  • Eggs act as a natural binder, but you can include 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs if you prefer firmer meatballs.
  • When combining the ingredients, avoid over-mixing, as this can result in tough meatballs. 
  • When baking meatballs in the oven, avoid overcrowding the baking sheet. Placing them too close together causes them to release moisture, resulting in steamed meatballs instead of the golden-baked texture we are going for and a sloppy wet mess in the bottom of the baking dish. 
  • If you prefer a more golden and crispy exterior, broil the meatballs for 1-2 minutes after they have baked, but keep a close eye on them to prevent burning.
  • Let the meatballs rest for a few minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute and firm slightly.

If you enjoy this recipe, try one of these dinner favorites!  

Elk meatballs with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Serving Suggestions

Use this recipe for elk meatballs to replace beef, pork, or chicken meatballs in your favorite recipes.

What to do with the Leftovers

  • Refrigerate: Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  • Can I freeze the meatballs? Let the meatballs cool, then portion them into freezer-safe containers or bags. Elk meatballs freeze for 2-3 months.
  • Thaw: Thaw frozen meatballs in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Reheat: Microwave individual leftovers or warm them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350°F (165°C).

Frequently Asked Questions

How long to cook elk meatballs?

Elk meatballs should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) to ensure they are fully cooked and safe to eat. To accurately measure the internal temperature, use a food thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball. For more tips and tricks for cooking meatballs at this temperature, check out my article describing how long to cook meatballs at 350°F.

Why are my meatballs coming out crumbly?

If your meatballs are falling apart, there are a few potential causes to consider.

1. Firstly, too little moisture will result in dry, crumbly meatballs, so include onions, garlic, eggs, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce in the ground elk meat mixture. I like to use one egg for every pound of ground meat.

2. Over-mixing can also lead to denser, crumbly meatballs, so combine the ingredients until they are evenly incorporated, and not a bit more.

3. The size and shape of the meatballs can affect their texture. If you roll them too large or they have an uneven shape, it can result in uneven.

Do meatballs need to be browned before baking?

Browning the meatballs in a skillet with oil before baking them is not necessary, but it will enhance their flavor and shape.

Can I cook the meatballs on the stovetop?

Absolutely! Heat a large skillet over medium and cook the meatballs until done, about 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of your meatballs. Make sure to rotate often to ensure an even cook.

Where can I buy elk meat?

I grew up in the Southwest, the daughter of an avid hunter, so I always had an abundance of elk meat. Even when we moved to Colorado, I could easily visit a friend’s house and raid their deep freezer. The local butcher shops carried plenty of wild game like bison, antelope, deer, and elk. Then, we moved to North Carolina, and I quickly realized that elk meat is not readily available in some parts of the United States.

There are a number of online retailers that sell elk meat and ship it fresh or frozen nationally. Examples include Fossil Farms, North Star Bison, Mossy Oak Butchery, SayersBrook Bison Ranch, Broken Arrow Ranch, and North Fork Elk Company. They offer cuts like ground elk, sirloin tips, tenderloins, roasts, and more.

More Meatball Recipes:

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Elk meatballs with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Elk Meatballs

Tressa Jamil
Flavorful elk meatballs are easy to make and the lean, protein-packed meatballs are so versatile that you can pair them with your favorite sauce. 
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Chilling Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 155 kcal
Ingredients
  
  • 1 pound ground elk
  • ½ medium white onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried parsley
Instructions
 
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Then, combine the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl, careful not to over-mix. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350℉ (176℃). Then, remove the mixture from the refrigerator and roll it into 1-inch balls. Line them onto the baking sheet.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on the strength of your oven), flipping the meatballs halfway through.
  • Broil on high for 2 minutes. Flip and broil for another 2 minutes. Let the finished meatballs rest for 10 minutes before serving, and enjoy!
Notes
Expert Tips
  • Increase the moisture in the meatballs by incorporating onions, garlic, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce. I recommend fine-dicing the vegetables so they don’t cause the meatballs to come apart.
  • Eggs act as a natural binder, but you can include 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs if you prefer firmer meatballs.
  • When combining the ingredients, avoid over-mixing, as this can result in tough meatballs. 
  • When baking meatballs in the oven, avoid overcrowding the baking sheet. Placing them too close together causes them to release moisture, resulting in steamed meatballs instead of the golden-baked texture we are going for and a sloppy wet mess in the bottom of the baking dish. 
  • If you prefer a more golden and crispy exterior, broil the meatballs for 1-2 minutes after they have baked, but keep a close eye on them to prevent burning.
  • Let the meatballs rest for a few minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute and firm slightly.
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Serving | Calories: 155 kcal | Carbohydrates: 2 g | Protein: 18 g | Fat: 8 g | Saturated Fat: 3 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2 g | Cholesterol: 77 mg | Sodium: 489 mg | Potassium: 300 mg | Sugar: 1 g | Vitamin A: 44 IU | Vitamin C: 2 mg | Calcium: 24 mg | Iron: 2 mg
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5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating