What Are Chitlins and How to Cook Chitterlings (2024)

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Published by Izzy

on Apr 27, 2022

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Also known as chitterlings, Chitlins are the large intestines of pigs but are also available from a calf or veal. They became an increasing popular Southern cuisine between 1930 and 1960, partly due to the Chitlin’ Circuit.

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Typically slow-cooked or fried, with a large part of the process going into cleaning and preparing them. Because they can be quite labor-intensive, chitlins are often reserved for special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What Are Chitlins?

Originating during the time of American slavery, where pigs would be slaughtered in the Southern US, with the meat reserved for the slave owners, while the scraps, such as intestines were left for the slaves.

Popular during the Jim Crow era, restaurants and music venues served chitlins, which essentially became safe places for black performers. And from that, is how Chitlin Circuit was formed. Salley, South Carolina, is the self-proclaimed chitlin capital of the world, hosting a Chitlin’ Strut and serving chitterlings since the 1960’s.

However, chitlins are eaten around the world but more popular in Caribbean and Latin American cuisine. Here they are made in a traditional stew called mondongo. In Korea, it’s called makchang, a form of grilled pork intestines; and in French cuisine, it is called tricandilles, whereas China has jiangsi chao dachang, consisting of stir fried intestines.

What Do Chitlins Taste Like?

Chitlins have a mild flavor, so they easily take on the flavors of the seasonings they’re prepared with, such as aromatics and spices in the boiling liquid.

Some compare the texture and flavor to octopus and various other seafood, with many people saying that chitlins are an acquired taste. Unfortunately, they can have a foul smell while cooking, so it is advised that you cook them outside.

Most people prefer deep-fried chitlins, but they can be added to stews or soups as well. The choice is yours.

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Are Chitlins Good for You?

This all depends on how you prepare them, and if prepared correctly they may provide you with some surprising nutrients. You will get about 10 grams of protein from a three ounce serving while also getting a dose of zinc and vitamin B-12. The result? An immune boost, and a kick start to your metabolism. A three-ounce serving of chitlins has 1.6 mg of this mineral.

How To Clean Chitlins

If you’re starting from frozen, simply thaw your chitlins before you begin cleaning. Do not skip cooking them, as uncooked chitlins can potentially carry E. Coli, yersinia, and salmonella. Also note that some butchers don’t clean them before selling, so it is vital to clean them on your own or double check that they’ve been cleaned.

According to USDA guidelines, you should boil your raw chitlins for five minutes before cleaning them to kill as much bacteria as you can. If there is any fecal matter or extra fat, remove it by hand. From there use a strainer and rinse the chitlins in cold water.

An important tip is to ensure you continuously clean and sanitize your workspace and cooking utensils, to keep them free from harmful bacteria and potentially make you sick.

If all of that sounds a bit much to you, then simply purchase cleaned and pre-cooked chitlins.

Here are some tips for handling chitlins, as informed by USDA guidance:

  • Thaw frozen chitterlings in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap and, not at room temperature, never at room temperature.
  • Wash hands properly with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after preparing chitterlings.
  • Be sure to wash all of your utensils and workspace areas with hot soapy water to avoid bacteria and cross contamination.
  • You can also sanitize countertops with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water.
  • Always keep your children out of the kitchen while preparing chitterlings.
  • Boil and simmer chitterlings until well cooked and tender.
What Are Chitlins and How to Cook Chitterlings (4)

Where To Buy Chitlins

You may not be able to find chitlins in your everyday markets, however specialty butchers should have them. Depending on where you live, you might be able to find chitlins in the frozen section at your local grocery store.

How to Store Chitlins

  • Use your raw chitterlings within two days of thawing.
  • Use frozen chitterlings within 3 to 4 months.
  • Cooked chitterlings can stay in the fridge for 3 to 4 days and 3 to 4 months in the freezer.

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How To Cook Chitlins

By: Izzy

Simply boil and simmer your chitlins until tender. Then add your favorite seasonings. It’s easy to make and you can serve them with pasta or rice.

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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chitlins, thawed and cleaned
  • 1/4 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Instructions

  • Soak the chitterlings and clean them thoroughly.

  • Fill a large pot with water over medium heat. Add chitlins, and bring it to a boil.

  • Add onions, salt, red pepper flakes, and garlic.

  • Cover with the lid, and simmer for 3 to 4 hours until nice and tender. Serve and enjoy!

Nutrition information provided is an estimate only and will vary based on ingredient brands and cooking methods used.

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About Izzy

I'm Izzy, a food lover and photographer. Here you’ll find a collection of simple recipes that are perfect for busy people. My blog aims to help you make and enjoy delicious and healthy food at home.

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What Are Chitlins and How to Cook Chitterlings (2024)

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