the chicken of the swamp: fried gator recipe

Three years ago, I sat in a crowded Baton Rouge bar. Cigarette smoke coiled overhead, and spontaneous cheering erupted as football fans decked in crimson (and purple and gold) watched the TV. I nursed a beer as I still felt a tad woozy from the late night before (my first and only night in New Orleans). And that was when one of our travel companions turned to me and offered me a bite of a sizzling basket of fried gator nuggets.

It wasn’t bad. (It was quite delicious actually.) It was hot, crispy, and tasted a bit like a cross between chicken and fish.

So, as the Tide rolls over the Gators this evening, what better appetizer to serve at our football watching party than fried gator? Gator isn’t hard to prepare. Simply cut it into small pieces, coat it in some fish fry, and toss into the bubbling grease of a deep fryer (I confess, though, that James handles all of the deep frying, so thanks JJ!). Serve it with a remoulade or some ranch dressing (tartar sauce would have been great, but I didn’t have any relish! Sad). It was a bit like I remembered, only tougher in texture. I think if we had marinated it in some lemon beforehand, it might have been more tender. I did toss it in lemon, but I don’t think it sat in it long enough. However it was still tasty! Tasted like chicken. And a bit like a meaty white fish.

Fried Gator
Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 pounds alligator meat
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 packages fish fry (I used New Orleans Fish Fry)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Also needed: deep fryer and canola oil

Cut alligator into bite-sized pieces. Set in a large bowl, and add lemon juice, tossing to combine. Let marinate for at least 20 minutes.

Pour fish fry into a gallon-sized food storage bag. Add cayenne pepper and stir or shake to combine.


Working in batches, add meat to bag and shake until pieces are evenly coated. Place in fryer and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until alligator floats in oil. Drain excess oil on paper towels. Serve immediately.

Related: tailgating: guacamole

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3 thoughts on “the chicken of the swamp: fried gator recipe

  1. Seriously… fried gators! Yikes, as a West Coast girl that just sounds insane to me… but I am sure like all crazy food it tastes amazing! I wonder if I could even find gator meat out here???

    • Ha! I am a West Coast girl myself so the first time I heard of it I thought it was crazy, too! But it isn’t bad at all. I do wish we had let it marinate longer to give it a richer flavor and make it a bit more tender because it was pretty tough, but it was still a fun culinary experience. And I don’t know if you could find it. I don’t think it’s really all that readily available in the South. Grocery stores got a shipment in when Alabama played Florida… oh SEC football.

  2. Pingback: boozy pear cobbler « cactus & kudzu

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