Green Chile Squirrel

5 from 4 votes
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green chile squirrel on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Tender squirrel, shredded with green chiles, onions and garlic, served up as Sonoran enchiladas. What’s not to love?

I have my friend Johnathan O’Dell to thank for this recipe. Johnathan is the first guy ever recorded to have hunted and eaten every species of North American tree squirrels; I may well be the second person.

O’Dell also happens to be a small game biologist for the Arizona Game & Fish Department, and is an excellent cook. He designed this recipe for the annual World Champion Squirrel Cook Off some years ago, and took third place for it. If you ever get a chance to go, it’s in Bentonville, Arkansas and is all kinds of fun! I was a judge there in 2018.

I mention both things to explain this recipe. It’s green chile squirrel, served over a curious Sonoran masa cake they use to make their own version of enchiladas, along with some pico de gallo.

Johnathan O'Dell hunting squirrels
O’Dell hunting Arizona gray squirrels with me in a freak snowstorm.

Note that I call this green chile squirrel, not tender squirrel verde or somesuch. This is to tell you that this is a Arizona/New Mexico dish rather than straight-up Mexican. Use New Mexico Hatch or similar chiles if at all possible, even canned ones.

What makes this Southwest and not Mexican is the presence of a roux. Yes, fat + flour cooked into the sauce to make it richer and thicker. Johnathan inexplicably uses vegetable oil, and yes, I suppose you could, too. But it is so much better with lard.

green chile tender squirrel
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Obviously you can use other meats here. Rabbit, chicken or turkey thighs and quail spring to mind as excellent alternates. Whatever you use, stick with a lighter meat.

A word on the Sonoran masa cakes. They’re odd, and you can substitute regular tortillas if you want, or serve this over rice. But the cakes are super tasty. They’re corn masa, mixed with shredded cheese and hot water, with a touch of lard or butter, mixed into a dough and flattened into thickish cakes, like a gordita.

My recipe is based on Johnathan’s, but with a few tweaks here and there. He puts fresh corn kernels into his masa cakes, which I do not, and I use Mexican oregano instead of regular oregano in the stew itself.

I also prefer my chiles hot, so I use both the requisite Hatch chiles, and, where Johnathan uses a humble jalapeno, I prefer blazing hot green chiles like a green habanero or a South American aji. Any hot green chile that fits your heat tolerance will do.

tender squirrel recipe
5 from 4 votes

Green Chile Squirrel

As I mention above, there are some substitutions you can make if you don't have all the ingredients as written. Once made, this keeps well for a few days in the fridge. It does not freeze well, however.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours

Ingredients 

Green Chile Squirrel

  • 2 to 3 squirrels
  • 1 quart chicken broth, or similar broth
  • 3 tablespoons lard, butter or oil
  • 1 cup white onion, minced (yellow onion is fine, too)
  • 2 chopped serrano chiles, or similar hot green chiles
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, Mexican if possible
  • 1 cup roasted, seeded and chopped green chiles, Hatch, Anaheim, poblano or similar
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Masa Cakes

  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lard or butter
  • 1 cup shredded jack, Oaxaca or colby cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water

Instructions 

To Make the Green Chile Squirrel

  • Simmer the squirrels in the broth until tender. This can take a couple hours. Pull all the meat off the bones and shred. Set aside and reserve the broth.
  • Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add the lard. When it's hot, saute the onion for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and the chopped serrano chiles and saute another 2 minutes, again stirring occasionally.
  • Add the flour and mix well. Turn the heat to medium and cook this, stirring frequently, until the flour browns, about 5 minutes. Add the oregano and chopped green chiles and mix well, then add about 2 cups of the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring to incorporate each time. Bring this to a simmer and add the shredded squirrel, plus salt and black pepper to taste. Let this simmer gently while you make the masa cakes.

Masa Cakes

  • Mix the masa and salt. Add the lard, then mix it well into the masa with your fingers until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Mix in the shredded cheese. Pour in the hot water -- it should be steaming, hot enough to be unpleasant, but workable with your bare hands. Mix well and knead into a dough. Pinch off golf ball-sized pieces and work them into balls. Set inside a plastic bag for about 20 minutes.
  • Get enough vegetable oil hot in a frying pan to cover the masa cakes, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. You want the oil to be no cooler than 325F and no hotter than 350F.
  • While the oil is heating up, press the masa balls into thickish gordita-like cakes about 1/4 inch thick. Do this by hand, as it will prevent you from making the cakes to thin; if you do, they will often pillow up, develop gaps inside which will fill with hot oil. If that happens, it's OK but not ideal.
  • Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet in your oven and turn it to "warm." Fry your masa cakes for about 3 minutes per side, or until nicely golden. Keep them warm in the oven as you work through the batches.
  • To serve, drag a masa cake through the green chile squirrel to get it wet with the sauce. Set these down on people's plates. Ladle some stew on top and serve with pico de gallo and maybe some sour cream and crumbled cheese.

Nutrition

Calories: 504kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 56mg | Sodium: 743mg | Potassium: 453mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 717IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 318mg | Iron: 5mg

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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9 Comments

  1. Outstanding recipe! My wife went from raised eyebrows while I was cooking to two helpings at the dinner table. I smoked my squirrels an hour at 185 before braising, added a pinch of cumin, fresh cilantro, and lime to the recipe. Served it with Peruvian beans and skillet cornbread. Thanks Hank!

  2. Hard to go wrong with this flavor combo. I didn’t make the masa cakes but it was good over rice. Delicious.

  3. I love all green chile dishes like this. I use pheasant thighs and legs and use the Instant-pot for 35 minutes. Beautifully tender, fall-off-the-bone goodness with a rich flavorful broth just from the juices in the meat and bones. Have you tried the Instant-pot or similar pressure cookers for tough cuts and to reduce prep time?

    1. Michael: I haven’t, but I ought to. If you get a good result with a pressure cooker, can you report back to me in the comments? I’d like to add that.

  4. Thank, your recipe looks tasty, but I gotta say squirrels have so many predators and an at risk environment now that you’ve eaten them all do you think you could ease up on hunting them. (I have a soft spot for squirrels).
    I’m going to try this with chicken, I got a nice package of tenders at Aldi. Would this work with fish as well? Thanks. Peace and all good.

    1. Kate: Squirrels are not even remotely at risk in North America. Not even remotely. But yes, this works well with chicken.

    2. Come to the suburbs where a pair of squirrels will produce over a thousand offspring in one season, assuming none of them die – a statistical fact. No loose dogs or cats here – so few predators. They are so destructive – chewing holes in soffits, tearing up insulation and dying in and stinking up attic spaces. They are driving our poor neighbor lady CRAZY! Please don’t worry about their extinction at this point in time.

      Just found your site and look forward to trying recipes which look GREAT! We don’t hunt squirrels – yet!