Can You Eat Turtles?
You have probably learned by now that people will eat pretty much anything, but can you really eat turtles?
Turtles are edible and have been a food source for humans for a very long time. There are certain hunting regulations and seasons that can vary state by state. You also can’t just eat any turtle as their population is dwindling, and many are endangered species.
There is actually evidence that shows humans were eating turtles 400,000 years ago.
Turtle is still commonly eaten today in places like New Orleans, where dishes like turtle soup are still served.
There are still risks involved with cooking turtles as they do commonly carry deadly bacteria such as salmonella.
However, when properly prepared and cooked thoroughly, most turtles should be fine to consume. At your own risk, of course.
This article will cover how they taste, how people cook them, and the legalities of doing so.
Table of Contents
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What Does Turtle Taste Like?
If you decide to dine on our shelled little friends, you should first know what turtles taste like.
Turtle can vary in flavor anywhere from fish-like to beefy. The texture of the meat is closest to that of chicken and is slightly fattier than fish. The taste of turtle meat will depend on how it’s cooked, the seasoning, and what the turtle consumes.
It will come down to opinion, but turtle meat is not often described as gross.
However, people do seem to add a lot of seasoning when they cook it.
I think it’s safe to say the verdict is that it is generally a good but not amazing tasting meat on its own.
What are the Benefits of Eating Turtle Meat?
Turtle eating got popular because they don’t taste bad, and they are very nutritious.
Turtle meat is high in protein, also low in fat, cholesterol, and calories. Vitamins A, B1, B6, zinc, and phosphorus can also be found in turtle meat. There are also ancient beliefs that turtle or turtle eggs serve as an aphrodisiac.
What Kind of Turtles Can You Eat?
Turtles seem to be less and less commonly eaten, but they have been vital to the survival of many humans in the past.
Some freshwater turtle species that have commonly been eaten are:
- Red Eared Sliders
Some sea turtle species that have commonly been eaten are:
- Green Sea
There was a time when sea turtles were found in abundance and were widely eaten until they were put on the endangered species list in 1978.
Because turtles can live months without eating, they made an especially great food source for sailors.
There was a point in the 1800s where people regularly bought canned turtle meat. You can actually buy snapping turtle meat on Amazon today.
Are There Poisonous Turtles?
Turtles are reptiles that are believed to have been around for about 230 million years, but are there any poisonous ones?
There are no known turtle or tortoise species that are poisonous or venomous. However, you could get sick from consuming turtles that eat something poisonous or toxic. You should also wash your hands after touching any turtle as they can carry salmonella.
People have died from consuming turtles that have eaten toxic or poisonous food sources like algae.
Can You Eat Turtle Eggs?
Maybe turtle eggs stir up a bit more of an appetite for you, but can you eat them?
Turtle or tortoise eggs are also edible but illegal to harvest and consume in many parts of the world. The way they are normally consumed, slightly cooked or eaten raw, is very unsafe due to bacterial risks. Although you shouldn’t really eat them, they should be safe for consumption when fully cooked.
Similar to eating bees or bee larvae, turtle eggs are considered a delicacy in many countries.
People seem to know that it is illegal or considered bad because of the dwindling turtle populations.
However, many people still simply put their culture first and continue their eating traditions.
What do Turtle Eggs Taste Like?
I have not personally eaten them nor plan to, but you may wonder what turtle eggs taste like?
Turtle eggs are described to have an extra strong eggy flavor that is unique but not too bad. They are usually undercooked to a soupy texture where the shell is just slightly hard. After puncturing a little hole in the shell and adding some sauce, the egg is slurped or drank.
Is it Legal to Eat Turtle?
The laws around turtle hunting are ever-changing as many species have seen dwindling populations.
The legality of turtle hunting and harvesting can vary by country and state. As with many other animals, certain species are considered endangered and would be illegal to kill. You should always check local and national laws before assuming it's okay to hunt turtles.
Turtles were vigorously hunted for many years until some of the species were put on the endangered list.
They and their eggs are often still illegally hunted as they can be valuable and are considered a delicacy by many.
In states where certain turtles can be hunted, it is not usually allowed all year long; there is a specified hunting season.
How to Cook Turtle
The most popular way to cook turtle seems to be in a soup or stew with a lot of seasonings.
Turtles aren’t the easiest animals to butcher, but they have a good amount of healthy meat.
Similar to cooking and eating rats, you will first want to remove the feet and head as they are the dirtiest part.
Here are a few steps on how to safely prepare turtle meat for a recipe:
- To learn how to get all the meat off and prepare a turtle properly, it is probably best to watch a video like the one below for exact visual instructions.
- You should boil the meat for at least an hour at a lower temperature with some added vinegar to help tenderize the meat.
- After letting it cool, you can separate the meat from the bones by hand.
- The meat will be ready and prepared to be added to something like a nice turtle soup recipe.
WARNING: Viewer discretion is advised as a real turtle is cleaned and cooked in this video.
Even though most people won’t want to kill and eat turtles, they are edible and nutritious.
If shit ever hits the fan and there are turtles around, they will make a great food source.
If they are healthy, they can live without food for months, so you can catch them and keep them for quite some time.
Most are relatively easy to catch and have other parts besides the meat, like the shell, that could be useful.
In some areas, turtles may still be plentiful enough and are even considered pests.
However, for the most part, it is probably best to avoid eating turtles unless you need to for survival.