Black Bear Backstrap Street Tacos

Warm tortillas are delicious filled with tender black bear meat and traditional toppings

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Sheldon Nowlen and his wife, professional chef Carrie Nowlen, live in the game-rich state of Montana. Sheldon hunts, while Carrie cooks, making the perfect husband-and-wife duo for this Timber 2 Table guest blog post. If you have never had black bear, the only thing we can say is you’re missing out. Fatty bears getting ready to hibernate, eating off berries and other such foods, are full of flavor like no other game animal, but you need to take some caution in cooking bear to avoid trichinosis. These black bear backstrap street tacos make a perfect starter recipe for those first-timers or seasoned vets looking to spice up their wild game menu. 

These street tacos are perfect for any occasion. Image by GritMedia

Traditional street tacos came to the U.S. from Mexico sometime in the early 19th century and were popularized by street vendors in the Los Angeles area. An authentic preparation includes thin-sliced, spiced meat stacked on corn tortillas and topped with minced onion, cilantro, radish, and lime.  

Serve with traditional street taco toppings and side dishes. Image by GritMedia

Street tacos are the perfect choice to sneak wild game into the menu, and the preparation in this dish is a great fit for black bear because the small, thinly sliced pieces stay tender but allow the meat to cook thoroughly — crucial when consuming meat well known for carrying trichinosis. Recommendations vary, but cooking bear meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees should ensure safety. The flavors in the marinade pack a little sweet, a little sour, and a serious punch to your palate.  

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Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or serving as camp cook, this fun and tasty dish promises to elevate your game. 


1 to 2 pounds black bear backstrap cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces  

1 tablespoon sesame oil

12 mini tortillas 

3 tablespoons olive or canola oil



3 tablespoons sesame oil 

2 cloves garlic, minced 

1 tablespoon chili powder 

 2 teaspoons salt 

1 teaspoon ground cumin 

1 teaspoon ground turmeric 

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried parsley 

Juice from 1/2 lime 

Juice from 1/2 orange


Traditional Toppings 

1 lime, cut into wedges 

4 radishes, sliced thin 

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup chopped white onion

Cooking Instructions

Trim away any excess fat and all connective tissue from the bear backstrap. Slice the meat across the grain into thin strips that will cook quickly.

Trim away fat and connective tissue from bear meat before slicing into thin strips. Image by GritMedia

In a gallon-size baggie, combine 3 tablespoons sesame oil, garlic, chili powder, salt, cumin, turmeric, oregano, parsley, lime and orange juice. Add meat and seal bag. Massage the bag and work marinade through evenly. Marinate in refrigerator for at least an hour — up to 48 hours — turning the bag occasionally to redistribute marinade and spread the mixture around.  

Heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add marinated bear meat. If the meat doesn’t hiss and sizzle when you add the meat, it’s not hot enough. Give it a bit longer. Stir often and cook until liquid has reduced back into meat and meat is well done, reaching an internal temp of at least 160 degrees. 

Sear the marinated bear meat until cooked through to a temperature of 160 degrees. Image by GritMedia

For the tortillas, preheat grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Put tortillas in a gallon-size baggie and toss with oil. Once grill is hot, use tongs to place tortillas on grill and cook until they bubble. Then flip and grill opposite side. Store cooked tortillas in a tortilla warmer or in a covered, oven-safe dish at 170 degrees.

Traditional street taco toppings include cilantro, white onion, and sliced radish. Image by GritMedia

Top grilled tortillas with seared bear meat, onions, cilantro, radish, and lime, or take your tacos to the next level with pineapple salsa, pico de gallo, and cabbage slaw. The possibilities are unlimited and make for a great addition to any gathering.

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