Much like the guinea pigs that are commonly eaten in places like Peru, eating rabbit is another socially sensitive meat source because of our cultural outlook on these cute, fluffy friends of Bambi. Well if your German, Italian, or French friends haven’t convinced you to try it yet, we’re going to do our best.
In reality, rabbit meat is closely tied to our collective agricultural history. Legendary figures such as Aristotle praised it for its deliciousness, and it was an important resource for our troops during World War II when other meat sources were strictly rationed [*][*]. Flashing forward to present times, rabbit isn’t America’s preferred meat source, but its presence is still felt and rabbit meat is much more popular comparatively in many countries around the world.
According to the LA Times, rabbit is getting more popular and is a much more environmentally friendly option, with rabbits producing six times as much meat for the same food and water compared to beef [*].
This makes it an interesting candidate for growth as more and more Westerners opt for more ethically conscious meat sources. But, as you may already be thinking, none of that matters if rabbit is terrible for you or tastes bad. Fortunately, neither of those is the case. Rabbit is lean, it’s delicious, and offers a variety of interesting nutritional benefits.
Is rabbit meat healthy?
Compared to major meat like pork, rabbit is considerably lower in sodium and cholesterol, and it’s also fairly low calorie, with a half-pound of rabbit clocking in at around 400 calories (a ½ of white chicken breast is around 600 and ground beef is close to 500). It’s widely considered a healthy meat option, and some studies suggest frequent consumption could have widely positive effects [*].
In short, compared to what we usually eat, rabbit is a fierce contender with respect to nutritional value. The biggest hurdles are its availability in supermarkets and the cultural hesitation Americans have against eating rabbit.
What does rabbit taste like?
A description won’t do it justice, but you can start by imagining rabbit meat like a slightly gamier chicken. It’s chicken in feel but has a bit more depth to the flavor. It’s delicious, frankly.
Where to buy rabbit
While rabbit isn’t readily available in major supermarkets, although Whole Foods tried a few years ago, you can find ethically-raised rabbit from a variety of American sources, including specialty markets and us!
Our heritage rabbit is absolutely delicious, and we raise our rabbits with the best diet available. Our rabbit has even been used to win award-winning recipe contests sponsored by Food and Wine Magazine!
It’s also helpful to know a bit about the language used around rabbits so you can make the best decision possible.
Here are a few official terms via the USDA to know of:
- Fryer or young rabbit – the terms ‘fryer’ or ‘young rabbit’ refer to a rabbit weighing not less than 1 ½ pounds and rarely more than 3 ½ pounds, and less than 12 weeks of age. The flesh is tender, fine-grained, and a bright pearly pink color.
- Roaster or mature rabbit – the terms ‘roaster’ or ‘mature rabbit’ refer to a mature rabbit of any weight, but usually over 4 pounds and over 8 months of age. The flesh is firm and coarse-grained, and the muscle fiber is slightly darker in color and less tender. The fat may be more creamy in color than that of a fryer or young rabbit. The meat of larger rabbits may be tougher so the best methods of cooking are braising or stewing.
- Giblets – the liver and heart.
How to prepare and cook rabbit
Cooking rabbit isn’t as tough as it may appear. It can take a bit of time to properly cook, but if you do you’ll be rewarded with a tender and delicious meat. Our first suggestion is to buy rabbit meat that’s already been butchered, cleaned, and raised on a healthy diet. It’s easier to cook a great meal with a great rabbit! After that, you just have to choose how you want to approach it.
Our favorite way to cook rabbit is in a stew — preferably in the winter with a nice stout. It’s so homey. That being said, any way you approach chicken is a fair substitute, so think along those lines.
If you get a fryer, which (again) is a young rabbit, then roasting or faster cooking is fine, but if you deal with older rabbits, you’ll want to prioritize moisture by cooking it slower and typically in a liquid. Ask your butcher for specifics when ordering to make the best meal possible.
Your choice of preparation will also be dictated by the specific portions you receive. The saddle or loins are typically the most tender, whereas the legs are a bit more tough. With this in mind, it’s usually better to prioritize slower, moister methods for the legs.
Here are four common ways to cook rabbit:
Braising is a combination of pan-frying and slow cooking. The idea is to “stew” the meat in the least amount of water possible after searing it. When stewing meat, you typically cover the entire dish in liquid and go from there. Braising is sort of in-between.
As we mentioned, stewing is similar to braising but it’s when you submerge the rabbit in a liquid (typically broth or water) along with other herbs and vegetables and let it cook over a few hours. While stewing, resist the temptation to remove all the parts of the rabbit that don’t contribute a lot of meat. The fat and bones are where a lot of flavor comes from, so don’t take all of that out!
Stuffing a rabbit is a fantastic and slightly more exotic option for Christmas or Easter dinner! You can approach it like a turkey, although it won’t take nearly as long to make. The key is to make a filling that complements the rabbit without overpowering it. Once it’s in the oven, make sure you baste it consistently to keep the meat moist as well.
4. Pan roasted
Pan-roasted is probably the most straightforward way to eat rabbit. As long as you keep a close eye on the heat and cook with high-quality oil, this can be a delicious way to eat rabbit. We recommend deglazing a pan after roasting to make your sauce — this is a delicious way to make use of any delicious drippings!
Ingredients that complement rabbit
Regardless of what preparation method you choose to cook with, there are some staples that almost always go well with rabbit. Some of these include:
- Saltier meats
- Wine sauces
If you pick and choose from this list, you’ll be in good shape. Again, starting with good meat and keeping your prep simple with fresh herbs and spices will get you 90% of the way there.
If you’d rather follow a recipe, here are a few more good ones to get you started:
- Casserole-roasted rabbit with herbs – This is a good starter recipe that will really highlight the flavor of the rabbit. It’s simple and delicious.
- Pot roasted rabbit – This recipe is more homey and savory — opting for more meat-based flavors and accents than herbs.
- Rabbit cacciatore – Cacciatore is just Italian for “hunter”. Cacciatore recipes typically rely on tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and other ingredients that are considered the type of foods you’d get on the road. This one is homey in a different way, and if you’re a tomato fan, then you’ll love it.
- Braised rabbit – This is a good starting point for braising. The recipe is simple and effective — the key is to get the absolute freshest ingredients across the board.
- Rabbit stew – This recipe is just decadent. With the additions of bacon and currant jelly, you’re bound to impress with this wintery delicacy.
- Various wine sauce recipes – We love wine sauces, and so we wanted to include a whole list to choose from. Remember to nail the simmering/oil ratios to achieve that perfect, creamy texture.
Take the first step
All you have to do is take your pick, get your rabbit, and start cooking! Your best bet is to look at these recipes, see what ingredients are called for, make sure they are all in season, and then go from there. Don’t underestimate how much better fruit and vegetables in season are.
We really hope you’ll give rabbit a try — it’s absolutely delicious, healthy, and a good meat source for the environment.
See our gourmet rabbit selections!
Nathan Phelps is a writer, ethical foodie, and outdoors-aficionado hailing from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.