Crunchy Alligator Bites

Alligator?! Wait, keep reading. I promise it tastes yummy, sort of like chicken. And even if you don’t use alligator meat, this recipe will work well with chicken, too. Maybe even turkey?? Hey, let me know how it goes if you explore with other kinds of meats…I’m curious to know.

So, here is how we came across alligator meat:

A few weeks ago, hubby and I explored a nearby Asian market, which was an adventure in and of itself with all the goodies that vastly differ from markets like Ralphs or Vons. The most unique items we spotted: duck uterus and pig’s blood. Now what in the world are duck uterus’s used for?! I’ll pass on the pig’s blood, thanks. And we saw fruits and vegetables I’ve never seen or heard of before. I should take my camera next time we go. The meat and fish section takes up the entire back wall of the store, and this store was twice the size of a regular market. That back wall carries live fish; live lobster; sections of meat not typically sold at markets, like entire chickens, heads and feet included…I tell ya, it’s an adventure.

During our exploration, we came across alligator meat. Not your typical dinner fare, now, is it? But we’ve eaten alligator appetizers at the Islamorada Fish Restaurant when visiting Bass Pro Shops, so we were keen to try replicating the savory treat. However, the package of alligator got buried in the freezer and we forgot all about it until we recently uncovered it.

Last time we ordered it at the restaurant, we asked how it was made and got a list of seasonings used. Armed with only that for whipping up the appetizer replica, I decided to search recipes online to see if I could find anything comparable to the restaurant appetizer. I came across one recipe that used milk and seasonings; this triggered a memory of a previous issue of Cooks Illustrated magazine containing a recipe for fried chicken, which required soaking the chicken in buttermilk and salt to tenderize the meat, so I thought I’d try this with the alligator, too. I combined the fried chicken recipe spices with the list of spices garnered from the restaurant, keeping my fingers crossed that my experiment would work.

I would prefer if the packaged alligator had no bones, but we didn’t take notice of that when we bought it. Oh well, consider this like chicken wings or drummettes. I just cut the pieces into smaller chunks, bones included.

The final fried alligator resembled chicken and tasted pretty much like chicken. It was a bit on the salty side, perhaps from the brine. However, the brine didn’t do that to the chicken pieces from the original recipe…maybe because the alligator pieces were much smaller? Will just have to try less salt next time…

Although I didn’t quite capture the flavor of the restaurant appetizer, it still came out okay–a little on the spicy side. I’ll keep trying, though–if we find more alligator, that is.

Although I typed the above blog a few weeks ago, it’s been sitting in my drafts waiting for publication. Well, this past weekend we visited Bass Pro Shops and of course had to eat at the Islamorada restaurant. Pictured below is their version of alligator appetizers–looks a bit crispier than my version! And it was spicier than I remembered it tasting, so I guess my concoction wasn’t too far off the mark.

Crispy Alligator Bites

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  • 1 lb alligator meat

Buttermilk Brine

Whisk together the following:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tbsp. table salt (try less to reduce saltiness)
  • dash hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. paprika
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp cajun seasoning
  • pinch of cayenne pepper


Whisk the following dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (or use 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup cornmeal)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cajun seasoning


  1. Cut 1 lb. alligator into 1-2 inch pieces.
  2. Coat in buttermilk brine. Refrigerate, covered, at least one hour or up to overnight.
  3. Mix 1 tbsp. buttermilk into coating mixture, using fingers until combined and small clumps form (the clumps will add extra crunch to the fried meat).
  4. Dredge one piece of meat at a time into coating mixture, pressing mixture onto pieces to form thick, even coating. Place dredged meat on plate.
  5. Heat 3/4 cup oil (just enough to cover bottom of meat, really) in 11-inch straight-sided saute pan (or in Dutch oven) over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Carefully place meat in pan and cook until golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Carefully flip and continue to cook until golden brown on second side, 2-4 minutes longer.
  6. Remove from pan; drain on paper towels. Let meat rest 5 minutes before serving.

Hey, just for fun, with chunks of coating mixture left in bowl, I tossed them in oil for spicy, crunchy little treats–especially for the cook to munch on while waiting for the meat to cook!

SOURCE: Adapted from Cooks Illustrated magazine, Oct. 2010 issue

20 thoughts on “Crunchy Alligator Bites

  1. I love alligator appetizers and wish the meat was readily available here in the Phoenix area. I’ve eaten it several times while visiting in Florida and Texas. It’s delicious.

  2. do you have any idea what is in the sauce that bass pro uses on the alligator. I have searched and cannot find any recipe for it?

  3. I’ve had alligator tail bites several times in Florida and a a friends house in Texas. Aso at Papadeius here in Phoenix. I’ve had theirs made with spicy cajun seasonings and didn’t care for it much so the next time as had them prepare it without those seasonings and it was great. I love this tasty treat and wish it was more readily available here. I want to order some online to see if it’s worth buying that way… pricey, though.
    Your recipe here looks good but if I make it I’ll leave out the cajun seasoning. I do like cajun food, though

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