How to Make Brennan’s Turtle Soup Recipe at Home

Turtle soup, also known as terrapin soup. is an American classic, and while the recipe here focuses on the Louisianian version of the soup, this soup has been made across the United States, and different regions have unique ways of making this soup.

This soup features the turtle, and surprisingly, a turtle is quite a special meat because it has several different flavors in its meat, so it combines a lot of tastes similar to several other types of meat. Therefore, turtles can easily be made into a rich and decadent soup.

NPR details the fascinating history of turtle soup. This dish had huge popularity in the mid-19th century. However, problems arose as the 20th century approached because the soup was so popular across the United States, including in the White House, that people were overharvesting the turtles, and prices began to become steep. The terrapin turtles had to be swapped for snapping turtles, but that wasn’t the only challenge turtle soup faced.

When prohibition came, it became impossible to legally acquire sherry, which is a common ingredient in turtle soup. Luxurious, rich soups were no longer feasible for many restaurants. With these types of challenges, turtle soup diminished in popularity. However, it is still celebrated in many areas, such as Louisiana. The good news is that protective measures and new farming practices ensure that turtles won’t go extinct if you eat turtle soup.

Is Turtle Soup the Same as Mock Turtle Soup?

No, the turtle soup you read about here uses real turtles, while mock turtle soup generally uses organ meat-like brains to try to get a similar texture to the original soup. This recipe is popular because when the turtles usually used in turtle soup nearly became extinct, other meats were a good swap to make the dish more affordable and sustainable as the turtle population recovered from overharvesting.

A Delicious Brennan’s Turtle Soup Recipe

If you’re craving Brennan’s turtle soup, this recipe will help you create the magic at home without too much fuss. If you’ve never tried turtle soup before, now is a great time to give this delicacy a chance and experiment with new flavors.

This recipe has been inspired by Ralph Brennan’s New Orleans Seafood Cookbook, and I’ve adjusted it to make it extra easy to make at home while retaining the rich flavors.

The recipe will make about eight full meal servings, and it can serve to double that as an appetizer. If you don’t want as much soup, you can easily trim the recipe in half, but I love this dish served as leftovers, so I never mind having extra!

It does take a little while to make this soup tasty because, with proteins like turtle, you have to cook them for a while to make sure they taste delectable, but when you are patient, you can create a rich soup that you, your family, and any guests will love.


  • 8 cups beef stock
  • ¾ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 pounds turtle meat, cut into small cubes and trimmed of sinew
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 6 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped finely
  • 2 bell peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 5 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons pepper sauce (mild)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped thyme
  • 6 large hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped
  • Zest from 4 lemons, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup sherry
  • 1 cup flour


  1. Begin by melting the butter over medium-high heat in a pot.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for two minutes until fragrant.
  3. Add the onions and cook until the onions become translucent.
  4. Add the turtle meat, and cook it. You’ll want to make sure it’s not pink anymore. This takes around five minutes. Make sure to stir so all the meat gets cooked.
  5. Incorporate the celery, bell peppers, salt, and black pepper. Continue to cook for around ten minutes and continue to stir.
  6. Add in the tomatoes, cooking for five minutes longer. You’ll want to be diligent about stirring at this stage.
  7. When the tomatoes have been in for five minutes, turn your stovetop down to medium heat.
  8. After dusting your vegetables with flour, you’ll want to cook for five minutes. Stir constantly or else the flour will burn.
  9. Add the stock gradually, and make sure to stir a lot because you don’t want the flour to become dough balls or to stick at the bottom of your pit.
  10. Mix in the pepper sauce, parsley, thyme, and Worcestershire sauce.
  11. Cover and simmer the soup for 40 minutes. Make sure your turtle is tender. If it is not, cook for more time. Extra simmering time won’t hurt, but do keep a watch over your soup.
  12. Add in the spinach, lemon juice, lemon zest, sherry, and eggs.
  13. Simmer for ten more minutes.
  14. Your soup is ready to serve.

Where to Get Turtle Meat?

While those familiar with turtle soup probably know how to get turtle meat, if you’re not as familiar with it, you may be wondering if you can even get your hands on turtle meat. Snapping turtle meat is the traditional choice in Brannan’s turtle soup.

The first stop to check for turtles near you would be Asian markets where you live; I find that I have the best odds of finding turtle meat there than anywhere else. However, if you live in Louisiana, a lot more markets will have this on offer, such as a Creole market. Thus, getting a sense of your area and the cuisines that are popular there can help.

If you can’t find it near you, you can have it shipped to you from online retailers, which safely pack the meat so that it stays cold until it reaches your doorstep. This option is more expensive, but it may be worth it for a special treat. You can also buy in bulk and freeze what you don’t use right away so that you always have some turtle handy.

While fresh turtle is ideal for this soup, there’s nothing wrong with using frozen or canned if that’s what you can get your hands on.

What If I Don’t Want to Use Turtle?

Turtle isn’t for everyone, and it took me some time to get used to the unique flavor.

Sometimes, it can be hard to get in certain areas, or you may just not like the flavor. Lots of people suggest that alligator meat is the closest in taste and texture. Mock turtle soup commonly uses brain or organ meat. One of the most common meat substitutions is veal, but other meats I’ve seen used in this recipe include pork, fish, chicken, or goat.

Really, you have lots of options if you aren’t ready to commit to turtle. If you don’t want to have meat at all in your soup, you can get a lot of flavor by swapping in any plant-based protein of your choice. However, I do encourage you to at least try using turtle if it fits your lifestyle and is available to you.

Other Substitutions

There are plenty of options available to work with what you like and customize your soup to your dietary needs. While swaps do impact the flavor, you can still have a tasty soup when making some of these changes.

For example, if you don’t have beef stock, any broth or stock you have can suffice. Additionally, if you don’t drink alcohol, stock alone will suffice. You can also use other substitutes like apple cider vinegar or white vinegar.

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