What Are Chitlins?

If you love and enjoy eating meat, would you be able to eat those parts of the animal that most people would typically throw away or regard as inedible or unpalatable?

Perhaps you would or perhaps not. The fact is, for many people, the thought of eating certain parts of an animal is pretty unappetizing. Chitlins, for example, are a food that many people would never think of eating, but for others, they are a delicacy.

Chitlins are often considered to be a part of soul food, which is a type of cuisine that reflects the culture and history of African Americans. They can be eaten in a variety of ways, including fried or boiled, and they’re often served with cornbread, greens, and other soul food staples.

But you might be wondering, what are chitlins?

Chitlins are a type of offal, which is the internal organs and entrails of an animal. Offal includes things like liver, heart, kidney, brain, and stomach. In the case of chitlins, they are the small intestines of pigs. They are also referred to as chitterlings and are a popular Southern dish that has African-American roots.

Key Takeaways

  • Chitlins are small pig intestines that have been cleaned, boiled, and fried, with strong ties to Southern and African-American culture.
  • Preparing chitlins involves thorough cleaning and cooking, and they can be seasoned according to individual preferences.
  • Chitlins are part of a broader tradition of using animal organs in various cuisines, emphasizing the importance of resourcefulness in cooking.

A Little Known History of Chitlins

Chitlins have been a part of the American diet for centuries. In fact, they have been eaten by many different cultures over the years. But it was African Americans who introduced chitlins to the South in the 1700s and 1800s.

The dish was a staple in the diet of slaves who worked on plantations and farms. But it also became a food that was served at church events, celebrations, and other community gatherings.

Chitlins are still eaten today by many African-Americans as well as some European-Americans who have adopted them into their culture. They are also quite popular with Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian cultures.

What Chitlins Taste Like

Eating chitlins for some people is an acquired taste; for others, it’s a delicious treat.

Pig intestines, unlike other parts of a pig, have a distinct smell and flavor that some people love, and others hate. It’s hard to describe how they taste, but many people who enjoy eating chitlins say the taste depends on how they are prepared and cooked.

How To Prepare and Cook Chitlins

If you’re going to try chitlins for the first time, it’s important to know how to prepare and cook them properly. But be prepared as the process requires great patience. 

First, you need to clean the chitlins. Rinse them in cold water and pick out any bits of fat that may be left on them. You might need to repeat this process a few times, depending on the condition of the chitlins.

Next, cut them into pieces. Now, you can either cut them into small pieces or leave them whole, depending on your preference. Then, boil them in water for about an hour until tender.

After boiling them, you can season them with a variety of spices and seasonings. You can also add other ingredients, such as onions and garlic, to enhance their flavor.

Once you’ve done that, you can choose to either boil them further, but this time with the spices, or fry them in oil. Most people prefer to fry them, as it gives the chitlins a different texture and flavor.

After you’ve cooked them, you can eat them on their own or add them to a dish. Most often, chitlins are eaten together with other foods, such as greens and cornbread, or added to a stew or rice recipe.

Health Benefits of Chitlins

It’s hard to believe that chitlins have any nutritional value, but in fact, they are quite healthy. Chitlins are a good source of protein. A 3-ounce serving contains about 6.5 grams of protein, which makes chitlins a good food option to add to your diet if you’re trying to increase your protein intake.

They are also a good source of Vitamin B12, which is known to help the body produce red blood cells and maintain healthy nerve tissue.

Chitlins also contain a decent amount of iron and zinc, both important minerals that the body uses to support its immune system.

Health Concerns Linked With Eating Chitlins

While chitlins are a good source of some of the nutrients we need to maintain a healthy body, it’s important to know that if they are not well prepared or cooked properly, they can pose some serious health risks.

If you consume chitlins that are poorly prepared or cooked, they can cause serious gastrointestinal distress, such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Studies show that pig intestines can contain yersinia enterocolitica, a bacteria that can cause severe gastrointestinal illness, which comes with more serious symptoms such as bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain. They can even cause reactive arthritis, a condition that causes inflammation and swelling of the joints.

So if you are going to eat chitlins, take the time to clean them properly and cook them thoroughly, even if it takes a few hours. If you’re going to eat them at a restaurant, make sure that the establishment is reputable and has an established history of serving properly prepared food, especially chitlins.

Where To Get Chitlins

You can choose to buy uncooked chitlins, pre-cooked chitlins, or cooked chitlins. Most people choose to buy them already cooked and ready to eat. But if you want to try your hand at cooking them yourself, you can find chitlins at grocery stores or specialty butcher shops.

Tips on Handling and Storing Chitlins

Tip 1: When preparing chitterlings, make sure you first clean everything you need to prepare them, such as the knife, cutting board, and any pans you will be using to cook them.

Tip 2: If you have kids, make sure that you keep them away from the area where you’re preparing the chitlins and consider having another adult watch them. Doing this will help prevent your kids from coming into contact with the raw meat, which can result in cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria

Tip 3: Always clean chitlins before cooking them. You can clean chitlins by soaking them in warm water with a little bit of apple cider vinegar, which will help remove any remaining hair and other debris that may be clinging to the meat. If you want to get rid of any smell from the chittering before cooking it, then add some baking soda to the water. 

Tip 4: After preparing chitterlings, wash everything that has come into contact with the meat with soap and hot water to make sure that no bacteria is spread. You can also use a sanitizing solution made with chlorine bleach and water.

Tip 5: If you’re cooking raw chitlins, make sure to boil them for 15 minutes to kill any bacteria. It’s not advisable to skip this step even though you are going to cook them afterward.

Tip 6: Chitlins need to be refrigerated after they’ve been cleaned, but they won’t last as long if they’re not stored properly. The best way to store them is in an airtight container or plastic bag in your freezer (if you plan on eating them within a week or so). If you don’t want to freeze them, then put them in a container that has an airtight lid and keep them in the fridge for up to four days.

Tip 7: In case you become severely sick from eating chitlins, don’t self-medicate. Call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room. You’ll need to be tested for food poisoning or infections that could be caused by eating contaminated chitlins.

Final Thoughts

Chitlins are a popular food in the south and other parts of the United States. They can be prepared in many different ways, and they make an excellent side dish or meal for those who love southern cuisine.

However, these intestines are not for everyone. But if you’ve never tried them before but want to give them a try, you can choose to prepare them yourself or eat them at a reputable restaurant that offers chitlins. If you decide to cook them yourself, make sure to take all the necessary precautions to ensure that the chitlins are thoroughly cooked and safe for consumption.

What are Chitlins? What Do They Taste Like?

Chitlins, also known as chitterlings, are a traditional Southern dish made from pig intestines. Here's a delicious recipe for Southern-style chitlins.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 355 kcal


  • 5 pounds of cleaned and prepped chitlins
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup of vinegar
  • 1/2 cup of hot sauce
  • Water


  • Rinse the chitlins thoroughly in cold water, removing any debris or fat.
  • Place the chitlins in a large pot and cover with water. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  • Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 hours, or until the chitlins are tender.
  • Drain the chitlins and rinse them with cold water.
  • Return the chitlins to the pot and add the vinegar and hot sauce. Add enough water to cover the chitlins.
  • Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for another 30 minutes.
  • Serve the chitlins hot, with hot sauce or vinegar on the side for dipping.


Calories: 355kcal
Keyword chitlins, what are chitlins, what do chitlins taste like
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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