Can You Eat Snapping Turtles? [Legal or Not?]

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

You must have heard about people eating turtles. In many Asian countries, turtle meat and soup are considered a delicacy. Some turtle species are legal to consume in western countries. So, what about snapping turtles? Can you eat snapping turtlers? 

You can eat snapping turtles, but you need to know how to clean and cook the meat properly. However, over consummation of snapping turtles may not be healthy. 

Even if you can eat a snapping turtle, there are also legal matters. There are rules and regulations regarding hunting and eating snapping turtles. So, let us know more about hunting and eating snapping turtles. 

Is It Legal to Hunt Snapping Turtles?

The law of hunting and eating snapping turtles varies from state to state. The rules and regulations are also different for Alligator and Common Snapping turtles

Alligator snapping turtles are threatened species. Hence, recreational harvest of this species is prohibited in all states except Louisiana and Mississippi.

Hunting common snapping turtles is legal in many states. Then again, there are variations in the rules and regulations of turtle hunting in the states.

In most of these states, one is allowed to hunt a snapping turtle from mid-July to September 30. 

A hunting license is necessary to hunt snapping turtles. There is the limitation of size and number of snapping turtle one can hunt in a season. Some states also determine the method of hunting snapping turtles.  

For example, the law of the Department of Environmental Conservation of New York does not allow the hunting of snapping turtles that have a carapace size of less than 12 inches. You are allowed to take 5 snapping turtles per day and 30 per season. The method of taking the turtles are firearms and bows. 

According to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, a snapping turtle can only be captured if it reaches a carapace size of 13 inches. Snapping turtle nests cannot be disturbed. If you want to use a trap to catch a snapping turtle, you will need a Snapping Turtle Trapping Endorsement. 

Freshwater snapping turtles are available all seasons, but the states have to limit the number of hunting to protect the turtle species. To avoid any legal problem, always check the laws of your state regarding snapping turtle hunting and consumption. 

Is Snapping Turtle Meat Safe to Eat?

Now that you know eating snapping turtles is safe, you are probably thinking about cooking one. But before that, you may also wonder if it is safe to eat turtle meat. 

Snapping turtle meat is safe to eat as long as you cook and clean it properly. It is an excellent source of protein and contains low fat. 

However, if the turtle is not cleaned and cooked correctly, there can be dire consequences. Snapping turtles live at the bottom of a pond in the mud. They can carry bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli. Both bacteria can cause severe stomach problems. 

Besides, the meat of a snapping turtle can get contaminated if the turtle used to live in a contaminated habitat. It can eat unsafe food containing toxins, heavy metals, and other environmental contaminants. Eating an infected turtle’s meat can also intoxicate the consumer. 

So, overeating snapping turtle meat can be dangerous, especially for pregnant women and children. This is why many countries and states have set limits for hunting and eating snapping turtles. 

What Does Snapping Turtle Meat Taste Like?

Snapping turtle meat is quite tasty. Snapping turtle tastes like pork, beef, fish, and chicken. Some say they get different flavors from different parts of the meat. It also depends on how you cook the meat. You will have a fishy taste when you have snapping turtles as soup. On the other hand, it tastes like beef or chicken when fried. 

While the limbs, like the front and rare legs, are dark in color, the neck and back strip meat are white. The texture of the flesh is chewy and mushy. Different people have different tastes. So, you have to try the snapping turtle meat yourself to find out how it tastes. 

How To Clean and Cut A Snapping Turtle For Cooking 

If you have got a snapping turtle and want to cook it, you must know how to clean it properly. Snapping turtles are tasty, no doubt, but preparing them for cooking can be pretty challenging. 

Here is how you can start cleaning and preparing the snapping turtle for cooking:

Step 1: Kill the Turtle 

The first step is to kill the turtle. You can do it in many ways, but always choose a method that kills the turtle quickly without causing much suffering. 

When you hold the turtle, grab it from behind and lift it up by its tail. Take it to where you want to butcher it. Put it down on the ground and keep one foot on its tail to hold it down. Use a long pair of pliers to pull on the lower jaw of the turtle to get its neck out. Then cut its head off with a sharp knife. 

Do not get close to the head because it can still snap at you. You may also notice that the turtle can move its limbs without the head. Another way to kill the turtle is to shoot it in its head. 

Step 2: Boil the Snapping Turtle To Loosen The Skin

A snapping turtle can live in filthy conditions. It can be all muddy when you get it. So, you must clean it thoroughly. Use a hosepipe with good water pressure to clean the turtle. 

If you are cutting a snapping turtle for the first time, it can be difficult for you to peel the skin. To make it easier, you can boil the entire turtle. It will help you clean and loosen the turtle skin. Or you can use a hosepipe to apply water pressure under the turtle skin to loosen it up. 

Step 3: Secure the Turtle on A Cutting Board

After loosening the skin, you need to secure the turtle on a cutting board to peel off the skin. It should not be moving while you are cutting the skin. For that, you can attach a sharp nail to the middle of the board. Then place the turtle upside down. 

Push down the shell onto the nail to secure it. This way, you can easily move the board and peel off the skin without any problem. 

Step 4: Remove the Feet 

Next, cut the feet of the turtle. It may take a little time, as the feet are firmly attached to the legs. Cut the joints with a sharp knife or scissors. 

Step 5: Peel the Skin  

After cutting the feet, you will have the openings to insert the tip of your sharp knife. Use a fillet knife to peel the skin. Slowly peel the skin from the front and rear legs and the tail. Try not to insert the knife too deep. You might puncture the internal organs. 

Step 6: Cut the Plastron 

The turtle shell may seem hard to break in or cut. But you can easily remove the plastron. You will find a soft spot near the edges of the plastron, where it is attached to the upper shell. Use a heavy knife to slide through both edges of the plastron. Then use the fillet knife to remove the plastron. 

Step 7: Peel the Rest of the Skin

When you get rid of the plastron, you can easily peel off the rest of the skin from the legs, tail, and neck. You may use water pressure if you find the skin tight. 

Step 8: Remove Legs

Once the skin is out of your way, you can start cutting off the front and rear legs from the snapping turtle. Use a heavy knife and lots of pressure to cut the legs. Twist and turn on the joints to detach the legs. 

Step 9: Cut off the Neck

Finally, you can cut the neck of the turtle. To get to the neck meat, you have to remove lots of esophagus and fat. But you do not want to miss the tasty white meat of the neck. 

Step 10: Trim the Fat and Cut the Meat  

Snapping turtles can have some fat, and connective tissues attached to the meat. Remove them because they can affect the taste of the meat. The meat tastes a lot tastier without the fat and connective tissues. Next, cut the meat into small pieces according to your recipe. 

Step 11: Soak the Meat in Salt Water

It is important to clean the snapping turtle meat thoroughly to make it bacteria free. Rinse the meat well with clean water. Then soak the meat in salt water and place it in the refrigerator. Let the meat soak in the salt water for a few hours in the fridge. 

How To Pick Up A Snapping Turtle

How To Cook A Snapping Turtle?

Snapping turtle meat can be cooked in various ways. In fact, you can treat it as regular meat. For example, you can stir-fry, make soup, cook gravy, or deep fry the meat. As turtle meat is a bit firm, you can boil it for a while to make it tender. It will help to remove the meat from the bones.  

Here is a simple recipe for deep-fried turtle nuggets:


  • Meat from one medium size snapping turtle
  • 1 ½ cups homemade Bisquick
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon homemade garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon homemade onion powder


  1. Soak the turtle meat in salt water and put it in the refrigerator for about a few hours. Drain the salt water and put the meat in a pot. Next, add fresh water and add ½ a teaspoon of baking soda. Let the meat boil until nearly done. You can also put the meat in a pressure cooker for 20 minutes without the baking soda. 
  2. After that, take out the meat from the water and soak it in cold water. Then remove the bones from the meat. 
  3. Take some homemade Bisquick. Add the garlic and onion powder. Then put in some water to make a thin batter. Coat the snapping turtle meat in the batter. Heat oil in a frypan and deep fry the meat until they turn golden brown. After frying, put the fried meat on a paper towel to drain the excess oil. 

Finally, serve the tasty deep-fried snapping turtle nuggets with a condiment of your preference.   


Can you eat snapping turtles? Yes, you can. But you must follow your state laws to avoid legal problems. Besides, you should know how to clean and cook a snapping turtle properly before eating one. How you cook a turtle will affect its taste. So. Learn a few recipes as well. 

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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