Raccoon Cuisine: Can You Eat a Raccoon? (+Recipes!)

Widely eaten in the past, raccoon cuisine has become far less common. Here’s how to eat raccoon safely, plus 3 recipes for the modern day.

Is it safe to eat a raccoon? The Grow Network

Can You Eat a Raccoon?

Because raccoons are generally considered dirty, trash-eating varmints, the idea of us eating them is rather nauseating to many mainstream Americans. So you should not expect to find “Quality Raccoon” on your grocer’s shelves anytime soon.

It is interesting to note, however, that many thousands of raccoon are still eaten each year right here in the good old United States of America. In fact, the Delafield Coon Feed, held annually in Delafield, MN, has been a popular family event since 1928.

I grant you that the culinary use of raccoon meat is mainly associated with certain regions of the American South, like Arkansas, where the Gillett Coon Supper is an important annual event for local politicians seeking office.

Raccoons as Wild Game

We need to remember that the harvest and consumption of whatever wildlife was around is as old as humankind itself and was often the driving force behind human exploration into wild and unsettled areas. Wild hunted meat (often called game meat or bush meat) still remains a primary food source for many native peoples throughout the world.

Everything from shellfish to bear is still hunted by human beings today somewhere on this globe. It is critical to many cultures that they continue to hunt, fish, and otherwise harvest wildlife for dietary supplementation, subsistence, recreation, social and cultural needs, and other purposes that result in the consumption of game meat.

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Personally, I love to eat wild game. Deer, turkey, salmon, trout, shellfish, and duck are among my favorites. And while this is all “normal” to me, I still cringe about eating raccoon meat. But why? These often annoying critters are everywhere!

Marjory has always said, “Don’t ask if you have raccoon, ask where is the nearest raccoon?” The raccoon is a mammal native to North America and can be found throughout the United States, except for in parts of the Rocky Mountains and in southwestern states like Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. It can also be found in parts of Canada, Mexico, and the northern-most regions of South America.

Raccoons 101

A little tutorial about raccoons - The Grow Network

Image by Claudia Peters from Pixabay

During the 20th century, raccoons were introduced to other parts of the globe, and they now have an extensive presence in countries like France, Ireland, Germany, Russia, and Japan. The adult raccoon is a medium-sized mammal and the largest of the Procyonidae family.

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Raccoons average 24 to 40 inches in length and can weigh between 14 and 35 lbs., and sometimes more, depending upon habitat and available food. The male raccoon, called a boar, is slightly larger than the female, known as a sow. The young raccoons are called kits and are not usually eaten until they reach adulthood.

Raccoons prefer forested areas near a stream or water source, but have adapted to various environments in and around human beings. Raccoon populations can get quite large in urban areas, owing to hunting and trapping restrictions, few predators, and human-supplied food.

Yeah. But can you eat them?

Is It Safe to Eat Raccoon Meat?

Technically the answer would have to be yes. Historically, baked raccoon was once a treasured holiday treat for many Southerners, although it has all but disappeared from the Southern dinner table in recent years.

Why has this tradition waned?

One reason often cited is that most of us live in urban areas and raccoon that live near humans tend to eat our waste and garbage. Also, raccoons that live near us often fish and feed in urban rivers and streams that may well be, and usually are, frightfully polluted with lawn-care fertilizers and pesticides.

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Raccoons will eat almost anything, but are particularly fond of creatures found in water—clams, crayfish, frogs, fish, and snails. When they eat these foods from our polluted waterways, the toxins build up in their flesh. When we eat the meat, we get the toxins as a kind of “parting gift.”

It is highly recommended that you never consume urban-dwelling raccoon.

Should You Be Concerned About Rabies?

But perhaps the foremost reason that raccoons are not eaten like they once were is a fear of rabies. Many of us associate raccoon with rabies, and for good reason. Raccoons, along with foxes (red and gray), skunks, and bats are considered a primary carrier of the rabies virus in the United States.

One bit of good news is that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only one human has ever died from the raccoon strain of rabies.

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We should also dispel the myth that a raccoon seen in daytime is rabid. If you see a raccoon in your yard during the day, don’t panic. It’s perfectly normal for raccoons to be active throughout the day. Chances are that it is a female, and she is not necessarily sick or dangerous. She may merely be foraging longer hours to support her young, visiting a garden while your dogs are indoors, or moving to a new location.

Also note that a rabid raccoon will not usually be feeding, so if the raccoon is getting your chickens, he is probably fair game! Still, be on the lookout for any unusual behavior and, if you get a raccoon from someone else, make sure you know exactly where it came from.

Raccoon Roundworms Can Harm Humans

While rabies is not nearly as big of a concern as the fear of it would lead one to think, there is one thing we should worry about when eating raccoon. That would be raccoon roundworm. This disease is caused by a parasite, a roundworm called Baylisascaris procyonis. The roundworm larvae cause problems as they travel through the person’s muscles and various organs, including the liver, brain, lungs, and eyes. The severity of the infection depends on how many of the parasite’s eggs were ingested, and where the larvae migrate.

Although serious infections are rare, raccoon roundworm can be fatal in people. The young and elderly are particularly susceptible. Raccoon are the primary host of this roundworm, which is commonly found in their small intestines. The parasite has also been found in mice, squirrels, rabbits, birds, woodchucks, and dogs.

Raccoon shed millions of the microscopic roundworm eggs in their feces. It takes about a month for newly deposited eggs to develop to the infectious stage. The eggs can only develop into worms when they’re in an animal’s body, but the eggs are hardy and may survive for years in soil, sand, or water.

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People may encounter the eggs through direct contact with raccoon droppings or by touching a contaminated area or object. If they don’t wash their hands, they may later transfer the eggs to their mouths. Small children are particularly vulnerable because they tend to put their hands, and other objects such as bark, wood chips, toys, soil, or even droppings, into their mouths. Other animals may become infected by eating an infected animal or through contact with the feces of an infected animal.

If you cook the raccoon meat to an internal temperature of 165˚F, the problem of infection through ingestion can be reduced.

If someone’s been exposed, or even suspects exposure to raccoon roundworm, seek immediate medical care. If the worms can be killed before they migrate through the body, there’s a very good chance that the disease will be prevented. But if the condition is not treated early, recovery is less assured. Raccoon roundworm infections are very difficult to diagnose in people.

Okay, But Should You Eat Raccoons?

Okay, so technically we can eat them, but should you eat them?

If it makes you uncomfortable for safety reasons, or just because it is a raccoon, then you should not eat it. If you’re not uncomfortable, though, read on.

The simple fact is that while primarily hunted for their fur, raccoon were, for hundreds of years, also a source of food for Native Americans. It has been noted in historical documents that barbecued raccoon was a traditional food on American farms. We learned to eat it from the friendly Natives our original settlers first encountered. It was often served on special occasions as a festive meal.

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Raccoon was eaten by American slaves at Christmastime right up until the end of the Civil War in 1865. Raccoons continued to be an important protein in many “economically challenged” Southern regions after the Civil War and even right up to the present day.

But do not think for even a minute that it was strictly a dish of the poor or rural; in the San Francisco newspaper The Golden Era, in the edition dated December 21, 1856, raccoon is among the specialties advertised for the holiday season. President Calvin Coolidge kept a pet raccoon he named Rebecca. Much like the Thanksgiving turkeys that get “pardoned” every year by modern US presidents, Rebecca was originally sent to the White House to be served at the First Family’s lavish Thanksgiving dinner.

The first edition of The Joy of Cooking, released in 1931, contained recipes for preparing raccoon.

How to Cook a Raccoon

3 ways to cook raccoon - The Grow Network

Image by Jalyn Bryce from Pixabay

One raccoon aficionado I spoke to at a farmer’s market, Mr. Franklin James, said, “Look here, I grew up eating raccoon with sweet potatoes, and you gotta know that once you put those sweet potatoes around him, maybe add some onions, and you bake him, OH my, let me tell you, you have a good eat there. But none of the young people know how to do that anymore.”

So, go ahead and give it a try if you are an adventurous eater, but always keep in mind where the raccoon came from. If you are in an urban neighborhood, I would not personally use the local critters, but would find a friend in a rural setting that has raccoon problems and trap some from there.

After talking to many of my friends and neighbors, it would seem that raccoon may well be good eats, but they are probably not for everyone. As for me, if I get the chance, I think I’m going to give it a try!

With that in mind, I have been looking for raccoon recipes and found the three below, which all sound intriguing. The first one comes from Sylvia’s Family Soul Food Cookbook by Sylvia Woods, published by Harper Collins.


Dolly’s Delicious ‘Coon

1 5-lb. raccoon
3 large onions
1/4 lb. fatback
2 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. seasoned salt
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. Accent (optional)
2 c. chopped onion

Place the raccoon in a pot with 1 onion and a dash of salt and pepper. Bring to a slow boil and then allow it to simmer over low heat for an additional 6 hours. Then remove from water and allow to cool. Debone the raccoon when cool enough to handle and place in a roasting pan with all remaining ingredients. Bake for 1 hour at 350˚F. Serve and enjoy!

Another recipe, recommended to me by my friend at the farmer’s market, is for BBQ Raccoon:

BBQ Raccoon

1 4–6 lb. raccoon, cut into serving pieces
1 c. red wine
2 onions, sliced
3 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 c. of your favorite barbecue sauce
1 Tbsp. paprika

Place the raccoon pieces in a large pan. Add the wine, onions, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and garlic. Add enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove the meat and drain. Place the raccoon in a greased baking dish. Mix the barbecue sauce and paprika together and pour over the meat. Bake at 325˚F for 50–60 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

And finally, here’s a recipe for Raccoon Stew that was supposedly served at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, our nation’s third President and co-author of the Declaration of Independence.

raccoon-stewRaccoon Stew

1 raccoon, cleaned, skinned, and quartered
Pepper to taste (heavy is recommended)
4 cups water
2 onions, quartered or diced
2 turnips, cubed
1 stalk celery, diced
2 large sweet potatoes, sliced in chunks or cubed

In a large pot, place the meat and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 hour. Remove meat and allow to cool. Discard water. Remove meat from bones and cut into 1″–2″ cubes. Sprinkle liberally with pepper. Add meat back to pot and add fresh water, carrots, celery, and potatoes. Season to taste with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until veggies are tender. Adjust seasoning if needed. Serve and enjoy!

What Do You Think?

Do you eat raccoon? What’s your favorite way to cook it? Let us know in the comments below!


This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on September 4, 2015. The author may not currently be available to respond to comments, however we encourage our Community members to chime in to share their experiences and answer questions!

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  • Jay Angler says:

    I agree with Joe’s excellent article. As a chicken farmer in a relatively unpolluted part of the Pacific Northwest, I follow my husband’s ancient copy of Joy of Cooking to brine and boil the local coon and then bake them with a garlic/soya/tomato sauce. I only trap when we’ve been having problems, but I never release a trapped coon as they’re smart enough not to get caught twice and I know too many locals who have lost their entire backyard flock to a coon. I only cook a coon that looks young and healthy – I’d rather it be small than old enough to potentially have a large build-up of toxins. We’ve never been sick from a coon dinner. Personally, I think it’s far safer than feed-lot beef!

  • StoneyB says:

    My folks enjoyed racoon back during the depression and into the WWII rationing. Of course we’re country and didn’t to much worry about toxins etc. There is also some info on eating coon in some of the would you eat road kill blogs. Enjoyed the article and want to try the recipes. I have a friend who likes coon so I think I’ll join him.

  • Janet says:

    I am 70 yrs old born in Western Ky. and grew up eating bar-b-q’d raccoon. My father, grandfather and 4 of my father’s brothers were big coon hunters. They each had expensive coon dogs; blue ticks, black and tans, red bones always in pursuit of a better dog much to mother’s dismay. My brothers and I grew up attending coon functions and sports involving the coon hounds. My father, grandfather and uncles along with several men friends went on a yearly 2 week ‘coon hunt’ setting up camp in the woods. My mother’s job was to organize supplies and food for all of these men. My father said he had been going on these yearly hunts with his elders since a child. Growing up I have attended many a ‘Wild Feast’ with bounty provided by local hunters from the season’s past but raccoon was always the prime meat served. My mother’s recipe is much like is printed in the article. She par boiled the meat with spices until it was falling off the bone, drained the juice, and covered it with bar-b-que sauce then either put it in the oven or on the grill to allow the bar-b-q to saturate the meat. There were never left overs and all family members lived to their mid to late 80’s..And hunted until they could no longer keep up with the hounds. Oh yes, looking back I see how this tradition evolved with age. The men started out camping in tents with no wives. As they got older and their wives joined them camping in the comfort of rv’s. Then as elders, they parked their rv’s around a community building with a large kitchen and played cards until time to go hunting. Through time, sons and younger men joined to keep the tradition going as the elders died off, but still today, there are those in our family who are dedicated coon hunters with their prize coon hound.

  • Mary says:

    It really is tastier than you’d imagine, rather like dark meat chicken. The fat is a little gamier, which is to be expected from a wild animal eating a great variety of foods. A little garlic and onion helps most wild game be palatable 🙂

  • My husband & I have eaten coon all our lives & we’re retired now. They have a deep earthy taste & we like BBQ sauce coon best. Bacon & onions are great with it. Cooked in pressure cooker helps tenderize it. The main thing to remember is cut all the fat off that you possibly can before cooking!! The fat is wild tasting & gritty. It ruins the taste & texture of the meat in our opinion. At any rate, it’s an acquired taste to many people.

  • Nova says:

    In the Raccoon Stew recipe, the ingredient list includes turnips, but they are not mentioned in the recipe. However, carrots are listed in the recipe, but not the ingredient list. Which is correct for the recipe?

    1. Joe Urbach says:

      Thanks for catching that error! The truth is that both carrots and turnips can be used in the stew. Actually it is a stew so throw in anything you’ve got!

  • Julia says:

    I live in Nevada. Due to the close proximity of several ranches, ditches & the river I do have raccoons in the neighborhood. My husband found 4 in our shed out back looking for food last spring. He chased them out & closed up the hole in the fence they came through. We also have a large population of skunks. I have not seen any possums in the area but assume coyotes take their place in this area.
    I remember my mother telling tales of her brothers catching possums & locking them up to for a week or two feeding them corn meal prior to butchering. The corn meal was to clean them out so they did not taste bad as they eat carrion.

    1. Joe Urbach says:

      Thanks for you comment. While researching this article I did run across mention of keep the coons and feeding them corn meal just as you mentioned your brothers did with possum. I could not find any reliable scientific data to support the idea so I left it out of the piece.

  • Rene' says:

    Yes, I would eat coon… again. I have had it baked and BBQ’d (on several occasions). The stew recipe sounds quite tasty too, gotta try that one.
    I have often said there are many ways I could die, but starvation shouldn’t be one of them. LOL!!!

  • Jon says:

    Someone from church trapped a coon for my son to make a coonskin cap, and after we skinned it we put it in the crock pot overnight like we would chicken or a roast. Made a very tasty dinner. 🙂

  • Your article “Coon Cuisine” was very well written, but risky. As a physician, I would advise the possibility of eating a scavenger only under emergency survival conditions; like famine, hurricane, earthquake or any time starvation or survival is imminent. Scavengers, which eat dead and diseased animals, have concentrated residues of those conditions in their tissue. The dangers of chemicals and pesticides you mentioned from urban coons is the tip of an iceberg. Coons eat other “clean up” scavengers like crayfish, clams, etc., hence further adding to their potential danger. People whose bodies already have a high toxic load who intake coons could increase that load over the top, triggering cysts, tumors and cancer. Since my profession is daily involved with these conditions, I cringe at the thought of increasing these risks for the sake of a unique dish.

    1. CommonSense says:

      The first sensible, not ignorant comment. Thank you

  • Bruce says:

    Yes, raccoon is very tasty. I would eat every one I could get my hands and “MY” recipe for BBQ Coon has been enjoyed by our Boy Scouts for 15 years. And your 1st recipe sounds almost like Coon Hash which is a staple here in Southeast Alabama. Of course, I don’t boil coon. I pressure cook…….15 lb pressure for 15 min. No matter how old it is it comes out tender. Great meat. Thanks for the article.
    And as a side note, our daughter lives in San Marcos.

  • Rami says:

    Woahh raccoon?? That’s a new type of meat I never considered because they are pretty cute (although horrible creatures!). Where do you even buy coon meat?

    1. Michael Ford says:

      Hi Rami – We have been talking about trapping raccoons recently – to control populations and keep them out of the garden and the compost pile. If you have any friends who are hunter/trapper types – talk to them about it!

  • Ron says:

    This is an excellent article! I never ate coon but always wanted to – just didn’t have the guts. Now I will have to try it. I did eat muskrat once and it wasn’t to bad in a stew.

  • Eugene H Abello says:

    Raccoon meat must be cleaned in a very specific way. They have a type of gland that is found scattered along their muscles. They must all be cut out and removed. The meat is quite good if this is done, if not, it is disgusting and basically inedible. People who’ve not grown up eating raccoon have no clue how to prepare a carcass to cook. The best raccoon I’ve eaten I always find in Louisiana. Go to out of the way li’l eateries. You’ll find delicious raccoon dishes. It will not be offered if you’re a stranger or don’t go out of your way to inquire.

  • Mrs Raccoon Chef says:

    Raccoon raise hell on cornfields so when trapping season commences, we load up. I make home made BBQ sauce, cover the meat with it and bake the meat @ 300° for 2 -1/2hours. Prepping the coon is key…no fat…delish.

  • Derek says:

    There are definitely raccoons in Utah. I just shot one that was fighting my dog under my deck this afternoon.

  • An intrigued googler. says:

    One raccoon aficionado I spoke to at a farmer’s market, Mr. Franklin James, said, “Look here, I grew up eating raccoon with sweet potatoes, and you gotta know that once you put those sweet potatoes around him, maybe add some onions, and you bake him, OH my, let me tell you, you have a good eat there. But none of the young people know how to do that anymore.”

    “I grew up eating raccoon and sweet potatoes,” Drayton says. “Once you put those sweet potatoes around him, and you parboil him, and you bake him—let me tell you, you have a good eat there. But none of the young people know how to do that.”

  • SEAN M HUNTER says:

    What about round work? Parasites? Does cooking it kill that stuff? No one ever talks about that.

    1. SEAN M HUNTER says:

      Round worm

  • David Fankhauser says:

    Joe Urbach: I was disappointed that you did not have any personal experience with the recipes that you posted. I am sure considering long history of eating racoon in the United States, including being a favorite of Mark Twain, that there must be some good recipes out there that you might have found worth trying. Have you tried any since posting these three recipes? My experience is that pressure cooking must be used sparingly. One recipe on the web said to pressure cook it for 30 minutes… The meat was essentially mush and tasteless. I am inclined to use recipes that celebrate the meat for what it is, rather than cover it up with intensely flavored sauces.

  • Susan says:

    I just tried it at a family reunion in the deep south. It was hunted off their land. It was my first time and it taste like the best pot roast I ever had!

  • Contrary to the uneducated opinion, coons are a quite clean animal. They are also quite smart. They wash their food before eating it if water is nearby.
    We eat chicken, and a filthier animal never existed than a chicken. Hogs get a bad rap too. Hogs will not eat and crap in the same area. Beef cattle will crap and lay in it. And yes, hogs will root at a cow to make it get up, and then when the cow craps, the hog will eat the cow crap. We eat hogs. Have eaten coon, squirrel, rabbit, goose, duck, deer, wild turkey, pheasant, quail, grouse, elk, goat, turtle, and more. As to the coon, not bad, but have eaten better fare.
    An Iowa farm boy, and retired State Game Warden. Just sayin.

  • myisland2001 says:

    Lots of raccoons in Los Angeles suburbs. I don’t know what they eat around here except if people leave out pet food. The trash containers all have heavy plastic lids. Every year a racoon family returns to our double cypress tree where they hollow out dens high up in the tree. There are usually 3 babies every year. They always get along with our 4 outdoor cats. I never feed the raccoons.

  • cwinters56 says:

    Excellent fun article. But the Delafield Coon Feed is located in Wisconsin not Minnesota.

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