Buttermilk Fried Rabbit

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buttermilk fried rabbit recipe
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Buttermilk fried rabbit isn’t the fanciest rabbit recipe, but it’s just so comforting. If you like fried chicken — and who doesn’t? — you will like fried rabbit, which is a lot like chicken, in looks, although it definitely tastes of itself, not chicken.

Most people make this recipe with store-bought rabbits, but I use cottontails. If you happen to be blessed with a young snowshoe hare, squirrel or jackrabbit (look for white teeth and ears that tear easily), you use them, too.

My recipe based on a buttermilk fried chicken recipe from my friend Elise at Simply Recipes. I kicked up her spice mix by adding more garlic, cayenne and paprika, thus the red color.

Any spice mix you like works. Cajun, Montreal, Cavender’s, whatever.

You need a lot of oil for this, but you can reuse it. When you’re done, let the oil cool and then pour it through a fine-mesh strainer that has a paper towel set inside it put over a bowl. The paper towel will filter the brown bits and you can just pour the strained oil back into the container. I generally get three uses from my oil.

Most rabbits are sold whole, and if you don’t know how to get them into serving pieces, here is a primer on how to cut up a rabbit.

Serve your fried rabbit with grits, or by themselves with some cole slaw and potato salad on the side. This is picnic food, or food to munch on while watching the game. Like I said, comforting, not challenging.

buttermilk fried rabbit
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

As a general rule, 1 domestic rabbit will serve 2 to 3 people, as will a jackrabbit. A snowshoe hare will serve two, a cottontail and a squirrel just one. You can also do this with chicken (of course), pheasant,  quail, and walleye.

Oh, and should you have leftovers, they are fantastic cold for lunch the next day.

buttermilk fried rabbit recipe
4.66 from 35 votes

Buttermilk Fried Rabbit

If you are using wild cottontails, I highly recommend you brine your rabbits before frying. A simple brine of 1/4 cup kosher salt to 4 cups water will do -- the rabbit is going to get plenty of seasoning later. Submerge your bunny in this brine about 8 hours. This process keeps them moist. Domesticated rabbits don't really need this, but if you want to brine them, do so for no more than 4 hours.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Southern
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 4 hours
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 25 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 2 to 4 cottontails, cut into serving pieces
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, or mix together 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme and 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups vegetable oil

Instructions 

  • Mix the buttermilk with the all the spices except the salt and flour. Coat the rabbit with the mixture and set in a covered container overnight, or at least 4 hours.
  • When you are ready to fry, pour the oil into a large pan -- a big cast iron frying pan is ideal -- to a depth of about an inch. The general idea is you want the oil to come halfway up the side of the rabbit. Set the heat to medium-high.
  • Meanwhile, take the rabbit out of the buttermilk and let it drain in a colander. Don't shake off the buttermilk or anything, just leave it there.
  • Let the oil heat until it is about 325°F; this is the point where a sprinkle of flour will immediately sizzle. When the oil is hot, pour the flour and salt into a plastic bag and shake to combine. Put a few pieces of rabbit into the bag and shake to get it coated in flour.
  • Set the coated rabbit pieces in one layer in the hot oil so they don't touch. Fry for about 8 to 12 minutes. Fry gently -- you want a steady sizzle. Turn the rabbit pieces and fry for another 10 minutes or so, until they are golden brown. The forelegs will come out first, followed by the loin, and the hind legs will come out last. You will probably need to fry in batches, so just leave the uncooked rabbit pieces in the colander until you are ready to flour them up and fry them. Don't let floured pieces sit.
  • When the rabbit is gready, rest them on a rack set over a paper towel to drain away any excess oil. If you are cooking in batches, set this in a warm oven.

Nutrition

Calories: 930kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 119g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 418mg | Sodium: 962mg | Potassium: 2218mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1519IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 249mg | Iron: 20mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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57 Comments

  1. I live in a city and have never hunted. However, I have my eye on the rabbits that have taken over our tiny yards in the last few years. They have completely mown down my fruit and vegetable gardens to stubble! I figure they are tender because all they do is hop from one of my plants to another, and they must be tasty because they’re stuffed full of my garden produce. I finally decided I’m a free-range rabbit farmer. So, how do I trap them? I have a hunter friend who can talk me through the butchering, and now I know how to cook them, thanks to you.

    1. I would recommend a live trap, Havahart is one example. Nice and quiet. When caught, they are protected from predators until you come along. I hope this helps.

  2. Made it this morning for brunch for my family and a family friend and his son. Fried rabbit, white gravy, biscuits bacon and scrambled eggs. It was delicious! Everyone loved it. Not one piece left over. Use a wild game rabbit my 12 year old and his friend got last night. Soaked it all night and got up this morning and soaked it in the buttermilk. Brought back fond memories of my childhood meals with my parents and family. Thank you for the great recipe.

  3. This was awesome!! I used my domesticated rabbit, cut serving down for two people. 2 legs, 2 “wings”. Brined overnight then in the morning switched to the buttermilk and soaked for 9 hours. I used peanut oil to fry in. It was so tender and delicious served with German red cabbage and mashed potatoes 🙂

  4. Hi, I personally like to use healthy oils instead of vegetable oil. Is there a specific animal or plant oil (coconut, olive, flaxseed, etc.) that would pair well with this dish? Thank you!

    1. Annie: My favorite is unhydrogenated lard, the fresh stuff. But any oil with a smoke point of 350F or higher will work.

  5. Something went wrong. I used homegrown domesticated rabbits. I didn’t brine them beforehand but did soak the rabbit in buttermilk. I followed the recipe in all other respects. The meat was so tough as to be almost inedible. What did I do wrong? Judging by the other comments on this recipe I think its safe to say it was user error.

    1. Benilda: Weird. I’ve never heard of domestic rabbits being too tough for this recipe. Maybe they were very old?

      1. They were 10 weeks old. My husband butchered them in the morning and we cooked them that evening after the buttermilk soak. I’m going to try again. Maybe I got the temp/time wrong. I’m also going to try brining next time. Or maybe we just have tough rabbits. This was the first time I tried anything other than slow cooked. I will write back and let you know what I find out.

      2. Benilda: That’s it. They were still in rigor mortis. You need to let them rest a few days next time.

      1. Rachel, With all wild game that I harvest, I wait AT LEAST 24 hours for the meat to ‘de-adrenalize’ or it will be very tough.

  6. My wife and 2 boys have been raising pastured meat rabbits the last few months on our property in Ohio. They eat a gluten free diet. We had our first rabbit harvest recently. I was concerned with trying this recipe due to the lower burn point of GF flours. I used Pamela’s All Purpose flour, reduced the fry time to 5 minutes each side, and then put the pieces on an open rack over kitchen paper in our fan forced oven for a further 5 minutes to cook through. OM goodness, new family favourite…after the Coniglio Bianco of course ?
    Thanks Hank!!

  7. This is a great rabbit recipe. I use it for squirrels as well. They can be a bit tougher than rabbit so I slowly cook them covered with a slight sizzle to cook them longer without burning the batter. My mom taught me this after years of trying to get my fried chicken as tender as hers I finally asked and she told me this little tip. I remembered right away how long I waited as she slowly sizzled all that chicken under a lid. Takes some of us awhile to get it but I am so glad I finally asked her. Thanks again for a great recipe and now I will attempt to get mine as perfectly brown as yours.

  8. Made this with a few cottontails and we loved it. We added a little extra spice to the mix and made fresh coleslaw as a side. Would highly recommend for an easy to make recipe that will please a crowd.

  9. I have one cottontail and one squirrel in my freezer right now. Can I treat the squirrel the same as the rabbit and make it together? Having fried squirrel before, it seems similar. Although I’ve never brined squirrel outside of a buttermilk soak, which this recipe also calls for.

    1. Andy: You can, but I often find squirrels to be far tougher than rabbits. I typically par-cook squirrels until they are tender, then fry them.

      1. I cooked my rabbit in a slow cooker then fried. I actually fried the rabbit once then floured them again and refried them for a few minutes. This made them crispy. Yum ?. I’ll be saving this recipe

  10. In the drier parts of New Zealand (principally Marlborough and Canterbury on the east coast of the South Island and even more so in the McKenzie Basin and Central Otago), there is a rabbit problem every bit as bad as Australia’s fabled rabbit problems. Consequently, most farmers welcome responsible rabbit hunters.
    I prefer to shoot rabbits with a .22 rimfire rifle, firing sub-sonic loads – trying for the head or chest. Shooting rabbits with a shotgun generally damages the flesh and can puncture the entrails, making it messy to dress them.
    If several rabbits are in view, my preference is to shoot the kittens first, and then the fully-grown adults if they stay around.
    The only way I cook young rabbits (up to three-quarters grown) is to dismember the rabbit and simply fry the portions in peanut butter.
    Serve with a fresh salad of your choice – accompanied by a cold lager or a glass of chilled chardonnay.
    Tender and delicious!!

    1. Sadly I believe you meant to type peanut OIL, but frying in peanut butter does sound AMAZING?… if it worked the world would be a much better place!

      Cheers

  11. LOVED this recipe. The only thing I did differently (besides some mistakes in breaking down the rabbit) was add the same seasoning that was in the marinade to the flour for dredging. I’m going to make this again and again!

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! It worked out great (despite a few messy steps)! A friend hunter gave me a goose and a jackrabbit to cook since his wife does not like dealing with his wild game. Coming across your website has been a comforting experience trying to deal with these meats since I never had the honor of cooking such animals. Shame on me for not reading all the steps of the recipe for the fried rabbit the day prior since I caught myself early in the morning with having to brine and marinate. So I did 6hrs of brining and about 3 of marinating but oh my the taste of that rabbit was amazing! I’m a liver lover and the texture reminded me of it.
    I also prepared the dirt rice with the giblets from the goose.
    The dinner was a success!
    Thank you from the Italian in the central coast of California 🙂

  13. Awesome. I followed the recipe except for buttermilk. I did with a domesticated rabbit and the results were phenomenal. Soft, crisper, beating a chicken