Juniper-Spiced Rub, Peppery Pine Flavors

bison filet, seared with creamy polenta, mushrooms and herbs

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Bringing the forest onto the plate

Bison and game meat seem to be increasing in popularity over the last few years. There’s no surprise according to all of the assumed health benefits, plus the flavor is wild (haha). Cooking and seasoning these meats can be tricky, so I’m sharing my go-to rub: this juniper-spiced rub, to remind you of the wild.

Bison is one of my favorite game meats to eat. The bison filet especially, because you really get an opportunity to taste all of the flavors, rather than the ground version. Game meat overall has a lot more bold flavor, and bison is probably the most accepted type – the general population isn’t weirded-out by it, and it doesn’t have that “gamey” flavor that you taste with other meat (vension, elk, etc.). I happy to also enjoy the other varieties, but they are not easy to come by.

My bison filets are from Omaha Steaks, and are roughly 6oz per serving.

Preferred spices, and pairing

The flavor profile of bison is quite similar to beef.  Honestly, if you want to be simple, you could use your favorite beef rub and call it a day.  That’s probably not why you’re reading this – I tend not to do simple.  The flavor of bison is slightly sweeter than beef and does not taste gamey.  There’s no aftertaste like you would have with other animals.  It’s also quite lean – estimate to have around half of the fat of beef.

I’ve tried quite a few store bought and written recipes for spice combinations with bison over the years.  The main ingredients I like to use is quite a bit of black pepper, and juniper.  Juniper has a piney flavor with hints of citrus, pairs well with garlic.  A hint of chile and sugar help round out the flavors too.  You’ll see in my rub recipe below that I use some of each of these spices.

Pairing bison is also pretty easy – you can go either a healthy route, or a steakhouse route.  Roasted Brussels sprouts with sweet potatoes, corn, or mushrooms work well for the healthier side. Use a date or pomegranate molasses if you want to add some powerful acidic flavors to highlight your dish.  If you’re thinking “keep it simple, stupid”, then by all means… you can’t beat a grilled filet with a baked potato.

One of my top resources is the Sioux Chef which is also a cookbook by the same name.

There are some great resources out there too if you’re looking to try some more authentic pairings with bison.  One of my top resources is the Sioux Chef which is also a cookbook by the same name. This is a team of Native American tribes working to highlight and reclaim their culinary culture, bison is a part of that. I could spend a few more paragraphs getting off tangent about how amazing their resources (and book) are.

bison filet, seasoned

Wait, this is in grams?

You’ll notice right away that it’s not Tablespoons or teaspoons, it’s grams. This is a much easier way to scale up or down a recipe and be able to track the flavors for adjusting to your preferences. The flavor combinations here bring out the flavors of the bison without making it just taste like a rub. Don’t be afraid of the brown sugar in this recipe, you’re not encasing the meat, you’re just seasoning it. The sugar helps to round out the floral and piney flavors, which could be overwhelming on their own.

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juniper bison filet

Juniper Rub for Bison, or game meat

This is a basic rub for bison, focusing on the floral and piney notes of coriander and juniper.

  • Total Time: 5
  • Yield: 4 1x


  • 30 g kosher salt
  • 30 g brown sugar
  • 30 g black peppercorns
  • 20 g coriander seeds
  • 10 g juniper berries, whole
  • 5 g chile flakes
  • 5 g garlic powder


  1. Coarsely grind peppercorns, coriander seeds, chile flakes, and juniper berries.
  2. Mix with remaining ingredients. Adjust to preferences.
  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Category: Sauces & Salsas
  • Method: Seasoning
  • Cuisine: Seasoning

Keywords: bison, game meat, seasoning, juniper

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