Deer Hunter’s Čobanac (Stew)

Here in Utah it’s deer hunting season and getting cold so here’s my take on čobanac which is a traditional Croatian stew typically prepared with 3 types of meat.  I enjoyed this dish on a trip to Croatia last summer and wanted to create my own version. It’s delicious and will stick with you on a cold day.

Croatian cooks would use anything from horse to lamb to beef. Each cook would come up with their own combination of spices which were a family secret but common to them all was lots of paprika! My take on čobanac uses venison, beef chuck and pork shoulder and was cooked in a dutch oven inside a smoker using charcoal and hickory chunks.


Hearty čobanac with crusty bread makes a great dinner on a cold night.


  • 1/2 lb. beef chuck cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 lb. pork shoulder or country style ribs cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 lb. venison cut into 1/2 inch cubes – I used a loin cut
  • 1/2 thick cut pound bacon cut into small pieces
  • 2 diced onions
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1-2 cubed Roma tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tbs. Hungarian paprika, or sweet paprika
  • 1 lb. cubed potatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme (of course, fresh is always better)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, slightly crushed with your fingers
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt to taste

Start by cooking the bacon pieces in a hot Dutch oven until they’re brown and crispy. Next add the onions and continue cooking until they’re translucent. Remove them from the dutch oven and set aside in a dish.


Bacon bits and onions cooked and ready to remove from pot.

Combine the beef, venison and pork and brown in the dutch oven. Salt generously with Kosher sale and brown them in the bacon fat. Brown the meat in 2 batches to be sure it all gets browned evenly. Add olive oil if needed by there should be enough bacon fat for both batches. Remove the browned meat from the dutch oven and set aside.


Venison, beef and pork browning in the bacon fat.

De-glaze the dutch oven by pouring the red wine vinegar down the sides. Stir the vinegar into the remaining bacon fat while scraping the bits of meat and onion from the bottom of the dutch oven. Let the mixture simmer until it bubbles.


De-glazing the dutch oven with red wine vinegar.

Combine the browned venison, beef, pork, bacon bits and onions in dutch oven.


Browned venison, beef, pork, bacon and onions.

Add the paprika, cumin, garlic, bay leaf, black pepper, thyme and rosemary. Stir the spices into the meat mixture really well so that it’s evenly distributed.


Add spices and garlic to meat, bacon and onion mixture.

Add the chopped peppers, Roma tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir into the meat and spices.


Add the chopped peppers, Roma tomatoes and tomato sauce.


Add enough water to completely cover the meat, peppers and tomatoes. Leave the dutch over uncovered and add 1 or 2 small hickory chunks to the hot coals. Close the smoker and keep it at about 275 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.


Cover with water and cook uncovered in a closed smoker for 90 minutes.

After 1 1/2 hours add the cubed potatoes and stir them in. Put the lid on the Dutch over this time and close the smoker. Maintain the 275 degree temperature and cook until the potatoes and meat are tender – about another 1 1/2 hours.


Add the cubed potatoes.

Serve with artisan bread and salad for a delicious hearty dinner that will warm you up on the coldest nights!


Time to eat!

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