Creole Turtle Soup

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This Creole turtle soup recipe has a pretty funny backstory, and since the recipe is easy to make with regular supermarket ingredients — except for the turtle, obviously — I’ll tell it to you.

A bowl of Creole turtle soup.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

It all started some years ago with a knock at the front door. It sounded urgent. Normally I’d answer it, but at that moment I was plucking geese. No position to greet polite society. “Holly, can you get that?” 

Holly answered the door. It was the mailman. I couldn’t hear everything they were saying, but he appeared to have a large box in hand that he very much wanted to get rid of.

“Hey Hank,” Holly shouted into the kitchen. “Um… were you expecting anything… bloody?”

Not at the moment. The mailman knows me well enough to understand what I do and that I occasionally get care packages full of exotic protein. My first thought was my dad, who once sent me whole king salmon from the Pacific Northwest. But I’d told him to stop doing that, considering that I catch more than I can possibly eat every year now. “Open it up!”

Holly grabbed a utility knife and broke open the giant box: “Um… it’s a turtle.”

Oh! Norm and Joe!!

Norm and Joe are my friends from northeast Ohio. Trappers both, and hosts of the radio show Inside the Great Outdoors. It all came flooding back. When my book tour took me to Cleveland, I’d spent some time jawing with Norm and Joe (I stayed at Joe’s house) and well, we might have had a few beers and got talking about turtles.

Turtles are delicious, but are notoriously hard to clean, so I was thankful that Norm had cleaned this one for me. Usually cleaning a snapping turtle involves axes and wire cutters and boiling water and generally a lot of effort. This turtle was a bruiser, too: I weighed the meat at just over 3 pounds — enough for two meals!

I love turtle soup for two reasons: First, it’s just damn tasty. There are several classic ways to make it, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but turtle meat tastes like a cool combination of chicken thigh, clam and pork.

I know, weird, right? The reason is because turtle meat is all over the map, with at least four different textures and colors coming from the same turtle, depending on what part you’re talking about. The second reason I love turtle soup is because it is an American classic.

When the great captains of industry had banquets back in the late 1800s, terrapin soup would always be on the menu next to roast canvasback with fried hominy. Unfortunately, market hunters did such damage to the terrapin population that recreational hunting seasons on them only reopened recently. I’ve never eaten terrapin, which is a smallish turtle that’s reported to be very, very tasty.

But I have eaten snapping turtle. And that’s what Norm had mailed me.

A spoonful of turtle soup, showing its consistency.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Snapper soup, as it’s called in a lot of places, is just as classic as terrapin soup, but it’s more rustic. It’s still popular among a certain set in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and its environs.

If you travel farther south, however, you will find my favorite version: Creole turtle soup. Well, to be honest, I like all turtle soups (the Chinese do some cool things with turtle, too) but this one is the most accessible to turtle newbies here in North America.

Creole turtle soup is a standard on New Orleans menus, and everyone has a different version.

One thing to look for is for diced or pulled meat, not ground: You can hide your lack of turtle in the grinder. Finishing the soup with sherry is de rigeur, and the result is a silky, spicy soup kinda-sorta like a gumbo, but with more tomato. It also typically has some chopped hard-boiled eggs in it, which is a nod to the old days, when they’d include any eggs they found inside the turtle in the soup.

I can hear you thinking: “Well Hank, this is all well and good and I am sure this soup is awesome, but where in hell can I find turtle?”

Guilty. Turtle meat is very tough to come by, but I’ve seen it in lots of Asian markets (you can even get live ones there) as well as in some farmers markets in places like Missouri, Ohio and Maryland. And, interestingly, you can also buy it online.

A bowl of Creole turtle soup.
4.86 from 34 votes

Creole Turtle Soup

This is a classic Creole turtle soup from New Orleans. It's super easy to make... once you have a turtle. See the recipe notes for some suggestions.
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American, Cajun
Servings: 8 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes


  • 2 1/2 pounds turtle meat on the bone, or 1 1/2 pounds boneless
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 celery stalks, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups minced onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • One 18- ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • Grated zest of a lemon
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


  • Start by making the turtle stock. Put the turtle meat into a large pot and cover with 8 cups of water. Add the bay leaves and about a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil and skim the scum that floats to the top. Drop the heat to a bare simmer and cook until the turtle meat wants to fall off the bone, about 2 to 3 hours.
  • Remove the meat from the pot and pull it off the bones. Chop as coarse or as fine as you want. Strain the turtle broth and put it into a pot set over low heat to keep warm.
  • In a Dutch oven or other soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat and stir in the flour. Cook this, stirring almost constantly, to make a roux the color of peanut butter, which will take about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add the green pepper, celery and onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the chopped turtle meat and stir to combine.
  • Stir in a cup of the turtle stock at a time until you the soup is the consistency of gravy. Add the tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne and paprika. Add more turtle broth until the soup thins a bit. It should be thicker than water, thinner than gravy -- like chicken and dumplings if you are familiar with that. Simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
  • Finish the soup with the sherry, parsley, lemon zest and hard-boiled eggs. Add them all, stir to combine and simmer for a minute or two. Add salt, black pepper and lemon juice to taste. Serve alone or with rice.


Your hardest task will be to find turtle meat. My first advice would be to cruise the Asian markets in your town, if you have any. Or you can buy snapping turtle meat online.
More likely, however, you will be substituting. Alligator is the closest thing to turtle in my experience, and frog legs come pretty close, too.
Barring those options, I might use a combination of chicken thighs, pork shoulder and clams. (I've never done it, so you'd have to come up with your own ratio.) You can skip the clams if you think that's too weird, but remember that turtle does have a seafoody taste.


Calories: 408kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 211mg | Sodium: 308mg | Potassium: 784mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1396IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 77mg | Iron: 4mg

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

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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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  1. Had alot of company over Father’s Day weekend here in Southwestern PA. Our great nephew put out some traps and bait to try to catch a big fish on our wetland but pulled out 2 snappers!! I was so excited and knew right away that you would have just the right recipe. (I love your venison chili and bolognese recipes). Anyway, made this creole soup last night and all twelve of us enjoyed it!! Added some pickled quail eggs too as someone else suggested. Delicious!!

  2. Caught a Snapper in my yard last week and gave this recipe a try as i had always wanted to try turtle at least once. Was absolutely blown away by how good it was. I even got a bit adventurous and thickened up the leftovers a bit and had them with some rice and a bit of cheese mixed in. No turtle big enough to make a pot of creole is safe on my farm now.

    Bonus is i had a couple cups of the stock leftover that i put into a small ice mold as cool treats for my dogs when it gets a bit warmer outside 🙂

  3. You seem to be a MAN after my own mystique. I am called MOOSE by close friends. As a child I would take off on week long survival runs. I packed in a grand tent and sleeping bag plus all the camping tools that I owned. I kept my fire banked and ready to go again at an urge. I loved living the wild life. How’s about you?

  4. Hi Hank. This recipe is a dead ringer for ANY turtle soup you’ll find in the little restaurants peppered around Louisiana. I make this now every year for our Annual “wild game feed” here in Wisconsin. the only substitution I make is I use whole hard boiled quail eggs in the soup, as they don’t break up and get lost in the stew like the chicken eggs do. We usually make a pot of this using 20 pounds of Mississippi River snapping turtle. It’s always a huge hit at our game feed. I do spice it up a tad more with extra Cayenne pepper. Otherwise it’s perfect.

  5. This is somewhat like the turtle soup my Dad would make when the snapping turtles invaded our garden to lay eggs. (Dad always saved the eggs the scramble with onion, sweet pepper, diced tomato, leftover cooked veggies and leftover meat for his breakfast.) And cleaning a snapper is an adventure and a half. Dad always started by hanging the turtle upside down by a foot, then taking off the head. He let the turtle drain in a cool place (Usually under our deck, a spot that NEVER saw direct sunlight so never warmed up.) for up to 12 hours, then clipped off the claws before he took the turtle apart cautiously. By the way if you think the turtle meat will go bad by letting it hang that long, you’re wrong. Because of a family emergency I had to take apart a snapper that had hung for 24 hours once and it still raked me a good one! Snapper are very hard to kill.
    By the way, Dad usually wore leather gloves while doing this; they were often the gauntlet style welder’s gloves to protect his arms.

  6. My son caught and butchered his first turtle and asked me to make this particular turtle soup recipe. We’d never had turtle meat before, it tastes like a cross between venison and clam We halved the cayenne but followed everything else to the T. It came out amazing, very delicious. We served it up with some sweet corn bread too! Will definitely make this again if we every have the chance to harvest more turtle meat!

  7. Just so crazy the variations between turtle soup recipes! Ralph Brennan’s calls for a full cup of Worcestershire, yours only two tablespoons!

  8. Hi Hank,
    I am a 69 -year- old retired school teacher now living in Washington state.
    I realize I won’t live forever, and there are some things I want still want to do. Like, eating turtle soup. I have tried alligator and it was pretty good; but I’d also like to taste turtle soup. From where would YOU suggest I order it?
    I’d really appreciate your suggestion.

  9. I am from south Louisiana. In the past there was a restaurant in Baton Rouge that served excellent Turtle Soup, I ordered it every time I went there taking customers to lunch. I was talking with a friend several weeks ago about how great that soup was. I happened to find wild turtle meat in a local grocery by chance, bought a couple of pounds, and found this recipe! It is absolutely fabulous and it turned out better than I remember the other soup being. This recipe is authentic in taste, texture, appearance and detail. I WILL do it again and again. I doubt that the turtle itself is that necessary, I think this will work with pork and perhaps a little chicken. I minced the turtle meat and used chicken stock to cook it in. Otherwise I followed the recipe in exact detail.

  10. Hello, Hank! Thank you so much for this recipe. We had a menace snapping turtle threatening our small children (and us!) in our pond. One day, we were able to catch him and my husband tried his hand at cleaning a turtle. Popped the meat in the freezer until I could muster up the courage to cook it. Today is the day. The meat is simmering as I prepare the other ingredients. I am sure it will be delicious.

  11. I’m going to admit right away that eating a turtle is daunting. Not that I’m afraid of unusual foods. I’m not. But, having been raised by a veterinarian who is super cautious about anything that might have parasites…I’m squeamish. I’m also not always logical about it . However, this recipe looks fantastic and there’s alligator and craw dads in the freezer that will go into it. It seems like the sort that will (as all good Cajun recipes do) be graciously accepting of anything that crawls, swims, or flies. So, I’m going to make this.