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How do you cook your iguana?

Tonight was the night of the iguana.

If there was ever a great incentive to not cheat on my diet, there's an iguana in my fridge. Tommorrow's dinner.

The gutted ig is resting in a frying pan, it's tail draped over one side, it's little feet hanging out the other.

I'm not doing the cooking. I will finally know if it does tastes like chicken. Collecting my Spanish I asked the family "Probar como Pollo?" Yeah, I know that translates as "To taste like chicken?" I'm not there on Spanish conjugation yet.

Everyone said si ..."pero mas rico" ... richer ... more flavorful

So the lizard at that point was on the counter and summoning up my Spanish. I asked how it was cooked ... the only word that came to mind was "frito?" I guess you don't fry up iguana as the relative cooking it tomorrow looked at my husband and murmured "frito? frito?" I guess she thought Americans deep fried them.

As far as I can tell, we are having lizard with eggs tomorrow ... or that could have been something about this particular iguana didn't have eggs and the prime season for iguana eggs is in December. Something about spreading them on bread ... iguana egg sandwich.

I unfortunately am going out tomorrow and won't be around to see this one cooked. However, after my lame comment about fried iguana I though I'd find out how it is cooked.

Google brings up a lot of recipes for stew or soup

Sòpi di Yuwana, or Iguana Soup - "Choose a plump one for this delicacy, which tastes a bit like rabbit and a little like chicken."

Iguana in Curry Sauce

IGUANA EN PINOL – it involves ¾ cup of pork grease

Iguana eggs – with cream cheese and jalapeno

Calories in Iguana Egg - There are 134 Calories in an average serving

Iguana pozole and roast iguana

BBQ iguana video

Iguana salad – oh wait … that is to feed TO your iguana

First check to see if iguana is an endangered species in your area

Now …

Be sure you get the best type of iguana. Alas, I think ours is a black iguana … or it turns black after being killed. This site advises “There has been a marked preference for the Green Iguana over the Black Iguana”

Next …

How to Catch and Cook an Iguana

” Iguanas are fast creatures. Their bite is nasty and their claws are sharp! They open their mouths completly flat open like a snake. When agitated they hiss, too. Take precautions!
The iguanas will also whip you with their tails and it hurts, so does their bite.”

A 2004 article about iguana being the next food trend … guess not
How do you like your iguana?

There’s actually an iguana cookbook … and I was wondering what to get Irma for her birthday. I loved this comment “This book is extremely informative without being dull” Ya know, I think one would really have to work hard to make an iguana cookbook dull.

Should you want to expand your repetoir to other reptiles "The Culinary Herpetologist."...over 950 herpetological recipes ... Blackfeet Indian Jellied Snake, Roasted Poison Dart Frog. Turtle Croquettes, Zippy Alligator Dip

There are a number of cocktails named after the Iguana ... green, pink, neon etc

I may seriously look into those tommorrow

So .. has anyone cooked iguana? I read that South Florida is over run with them.

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  1. Bon appetite, Kiddo. Bon appetite!

    1. Great post, as usual, and quite humorous. I suspect it takes a big dose of humor to eat a plate of iguana. I remember A. Bourdain eating iguana on his Mexico episode, in Puebla. He said it was the possibly the worst thing ( to date) that he'd ever eaten, but the fermented shark fin in the later Iceland episode came in first.

      In all fairness to Tony's iguana, maybe it was it's method of preparation, which was rather uninspired. Espero que la iguana frito es mucho mejor.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bushwickgirl

        I seem to recall Tony saying something like "I want to dunk my head in a bucket of lye" after tasting the iguana tamal.

      2. Hilarious early morning read, RWO. Can't wait to read the report of your dinner. Buon Appitito..!

        1. On an episode of "No Reservations" in Mexico Anthony Bourdain sampled some iguana and it definitely didn't taste like chicken and from his reaction it was the worst thing he's ever eaten.

          1 Reply
          1. re: monku

            I guess more than a few people caught that episode (see my post upthread).;-)

          2. I wonder if they taste like alligators, crocodiles, turtles. Those taste more like pork to me, not chicken. But, pork like pork tenderloin, less fat/flavor, than the fattier shoulder/belly.

            Do you burn more calories catching an iguana than it provides? It doesn't sound easy with dodging claws and teeth.

            1. Claro.....with fava beans and a nice Chianti....... ;)

              1. Florida WAS overrun with green iguanas until last winter, but the freeze got a lot of them. They were literally falling out of the trees where they sleep. I had a cute 4 footer last summer that sunned himself on the edge of my lake where I was equally lazy in my hammock. I named him Ralph and he was a frequent visitor.
                Most people here hated iguanas because they crap everywhere - patios, pool decks, even on boats. And it's nasty stuff.
                I'll be interested in your review on Saturday.

                1. Well ... thanks ... I think

                  I don't know what is wrong with Bourdain. I think he may have had a bad igauna.

                  Not to be cliche, but it tastes like chicken ... just the bone configuration and skin is different ... the legs bend in different ways, the tail bone is more like a fish scale.

                  While it didn't have the taste, the texture and the look of the skin was similar to a fish.

                  As to the comment that it was richer than chicken, yeah, I can maybe see that. It was like an excellent grade of chicken (free-range, organic iguana after all). It wasn't dry as chicken sometimes gets.

                  It turns out that it wasn't cooked till I got home. The bones were disjointed and it was put whole in a pot of water and cooked a little more than an hour.

                  When fully cooked it was chopped up like a chicken ... breast, legs ... tail ... head ... ok, a little different. .

                  Chicken eggs were beaten and the pieces dipped in that and sauteed. It was served with tortillas, black beans, avocado, salsa and chirmol sauce (basically fresh tomato sauce that is a little like tomato juice. Think the red sauce that comes with your pupusas.)

                  You can eat the head too. I watched it being eaten and it seems meaty and not gelatanous like a fish head.

                  I have photos from capture to preparation to final platter (with the head), but I'm having trouble uploading, so they will come later.

                  So ... all is well. I'm happy. Everyone enjoyed their iguana. I've overcome my reptilian fear. I'm home free.

                  I do the "Muchas gracias" and every responds "provecho" as is the custom. I'm getting up and someone asks if I ever tried some word I haven't heard before. They make a burrowing motion.

                  My husband ... searching for the English word says .... "aaaa.... armodillo"

                  "They have armodillos in Guatemala?" I ask in surprise.

                  Si ... muy rico

                  Off to google armodillo recipes so this time I'll be prepared.

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: rworange

                    duh... You're obviously in Guatamala. Now I don't have to ask! '-)


                    1. re: rworange

                      I watched Bourdain eat the chopped iguana in a green curry yesterday, complete with skin and bones, (although charred and de-scaled) in a Trinidad and Tobago show. Yuck. Likewise for his armadillo episode in Uruguay, which I watched with a friend from Uruguay who laughed and said they just don't do that there. Both critters are on my list of "if they tasted good there would be fewer of them", along with canadian geese and sea cucumbers. None of these has many natural predators, although the armadillo after 65 million years is struggling to survive the first 100 years of the steel belted radial.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        They're not struggling very hard! Roads have made it easy for them to move north into areas that never had an armadillo as little as 5 years ago.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          LOL! I immediately had a vision of a 'dillo sitting by the side of the road fumbling for his glasses while he tries to read a TripTik . . .

                          1. re: ZenSojourner

                            Hilarious exchange, both of you iguana-challenged types. Or maybe it's the iguana that's now challenged. No matter...

                            I greatly respect rworange for her willingness to eat iguana, when others would turn away, including moi. Kudos for that, rw and for your great posts.

                        2. re: Veggo

                          Then you don't like chicken?

                          Bourdin is going for tv ratings so he sensationalizes his shows. I would think then that was not an honest show. Given that, I would never trust another opinion of his again.

                          I'm not getting a cent to post my opinion here. It was good. I'd eat it again.

                          1. re: rworange

                            Oh I love chicken. Know where I can get any? Unfortunately the vast majority of "free-range" chicken is still Frankenchicken, maybe slaughtered at 8 to 10 weeks instead of 6. It's better, I'll grant you, but still not really very chicken-y in flavor.

                            In fact you have to be very careful with "free range" chicken as much of it that is commercially available are still in reality not really free range. They keep them in huge barns with one tiny opening into a tiny little dirt yard and maybe open the cages once a day, thus (allegedly) allowing the birds the OPPORTUNITY to "free range". Most likely they never even stir from the cage, and even if they did, there's nothing in that tiny dusty yard to eat anyway. Plus, since they've been debeaked, they can't really catch grasshoppers and whatnot anyway, all they can really eat is the commercial mash.

                          2. re: Veggo

                            I believe it was Zimmern on one of his bizarre foods shows not Bourdain. Bush meat especially Iguana and agouti is very popular in most of the Caribbean and is usually curried or stewed in order to break down the muscular tissue as you can imagine.
                            A good "Bush cook" knows how to process,season and cook a iguana with little more than a sharp cutlass, salt ,pepper and what every he can find in the bush and make it taste like that best stewed chicken.

                          3. re: rworange

                            Chirmol? Could you mean Charmoula? I thought that was Moroccan.

                            1. re: mamachef

                              Chirmol is a sauce/relish made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, serranos, cilantro , EVOO and seasoned with salt & pepper. It's popular in Guatemala.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  No, all those ingredients are put in a blender. I'm not quite sure how this was made pre-blender day. If you can't bring yourself to look at the lizard link and the last picture which has iguana covered with chirmol, here's a photo from another site ... though it is usually a little less chunky than in this photo

                                  He writes "The most famous and most-widely used Guatemalan red tomato-based sauce is known as Chirmol which is a deformation of the Aztec’s Nahuatl language Chili Mole. Chili for chile or hot pepper and mole for sauce"

                                  However, it is not a hot sauce. Guatemalans aren't into heat in their food. It really is more of a cousin to the red sauce served with pupusas, only thicker. The dominant ... and almost only taste ... is of fresh tomato.

                                  There are a ton of recipes out there, but a lot of them call it salsa ... and that is the magic word that translates to gringo. It is not a salsa or used as a salsa. It is a fresh sauce the equivalent in uses of American gravy.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    The word Chimol actually means "smshed tomatoes" so I'm guessting BB (before blender) the sauce must have been made in a molcajete.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      I was served a chirmol frito at a home in Panajachel that had quite a hit of chile in it. Tomatoes, onion, and garlic were cooked until lightly charred, then chopped with chile, salt, and oregano and stir-fried. The onion and garlic were definitely noticeable. It was served cool with a grilled fish and it was really good.

                                      Although many Guatemalans aren't into heat in their food, I know quite a few who are. When you have dinner at their house there is always some kind of chile or homemade salsa on the table so you can spice up a dish to your liking.

                              1. Heck, chicken doesn't even taste like chicken anymore!

                                Oh for the days when you could buy a stewing hen, or a roaster, or a frying hen, etc etc etc. The Frankenchicken in the stores now all looks the same and tastes the same, with very little flavor of any sort. I can't really tell the difference between thighs and breasts. What do you want from an overgrown baby bird fed mash and slaughtered at 6 weeks, without ever setting foot out of a tiny cage?

                                I don't think I'm desperate enough to try iguana, though. More power to you!

                                1. I give up on trying to upload on Chowhound. Here are the photos on flickr.

                                  How to cook an iguana

                                  A friend who speaks Spanish dropped by and did a little translating.

                                  From my understanding, the iguana in question was caught in the mountains with a bow and arrow. It cost 40Q (quetzales), about $5. Unfortunatly, somone snapped up the much larger iguana for 60Q

                                  The vendor charred and removed the outer skin. It is scaled much like a fish.

                                  No iguana egg sandwiches as I misunderstood. The iguana eggs are fried much like the recipe in the original post and December is indeed the season here for the eggs.

                                  26 Replies
                                  1. re: rworange

                                    OMGosh! You made me look. I don't think I'd be able to stay in the kitchen when the iguana was unwrapped and cook. Bless you for following the process through. And, eating it. I wonder if I could. Thanks, RWO...!

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      Well, if you think about it, it is not much different than looking at a whole chicken carcass ... though I have to admit while it was being stored in the fridge, I couldn't open the door. I had black coffee and bananas for breakfast that morning.

                                      The only thing that bothers me is when the kids bring live iguanas into the house, holding them by the tail. I never did get a good reason we haven't eaten one of those. They kill our chickens and ducks, so I don't see how doing in an iguana might be different. Maybe because of having to char the iguana.

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        Noooo.. a chicken is much different, even when spatchcocked which is what that iguana of yours looked like. Anyway, it's all in what one gets used to, I suppose. 'Wonder if I'll ever get to find out...

                                        Do the children bring them in Live? Someone would have to do the slaughtering and gutting. I can see why it might be a problem.

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          Joe, I think that's the point. It's what one is used to. I wouldn't hesitate to try it esp. after rwo reported on the taste. Maybe what I thought was fried chicken wings from that street vendor in Atitlan was actually iguana leg :)

                                        2. re: rworange

                                          Iguanas are herbivores, so I suspect that feral dogs are feasting on your chickens and ducks. As slothful as iguanas appear, most people would never guess how lightning fast they are when put to the test. Secretariat was a herbivore and set the Kentucky Derby track record @1:59.4. An iguana would have kicked his butt.

                                            1. re: betsydiver

                                              >>> I suspect that feral dogs are feasting on your chickens and ducks.


                                              The chicken yard is well protected. I just meant the family has no problem killing the poultry so not sure why the live iguanas the kids occasionaly bring into the house (holding them upside down by the tail), aren't consumed. I mean, why shell out 40Q for what appears to be the same thing? I'll just have to wait till my Spanish improves to solve that mystery.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                I'm amazed that the kids can catch them. I'm discouraged by Nyleve's post below, that iguana is a highly sought-after meat in Panama. I'm guessing that may be the case in the indigenous and misbegotten areas along the caribbean coast and islands. Iguanas there would be a desperate source of protein rather than a delicacy. Much of Panama is quite cosmopolitan and iguana is not on the menus.

                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                  I never saw iguana on a restaurant menu but yes, it's commonly eaten in homes. Maybe not the upscale Panama City places but out in the countryside and on the islands.

                                                  1. re: Nyleve

                                                    Iguana is not on the menu of Panama restaurants because people liked them too much. It is an endangered species in that country

                                                    If it is on a menu it is farmed iguana

                                                    I think Veggo is just put off by the idea of eating lizards. I never have eaten frog but I am thinking it would be similar.

                                                    Maybe you can think of it as "chicken of the tree"

                                                    The link above to an article about iguna farms states "Iguana farming offers an economic alternative to cattle ranching while protecting the natural habitat of the iguana — the tropical forest"

                                                    They mention a park that has a restaurant with iguana burgers. Ya know, yesterday I heard the blender going and all I could think was "Please don't let that be the iguana":

                                                    Psyching up to try my first iguana ... and you guys didn't help ... was dificulut enough. The though of pulverized iguana was a bit more than I could deal with. Fortunately it was for the tomatoes for the chirmol.

                                                    Another site about iguana preservation writeshttp://www.anapsid.org/downer.html

                                                    "the foundation is working to change iguana meat's image from poor man's food to rich man's delicacy. Foreigners who find the whole idea hard to swallow should bear in mind that iguanas, like everything on most people's essential shopping B-list like snake and frogs, taste just like chicken and has, with the possible exception of seafood, the lowest fat content of any meat making it a must for environmentally friendly healthy eaters. Worth noting also is a marketing survey which reveals that out of the 21 percent of Costa Ricans who've tried it, 95 percent liked iguana.

                                                    Iguana ham, iguana sausages and smoked iguana will be among the first delicious lizardly products to come on the market"

                                                    Here's a Panamanian recipe forCarimanolas, a ravioli-like dumping made with ground iguana. Perhaps it is on the menu but disguised.

                                                    Maybe if you saw Pollo de Palo on menus in Mexico or Central American ... you ignored the last two words or thought it was a type of preparation.

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      Oohh... I'm not shy about eating almost anything, but a lot of us here are reticent about eating pets with names, although Ralph the iguana is probably in reptile heaven now.
                                                      I favor the idea of a lizard sausage or chorizo.

                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                        I had a friend once who raised a couple of heifers every year. She would name them things like "Cross Cut" and "T-bone" to remind herself that they were not pets :)

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          I named the two new chicks we have, Pollo Comparo and Frito.

                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                          I've eaten frog. Didn't taste like chicken to me at all. Perhaps it was bad frog. I can't even describe the taste, but yuk. I think I would have a little trouble with the green skin on the iguana. I think I'd try it though.

                                                          1. re: Jen76

                                                            Never tried frog, but I always hear it tastes like chicken. Guess not.

                                                            This might not help in terms of ramping up your appetite, but the skin turns black after sauteeing, and looks sort of like the skin on a cooked macarel but not as thick ... more like the skin of a smaller fish like a perch or trout.

                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                              Well, I've only had it once, so don't let my review keep you from trying it should the opportunity present itself. I guess, to me, it tasted the way reptiles smell.

                                                            2. re: Jen76

                                                              I've had frog legs, and I have to say, I don't get the attraction. I can eat them ok - but why??? They don't taste like much of anything.

                                                              1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                Frog's legs are rather bland, it's usually the sauce that makes the dish.

                                                          2. re: Nyleve

                                                            When I briefly lived on Provo in T&C, I would bring guests and friends to "iguana island" , a football field sized atoll a few miles east, where all iguanas would come running to the incoming vibrations of a boat motor. They would group in a weird semicircle, half cautious and half hungry, as if watching a campfire at mid-day, and we would toss them a head of lettuce. The feast began. Interesting critters.
                                                            My good kitty in Mexico, little veggo my avatar, would sometimes proudly drag home a baby iguana, and I couldn't chew his ass out because he doesn't know spanish or english and I don't speak kitty.

                                                        2. re: rworange

                                                          Maybe if you could teach the backyard iguanas to cluck or crow they'd end up in the pot too?

                                                  2. re: rworange

                                                    My son spent half a year in Panama where iguana is a highly sought-after meat. So sought after, in fact, that you never ever see an iguana in the wild, like you do everywhere in Mexico (where they don't eat them). The one time we saw one running across a hillside, the guy in the car in front of us screeched to a stop at the side of the road, leapt out of the car and chased the iguana on foot trying to capture it with his bare hands. It ran into a brush pile and presumably escaped. Since the wild ones are so scarce, people set up these little iguana-coops at their homes and raise them. My son had a chance to eat some domestic iguana and, well, yes, he said it tasted like chicken mixed with pork mixed with tyrannosaurus rex. I don't know how it was prepared.

                                                    1. re: Nyleve

                                                      As reported in the OP, in some areas of the world iguanas are a protected species. I guess some countries find them tastier than others ... or the citizens are swifter on foot or more accomplished with a bow and arrow.

                                                      I didn't get anything but the chicken taste. If you look at the last photo, if all the skin was removed and it was deboned, I think anyone who wasn't told would think they were eating poultry.

                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                        But, how did it smell? Does Iguana meat smell like chicken when it's cooked?

                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                          Hmmm ... I don't remember any smell in particular. I remember the smell of something being sauteed while it was on the stove. Actually I should have given the leftover cold iguana in the fridge a try today to see if it had that off taste poultry gets when it is cold. Too late. It is all gone. It was a smallish iguana.

                                                          If we have it again, I'll pay attention to how it smells. I really had to suck it up to give it a try in the first place.

                                                          1. re: Gio

                                                            Horrors! I genuflect in Ralph's memory....

                                                    2. BTW, "Night of the Iguana" - overtones of B-grade horror films there, like "Night of the Living Dead", LOL!

                                                      1. I recently found a cookbook of regional Gautemalan cooking with three igauna recipes. More info on the book here

                                                        Retalhuleu region: Iguana en iquashte (squash seed sauce)
                                                        1 iguana
                                                        2 oz of ayote seeds
                                                        3 tomatoes
                                                        2 tomatillos
                                                        Castilla peppers and salt to taste

                                                        Suchitepequez region: Iguana en iquashte
                                                        1 iguana
                                                        1/2 cup of ayote seeds
                                                        10 tomatoes
                                                        10 tomatillos
                                                        2 onions

                                                        Zacapa region: Iguana en iquashte
                                                        1 iguana (with iguana eggs)
                                                        4 oz of ground toasted ayote seeds
                                                        8 tomatoes
                                                        1 onion
                                                        2 green Bell peppers
                                                        3 boullion cubes or soup

                                                        1. Why would you eat iguana flesh? Would you consume snake flesh as well? Aren't you aware of the diseases reptiles carry?

                                                          Also, an iguana can't "flatten" it's jaw; iguanas aren't like snakes at all and can't unhinge their jaws

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Zodiac

                                                            The OP, rworange, spent the major part of a year in Guatemala living with her in-laws. She regaled us with tales of the cuisine, the restaurants, markets, and as you see here, the unfamiliar foods her relatives cooked and served. I hope you read her introductory post. It sets the scene for this Iguana feast.