Can You Eat Turtles? Read This Before Trying!

Turtles are amazing animals that you can find almost anywhere in the world. Some people keep them as pets, but did you know you can eat them too?

If you’re a turtle enthusiast or just someone curious about eating them, you need to read this first. In this post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about feasting on these sea creatures. Here are some questions this blog post guide will answer:

  1. What does turtle meat feel like in your mouth?
  2. How to prepare a turtle for cooking?
  3. What parts of the turtle can be eaten?
  4. What species of turtle are edible?
  5. Can you eat turtle eggs?
  6. What are some of the popular turtle dishes?
  7. Popular Turtle Dishes
  8. Eating Turtle Eggs
  9. FAQs
  10. Can you Eat Turtles Summary
can you eat turtles

Can You Eat Turtles?

The proof is indisputable: humans have long feasted on turtles. Most fossil evidence shows that our ancestors ate turtles more than 400,000 years ago. Although some regional cuisines like southern Louisiana include turtles, they are not considered a common meal.

Still, there’s no doubt that turtles are a source of protein for many people in the world. As a non-native eater, there are some things you need to know before trying them yourself. 

What Does Turtle Meat Taste Like?

Before munching on some turtle meat, you should first be aware of its unique taste. The flavor of these small, shelled pals can range from fishy to meaty. Its meat is a little fattier than fish and has a texture similar to chicken.

In fact, the flavor of turtle meat varies significantly depending on the species you’re eating. For example, some say that sea turtle meat tastes like lobster or frog legs. Plus, it typically comes in dark or white meat.

Compared to saltwater turtle meat, freshwater turtle meat is more likely to taste muddy and more expensive. Still, it depends on you and your tastebuds, but turtle meat isn’t typically regarded as repulsive. Also, how the meat is prepared, the seasoning, and what the turtle eats will all affect how it tastes.

What Is the Texture of Turtle Meat?

The texture of turtle meat is significantly different from chicken or turkey. Most of those who have had turtle meat say it has a very soft consistency.

Preparing the Turtle for Cooking

It’s crucial to prepare turtle meat carefully and meticulously since it has a variety of micronutrients. If you’re considering preparing turtle meat, you should know that you’ll likely need to thoroughly clean and prepare it.

Before anything else, pick a small snapping turtle that weighs between ten and fourteen pounds if possible. The meat of larger turtles is usually harder and fishier.

If you caught the turtle in the wild, you need to purge it first. Purging keeps the turtle alive in clean water for a week while changing the water every few days. The whole process provides the turtle time to complete their digestion and pass it.

When it’s time to butcher the turtle, the best way to do it is to cut the head off. Once done, you can cut the different parts you need.

Lastly, people usually season the meat heavily when preparing it. It is safe to state that, overall, the meat is good but not very delicious on its own.

What Parts of the Turtle Are Edible?

You can eat anything from the turtle (well, except for its shell). Here’s a brief rundown of the parts you can eat:

1. Fins or limbs

Fins, or the turtle’s arms and legs, are best used to make soup or goulash. They are the best-tasting part if you bake or fry the whole turtle.

But most of a turtle’s meat is located where the fins and the body meet. However, the amount will vary greatly depending on the species and size.

2. Tail and neck

The neck and tail of a turtle are very tasty. These parts can be boiled and added to a soup or casserole. But if you want something else, you can fry them.

3. Internal organs

Aside from the meat, you can also eat some of the internal organs of a turtle. You can dig into the liver, heart, windpipe, esophagus, pancreas, and lungs. These may taste better in a stew or soup together with the meat.

4. Eggs

There are some instances where you catch a pregnant turtle. If you open it up, you can find some eggs which resemble a bunch of yellow grapes. These are edible and a delicacy in various cultures.

What Species of Turtles Are Good to Eat?

The legality of eating certain turtle species highly depends on your location. Almost every state in the US prohibits the capture and consumption of sea turtles. Along with sea turtles, certain freshwater turtles have been added to the IUCN’s red list of endangered species.

However, it is acceptable to eat invasive species like red-eared sliders, pond sliders, and common snapping turtles in most areas. You can also feast upon terrapins.

Take note that in other cultures, people eat sea turtles, which are considered a delicacy. Although laws are in place, they are still sold in some local markets. Some sea turtle species that are commonly eaten are:

  • Green Sea
  • Leatherback
  • Hawksbill
  • Loggerhead

Consequently, anyone thinking of eating turtle meat needs to know about possible adverse reactions from consuming it. Freshwater and marine turtle species have flesh that is toxic to humans. You can develop chelonitoxication or the type of food poisoning brought on by eating turtle flesh.

Symptoms include ulceration of the tongue, itching, and soreness in the mouth and throat, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Also, chelonitoxication can cause fatalities as well as lasting disability.

Popular Turtle Dishes

There are several ways to eat turtle meat. Some prefer it breaded, heavily seasoned with cajun spices, and deep-fried. Others want it in a stew. Although some may find it weird, turtle stew has been a staple in American history. But turtle soup is the most popular dish you can cook with turtle meat.

Turtle soup is a delicacy in Southeast Asian nations, including Singapore. You can also see this on restaurant menus in China. The turtle’s meat, skin, and internal organs make the soup. In Chinese cuisine, soft-shelled turtles like Pelodiscus sinensis or Chinese softshell turtles are frequently consumed in this way. 

Other dishes you can try are turtle gravy and rice and turtle etouffee. Both are abundant in the southern parts of the US.

Eating Turtle Eggs

In many nations, eating turtle eggs is considered a delicacy, much like eating shark fins or bee larvae. However, in some countries, harvesting them is highly illegal.

Due to the health hazards, they are not eaten lightly cooked or raw. It would be best to ensure the chef fully and properly cooked the eggs before popping one in your mouth. People who have consumed turtle eggs have said they taste similar to the eggs of other animals. Additionally, the eggs also have a strong aroma that stays for a while.

FAQs

Is it safe to eat turtles?

Turtle flesh can be healthy to consume if cooked correctly. The meat has a high protein content while having minimal calories, fat, and cholesterol. Additionally, turtle meat also contains zinc, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B1, and B6. Another myth from the past says that turtles or turtle eggs have aphrodisiac properties.

Is turtle illegal to eat?

Because several species have experienced declining numbers, turtle hunting laws are always changing. Certain species are indeed regarded as endangered, and killing them is prohibited. But hunting and harvesting turtles may be lawful depending on the nation and the jurisdiction.

It’s required to have a fishing or hunting license to hunt and collect non-endangered turtles in the majority of US states. For example, Louisiana permits taking one turtle per person, per day, and vehicle.

Still, it would help if you never assumed it’s legal to hunt turtles wherever you are. Always consult or check with the local and state regulations. Sometimes there’s a designated hunting season in states where hunting some species is permitted.

Can you get sick from eating turtles?

It is not true that eating turtles makes you sick any more than eating other game meat. However, it still has the potential to harbor pathogenic germs and parasites. There is a potential that you could get cysticercosis if you consume raw meat that has parasites. Get a doctor if you develop nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, or stiff neck (called neurocysticercosis).

Can You Eat Turtles Summary

Turtles are edible and nutritious, even though most people don’t want to hunt and eat them. Plus, they’ll be a fantastic food source if disaster strikes.

Still, there are many things to think about before eating a turtle. Since many turtle species are endangered, capturing or eating them might be illegal. In general, it is usually advisable to stay away from eating turtles unless it is absolutely necessary for survival.

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