Thyme Elk Meatballs with Cranberry Balsamic Sauce

Serves: 4-6
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Method: Oven

Need something to jumpstart your holiday spirit? Try this festive recipe for Thyme Elk Meatballs with Cranberry Balsamic Sauce. Perfect as an appetizer, an extra side for the main meal, or for bringing to the office potluck lunch. They’re easy to make and have the perfect balance of sweet and tangy.  Using Ground Elk as the base not only adds a subtly rich flavor that will have your guests craving more, but it’s also a very lean meat packed with nutrients. (Pro tip: Try it with our Elk Heart & Liver Ground Blend to sneak in even more nutrients such as Iron, B12, folate, and magnesium) 

Try this recipe for Thyme Elk Meatballs with Cranberry Balsamic Sauce at your next holiday gathering — or whenever you happen to crave meatballs. 

Recipe and photography created for The Honest Bison by Essence Eats


Thyme Elk Meatballs

  • 1 pound The Honest Bison Ground Elk
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme (minced)
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Cranberry Balsamic Sauce

  • 1 cup fresh whole cranberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • Zest from 1 orange
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme (minced)
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp cornstarch (mixed with 2 tsp water)


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the meatball ingredients, except the ground elk, until combined. Once combined, add in the elk and use your hands or a rubber spatula to incorporate everything together. Be careful not to work the meat too much, or the meatballs will be tough.

  3. Scoop out tablespoon-sized portions of the meat mixture, roll them into balls and place them on the prepared baking sheet.

  4. Place them on the middle rack of the oven and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes.

  5. In a large saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the cranberries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, cinnamon, thyme, and salt to a boil.

  6. Cover and let simmer for 10-15 minutes until all the cranberries have burst. Then remove the lid and let simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes to thicken.

  7. Add all of the remaining sauce ingredients (except the cornstarch water slurry) and combine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.

  8. Add in the cornstarch slurry and whisk the sauce until it thickens, about 2-3 minutes.

  9. Add the baked meatballs into the sauce and stir to coat them. Serve the meatballs on a serving platter or bowl with toothpicks.

Recipe Notes

Store leftover meatballs in the fridge for up to 4 days.

To reheat, place the meatballs in a baking dish and cover with foil. Bake covered for 15-20 minutes at 300F until warmed throughout.

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