Skip to content Skip to footer

The Native Americans used to eat the warm heart of their prey in order to inherit their spirit. It was also a way to honor the animal, and use every part of it. So on my deer hunt in the Delta a few weeks ago, I decided to “go native.”

And I’m glad I did. It was delicious.

And it’s good for you.

And all of the veteran hunters looked at me like I was insane. But then they liked it when I made them eat it.

So if you’re in the mood to go native, here are some loose guidelines…

(And if you’re wondering what this Delta deer hunt is that I speak of, you can catch up on the whole series here: I, II, III, IV).

Slice down one side of the heart so that it opens flat. You want to square it off as best you can so this may mean cutting it in half so you have two squares.


With a sharp knife, trim off the white membrane from the outside.


Then take your two squares and cut them into strips…

And then cut those strips into small squares.


Marinate the heart squares in balsamic vinegar.


And olive oil. The acids will help tenderize the meat.


Down in the Delta, they have rosemary plants that grow like trees. It’s a luxury. I want to roll around in them. But I restrained myself. I had a heart to cook.


Add some sprigs to the marinade… and salt and pepper, don’t forget the salt and pepper!


Now, give it a stir and cover them in plastic, pressing down against the meat…

And marinate for at least an hour in the refrigerator, but longer if you’d like…

And wait.




Okay, it’s time. Now take the bowl out of the refrigerator.

Get a pan really hot with a tablespoon or so of oil.


Sear the heart squares quickly on both sides, about 1 minute on each. You want them to be medium rare. If you cook them too much they will be rubbery and not nearly as delicious.


In my quest to go native, I also made the kidney and the tenderloin. But that is for another day.

One of the boys said he was saving his bite of heart for last because he liked the taste so much… this was his last bite of heart:


I do wonder how many veteran hunters out there have eaten the heart…? This was the first for me and it is as good as any of the other offal I adore.

What do you think?

How do you feel about eating the inside bits?

Does it make you cringe? Does it make you salivate? Does the thought make you declare veganism on the spot?

“Deer Heart”

Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 2 -4 servings


  • 1 deer heart
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • Salt and pepper


  • Clean the heart under cold running water until the water runs clear.
  • Cut the heart in half lengthwise so that you have two squares. Trim off the outer white membrane.
  • Cut the squares into strips and the strips into small squares.
  • Marinate the squares in the balsamic, oil, rosemary, and salt and pepper, covered in plastic for at least an hour.
  • Heat a pan over high heat with a bit of oil and quick sear the heart squares, about 1 minute on each side. You want them to be no more than medium rare. Serve immediately!


  • Danielle
    Posted June 2, 2010 at 5:08 am

    Georgia, your blog is GORGEOUS! Beautiful photos and I'm intrigued by the hunting angle – will have to have you out to Wyoming sometime for elk season. It's so different from most cooking blogs, and we need more of that. Lots of love!

    • Georgia
      Posted June 2, 2010 at 5:09 am

      Thanks Danielle! Oh my goodness, I dream about going to Wyoming, you have a place there??! And you have a lovely blog as well! Thanks for visiting!

  • Hank Shaw
    Posted June 2, 2010 at 5:09 am

    Yep. Heart and tenderloins are the only venison parts that I don't share with anyone but Holly. My favorite is to take those heart pieces and pound them into cutlets and either grill them or cook them like schnitzel. Keep them medium-rare or they'll be shoe leather.

    • Georgia
      Posted June 2, 2010 at 5:10 am

      Thanks Hank! The heart definitely needed to be no more than medium rare. How do you like the rest of your meat cuts? I usually eat something like a filet or tenderloin very rare.

  • john s
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    When I was young I used to come home with my deer and give the heart to my mother. She would boil and fry it, then make sandwiches for us as we cleaned up the deer and got it hung.

  • Post Author
    Posted October 17, 2010 at 10:52 am

    That sounds lovely. Boiled, fried heart is going no my list of things to make before I die.

  • travis
    Posted February 4, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    georgia,awesome website! im a hunter forager and wannabe chef…..glad to see the heart recipe and look forward to trying it!! I use venison heart in a traditional hungarian soup that my sisters husband normally makes with veal heart and I find it delicious! I cant wait to see the kidney recipe and try that!!!! keep the site going its great!!!

  • Peggy York
    Posted February 4, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Deer heart is excellent and has always been our favorite part…I usually cook deer heart and liver while we process the rest of the meat. I take the heart and cross slice it into “medallians” and trim out the valve casing. I place it in a bowl of beer to draw out the blood. After all has been prepared, taking about 30 minutes, I salt, pepper and a slight dredge each slice through flour and place it in a hot pan of oil to lightly sautee it, being careful not to over cook.

    I must agree, this is a true delicacy.

    Happy Hunting!

  • Rudy Schmid
    Posted August 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Hi, thx for sharing…. I’m a master chef from Germany, living in Redwood Meadows, Alberta and I cooked deer heart as well.
    It’s a nice way to cook a deer heart and I wanted to thank you for sharing.

    • Post Author
      Posted August 21, 2012 at 8:44 pm

      Mmm, glad you cook deer heart too, it’s my fav.

  • David Thomas
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    I love heart. I like beef heart too, if it hasn’t been ruined by over zealous butchers. I like to grill mine after marinade for several hours. This recipe looks good too! I will give it a try, thanks!

  • Rae
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Yes, makes me cringe a little – haven’t tried ANY organ meats, ever, and just don’t picture myself doing so. But, have become more adventurous in my eating as the years go on, so you never know. Thanks for the beautiful Web site, wealth of information, glimpses of your interesting life and empowering messages to women and girls everywhere!

    • Post Author
      Posted October 2, 2012 at 7:34 pm

      Aw, thanks for visiting the site and leaving a comment Rae, you are who I write this website for!

  • Donald
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    I have tried to cook heart before but it turned out tough, mainly the arteries going through the heart. I will have to try this recipe. I do not like liver and don’t even know if I would try kidney, seems like it would be a lot like liver. I LOVE your cookbooks and blog.

    • Post Author
      Posted October 2, 2012 at 7:33 pm

      Thanks Donald! Just cut out the arteries before you cook and marinate lots!

  • john matthies
    Posted October 2, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    My mother would boil the heart for a while and then bake it with sage dressing. Delicious!

    • Post Author
      Posted October 3, 2012 at 9:44 am

      Ooh, I want her recipe for sage dressing!

  • Donald
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Don’t like liver but I have always thought heart would be good b/c it is a muscle. I tried to cook it once but the interior of the ventricle and the large veins/arteries were tough?

  • Traci
    Posted November 4, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Georgia, this is the first I have seen your blog, and I have to tell you, I love it! I will deff be reading more (: My husband is a newer hunter, this is his second year. He got his first buck tonight and he wants to try the heart. I googled how to cook a deer heart, and your blog popped up so here I am! We will have to try your recipe, it sounds delicious. Thank you for having great pictures, and good details, on how to cook the heart.

  • Barry Schlimme
    Posted February 7, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Glad to her someone else enjoys the heart like I do. When I tell other hunters that I always carry a ziploc bag to harvest the hert and liver, they look at me like I’m nuts. But in my world, the only thing that gets discarded is the head. I have friends who make mocassins, drums, etc. so I have a home for the hides. I freeze all of the scrappy meat, then put a little on my dogs’ kibble every night. I dismantle the entire skeleton, and put the ribs and vertebrae in plastic grocery bags in the freezer. On a cold morning, I put the bones on the wood stove, warm them up, and give them to the dogs. Thanks for what looks like a great deer heart recipe.

    • Post Author
      Posted February 10, 2013 at 3:57 pm

      Enjoy! Try roasting the bones one day and making them into venison stock. You can freeze the liquid in zip lock in the freezer and on a rainy day use it to may soup, flavor rice, etc, etc!

      • silver fox
        Posted January 27, 2014 at 2:10 pm

        A friend of mine does that! I have deer shoulder with bone on,will try that.

  • Jonathan
    Posted April 1, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Georgia. thank you for a great site. I cooked deer heart yesterday and it was delicious. Sliced and marinated, grilled till med-rare and let cool. Served thin sliced strips on a bed of arugula (with orange juice/o oil) that was also topped with sliced grilled beets.

    In my experience deer liver is way superior to any other liver I have ever had.

    What about tongue?? I recently ran across the following quote from a party of Americans traveling in central California in 1833:
    “In the evening the hunters all returned to camp with the tongues of 93 deer and some of the hides.”

  • Deb Roediger
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    I had the luxury of a fresh gifted deer hit by a car yesterday. Decided to make sure sure the young buck didn’t die in vain. Served up your recipe of heart and liver. The kids gobbled up the heart and the liver was absolutely to die for. I had sour cream for the liver recipe so I changed it up to sour cream. Just another awesome flavor. Thanks for the great ideas and I look forward to more!

  • Adriana
    Posted October 26, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    This is culinary heaven! Since my husband is a hunter and he got a deer this week, he brought me home the heart. This was the first and the only recipe I looked at it and I’ve decided to try it. Awesomeness! Thank you for a simple yet fantastic recipe

  • Danielle Hereford
    Posted November 10, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    This weekend I got my first deer, a doe mule deer in central Nevada. Of course, we kept the heart. My husband said he’s never been a fan of the heart but I insisted we keep it, instead of give it away. We tried your recipe a couple hours ago and we LOVED it! Thank you! Keep up the great work! We also reduced the extra marinade and dipped the heart in the reduction. It was great! In the past, we’ve tried your recipe for beet soup with the polenta- excellent! And your recipe for cabbage wrapped venison– also a family fav. I look forward to trying more of your recipes. Do you have more recipes for trout? We are avid fisher-people but generally release the fish, unless we are backpacking because we just enjoy catching them. Perhaps we’d be more keen to keep them, especially the non-natives, if we had better recipes. 🙂 Thanks again. I imagine we’ll cook every big game heart this way in the future!

    • Post Author
      Posted November 11, 2013 at 10:39 am

      I’m so happy to hear that! I’ll be thinking of more trout and other fish recipes for the website, I agree we need more of them. Happy hunting, fishing and cooking to you!

  • Dave
    Posted November 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    I think the heart is my very favorite part of a deer or elk. Not only the flavor but the unique texture as well. Thanks for sharing this delightful recipe.

  • Jeremy
    Posted December 1, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    I love deer heart! I just boil it in Lipton onion soup mix with enough water to keep it covered. Boil it for 2 hours and remove it, let it cool, and then slice it and salt it. Mmm.

  • silver fox
    Posted January 27, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    My Dad always ate the heart,and liver. I got 2 deer this year and stuffed the first heart,took a while to cook in oven,stuffing was made celery onions bread soaked in milk. It was good!! Im gonna try this one for the other heart. Kidneys never tried them or had them!Hummm!! Thanks

  • Brian
    Posted October 1, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Love heart! Will have to try your recipe. I always slice thin and trim well then marinate in balsamic and olive oil. But i always trhow it on the grill and cook rare. Delicious! I was drawN fOr an elk tag this year And hopefully, if i bag an elK, will get to try elk heart fOR the first time.

  • Tr
    Posted November 3, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    Have some 18 year old Balsamic Vinegar to use with this! Tomorrow morning! Come on tomorrow! I am absolutely drooling over this. Will be serving it with sunny side up fresh eggs and some kind of greens. Not much left in the garden but am sure I can scrounge up one last serving of something green to go with!!! And garlic….

  • Linda
    Posted December 6, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    Love your blog and recipes. My brother has a venison processing business. He saves the hearts that customers don’t want for me. I usually bake them with sage stuffing. I have 6 or 7 this year, so far. I believe I’ll marinate the 3 I got today and try grilling them . Sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing.

    • Georgia Pellegrini
      Posted December 7, 2014 at 8:24 pm

      Wonderful! Good for you for cooking the bits that people don’t eat as much.

  • stacey
    Posted December 27, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Just stumbled onto your website looking for a Venison heart recipe. I have Harvested many deer over yhe years and have aLways diScarDed the Organs. I was suRprised and delighted to find Your website and will be trying this recipe for dinner tomorrOw. You’re one of a kind. Thanks for putting information together for outdoorsmen in a way that no one else does.

  • Tonia Rone
    Posted November 14, 2016 at 5:44 am

    As a hunter and native honor it all!!!! it’s the first meal with the TONGUE i prepared as yuong girl of 9, for my still forever friend. It’s a treasured MEMORY for us both!

  • Nick Konopada
    Posted October 23, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    As long as we have been married (43 years) my wifE and i HAVE ENJOYED liver and onions (we were fed thse GROWING up) to the point that we would make a special point of OCCASIONALLY finding a restaurant that served it. Since becoming a hunter i have had OPPORTUNITIES to enjoy both liver aNd heart and sometiMes together i have eaten rabbit kidneys, fish livers with fish eggs, kiDneys from a whole spit ROASTED lamb, and i grew Up eating chicken hearts and gizzards (the competition for these Was intense). I just shot a spike whitetail buck so i was looking for a recipe to be able to share these treasures with friends that enjoy them. Where can i find the kidney recipe?

    • Georgia Pellegrini
      Posted November 6, 2019 at 9:33 am

      Thanks for sharing Nick, I’m so glad you and your wife have a tradition like that. I have never personally made the kidney but I hope you’ll share with us here if you make it.

    • Georgia Pellegrini
      Posted November 6, 2019 at 9:34 am

      Thanks for sharing Nick, I’m so glad you and your wife have this tradition. I have never personally made kidney but would love to hear how it turns out if you make it, I hope you’ll share with us here.

Leave a comment

Recipe Rating

Let's stay in touch! Join my mailing list.