As we approach the holidays, family gatherings, holiday dinners and all sorts of things involving food will arise, to which many sportsmen will generously share their fish and game. I enjoy this, but I suggest that you label any game or fish dish taken as such. 

A surprising number of people still don’t care for game and fish. They generally don’t like the surprise of being told a dish they are complimenting is game or fish. Surprisingly, these realizations often bring on even more-stringent denials of the fine flavor and healthy aspects of wild fish and game. By labeling dishes, folks who appreciate your sharing can enjoy them, while others will be forewarned — and there might be leftovers to take home for snacks. 

The first real brush with winter weather typically arrives in the Carolinas this month. Those cold days feel good in a duck blind or deer stand, listening to a pack of trailing dogs hot on the scent or following a pair of pointing dogs through the broom straw and brambles. 

This recipe features venison sausage, but it could be made with regular ground venison or feral pig sausage. It can be made with domestic burger or sausage, too, if you get in a pinch or are told no game is allowed at a gathering you’ll be attending. It’s not as good, but it’s still better than most. 

This is a good recipe to take to parties. I promise it won’t be like the five varieties of homemade pimiento cheese or multi-bean salads. This dish should be fairly unique. Once the word gets out it’s venison, your fellow sportsmen usually ensure that all you have to take home is an empty platter. You’ll probably get asked to make more for football bowl game parties later in the month, and that’s not a bad thing. You’ll get to enjoy them again. 

Try Venison empanada appetizers

I like food with a little spice, and around Christmas, I try to present something that is tasty, yet unique, for parties around the holiday and college football bowl games to which many sportsmen receive invitations. 

Empanadas are basically meat pies, and these are downsized to appetizer or finger food-size. They are tasty, and the biggest problem with them is overeating. I try to eat the leanest meats possible, and when it comes to sausage, that is game sausage. These may be made with venison burger or sausage, feral pork or domestic burger or sausage. If you use feral or domestic pork, be sure to cook the meat fully.

My venison burger and sausage is mixed at 20-percent fat, so it cooks lean, with very little grease. In fact, I have to lightly spray non-stick cooking spray in the pan to keep it from sticking. If you use a higher percentage of fat in your venison or prepare this with domestic meat, take care to drain the fat as fully as possible so the bottom of the empanadas aren’t weak. 

If you use domestic or venison burger, I would suggest considering using taco seasoning instead of fajita seasoning for more flavor. I try to reduce salt intake; numerous low-salt recipes for taco and fajita seasonings are available online. I haven’t found a commercial, low-salt fajita seasoning, but low-salt taco seasoning is available at many grocery stores.

Folks with milder palates might also consider substituting bell pepper for the jalapeno. I feel a single jalapeno is very mild, but some folks have suggested it adds too much heat. Others add a second or third jalapeno for a little kick. If you substitute bell peppers, the baby bells in assorted colors are usually milder and more tender than full-size bell peppers.

I cheat a little with these and use prepared biscuits rather than making dough. The concept of this column is easy cooking, and this makes it real easy. I would still suggest getting out the rolling pin and rolling the dough flat and thin. Otherwise, it rises too much and tries to open the empanadas. If you use Texas-sized biscuits, half of one will make a 3- to 4-bite empanada. However, it’s much easier to get the crust edge sealed with larger pieces of dough. The biscuits come in 10 packs, and this filling mixture will make three to four packages, depending on how full you stuff the empanadas. 

Most folks like a dipping sauce with empanadas. I like them straight from the pan, too, but there are many simple options for adding dipping sauces. The simplest dipping sauces are sriracha and chipotle ranch salad dressings. Just pour some in a bowl and go. Mixing some Texas Pete Cha Sauce with a little mayonnaise makes a good sauce. Honey mustard, hot mustard and others are available to suit all tastes. If you have a favorite, give it a try. 


1 pound venison sausage

1 medium sweet onion

1 jalapeno

1 package fajita seasoning

Black pepper

1 cup taco or Mexican-blend grated cheese

3 or 4 packs refrigerated biscuits. I used buttermilk biscuits when I made this dish.  


Wash the pepper and onion. Remove the seeds and ribs in pepper and peel outer layer of onion. Chop pepper and onion. Mix jalapeno, onion and venison sausage with fajita seasoning and pepper to taste. Lightly brown the venison sausage mixture. 

Cover a shallow baking pan with parchment paper. Open biscuit dough. Cut large biscuits in half or use smaller biscuits whole. Roll out the biscuit dough until it is thin. Put a teaspoon of the filling into the middle of each piece of dough. Add a pinch of cheese to the filling. Form the empanadas and place them on the parchment paper. Seal the edges by pinching or pressing with a fork.

Preheat the oven to the temperature indicated on prepared biscuits. Lightly beat egg, adding 1 teaspoon of water. Brush the empanada tops with egg wash. Bake until golden brown. Check the directions on the prepared biscuit dough. The empanadas should be golden brown on the outside and warm all the way through.

Serve while warm. They will microwave well for reheating.