Recipe: Venison Espetada

posted on June 29, 2023
Espetada On Tray

Portugal is known for culinary delights, like seafood. The region produces great grapes for making port and wine. Madeira wine is a fortified wine made on the Portuguese Madeira Islands, off the coast of Africa. The wine has a steep history dating back to early exploration. There are different varieties of Madeira, ranging from dry to be enjoyed as an aperitif, or sweet varieties that are enjoyed for dessert. Economy cooking versions are flavored with salt and pepper. Knowing the different kinds of Madeira is important when selecting the correct one for drinking or cooking.

Although seafood is abundant, beef is a staple and is cooked similarly to Spanish cultures. The extra salt and pepper in the wine helps bring out the grilled beef flavors. Espetada is a Portuguese beef skewer originating from the island of Madeira. The recipe is simple, but the flavor and tenderness are exceptional.

Espetada Cooking

Sirloin is cut into large chunks to prevent it from drying out when cooking. Old-world ingredients like pepper, garlic and bay leaves are the main components of the marinade brought together with Madeira wine—the cooking variety. Port or sherry can be an alternative, but it does change flavors some. Any venison sirloin will work in this recipe and should be cooked medium-rare. Medium to medium-high heat cooks the meat to maintain moisture. The meat can be grilled on its own, or with tomatoes and peppers.


  • 2 pounds of venison sirloin, cubed into two-inch chunks
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 10 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup of Madeira wine
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of red-pepper paste (optional)

Optional additions

  • 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced in rounds
  • 2 green peppers, seeded and quartered

Espetada skewers on grill


  1. Combine the garlic, bay leaves, black pepper, Madeira wine and olive oil in a sealable bag. Include the red-pepper paste as an option. Add the venison chunks and work the bag gently to ensure all meat surfaces are covered. Place the beef in the refrigerator to marinate for at least four hours. Overnight is optimal to generate more flavors in the meat.
  2. When preparing to cook the meat, remove it from the refrigerator for one hour, allowing it to come to room temperature to ensure even cooking. Heat your grill to medium-high.
  3. Skewer the venison chunks on wooden or metal skewers. Wood skewers should be soaked in water for one hour prior to using. A couple of skewers can have interspersed tomato and green pepper. Add a pinch of salt to the meat and vegetables in true Madeira style.
  4. Place the skewers onto the hot grill for three to four minutes, turning once and cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the skewers from the grill and tent in foil to rest for five minutes.
  5. Serve the skewers on crusty bread that will soak up juices from the meat. The bread can be toasted or grilled as an option.


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