Squirrel, like many other types of small game, makes good eating. That is provided you have a good squirrel recipe handy.
***Spring 2020 update***
Since this crisis began, this post has seen nearly 100,000 hits. While I’m glad everyone’s excited about hunting if you’re really thinking squirrel meat is going to keep you fed after SHTF that may be a pipe dream. I’d suggest planning ahead and checking out these survival food kits instead.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with supplementing your pantry with a bit of tasty squirrel meat. If you’re curious about how to cook it, read on my friends…
For the most part, I love watching squirrels forage on our land. They’re out there trying to make a living just like anyone.
This past year their population exploded, likely due to the untimely demise of our young hunting cat. They’ve destroyed crops, woken us from a sound sleep with their calls and most recently torn into the walls of the house.
Enough is enough, time to work on squirrel population control. We eat what we hunt, which means it’s time to research squirrel recipes!
Squirrel is part of a robust small game hunting tradition in the US, and a great way to introduce kids to hunting. Even if you’re not hunting, small squirrel traps can be remarkably effective for the squirrels in your attic, or you can go old school and use a figure 4 deadfall trap.
For newbies, I’d highly recommend this super quiet air gun that’s incredibly inexpensive (though check your local restrictions, some places class it as a firearm, while others don’t). For a more passive method, this squirrel trap is by far the best we’ve tested.
If you know the right technique, it takes less than a minute to gut a squirrel. After that, most squirrel recipes require that you part up the squirrel into cuts, and here’s how to do that.
For the most part, any recipe that calls for a rabbit can be made with a squirrel. I find that squirrel meat is much more flavorful, likely because they’re getting more exercise than domestic rabbits.
Don’t forget to cook the organ meats, and if you’re ambitious, you can even render squirrel lard. Scroll to the end for my recipe for squirrel lard cookies…
Fried Squirrel Recipes
Frying squirrels helps retain moisture in the meat, and the frying oil adds richness to otherwise lean meat. Fried squirrel is often served with biscuits and gravy, and that’s how I make it.
Be careful, fried squirrel cooks very quickly. It’s really easy to overcook the meat and burn the breading, so watch it carefully as it cooks.
- Buffalo Fried Squirrel
- Crispy Fried Squirrel and Chips
- Buttermilk Fried Squirrel with Biscuits and Gravy
Squirrel Stew Recipes
Stewing works well for squirrel meat, as it’s flavorful but often a little tough. The small cuts make a full meal when mixed into a squirrel stew.
The fact that squirrel can be a bit dry doesn’t much matter in a squirrel stew, where the rich broth helps everything stay moist and tender.
- Squirrel Stew with Paprika and Greens
- Squirrel with Dumplings
- Squirrel Gumbo
- Squirrel Stew with Cajun Spices
- Kentucky Burgoo (Mixed wild game stew)
- Squirrel and Chorizo Stew
- Old Fashioned Squirrel Stew
- Squirrel Stew with Corn and Potatoes
- Traditional Brunswick Stew (Appalachian Squirrel Stew)
Squirrel Chilli Recipes
Chilli is one of those dishes that can handle just about any meat. Squirrel ads extra protein, and can be substituted into just about any meat-based chili recipe.
I like to slow cook the squirrel first, de-bone the meat and then add the meat to avoid any bones in the finished squirrel chili.
Slow Cooker Squirrel Recipes
Low and slow they say with game meats, and squirrel meat is no exception. I like to add a good bit of salt to the slow cooker, which helps squirrel meat stay moist during the cooking process.
Of course, you can make squirrel chili in the slow cooker, but there are other tasty options too…
Squirrel Pasta Recipes
Pasta is a base that works with just about anything, even squirrel. Though I haven’t made any squirrel pasta recipes yet, I’m particularly excited about making squirrel ravioli.
The meat, finely diced, will add flavor and protein to the ravioli while other fillings like ricotta will help add richness to help balance out lean squirrel meat.
- Squirrel and Mushrooms in Cream Sauce
- Squirrel Confit with Duck Fat Gnocchi
- Squirrel Ravioli with Browned Butter and Sage
- Squirrel Ravioli with Parmesean and Ricotta
Roasted and Grilled Squirrel Recipes
Admittedly, roasting and grilling lean meat like a squirrel is tricky. Food for hunters has some excellent advice on how to properly grill a squirrel (along with an epic recipe for Jamaican Jerk Squirrel):
“Grilling squirrel isn’t as tricky as most people think. If done incorrectly, it can dry out very easily, but the secret to grilling perfect squirrel is no secret at all. As with any lean, “tougher” meat, and squirrels would fall into this category, the trick is to remove as much silver skin as you can without sacrificing too much meat. Silverskin tightens up and becomes chewy when exposed to heat, and will make the rest of your squirrel meat tough. Of course, you can’t get it all, but get as much as you can– that white, cloudy or clear-looking film that covers the pink meat underneath.
The second rule is to marinate the squirrel for a few hours or overnight in something that has an acid, such as vinegar or citrus. The marinade will infuse into the meat to help keep it moist while on the grill, while the acid will help to tenderize and break down the meat. We chose a Jamaican “Jerk” marinade because it’s one of our favorites for the grill. Finally, grill squirrel directly over hot coals just until cooked through and no longer.
Don’t expect it to be as tender as farm-raised chicken. It’s a wild animal that spends most of its time running around, and if you know squirrels, you’ll know that they can’t keep still for long. Squirrel meat has a pleasant “snap” to it. Respect it.”
- Jamaican Jerk Squirrel on the Grill
- BBQ Squirrel
- Grilled Tequila Lime Squirrel
- Campfire Roasted Squirrel
- Roast Squirrel with Blackberry Sauce
- Roast Squirrel with Squash, Sage, and Hazelnuts
Braised Squirrel Recipes
Slow cooking squirrel helps tenderize the meat and is especially tasty with a flavorful braising liquid. The next squirrel we get, I’m making braised squirrel and pumpkin dumplings…
- Squirrel with Pumpkin Dumplings
- Braised Squirrel Aurora
- Braised squirrel, horseradish mash, sprout tops, and hazelnut jus
- Braised Squirrel With Bacon, Mushrooms, and Pinot Noir
Pressure Cooker Squirrel Recipes
They say you can cook anything in an instant pot, and squirrel is no exception! Whether it’s a new-fangled modern electric pressure cooker or an old-fashioned stovetop model, a pressure cooker is great at tenderizing the meat on older squirrels.
I’ve found 10-12 minutes in an instant pot works really well for the medium-sized grey squirrels we have around here, but I’ve seen many pressure cooker squirrel recipes that recommend 20-25 minutes. Those longer times are for really old tough squirrels or larger fox squirrels that just take more time to cook.
- Pressure Cooker Squirrel (in the instant pot)
- Squirrel and Mushrooms in Cream Sauce (in the pressure cooker)
Squirrel Pot Pies, Hand Pies & Sandwiches
Pot pies have a rich creamy sauce that’s perfect for lean squirrel meat. Make it a pot pie for a hearty supper, or hand pie for a meal on the go.
Similarly, sandwiches are incredibly versatile and are often made with lean cuts of meat anyway. Substitute boneless squirrel meat for turkey, chicken or tuna in any sandwich recipe.
- Squirrel Pot Pie
- Squirrel Hand Pies
- Squirrel Confit
- Squirrel Bahn Mi Sandwiches (with squirrel confit)
- BBQ Smoked Squirrel Sandwiches
- Squirrel Burgers
Squirrel Offal and Lard
If you’re going to go through the trouble of cooking squirrel, you might as well use the whole animal. Fried squirrel heart is a tender delicious morsel, and if you get several squirrels, an appetizer of fried squirrel hearts on crackers with cheese is a real show stopper.
Likewise, the liver makes good eating, and you can substitute squirrel liver in place of chicken livers in pate recipes. Or simply make a few bites of squirrel liver and onions.
The real prize though, believe it or not, is squirrel lard. Squirrels need to pack away plenty of fat to get through a winter, and if you harvest them in the late fall they have a surprising amount of fat.
Rendered squirrel fat is very neutral, with no gamey taste. Perfect for cookies…
- How to Render Squirrel Fat (for cookies!)
- How to Make Fatwax (animal fat salve with squirrel fat)
Beyond what’s listed here, there are plenty of wild game cookbooks that have fabulous squirrel recipes. A few decades ago squirrel meat was much more mainstream and squirrel recipes in generalized cookbooks were common.
My 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking contains several squirrel recipes (along with plenty of possum recipes too).
- Hunt, Gather, Cook
- James Beard’s American Cookery
- The Only Squirrel Cookbook You’ll Ever Need: 101 Recipes from Around the World
- Hunter and Homestead Game Recipes: How to Cook Venison, Raccoon, Opossum, Rabbit, Squirrel, and Guinea Hen (Wild Game Collection)
- The Hunter’s Guide to Butchering, Smoking, and Curing Wild Game and Fish
- White Trash Cooking (Surprisingly well-reviewed…)
Other Wild Game Recipes
Looking for more wild game recipes? Here are a few to get you started:
- How to Clean and Gut a Groundhog
- Buttermilk Fried Groundhog
- How to Cook a Deer Heart
- Pemmican Lollipops for Your Bushcraft Sweetheart (with Deer Heart & Deer Lard)
I am thrilled to see some recipes shared for squirrel what a clean meat they eat such earthy good foods themselves so should be wonderful tasting. And having a variety of recipes is wonderful Thank you
At the moment I have 3 squirrels in my freezer waiting on another 7 to make a big enough meal for my brothers and sisters to enjoy a big pot of squirrel and dumplings
In Michigan squirrel season is Sept 15 to Mar 31. Bag limit is 5/day and 10 in possession. Fried is best!
Your squirrels are fatter than ours! The several times we tried them they didn’t seem to be worth the effort. You’ve made yours look very yummy, however.
I’ll pass on squirrel 🐿 anything. Poor tiny animals. You’d have to be starving to hunt a squirrel for a meal. On another note squirrel are In the rodent lineage. Rats! Yikes, no never.
John L. Kelly
You don’t know what you are missing. My late mother was a country girl, raised in Sandy-run, SC. She made some of the most wonderful fried squirrel with grits and gravy. The secret is to either slow cook, or use a pressure cooker, in order to tenderize the little critters Before frying them. Yummy!
Great recipes! Just want to mention that in NJ, an air rifle is considered a firearm and is restricted.
Boo! That’s so unfortunate. We have a friend in Jersey and we were just talking about giving him one for his birthday, so much for that thought. Thank you for the heads up.
Being from the Chicago Land area and moving to Tennessee… I never would have thought about eating squirrels, but I have to say this, they are very tasty. Almost tastes like chicken when fried. None the less, squirrel season is the last August till the end of February, I make it a point to hunt these little tree rats in the winter when I’m not fishing. Try them!!! Bet you will love them if you get past the thought of eating tree rats!
We call them chicken of the tree here in KY! Yummy
I am wondering if you have ever tried to can squirrel with a pressure canner – if so do you debone squirrel first
I haven’t tried it, simply because I’ve never had more than a few at a time. To the best of my knowledge though, you can them the same way you would rabbit (pressure/time/instructions/etc). You can debone or not, but it’s really hard to debone squirrel until it’s cooked, so I’d do the whole.
The best things I’ve ever tasted in my life have been this:
One, fresh morels, fried in butter and sea salt and pepper and served on a lovely local toasted bread…
Two, Butter-basted salmon filet with Cajun spice from a small restaurant,
and Three, the big one, Brined, marinated, fried squirrel quarters. They were a bundle of four brined an hour after butchering and then marinated overnight in their own fat, some cooking oils, peppercorns, herbs, and a pinch of minced onion before being fried and served with a lovely gravy and a tray of biscuits. This is in fact the fanciest wild game option despite the whole “tree rat” idea, especially since more “desirable” meats like grouse and bear have struck me as comparatively unappealing in taste and texture… though I may have been the victim of bad preparations in those cases, but I know how to make squirrel good, so I’ll always happily have a few squirrel.
Those all sound absolutely delicious!