Homemade venison jerky can be a tasty and protein-packed snack, but many people wonder just how many calories are packed into those chewy, savory strips. The calorie content of jerky can vary quite a bit depending on the cut of meat used, the prep and seasoning methods, and the drying process. This article will break down the factors that affect calorie content and provide some estimates for calorie counts in common venison jerky recipes.
What affects the calorie content in jerky?
Several key factors impact the calorie content of homemade jerky:
- Type of meat. Venison is typically leaner than beef or other meats, so venison jerky will have fewer calories per ounce than jerky made from fattier cuts.
- Cut of meat. The cut of venison used will impact fat and calorie content. Cuts like round or loin will be leaner than cuts like brisket or chuck.
- Fat trimming. Trimming off visible fat before drying will lower the calorie content of the finished jerky.
- Prep and seasoning. What the meat is marinated or seasoned with, and for how long, affects calorie content. Sugar and oil will increase calories.
- Drying method. Oven drying, dehydrator drying, and smoking give different levels of moisture loss, impacting calories per ounce.
So the more fat that is trimmed, the leaner the cut of meat, and the more moisture removed in drying, the lower the calorie content will be per ounce of jerky. Any oils, sugars, or marinades added will increase the calorie density.
Calorie estimates for common venison jerky recipes
Here are some estimates for calorie content in typical homemade venison jerky recipes (calories per ounce):
- Plain/Salt-cured Jerky: 60-80 calories
- Pepper Jerky: 70-90 calories
- Teriyaki Jerky: 80-100 calories
- BBQ Jerky: 90-120 calories
- Honey Sriracha Jerky: 100-140 calories
As you can see, calorie density increases as more oils, sugars, and thickeners are added in marinades. A plain salt-cured jerky will be the lowest calorie option, while something like a honey sriracha jerky will be significantly higher.
Factors that increase calories in venison jerky
Here are some specific factors that can increase the calorie content in homemade jerky:
- Using fatty cuts of meat – Choosing cuts like brisket or chuck over round or loin adds more fat and calories.
- Not trimming visible fat – Leaving fat on the meat leads to much higher fat and calorie levels.
- Marinating in oil – Oil adds significant calories, increasing the calorie density even in lean meats.
- Adding sugars to marinade – Ingredients like honey, brown sugar, maple syrup etc boost calories.
- Thickeners in marinade – Things like soy sauce, hoisin, ketchup add calories and sugars.
- Not drying thoroughly – Jerky that still contains moisture will have more calories per ounce.
Following a few simple practices like choosing lean cuts, trimming fat, and limiting oils, sugars, and thickeners can keep homemade jerky calories moderate.
Factors that decrease calories
On the flip side, here are some tips that can help lower the calorie content in jerky:
- Using lean cuts like round or loin
- Trimming off any visible fat
- Avoiding oil in marinades
- Using low-calorie seasonings like salt, pepper, vinegar, hot sauce, herbs
- Limiting sugar in marinades
- Going easy on thickeners and sauces
- Drying thoroughly to remove moisture
Following as many of these tips as possible when making homemade jerky can keep the calorie content lower without sacrificing too much flavor.
Typical calories per serving
Here are some examples of calorie counts for typical serving sizes of homemade venison jerky:
|Jerky Type||Serving Size||Calories|
|Plain jerky||1 ounce||70|
|Peppered jerky||1 ounce||80|
|Teriyaki jerky||1 ounce||90|
|BBQ jerky||1 ounce||105|
|Honey sriracha jerky||1 ounce||120|
As you can see, calories per serving can range from 70 for a plain jerky up to 120 or more for heavily marinated jerkies. So controlling serving sizes is important, especially for higher-calorie options.
How jerky calories compare to other proteins
Compared to other high-protein snacks, homemade venison jerky has a moderate calorie density:
- Beef jerky: 80-140 calories per ounce
- Turkey jerky: 60-100 calories per ounce
- Greek yogurt: 100 calories per 3/4 cup
- Cottage cheese: 110 calories per 1/2 cup
- Hard-boiled egg: 80 calories per large egg
- Edamame: 120 calories per cup
So venison jerky is quite comparable to other protein-rich foods in terms of calories per serving. Choosing lean cuts of meat and minimizing fat, oil, and sugar in the prep will help keep the calorie content in a reasonable range while still providing protein.
Tips for reducing jerky calories
If you want to keep your jerky calories as low as possible, keep these tips in mind:
- Select loin, round, or other lean cuts of meat
- Trim off all visible fat before drying
- Limit oils in marinades to 1 tablespoon per 1-2 pounds of meat
- Use vinegar, hot sauce, herbs, and spices for flavor instead of sugar
- Dehydrate thoroughly to remove moisture
- Blot off any excess marinade before drying
- Enjoy jerky in 1 ounce portions to control calories
Following these best practices when preparing jerky at home will yield a tasty, protein-packed snack that is moderate in calories and fat.
Healthier seasoning ideas
Here are some ideas for lower-calorie, healthier seasonings for homemade jerky:
- Cracked black pepper and salt
- Chili powder and lime juice
- Minced garlic and onion powder
- Cayenne and paprika
- Dijon mustard
- Balsamic vinegar
- Chopped rosemary and oregano
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Chipotle chili powder
- Lemon pepper seasoning
Using combinations of spices, herbs, citrus, vinegars, mustards, and hot sauces can add lots of flavor with minimal calories and sugar.
Should you count calories in jerky?
While most jerky has a reasonable calorie density, counting calories can be helpful for:
- Controlling portions and snacking
- Fitting jerky into a weight loss diet
- Balancing jerky with other foods in your diet
- Avoiding overconsuming high-calorie jerkies
Unless you are following a specific diet plan like paleo, keto, or intermittent fasting, you do not need to be overly strict about counting jerky calories. But having a general idea of the calorie range can help make jerky part of a balanced, healthy diet.
Health benefits of venison jerky
Despite the calorie content, homemade venison jerky offers some excellent nutritional benefits:
- High in protein – Great source of lean protein to build muscle.
- Low in fat – Much less fat than many snack foods.
- Less processed – Avoid questionable ingredients in store-bought jerky.
- Convenient – Shelf-stable and portable source of protein.
- Supports satiety – Protein increases fullness and reduces overeating.
In moderation, venison jerky can be an excellent addition to a healthy diet due to its nutritional profile. Keeping calorie content in mind allows enjoying jerky while controlling portions.
When prepared properly, homemade venison jerky can provide a protein and flavor-packed snack that is moderate in calories. Choosing lean cuts of meat, trimming fat, controlling marinades and seasonings, and thoroughly drying are keys to keeping the calorie content reasonable. Plain or simply seasoned jerky will be lowest in calories, while sweetened jerkies will be higher. But overall, a 1 ounce serving of venison jerky can range from 60-140 calories depending on the preparation method. Enjoying homemade jerky as part of a balanced diet can provide valuable nutrition in a tasty treat.