I’ll bet every nickel I’ll make writing this story that you’re searching What Does Alligator Taste Like? for one of two reasons. First, a buddy has drawn a gator tag and invited you along with the promise of a cooler of fresh gator tail, and you’re looking for inspiration on how to cook it. If this is the case, as you’re shining for eyes and scrolling for answers out on the boat, consider that in the black water below you, an alligator could be looking up and wondering, “I wonder what that dude holding his phone tastes like?”

But more likely, you’re reading this not because you’re alligator hunting but instead you’ve traveled from some city up north and ended up in a bar on the Gulf Coast, where you’re one Abita Legit Hard Lemonade away from an ill-advised decision involving Mardi Gras beads. You need some food, and right there on the appetizer menu is “Fried Alligator Tail.” You snicker and whisper amongst your friends and wonder, Do these people down here really eat things like that? Should we order some? What does alligator taste like?

Should You Order the Fried Alligator?

photo of fried alligator meat with iced tea
The fried gator bites you get in most restaurants is farm-raised, which can be more tender. Adobe Stock

Well, let me to answer all three questions. Yes, we do. Yes, you should. And alligator tastes just like snapping turtle.

Wait, you say you’ve never eaten turtle, either? Well, then consider this article two-for-one service, since I’ve killed, cleaned, and eaten both types of semi-aquatic reptiles and will comment on them together. I prefer alligator over turtle, but only as a matter of convenience (though it takes the experience of skinning a snapping turtle before anyone would call processing an alligator convenient). There’s a lot more meat on a gator than on a turtle, too.  

Fresh alligator meat is delicious. And even the nuggets plucked out of the restaurant freezer, deep-fried, and sold to tourists at a considerable mark-up, are pretty good, too. But what does alligator taste like, exactly? Here’s what you need to know.

No, Alligator Does Not Taste Like Chicken

Most of the alligator meat you see on restaurant menus comes from farm-raised gators, but in a few places, like Louisiana, folks with the proper license are allowed to sell wild-caught alligators. I’ve eaten both wild and farm-raised gators, and when the meat is fresh, I can’t tell a dime’s worth of difference. Most hunters are after larger gators—8 feet and up—and I can confirm that a gator of that size tastes just fine. But alligator farmers usually prefer to process smaller animals because the meat is more tender. Does it taste like chicken? No. It’s chewier, with a slightly fishy flavor. But as long as you like fish, you’re good.

Alligator Tail is Just That

The best meat of a big snapping turtle is just behind the jaws and at the base of the tail—wait, we’re talking about alligators. Right, the best meat of an alligator is also just behind the jaws and in the tail. Most of the meat from these areas is mild and white, and you’re committing a bad sin if you eat it any way other than cut into small chunks and deep-fried with a liberal dusting of Cajun seasoning. A good remoulade sauce makes it an appetizer, and a couple pieces of French bread turn it into a Po’ Boy. Once you’ve eaten a bunch of alligator tail that way, it’s no longer a sin to try it another. Alligator meat is also pretty good when grilled and incorporated into a number of other Cajun recipes.

What Does Alligator Sausage, Gumbo, and Etouffee Taste Like?

photo of gumbo with alligator meat
Try putting some gator in your gumbo. Adobe Stock

Skin a deer or a pig, and you can expect some cuts of meat to be superior to others, but they’ll all be the same color. Things are different for gallinaceous birds, like turkeys and chickens, and for reptiles like alligators and turtles.

Compared to the white tail and jowl meat, the legs of alligators and snapping turtles both are much darker, fattier, and tougher. Similar to the legs and thighs of a wild turkey, alligator legs need to be slow-cooked. They’re pretty good when used in soups, gumbos, etouffee, and even sausage (alligator sausage links are easier to find than you might think). Don’t let alligator legs go to waste, but if you’re wondering what to fry up while it’s fresh and what to freeze for later, go ahead and eat the tail first.

And if you’re in that southern bar, order the gator tail and another Abita—and later, when someone asks What does alligator taste like? you can tell them with confidence that it’s just like turtle. Maybe keep the Mardi Gras bead story to yourself.