Turtle Sauce Piquante

Turtle truly is a south Louisiana camp food.  I cannot remember my mama cooking turtle at home.  It was always something that the men in the family would cook at a camp supper.  I've pretty much only cooked it at camp also.
One of my fondest memories was the time Mr. Wilfred Quebedeaux was cooking a pot of turtle sauce piquante at my Uncle Leland Quebedeaux's camp.  It's an unwritten rule that you can look in a man's pot when he's cooking, but you better not stir it.  So I went over to the stove and looked in the pot, and the turtle legs looked like they had warts.  I then looked over at Mr. Wilfred and said, "Mr. Wilfred, did you take the skin off the turtle legs."  And Mr. Wilfred replied, " Well no, where you think we get the flavor from!"  That was the only camp supper I ever went to where I only ate the rice and gravy - even I have my limits on what I will eat!

Not just any turtle will do - so let me educate you on selecting a turtle.

You don't want to cook just any turtle.  The most common turtles used are the snapping tutle, alligator snapping turtle and soft-shell turtles.  You don't want to use those hard-shelled red-eared turtles (we called them streaker head turtles) you see in every pond and lake - they don't have any meat on their bones!  You certainly don't want to use any terrestrial turtle or terrapin, in fact many are endangered.   I've mostly cooked snapping turtles because they are the easiest to trap, and you can catch them in almost any bayou, pond and lake.  When I was a kid, my friends and I trapped snapping turtles during the summer, and sold them to the fish market for 15 cents a pound.  We made pretty good money.   The alligator snapping turtle (often called loggerhead turtle in south Louisiana) gets well over 100 pounds, are getting quite rare, and are tough, so I never use them.  Probably the best eating turtle is the soft-shell turtle, but they are harder to catch.  The turtles are pictured below.  Don't be fooled by their looks, they are quite good to eat.
snapping turtle
Snapping Turtle
Found everywhere, from lakes to farm ponds, but usually not in fast running water. They are very common in bayous and ponds/lakes that are overgrown with water weeds, even stagnant.  They are easy to catch in homemade wire funnel traps. More info....
Soft-Shell Turtle
Usually found in running water and rivers, or ponds and lakes with fresh clean water.  The soft-shell turtle is the best eating turtle.
More info.....
soft-shelled turtle
alligator snapping turtle
Click on above image for larger view
eating alligator snapping turtleeating alligator snapping turtle
They catch fish attracted to a worm-like appendage on their tongue.
Alligator Snapping Turtle
This is the granddaddy of all fresh water turtles.  They easily reach sizes of over 100 pounds, and are very old at that size.  They are becoming quite rare, due to being over trapped and loss of habitat.

In the picture to the left, Wayne Duplechain is shown with a 150 pound alligator snapping turtle he and Randy Hooks (my next door neighbor growing up) caught a few years ago. 
Now that's one big turtle!!! 
The turtle was donated to the Parks and Wildlife.

The alligator snapping turtle has an unusual way of eating, as show in the image to the left.  Their mouth is very dark/grey with a small, pink, worm-shaped appendage on their tongue.  They can wiggle it like a worm.  They lay on the bottom with their mouth open, wiggling their "pseudo-worm", then snap closed on fish trying to eat their "pseudo-worm". 
More info.....


  • 2-3 pounds turtle meat
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green onion tops, chopped
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can (10 oz) Rotel diced tomatoes & green chilies
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 2 tbs roux (optional)
  • cajun seasoning mix (homemade, Chachere's or Zatarain's)

Parboiling and Browning meat: 

  • Parboil the turtle meat for 5 or 10 minutes.  Pour off water.  If the meat is from young turtle, you can omit the parboiling.  Pour off the water.
  • Season the meat with cajun seasoning mix (homemade, Chachere's or Zatarain's).
  • Add a small amount of grease or margarine to a heavy walled cast iron or aluminum pot.  Heat the pot.  When hot, add the turtle meat and brown over high heat until deep brown and until some of the browning sticks to the bottom of the pot.  Stir constantly.
Sauté Vegetables:
  • After the meat is browned, remove from the pot.
  • Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and sauté until wilted in the brownings.
  • Add the meat back to the mixture.
  • Add the Worcestershire sauce, stewed tomatoes, Rotel, and tomato sauce.  If needed, add water to cover the meat.
    Optional Roux:
    • "Sauce piquante" means to cook in a tomato base.  I do not like a strong, distinctive "tomato saucy" taste, so sometimes I like to add a couple of tablespoons of  roux to enrich the tomato base flavor.  To make your own roux, add 2 tbs flour and 2 tbs oil to a heavy pan.  Place on medium heat, and stir constantly until a chocolate brown roux is obtained.  This takes awhile.  Its hard to make a small batch of roux, so I recommend you use store bought roux.
  • Cook with the pot covered under low heat so the mixture simmers (lightly boils).  Keep adding water so the meat stays barely covered.  You need to simmer long enough so the distinctive "tomato saucy" taste is cooked down to a smooth tomato base flavor, and the meat is tender.
  • Taste and add more cajun seasoning (or salt and pepper) to taste. 
Add the garnish: 
  • When almost done, add the chopped green onion tops and parsley.
  • Serve turtle meat and sauce piquante  over cooked white rice.
©David Wm. Reed