Bavarian Hirschgulasch (Venison Goulash) Tutorial

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I’m so excited I can’t decide which recipe to share this week! Last weekend my husband and I were invited to dinner at the home of our good friends Christiane and Dean. They had joined us at our place for Thanksgiving dinner last November. Christiane rose to fame after my Thanksgiving blog post wherein she was seen giving her Vulcan “gang sign”.

We have dinner out with them fairly often. During a recent conversation I mentioned that I would like to learn how to make Spätzle, a type of noodle that originated in this area. Christiane graciously volunteered to teach me how to make it and offered to also make Hirschgulasch (venison goulash or stew), another German specialty, to go with the noodles. Heavy, traditional Bavarian comfort food.
This is a very big deal, partly because Christiane is very health-conscious and even has her own business focusing on cancer prevention through diet and healthy lifestyle choices. She even has a clever name for her business. Her last name is Mohr; the business is Mohr Life in Your Days.
Therefore, last weekend my husband and I made our way to their place in the wetly falling snow and ended up in their beautiful house on the other side of Munich from here. What a warm, lovely, comfortable home with a wonderful view. And I’m totally in love with her kitchen – she had it put in a few years ago and she’d though of everything – copious drawers and cupboards for storage, large windows, glass exhaust hood, everything!

When we arrived that afternoon, she served us “veganized” banana muffins and coffee/tea and told us this was the healthy part of the day’s food. Then we got down to the cooking.


She used no recipe and taught me frei aus der Hand. She’d called her mother who lives in Augsburg earlier in the week to confirm the ingredients and process, but she had nothing written down. That was all on me.
I’d received an email from Christiane a few days prior saying her venison (Hirsch) dealer was closed until February and she was going to have to find another source. Fortunately she did. Interestingly, the venison we cooked was from New Zealand. Also interesting is that she actually has a venison dealer!

So here are my photos:
My first task was to brown the cubed venison in a Dutch oven on top the stove. I did it in small batches to get a good sear:

I removed them to a bowl until all were browned:

Then I added them all back into the pot:

Christiane then took expertly over and added the onions she’d diced and some tomato paste:

Then she added all the spices, some stock, and some Preiselbeer Marmelade, or lingonberry preserves. Lingonberries are common in Europe and a distant cousin of
cranberries. They have a similar astringent tartness. They may also be
called red whortleberries, cowberries, fox berries, mountain
cranberries, mountain bilberries, or partridgeberries in different parts of the world. Personally, I’d
never heard of them until I visited Europe many years ago. If you can’t
find the preserves in the US, substitute cranberry sauce, preferably homemade.

Christiane covered the pot and let it simmer. Meanwhile, she browned some bacon cubes in a skillet with sliced mushrooms:

Those were added to the pot about 15 minutes before the end of the total cooking time.

While the goulash cooked, we made the Spätzle. Check next week’s blog post for the instructions for that plus the cool gifs I made from my photos.

When everything was ready, she and Dean set a beautiful table:

And we had red cabbage and fresh salad on the side:

Of course, we had lots of red wine throughout the whole process. And the blog post wouldn’t be complete without a shot of everyone giving their “gang sign”:

Here’s the recipe and complete instructions:

Print Recipe
Stew: Hirschgulasch (Bavarian Venison Goulash) Recipe
Delicious, rich authentic Bavarian venison stew.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine German
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Course Main Dish
Cuisine German
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
  1. Cut venison into large, uniform cubes; if the cubes are too small the meat will be dry and chewy.
  2. Dice the onions.
  3. Brown the venison in a large, heavy pot/Dutch oven with a little olive oil over medium-high heat on top the stove in small batches. Remove each batch to a bowl. Once it’s all browned, add all the venison back into the pot.
  4. Stir in the onions and tomato paste with a wooden spoon. Deglaze the pan by scraping the flavor bits off the bottom of the pan while stirring. The onions provide the moisture for the deglazing.
  5. Add thyme, marjoram, stock, juniper berries, bay leaves, lingonberry preserves and wine, stirring after adding each ingredient.
  6. After all the ingredients come to temperature, the stew should be gently simmering. Adjust the temperature to achieve this. Cover the pot and let simmer for one hour. If the simmer is just right, you should not have to stir the pot for the entire hour.
  7. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Dice the bacon and slice the mushrooms. Render the bacon in the skillet until crispy and brown. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are soft. Remove from heat.
  8. Fifteen minutes before the goulash is finished simmering (45 minutes after it started), stir the bacon and mushrooms into the pot. Replace the cover and continue simmering for 15 more minutes.
  9. Turn off the heat and add the crème fraîche to the goulash. Stir well. Taste and add salt, pepper or more lingonberry preserves, if necessary.
  10. Serve warm with noodles or Spätzle and a spoonful of lingonberry preserves on the side.
Recipe Notes

Juniper berries (Wacholderbeeren in German) are a staple of Bavarian cuisine, but if you can’t find them use a sprig of fresh rosemary, a shot of gin, or 2 extra bay leaves instead. Or simply omit the juniper berries entirely.

Use sour cream instead of crème fraîche, but sour cream is not as rich and is more tangy. Sour cream tends to curdle over heat, so be sure to remove goulash from the heat first before you add the sour cream.

Goulash is self-thickening, but if you want it thicker, add a slurry of 2 tablespoons flour mixed with ¾ cup water to the pot a few minutes before it’s done, while it’s still simmering. Cook it long enough afterward so that there is no floury taste.

This stew is tailored for venison, but you can use stew beef or chicken, too.

Serve over Spatzle noodles.

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So there you have it. It’s easy and so delicious! Next week I’ll give you the Spätzle instructions and we’re all going to learn how to pronounce it correctly so it doesn’t sound like you’re talking about Spackle.

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