Bring On the Venison Soup

A family favorite around the holidays—or anytime you need a bowl of comfort


Is this the most wonderful comfort food dish for the most wonderful time of the year? My crowd says yes. And it’s a fine little pick-me-up for the less wonderful days of de-decorating and saying goodbye to family that are just around the corner. But let’s not dwell on that.

My family loves this easy-to-make, just hearty enough venison vegetable soup. So much so, in fact, that my wife, Julie, uses “soup” as a stand-in for “deer” when we check in after a hunt. A few minutes after shooting light ends, or at mid-morning if I’m on a dawn hunt, she’ll text, “Soup?” It’s definitely a warmer welcome at home when I reply, “More soup for you!”  


The chunky brew is a riff on the friend of a friend’s mom’s vegetable soup, to which I add ground venison. Over the years I’ve tinkered with the formula, adding beer, coriander, and a decent kick of heat provided by either sambal oelek (my choice) or sriracha. It’s a snap to make, freezes well, and can be personalized to your tastes. Love oregano? Load it up. I prefer basil, so I shake in a few generous teaspoons of the sweet stuff. Want to add mushrooms? Knock yourself out.

If you grind your own venison burger, try this: Put up a few pounds without adding extra fat. I think it gives this soup—and spaghetti sauce, too—a cleaner taste. If all you have is traditional ground venison with some percentage of fat added, no problem at all.

One trick to this soup is in the directions, and don’t skip it. Instead of adding all the meat and onions at once, stagger those ingredients by twenty minutes or so. The first addition will add texture and depth to the soup as it simmers, but if you cook the soup too long with all the meat and onions in the broth, they will turn mealy and lose texture. Adding them in two batches makes a difference.

Otherwise, take this recipe and do what I did: Tinker, refine, personalize. And if you’re lucky, your significant other will be so taken by it that he or she says those words you long to hear: “Don’t you need to get out there and bring home some soup?”

Follow T. Edward Nickens on Instagram @enickens.


  • Venison Vegetable Soup (Yield: About 20 servings)

    • 4 pounds ground venison

    • 2 large onions, chopped

    • 4 cloves garlic, minced

    • 2 tbsp. olive oil

    • 1 64-oz. bottle V8 juice

    • 2 14.5-oz. cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes

    • 2 12-oz. bags frozen vegetable soup mix, such as Knorr’s

    • 3 bay leaves

    • 1 bottle of good beer

    • Oregano, basil, coriander, and black pepper to taste

    • 2 tbsp. sambal oelek or sriracha

    • 1 small can tomato paste


  1. Brown the ground venison in a large pan. Remove from pan and set aside, then cook onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until caramelized.

  2. In a large stockpot, add V8 juice and diced tomatoes with their liquid and bring to a boil. Add frozen vegetable soup mix and simmer for 20 minutes.

  3. Add one-fourth of the ground venison and onion-garlic mixture, plus the bay leaves and beer, and simmer another 20 minutes. Add spices a little at a time, to taste, as the soup simmers.

  4. Add the remaining meat and onion-garlic mixture, and simmer 15 minutes more. Taste for seasoning. When you have the spice mixture to your liking, add heat with sambal oelek or sriracha.

  5. If you like your soup thick and chunky, you should be good. If you prefer it more soupy, add water or more beer and heaping spoons of tomato paste until you reach the desired consistency.