How to Liven Up Your Venison Meatloaf

Try Poyha, an ancient, and delicious, take on a camp favorite

wedge of venison poyha venision meatloaf
Wedges of poyha are perfect for eating with your hands while kicking back beside the fire.Plamen Petkov

Poyha is a venison dish handed down from the Cherokee tribe. You can think of it as a meatloaf, which it is, or as a skillet of cornbread that some venison sneaked into, which it also is. Either way, it's a simple and satisfying meal. Cherokee cooks, in olden times, would've used chokecherries or huckleberries and wild onions, which we've approximated with cranberries and scallions. As a one-skillet meal, this is suited for campfire cooking; wedges of poyha are perfect for eating with your hands while kicking back beside the fire.

You Will Need

Ingredients | Serves 4–6

  • 1 lb. ground venison
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 4 scallions, chopped, white parts separated from green tops
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 ears corn, kernels removed from the cob, or 2 cups thawed frozen corn
  • 1 cup cranberries, thawed if frozen
  • 2 eggs
  • 1⁄4 tsp. juniper berries, crushed and finely chopped (optional)
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1⁄2 cup cornmeal


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground venison and cook, stirring to break it up, until most of the pink is gone. Add the white parts from the scallions, the red onion, and garlic, and continue to cook for a minute or two, or until the mixture is fragrant and the onions have softened a bit. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

  2. Add about a third of the corn kernels to the bowl with the venison. Combine the remaining corn with the cranberries in a food processor and pulse a few times until the ingredients are roughly chopped but not pulverized.

  3. Transfer this combination to the venison bowl, using a spatula to wipe down any juice left behind.

  1. Add the eggs, scallion tops, and juniper berries to the bowl, along with generous amounts of salt and pepper, and stir. Now add the cornmeal, and blend well. (Your hands work well for this.)

  2. Wipe out the skillet, then add the remaining olive oil to coat the sides and bottom. Scoop the venison mixture into the skillet and use a spatula to pack and flatten it. Cover the skillet tightly with foil.

  3. Transfer to the oven and bake for 1 hour. Remove the skillet from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes or longer. Slice into wedges and serve. Serves 4–6

For more wild-game cooking tips and recipes, visit

Pours for Poyha

For a dish based on indigenous cuisine, why not a beer brewed with indigenous ingredients? Boston's Mystic Brewery's Vinland series is worth seeking; the latest batch, Vinland Four, is a wild ale spontaneously fermented with native yeasts from local barley. Native yeasts also show up in beers from the Jester King Brewery in Austin, Texas—its Gotlandsdricka is a farmhouse ale brewed with juniper berries. Another top pick: the Wild Sierra Session Saison Ale from California's Mammoth Brewing Co., flavored with local piñon pine needles.