Groundhog recipes seem to make the rounds on the internet each year in early February, especially if a certain someone predicts another 6 weeks of winter. The thing is, groundhogs actually make good eating, and gardeners and hunters harvest these tasty vegetarians in the summer months to keep their populations in check (and keep them out of the lettuce patch).
Similar to rabbit, groundhog meat makes a tasty dish to share over the dinner table. Enjoy this small game meat in stews, braises and pies for tender and mouth-watering plates.
While eating this beloved rodent might sound strange to some, anyone who’s dealt with this garden pest will likely understand. That brazen groundhog has been at your veggies for months, and well, you didn’t plant them for him. But, oh how the tables have turned.
All joking aside, once you do finally get your hands on that unwelcome garden resident, it seems a pity to let the meat go to waste. Thankfully, groundhog is a safe and pleasant meat to eat as these pesky foragers have a healthy diet and no dangerous diseases to transmit to humans. But, how does one prepare these chubby rodents?
Whether you call them woodchucks or groundhogs, whistle-pigs or land-beavers, people have been eating groundhogs for years. In fact, a good number of resourceful people weathered the Great Depression by eating groundhogs. Earlier editions of many cookbooks including The Joy of Cooking actually contained several woodchuck recipes, along with rabbit, squirrel and even possum.
Tastewise, groundhog meat is comparable to rabbit, but with a mildly gamier flavor. The meat is a little darker, and as such some even compare it to a cross between duck and rabbit. When properly prepared, groundhog is a subtle and tender meat.
Despite this, sourcing modern groundhog recipes can be a bit of a challenge. A quick internet search on groundhog recipes will yield more results for dishes surrounding the holiday filled more with cakes and cute woodchuck-faced cookies than actual game recipes. Subsequently, a nice and neat compilation of recipes is a good resource to have.
Choosing the Best Groundhog
Groundhogs make a pleasing-tasting meat due to their vegetarian diets. As with most small game, their flavor comes from what they consume. Groundhogs, like wild rabbits, are herbivorous, feeding on greens, bark, plants and sometimes your own organic-grown garden goods.
Like with most meat, younger groundhogs are seen as best for cooking. The older the meat, the tougher it tends to be. This means catching a smaller groundhog is often better than larger ones which tend to be older.
Groundhogs (Marmota monax) hibernate during the winter months from November to February, after which you’ll find them foraging in the spring for tender plants like grasses, alfalfa and clover. They can weigh anywhere from 5 to 12 pounds, stretching up to 2 feet in length.
For anyone uninterested in shooting these garden nuisances, groundhogs can be caught in a live trap with the help of some tempting fresh fruit and veggies.
Once you’ve gotten ahold of that garden pest, you’ll need to skin and clean the groundhog. The main difference between dressing rabbit meat and groundhog is being sure to remove all the scent glands. Take a look at this guide on how to clean and skin a groundhog if you’ve never done this before.
Groundhog is quite similar to rabbit meat and accordingly, can be prepared in many of the same ways. However, a brine soak is recommended to draw out any lingering gamey flavors as well as to aid in maintaining moisture during cooking.
To brine groundhog, take the dressed meat (with glands removed) and steep it in salt water for at least four hours, or if you prefer, overnight. A solution of ½ cup salt per gallon of water will make an effective brine. After removing from the brine, pat the meat dry and prepare for cooking.
Woodchuck can be prepared in a number of ways including frying, baking, stewing and braising. As groundhog can be a tad dry, slow-cooked dishes and pressure cooker recipes are also suitable options.
Groundhog Sandwich and Sausage Recipes
Given the smaller size of groundhogs, sandwiches and sausages are a great way to extend this modestly-sized meat. Grab some groundhog and your favorite barbecue sauce to make smoky whistle-pig sandwiches. Smoked with a dark beer and barbecue rub for two to three hours, these groundhog sammies are flavorful and tender.
You can also try your hand at making groundhog patties for sliders or oven-baking with tomato sauce. Baking groundhog patties with a dollop of currant jelly and serving on Hawaiian rolls are a nice treat as well. Woodchuck can also be ground up and formed into sausage for grilling, smoking or pan-frying — try subbing groundhog for rabbit in the recipe below for some flavorful links to stuff inside sandwiches or eat sans bun with whole grain mustard.
- Smoked Whistlepig Sandwiches
- Groundhog Sliders
- Woodchuck Meat Patties with Tomato Sauce
- Rabbit Sausage (substitution)
- Making Groundhog Sausage (video)
Groundhog Savory Main Courses
Time to turn that groundhog into a plateful of dinner. For some simple stovetop dinner ideas, try a country-style groundhog browned in hot oil and steamed with water to tenderize. Woodchuck in tomato sauce is another delightful idea made by boiling the meat with mint leaves and browning with oil and garlic, then adding to a pot with tomato and basil.
Whistlepig in a pot combines groundhog with vegetables, white wine and bay leaves simmered on the stovetop for several hours before being served with rice or pasta. To make use of that Dutch oven pan or skillet, try buttermilk-fried woodchuck or woodchuck meatballs.
For some oven-baked dishes, consider baking groundhog with bacon grease and spicewood branches, pairing with a teriyaki glaze, or baking casserole-style with cream or sweet potatoes. Woodchuck can also be smoked and grilled or tenderized with the assistance of a pressure cooker. Try topping pork with a groundhog gravy or subbing groundhog for chicken to partner with dumplings.
Skillet & Stove Top
- Country-Style Groundhog
- Woodchuck in Tomato Sauce
- Whistle Pig in a Pot
- Buttermilk-Fried Woodchuck
- Groundhog Meatballs
- Baked Groundhog
- Oriental Groundhog with Teriyaki Glaze
- Creamed Groundhog
- Waco Groundhog in Sour Cream
- Groundhog and Sweet Potatoes
Smoked & Grilled Groundhog
Braised Groundhog Recipes
Braising is another fine way to tenderize groundhog meat, rendering it moist and flavorful. Groundhog braised in a Dutch oven with stock will yield wonderful meat for tacos. Partner with corn tortillas, cilantro and salsa verde for a fiesta of flavor. A groundhog braised with mushrooms and white wine is another toothsome treat to serve over pasta or potatoes.
Braising imparts flavor to the meat as well as softening tougher cuts. To excite your palate, pair woodchuck with an herbed mustard reduction. Made by braising groundhog with chicken stock, onions, garlic and fresh thyme, simmering for two hours, and finally reducing the liquid and adding Dijon at the end, this dish can be served over rice or with veggies.
Groundhog Stew Recipes
An ideal way to tenderize older game, stewing groundhog is a tried and true method of cooking that is suitable any night of the week. Make a groundhog stew by marinating woodchuck, browning it, braising it, deboning and adding the meat back to the pot with some rice. Garlic, rosemary, thyme and fresh bay leaves are spectacular spices to marinate groundhog in.
Additionally, a woodchuck stew with garden vegetables like carrots, onions and zucchini makes a lovely appetizer or entree paired with bread. For something a tad heartier, try a whistle-pig stew built from beer, potatoes, mushrooms and rich bacon tossed into a slow cooker. Whistle-pig curry is yet another option, seasoning the meat with curry spices like cumin, coriander and curry powder for a flavorful meal.
- Groundhog Rice Stew
- Woodchuck Stew with Garden Vegetables
- Slow Cooker Whistle Pig Stew
- Whistlepig Curry
Groundhog Pie Recipes
Groundhog desserts there are not, but groundhog pie there is! Parboiled groundhog meat baked into stock-laden gravy and covered in a crispy biscuit-y crust is a meal no one can resist, no matter how reluctant they are to eat groundhog. To prove this theory, combine groundhog with the flavors of green pepper, parsley and onion in a pot pie-style dish, or blend with carrots, potatoes, flour and butter.
For another impressive pie, sample Southwestern-style shepherd’s pie made with parboiled groundhog, corn, tomatoes, roasted chilis, spices and Monterey Jack cheese all topped with sweet potato tater tots. After baking, garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with a side of black beans and sour cream to experience the full effect.
- Groundhog Pie with Parsley and Green Peppers
- Woodchuck Pie with Carrots and Potatoes
- Southwestern Groundhog Shepherd’s Pie w/Sweet Tater Topping
While there aren’t many recipes specifically intended for curing groundhogs, groundhog can be cured just like any other meat. Jerky is one such example. While making jerky from gamey meat can actually intensify the gamey flavor, adding a decent amount of spices can combat this effect. Try swapping groundhog for rabbit in the jerky recipe below to start.
In addition to experimenting with groundhog jerky, groundhog can also be cured in the form of sausage. As groundhog can often be substituted for rabbit in recipes, you can try substituting groundhog for rabbit meat in these salami and sausage recipes.
- Jerky Made Easy
- Rabbit Jerky (substitution)
- Smoked Rabbit Salami (substitution)
- Rabbit Sausage (substitution)
Since groundhogs are on the smaller side, preservation isn’t a topic that’s given a lot of notice for this small game. But in the case that you end up dispatching an entire family of these vexing burrowers, there are a few available options.
Groundhogs can be preserved by freezing or canning. As with any small game meat like rabbit or squirrel, groundhog should be skinned and dressed before freezing. The meat should be chilled until it is no longer rigid, after which it can be frozen whole or in pieces. You should try to remove as much air as possible to avoid freezer burn and be sure to date your meat.
As for canning — while you won’t find any recipes for canning woodchuck in particular, you can follow the general outline for canning meat, wild game, poultry & fish, treating woodchuck in the same way as rabbit or squirrel.
If you’re interested in a video on canning groundhog, you can also see Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods canning groundhog meat in West Virginia with canning tips.
- How Do I Freeze Meat?
- Freeze or Can Wild Game
- Canning Wild Game
- Canning Groundhog Meat In WV (video)
That’s it for morels, but if you’re looking for more wild recipes for foraged mushrooms, game, and greens, read on my friends: