Boozy Venison and Pumpkin Stew Recipe

I love to celebrate the arrival of hunting season with a hearty, seasonal meal. This boozy stew combines the best fall-flavored ingredients: slow-cooked venison, pumpkin, and a shot of bourbon to make a rich and savory dinner.

Serving size


Time to make

4 hours


2 1/2 -3 lbs. venison stew meat

1 tbsp. cooking oil

3 tbsp. butter

1 large sweet onion, diced

4 parsnips (or carrots), roughly chopped

1/4 cup bourbon or whiskey

6 cups venison or beef stock

2 tbsp. maple syrup

1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée*

1 cinnamon stick

1/8 tsp. allspice

3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

Kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper to taste

Buttery polenta or bread for serving

Also works with

Waterfowl thighs, turkey thighs, bear, hog, small game

Special equipment

Dutch oven or crockpot


  1. Heat a large Dutch oven or pot over high heat. Drizzle cooking oil to lightly coat the bottom and brown the chunks of stew meat, working in batches as needed. Generously season with kosher salt and black pepper.
  2. Remove the venison and reduce the heat to medium. Drop in the butter and, once it melts, add the diced onion. Sauté for 4-6 minutes or until the onion begins to soften. Add the parsnips next and cook down for another few minutes.
  3. Carefully pour the bourbon into the pot. If you’re using a gas burner, the pot will likely catch on fire as the alcohol burns off. If you’re not a fan of flambé, turn the heat off before pouring in the liquor and allow the alcohol to boil out.
  4. Pour stock into the pan and scrape the bits on the bottom. Stir in the remaining ingredients: maple syrup, pumpkin purée, cinnamon stick, allspice, and thyme.
  5. Return the venison, place a lid on the pot, and reduce the heat to low. Allow the stew to simmer for several hours until the meat is tender. About halfway through the cook time, remove the lid so the liquids can reduce and concentrate in flavor. Taste and season as needed with extra salt and pepper.
  6. Serve hot with buttery polenta or crusty bread.

*Note: You can used canned pumpkin or homemade purée. To make it yourself, preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Cut the top off the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Place the top back on and roast in the oven for 1 hour or longer, until very soft. You should be able to spoon out the flesh. Remove seeds and pulse in a food processor until smooth.