What is iguana meat called?

Iguana meat, from the green iguana species that is commonly eaten, is most often referred to simply as “iguana.” Unlike beef, pork, or chicken, iguana does not have a more specific name for the type of meat derived from it.

Quick Answers

Here are some quick answers to questions about iguana meat:

  • What is iguana meat called? Iguana meat.
  • What do they call iguana meat? It is just referred to as iguana.
  • Does iguana meat have a special name? No, it is simply called iguana meat.

Iguana Meat Overview

Iguana meat comes from iguanas, large lizards native to tropical areas of Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. The green iguana is the most commonly eaten species. Other species of iguana are also consumed in parts of their native ranges.

Iguana meat has been an important food source for indigenous peoples of Central and South America for thousands of years. More recently, it has become increasingly popular in restaurants and markets throughout Latin America as a delicacy and exotic food. The meat is viewed as a good source of protein in many countries.

In the United States and other countries, iguana meat is sometimes found in specialty food stores and restaurants that feature exotic meats. Its popularity outside of Latin America remains fairly limited.

Taste and Texture

The flavor of iguana meat is described in different ways. Some compare it to chicken with a mild, gamey flavor. Others note similarities to fish, crab, and even venison. The meat has a texture that is lean and tender if cooked properly.

Factors like the iguana’s diet, age, and region it came from can all influence the flavor. Wild iguanas often have more robust flavor than farm-raised. Younger iguanas tend to be more tender. The taste also differs slightly depending on which part of the iguana is used, with the legs being the most sought after.

Common Names

Though iguana meat itself does not have a specific name beyond just “iguana,” it is sometimes called by other names on menus and in recipes:

  • Bamboo chicken – Refers to the tender, white meat of the iguana’s tail.
  • Mexican chicken
  • Gallina de palo – Translates from Spanish to “chicken of the sticks,” referring to wild iguana living in trees.
  • Gallina de los árboles – Another Spanish name translating to “chicken of the trees.”

These names liken the meat to chicken due to some textural and flavor similarities. But there is no standard name that is widely used or recognized.

Dishes and Preparation

Popular dishes made with iguana meat include:

  • Iguana soup or stew
  • Grilled iguana
  • Iguana tacos
  • Iguana tamales
  • Iguana eggs

The meat requires special preparation because iguanas have a high concentration of salmonella. It needs to be cooked thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165°F to avoid food poisoning. Marinating the meat in an acidic liquid like lemon juice, vinegar, or wine before cooking may also help kill bacteria.

The delicate flavor pairs well with herbs and produce common in Latin cooking like cilantro, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and citrus.outside of its native region, the novelty and exotic status of iguana make it impressive for adventurous foodies.

Consumption and Nutrition

Iguana has been an essential source of protein for cultures like the Mayans for thousands of years. In modern times, it remains an important food and livelihood for many people across Latin America.

In countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Mexico, iguana is farm-raised as a food source. Wild iguana is also still commonly hunted and eaten. Street vendors sell the meat in popular food markets.

Though not as common as chicken, beef, or fish, iguana has gained a foothold as an exotic delicacy. Its reputation as an unusual edible has led more upper-class restaurants to include it.

Nutritionally, iguana is high in protein, low in fat, and contains essential vitamins and minerals:

Nutrient Per 3 oz Serving % Daily Value*
Calories 143 7%
Protein 21 g 42%
Fat 4 g 6%
Iron 2 mg 11%
Zinc 2 mg 18%

*Based on a 2000 calorie diet

With its light, lean protein content, iguana can be a healthier alternative to red or processed meats. It provides an excellent source of protein, minerals, and nutrients for local populations in Central America.

Hunting and Conservation

The spike in iguana meat consumption has led to more intensive iguana hunting and farming operations throughout their native regions in recent decades. Iguanas are either captured in the wild, or increasingly, raised on farms specifically for meat production.

The green iguana is not currently considered an endangered or threatened species. They are classified as a species of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. However, heavy hunting and habitat loss in some areas has led to localized depletion and population declines.

To sustainably manage iguana populations, most countries have hunting seasons, minimum size limits, and restrictions on capturing females when they are caring for eggs. Iguana farming presents an opportunity to produce meat without reliance on wild capture. More programs and laws may be needed to regulate the fast-growing iguana meat industry and prevent overexploitation of wild stocks.

Cultural Significance

For indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica like the Aztecs and Mayans, iguana meat has held cultural and spiritual significance for thousands of years. Iguanas were incorporated into folklore, myths, and religious rituals among these cultures.

The origin story of the Yucatec Mayans includes divine twins shooting a prophet who had transformed into an iguana. Remains of iguanas sacrificed in religious ceremonies have been found at Mayan sites. The Aztecs believed certain iguanas were sacred manifestations of gods.

Iguana imagery is still used in the iconography, handicrafts, and architecture of native cultures across Central America. They hold continued importance as symbols representing life, fertility, and divinity.


Iguana meat has a rich heritage and growing popularity in its native region of Central and South America. Though it does not have a distinct name like beef or pork, iguana has been an essential source of nutrition for indigenous peoples dating back to the ancient Maya. It continues to be an important part of local culture, cuisine, and economy in many Latin American countries today.

As demand for this exotic delicacy increases worldwide, efforts to farm and source iguanas sustainably will be important for protecting wild populations. Iguana meat offers a lean, low-fat protein option while also preserving tradition.

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