Saturday, February 27, 2016

Turtle (Red-Eared Slider) Soup

In a prior post I blogged about making peacock and vegetable pie. When I was at the Exotic Meat Market warehouse in Grand Terrace to pick up the peacock, I learned that they had some red-eared slider turtle meat available and I had to get it. I've only tasted snapping turtle (turtle soup and grilled turtle) and wanted to try some other variety.
Red-eared slider turtles. Picture from here
I picked up a package that include four pairs of back legs and a package that included quite a few front legs. 
Four sets of back legs that include the pelvis.
Many front legs that were not connected. 
I read that turtle could taste kind of swampy and I wanted to take every precaution to remove any objectionable taste. I've also had turtle that was very tough and wanted to break it down to make it as tender as possible. The use of a combined brine and marinade can help with both of those concerns. By immersing meat in brine, the brine that has a higher concentration of salt than the moisture in the meat is absorbed into the meat by osmosis and any flavoring in the brine is carried into the meat. The osmosis also removes much of the blood in the meat and reduces the gamey taste. The salt denatures (alters) the chemical structure of the proteins in the meat causing them to unwind and form a matrix that traps the water and allows the flavoring agents to permeate the meat. Marinade uses acidity to break down the texture of the meat and make it more tender. Acid, like citrus or apple cider vinegar, can give a mushy exterior to meat which is perfectly acceptable when you are dealing with wild game.  

For my brine/marinade mix, I used 1 tablespoon of salt for each cup of water, adding enough of the mix to fully cover the meat. Then I squeezed the juice from two Meyer lemons into the brine and added a fair amount of apple cider vinegar, probably five or six tablespoons. Finally, I crushed about 8 juniper berries into the brine and also added some crushed ginger. I added the turtle meat, sealed it in Tupperware and put it in the refrigerator overnight. 
Turtle legs in the brine/marinade. The black specks are pieces of juniper berry and the yellowish/white specks are lemon seeds. 
The next morning I poured out the brine/marinade and thoroughly washed the turtle meat and patted it dry. The meat turned a gray color because much of the blood was removed. 
The turtle legs are now gray because much of the blood has been removed. Using kitchen shears, I cut off the claws.
I wanted my soup to be thick with vegetables. So I cut up two red peppers, 2 poblano peppers, 6 Anaheim chiles, 1 large onion and 1 bulb of fennel and fried it quite slowly in a frying pan in olive oil and some wagyu beef fat and a little bit of wagyu beef. I sprinkled it liberally with cayenne pepper, sage and sweet basil and added, added four large tablespoons of chopped garlic and a quarter package of frozen sweet white corn near the end. Then I added the mixture to a crock pot, along with the turtle legs, 32 ounces of chicken stock and 14.5 ounces of chicken broth. I also added two heaping spoonfuls of vegan chicken bouillon, then cooked the mixture on low for six hours. 
Turtle soup mixture in crock pot. 
I couldn't have hoped for it to turn out any better. The vegetables were nice and plentiful and the broth was flavorful. Best of all, the turtle was very tender and moist and came right off the bones. It had no gamey taste at all. 
My first sample of soup to see how the turtle turned out. I hold a front leg. The meat came right off the bone.
A bowl of the soup full of vegetables.
One of the meatier back legs.
Left over bones from a bowl of the soup. Note the bare bones - evidence that the meat came right off. 
The combination of brine/marinade followed by crock pot cooking has given me the desire to try snapping turtle again, a larger and  meatier turtle. I believe that this same process will help transform that meat into a more pleasant product. 


  1. Somehow I missed seeing the original version with the claws still intact. I'm kind of glad I did. This was good soup--very flavorful, great meat.

  2. I'm always interested to see what's next on your bucket list of exotic meats. Very helpful explanation of brining.

  3. Hello, My 12-year-old 6th grader and 2 of his friends enjoyed your "Florida Chicken Turtle" pics from Sunday, March 24, 2013. They enjoyed one pic ( so much that they would like to have it printed on an shirt to wear proudly around school. I would like to do that, however as you may know copyright laws prevent me from doing so without your permission. Would you allow me to print this pic on 3 shirts for my son and his 2 friends?

  4. You are so wicked with animals
    May god Punish U for what have U done

  5. ewww bitch wtf is going on in your lifeeee

  6. My pet turtle is a red-eared slider! WTH IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!?!?!?!?!?!Do something else with your life than cook pets you molester!

    1. Turtletards seethe. Anyone who sees any other value in pet turtles than merely ornamental is fucking delusional. They bear no actual affective value. In other words they may as well hate you since their brains are extremely primitive, they just breed, bask, shit, swim and eat. Try teaching one to do any tricks – good luck with that and I also envy you the patience to try to achieve that with a creature so stupid that it will confuse your pinky with food even though it's vision is awesome. Speaking of which and back to the affective value – you can pet mammals, you can pet birds, but turtles? They will either try to bite you, either out of being fucking too stupid, or scared, or simply withdraw into their shell, which is a feature that helped them survive for so long, but with tragic consequences for all other aspects of their evolution, because it was not placing too much burden on their self-preservation capabilities, so much that they can't fucking tell a plastic bag from a jellyfish. And why is also that they won't let you pet them? Because you see, giant tortoises usually like being petted, but sliders? They are too fucking retarded to go past recognizing you as a source of food, in which aspect they are as attached to you as some fucking parasite. THEY ARE A WILD ANIMAL and I bet many of you "love" them so much that it is YOU who are abusing those creatures by keeping them in conditions that are too tough on them. Because yeah, they might not require too much food, but they also require humongous tanks with aperture that consumes more power than a gaming laptop and breaks regularly, especially the lamps. You give too much damn about an essentialy wild animal that is by no fucking means happy to be living next to you, which however doesn't mean it is suffering – it is simply too primitive to be even self-aware in the first place, it's emotional range is slightly more advanced beyond what could be as well ascribed to reflexes that insects or fish have as well. It's body might look more complex than that of a fish, but it's brain? If you realized it instead of deluding yourself like a little ignorant baby, you would understand you're just as ridiculous as people that would act outraged in the comments section of recipes for fish.

      With that being said, you are also just fucking hypocritical. The fact that is weak enough that some morons like you decided to keep it as a pet compared to e.g. snappers, thus making it rather quite unusual as a source of meat, does by no means mean it feels pain any different than other turtles, amphibian, fish or insect (won't bring up birds and mammals here as they are inarguably more often self-aware to some extent, yet eating them is generally more normalized). Anyways you don't know how it was killed – presumably humanely, because mistreating it before it dies would just be wasting energy and time on a meat source that is already quite inefficient. I assume a brumation was induced, or an electric current went through the water. And it's not like capturing them was too harmful for the environment – they are an invasive species, which means that they require their population to be kept under control, otherwise they may threathen the ecosystems they live in. So after they're killed, because it's not always that easy to do that by introducing their natural predators as they're also not an easy prey, why waste them?
      Oh, and you know what makes things actually worse? That a bunch of idiots like you keep normalizing keeping them as pets, eventually fooling some naive kids along the way, whose parents buy them one which when they realize how fucked up a decision they made by picking such an actually high-maintenance and long-commitment animal, which is actually boring, because it's hard to play with it or pet it, or teach it tricks – they release them into the wild.

      But if that's your hobby, then fine. But please don't act delusional because someone doesn't treat the object of your hobby as you do.

    2. ok first off, turtles have never taken an iq test your just shoving this out of your filthy ass, and i have pet turtles and guess what, i can rub the top of their heads without them caring, shit, i have given them a neck message before, i have even rubbed their chin, they get exited to see me, even after i feed them and their no longer hungry, they still come and try to get my attention, also, most animal brains are primitive, some just smarter than others, my red eared slider turtles can even get stuck and then think of a way that actually gets them out, and think if you were an sea turtle in the ocean and you saw a plastic bag and thought it was a jellyfish, turtles and all other life mistake it for a jellyfish because they don't fucking know what plastic is, there is nothing else that that plastic bag could be but a jellyfish since they don't know what plastic is, how the fuck can you blame them for that.

  7. Hey Bob! I'm working on an educational project involving turtle meat and I'm searching for example images and yours are the best. May I have permission to use these? Please email me at and I'll explain in greater detail. Thanks and have a great day!

  8. i like soup is gut ja very gut

  9. I just casually stumbled upon this blog and found it fairly interesting.

    Funny it seems, we don’t consider it monstrous that we now convert insects into food; however eating a turtle is really no different in the nature that we have a need to eat to live.

    Think of it like this: if you were stranded on a river bank and the most plentiful and readily accessible food around was turtle, I’m sure you would bring yourself to eat it.

    My family has lived in the Southern U.S. and we all enjoy snapping turtle and sliders, and frankly it’s more of a cultural thing. There’s nothing wrong with eating a turtle, much like how there is nothing wrong with eating a dog or a cat.

    I see turtles as just another accessible food source for humans, much like a lion or bear would see a vulnerable human: Just another morsel ready for consumption.