How to Make Chitterlings

Publish Date November 8, 2023 1 Minute Read

What Are “Chitlins”?

While many of us have heard of chitlins, there are a fair amount of people who aren’t sure what they are. Though they often associated with the American south, chitlins have been around in some form since medieval times and are eaten in many cultures around the world.

Chitterlings, or “chitlins,” primarily refers to cooked pig intestines, but can also include cow, sheep or goat intestines as well. In many cultures throughout history, it was necessary for people to make the most out of the meat that was available to them. This practice led to many well-known dishes we still eat today. Chitlin recipes are largely passed down through family and often incorporate spices from that specific family’s ancestry. Chitlins are often cooked for a long time to tenderize and infuse flavor into the meat.

In France they are fried with lard and served with vinegar and parsley. Scotland’s famous Haggis is technically considered a chitterling as well as the English Dow Derry, a dumpling made of mashed potatoes and sauteed chitterlings.

The Mediterranean has their own form of chitterlings as well. In Greece they are stuffed and roasted over a spit while in Turkey they are chopped and cooked with spices and peppers.

Asian cultures also make chitterlings, often by adding them to stir-fries and soups.

More Than Just Food

In the United States, chitlins became a southern staple for a lot of families. The chitlins eaten in the American south are closely tied to the ones enjoyed in West Africa. During slavery, the less-desirable parts of an animal were often all that was available to the enslaved plantation workers.

Today, Chitlins offer a taste of the richness and resilience of Black culture and are widely viewed as a delicacy. Outside of family traditions, chitlins have served as a symbol in the south since Jim Crow. In the 1960s, segregation made it difficult for musicians and performers to know which venues were accepting and safe to perform in. Sea and Denver D. Ferguson formed the Ferguson Brother’s Agency and created a network of venues that became known as the Chitlin Circuit. In 1966, Salley South Carolina held its first “Chitlin Strut,” a festival that now draws roughly 70,000 people. There are even several clubs dedicated to eating chitlins.

How Do You Prepare Chitlins?

Cleaning chitlins is the most important part of making them. Chitlins come partially cleaned when purchased but it isn’t enough. If you are buying them prepackaged, opt for ones that have been hand cleaned. Once you get them home, the work begins.

Boil: Boiling the chitlins for 5 minutes before cleaning helps to remove harmful bacteria. Drain and let cool. Add a half an onion to the water to help reduce the smell.

Soak and Scrub: After the chitlins have cooled, soak them in cold water with vinegar or baking soda for a few minutes. Scrub both the inside and outside of the chitlins and remove anything that you may not want to eat.

Rinse: Drain and rinse the chitlins a few separate times, cleaning the bowl and adding fresh water each time.

Cooking Chitlins

While every family has their own way to cook chitlins, there seem to be a few methods.

Stew: Low and slow is the method most often used. This gives the chitlins plenty of time to get tender and to pick up the flavors in the broth. Most of the time, they’re boiled in a stock with bay leaves, creole seasoning blends, onions, peppers and vinegar.

Sauteed: After simmering for a couple of hours, you can transfer them to a pan to give them a crispier texture. This also allows you to add more seasoning. Just make sure to pat them dry before adding them to a hot pan.

Deep-fried: Once stewed, you could batter the chitlins and deep fry them for a crispy side.

Chitlins are an iconic dish that’s worth the time it takes to learn how to make them. And though they’re a labor of love, this dish is both budget-friendly and delicious. For more recipes, tips and tricks, visit out blog.