You’ve seen squirrels running around the yard, eating from your bird feeder, and chattering at your dog, but had it occurred to you that they are a good source of nutrition?
While you may not want to catch the squirrels in your backyard for dinner, if you are a hunter, adding squirrels to the mix of animals you bring home can make for some nice variety in your meal planning.
You can include squirrel meat in your diet. It is a nutritious, mild, dark meat. Substitute squirrel in any chicken dish, use it in a stew or roast it with your favorite vegetables.
Your best bet for safe squirrel meat is to hunt squirrels in the country; squirrels in urban areas may have been exposed to pesticides or poisons that might remain present in their meat. Be sure to check local hunting regulations before heading out to hunt squirrel.
We have collected information, suggestions, and recipes for including squirrel in your menu rotation. Keep reading for the details.
- Can You Eat Squirrel?
- The Safety Of Squirrel Meat
- Can You Eat Squirrel From Your Backyard
- Hunting Squirrel
- Fun Fact
- Preparing Squirrel
- Recipes For Cooking Squirrel
- Concluding Thoughts
- Related Guides
Can You Eat Squirrel?
Yes, you can eat squirrel. Squirrel meat is edible and can be delicious. It is lean and has a mild flavor.
The USDA provides an analysis of squirrel meat in terms of its nutritional value, indicating it is high in protein, B12, and B6.
One thing to be aware of is that due to a squirrel’s high nut diet, their meat is a significant source of cholesterol.
If high cholesterol is one of your concerns, you may want to eat only moderate amounts of squirrel or avoid it altogether.
The Safety Of Squirrel Meat
Rabies Is Not A Concern
According to the CDC, small rodents like squirrels rarely have rabies, and there are no cases of them transmitting the disease to humans.
Preventing Squirrel-Borne Diseases And Parasites
As with any meat, you should clean it properly and keep it cold in order to prevent the growth of bacteria like e. Coli and salmonella.
Squirrels may also carry Lyme disease or parasites. Cook the meat thoroughly to kill any bacteria and parasites that are present.
For safety, the USDA recommends cooking ground meats to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
Can You Eat Squirrel From Your Backyard
Squirrels in urban areas may have been exposed to pesticides that individuals or cities have applied to plants around the city.
If the squirrels have consumed any plants with pesticides, the poisons may show up in their meat.
It is also possible that people have put out poison to get rid of bothersome squirrels. You do not want to eat a squirrel that has been poisoned.
Is Hunting Squirrels In Your Backyard Legal?
Squirrels make themselves at home in backyards all across the country, sometimes even becoming a nuisance animal.
If you are a hunter or an adventurous eater, you may be tempted to catch and use these animals for food.
However, you should take a few things into account before cooking up your backyard squirrels.
Another consideration about hunting squirrels in your own backyard is whether or not it is legal.
Check with your local municipality for laws regarding trapping and/or shooting squirrels for meat inside the city limits.
Given these potential complications, your best bet for squirrels may be hunting in the country.
If you choose to hunt for squirrels outside of town, be sure to follow any hunting licensing regulations for your home state and county.
Eastern Gray Squirrels and fox squirrels are the largest species, and therefore the ones most often hunted.
Gray squirrels may grow up to 1.5 pounds, and fox squirrels may grow as large as 3 pounds.
The taste of the squirrel will depend on what it has been foraging, although it is generally a mild flavor.
If you are a hunter and the seasons line up, deer season is a great time for hunting squirrels as well.
The best places to look for squirrels are around nut-producing trees. You should be ready to sit patiently and wait for the squirrels to come into your range rather than trying to chase them down.
Check with your local authorities to determine if you can hunt squirrels year-round or only in the summer and fall.
Squirrels are most likely to be active on warm sunny days. Take a hunting buddy with you and settle in with your binoculars to scan for squirrel movement.
Skinning And Dressing
Once you have caught your squirrel, you will need to field dress it so you can safely transport the meat home to your freezer.
Check out this video for a quick method to skin a squirrel and this one for instructions on field dressing.
Can You Eat Squirrel Brains
You may choose to use as much of an animal as possible to avoid any kind of waste. In general, you are probably safe to eat the liver and brain of your squirrel.
However, there has been one case of a human contracting Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (mad cow disease) from eating squirrel brains.
This is a very unlikely scenario. However, if you want to find a way to use the organ meat without eating it, try it as bait for fishing.
Can You Eat Squirrel Meat Raw
It is a good practice to cook any meat that you intend to eat. Raw squirrel meat may have bacterial contamination like salmonella, listeria, or E. Coli. It may also have parasites that could be transferred to you if you eat raw meat.
To protect yourself and your family, the USDA recommends that you cook all meat to an internal temperature of 160 and let it rest for 3 minutes before serving.
Marinate Or Brine For Grilling, Roasting, Or Frying
Due to how lean it is, squirrel meat may become tough when it is grilled or roasted. One way you can avoid this is by marinating or brining the meat before cooking. Use a basic brine with a ratio of 1/2 cup kosher salt to one quart of water.
You can also add 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, syrup, or honey to add layers of flavor to the meat. Brine the meat for 1-24 hours.
If you are frying the squirrel, you can marinate it in buttermilk or milk for an hour before dredging it in flour.
Braise, Pressure Cook, Or Slow Cook For Tenderness And Moisture
If you are making a stew or using shredded squirrel meat, cooking it slowly in liquid will make it tender and juicy.
You can braise the squirrel in a dutch oven to debone it and use the meat in a stew. A slow cooker or a pressure cooker will also help you achieve the tenderness you are looking for.
Recipes For Cooking Squirrel
Once you have packed your freezer with squirrel, you need some recipes to wow your family and friends with.
Check out these options for making squirrel part of your regular dinner routine.
Buttermilk Fried Squirrel
If you love crispy fried chicken, try cooking frying squirrel in a buttermilk batter also. Start by cutting 2 lbs of squirrel meat into strips (like chicken tenders). Put them in a bowl and cover them with buttermilk.
Cover the bowl and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
When you are ready to cook, combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons of salt, 2 tablespoons of black pepper, and one tablespoon of cajun seasoning in a gallon-size zip-top bag.
Remove the slices of meat from the buttermilk and place them into the bag of flour and seasoning. Zip up the bag and shake it until each piece is coated evenly with the flour mixture.
Preheat oil in a frying pan. While it heats, remove the squirrel meat from the bag and lay it on a cooling rack to let the batter set up (5-10 minutes).
Fry the slices for 10 minutes on each side with the lid on the pan to keep the meat tender.
Serve with gravy and your favorite countrysides.
Slow Cooker Squirrel And Veggies
Any meal you can cook in the slow cooker takes some pressure off of the dinner time rush.
You start it before your leave for work, and when you get home, stir it, and dinner is ready. Try this slow-cooked squirrel recipe for a flavorful, easy meal.
In the bottom of the slow cooker, combine 1 chopped onion, 2 cups of peeled chunked carrots, 4 potatoes, peeled and chunked, 1 bell pepper seeded and chopped, 2 cloves garlic, crushed, and salt and pepper to taste.
Lay 1 ½ pounds of squirrel meat on top of the veggies, then cover everything with chicken or vegetable broth. Cook on high for 6 hours.
Stir in 2 Tablespoons of flour and cook for 2 more hours on high.
You won’t need to prepare any additional veggies for this meal because everything is already cooked in the slow cooker.
Brunswick Stew is a traditional Appalachian recipe made with small game like squirrel or possum.
Start by placing 2-3 squirrels in a dutch oven with 2 cups of rich stock and braising for 30 minutes or until the meat is tender.
Pour the stock into another container and save it. Shred the meat when it is cool enough to handle.
If your squirrel is already de-boned, you can shred the mead in the kitchen aid with the paddle attachment.
If it still has the bones, use a couple of forks to remove the meat from the bone and shred it. Put the meat back into the stock.
Slice 2 onions into very thin slices so they will brown nicely. Add 4 tablespoons of bacon drippings (or oil) in your empty dutch oven and brown the thinly sliced onions.
Add 1 finely chopped clove of garlic. Return the stock and squirrel meat to the dutch oven.
Add in the following vegetables and spices: ¾ cup chopped and peeled tomatoes, 1 cup lima beans, 1 cup corn, 1 cup cut okra, 1 ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire, 1 tsp pepper, 1 teaspoon rosemary, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 bay leaf, and 1/2 cup Madeira. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add a few handfuls of breadcrumbs to thicken the stew and simmer for 10 more minutes.
Serve and enjoy.
Squirrel is a lean meat and can become tough and dry if it is grilled improperly. Due to its leanness, you should brine the squirrel meat before grilling with an acidic element in the brine.
Boil a quart of water and add in ½ cup of kosher salt for a basic brine. You can also add a cup of apple cider vinegar or ½ cup brown sugar to add additional flavor to the brine solution. Because squirrel is so lean, you can brine it for up to 24 hours.
Remove the squirrel from the brine and pat dry. Rub with your favorite mixture of seasonings and grill over hot coals for 20-30 minutes until it is just cooked through.
Squirrel is a delightful, lean meat that complements your regular meal rotation. While squirrels are safe to eat, do your squirrel hunting outside of the city.
In town, squirrels may be exposed to pesticides and other poisons that are present in their meat.
Be sure to follow any hunting restrictions for your state. Enjoy your squirrel in any recipe that you would use chicken for, especially dark meat chicken. You can roast or grill your squirrel, or cook it in the crockpot, or make it into a stew.
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.