Deep Fried Banana Slugs

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll eat some…. SLUGS!

photo 1-9

One beefy banana slug, found in the San Geronimo hills in Marin County, California.

I was joking around with some friends last night in downtown Fairfax, and one of them began mimicking the creature I’m turning into. He crouched, pretended to stir a giant cauldron, and turned his manly baritone into crow’s cackle.

“Meehehehe,” he chortled. “Witches brew! Chicken blood, rooster eye, slug, and… Dr. Bronners!”

Yep, that’s my kitchen in a nutshell.

Banana slugs are edible, super fun to scout for, and they offer free protein in the environment. There are three species of slug that fall under the “banana slug” umbrella: Ariolimax californicus, Ariolimax columbines, and Ariolimax dolichophallus.

Tashi sniffing an Ariolimax columbus slug. You can tell by the black spots.

Tashi sniffing an Ariolimax columbus slug. You can tell which species it is by the black spots.

Before I get into how I deep fried slugs, I want to do a disclaimer. Eating slugs can be VERY, VERY DANGEROUS. In Australia, a man almost died after eating two slugs raw since a parasitic worm living inside the gastropods shimmied into his brain. Some slugs can cause your mouth to go numb, or worse. And some slugs, banana slugs included, will eat all sorts of non-edible-for-mammals make-you-horribly-sick nasties like toxic mushrooms and horse poop. Also, I’m no expert. Despite all the slug anatomy I tried to teach myself, once I dissected the creature I realized that I didn’t know which organs did what, and I didn’t want to risk eating any of them (I think eating a slug’s gentiles, for which they’re so famous–dilichophallus literally meaning, “long penis,” after all–wouldn’t be harmful).

Banana slug's underbelly.

Banana slug’s underbelly.

First, I wanted to flush the slug’s system to get rid of all that toxic mushroom, horse poop forest detritus. I fed my slug leafy greens, apple, and watermelon, and kept her in the kitchen terrarium for ten days.

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

I cleaned out the cage every third day, removing any slug defecation and slime before it could accumulate in the habitat. And yeah, I used Dr. Bronners to disinfect everything each time.

Note the mug and upturned watermelon rind so the slug has places to "hide."

Note the mug and upturned watermelon rind so the slug has places to “hide.”

After ten days with a temporary mollusk roommate, I brought a cup and a half of water mixed with a cup and a half of apple cider vinegar to a rolling boil, apologized to the slug, and dropped it in. I think the slug died pretty quickly–there wasn’t much wriggling or motion once it hit the boiling water. I let the slug boil for about fifteen or twenty seconds, then turned off the heat and allowed everything to sit for about ten minutes. Some slime began to bubble to the top in white gobs.

Banana slug in vinegar and water.

Banana slug in vinegar and water.

Next was the de-sliming process. Slugs are pretty freakin’ slimy. I brought a clean pot of water to boil, then let the slug hang out in there for about five minutes. Then I drained the slug, changed the water, and while I was waiting for the new water to boil, I wiped slime off of the slug.

Still a little slimy... back into the pot!

Still a little slimy… back into the pot!

Two more changes of water later, boiling the slug for about five minutes each time to be sure I killed any potential parasites.

Almost de-slimed.

Take that, inedible nasties!

Ready for dissection

Ready for dissection

Once the slug cooled down enough to handle I made a slit along the top, from one end to the other. Right underneath the skin I found a harder, dark muscle, called the mantle, which protects the internal organs.

Slug after the first incision. Note the dark muscular structure to the left of the body; that's the mantle, and yes you can eat it.

Slug after the first incision. Note the dark muscular structure to the left of the body; that’s the mantle, and yes you can eat it.

I cut the organs from where they attached to the mantle, and used my fingers to scoop all the partially digested food scraps that lined the slug’s foot. I consulted Google about the organs, cut up the skin and the mantle, and threw the rest into the garden.

Pieces of the slug (skin and mantle) that I saved for consumption.

Pieces of the slug (skin and mantle) that I saved for consumption.

Never having deep fried a slug before, I treated it more or less like chicken. I wetted it with buttermilk first, then coated it in flour and spices. The flour was leftover from breading rooster thighs the week before; my ratio is normally about two teaspoons of salt and paprika, plus a teaspoon of garlic and cayenne to every cup of flour, but for a slug no one needs nearly that much flour, and I’m sure any dried spices would fry up just the same.

Battered banana slug in hot oil.

Battered banana slug in hot oil.

I brought a small pan of oil to sear-your-flesh hot, then dropped in the battered slugs. About a minute later, they were ready to come out. When they start to brown, they’re done.

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

I had the slugs with ketchup and they were oh-so-good. I was very surprised. The texture was like a cross between mushrooms and calamari. It was hard to pick out a specific “slug” flavor; they tasted deep-fried, oily, and subtle. Perhaps the flavor was overpowered by the spices, perhaps slug isn’t a pungent meat.

I definitely plan on finding more slugs in the future and making this dish again. They were great, cheap, and although it was a little labor intensive to keep them in the kitchen for a week and remove the slime, I think that’s part of the fun.

The slug just hanging out.

The slug just hangin’ out.


11 thoughts on “Deep Fried Banana Slugs

  1. Thank you. I live in the redwoods of Monte Rio, CA and have many banana slugs appearing around my cabin at present (it’s the beginning of April). I’ve read your instructions and someone else’s online and they pretty much are the same process. Although you were patient enough to fatten up your slug on some non-toxic healthy food aforehand. Smart!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is extremely interesting (I am just watching Alone series 1 where one chap eats a banana slug, hence my googling of them) but the efforts you seem to go to in comparison seems expensive and unnecessary.\

    Cooking anything over a certain temperature will kill any virus or bacteria, so keeping it as proverbial pet for over a week, feeding it a special diet is unnecessary for something so nutritionally negligent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Viruses and bacteria aren’t the only possible concerns – some mushrooms contain amatoxins, which cannot be boiled out, and which are deadly poisonous even in small amounts. Slugs love to eat mushrooms. I don’t know for a fact as to wether they eat Death Caps and/or Destroying Angels, but it’s possible, and these mushrooms are widespread and common in Northern California. If it were me, I’d err on the cautious approach the author is taking.


  3. Great article–I had read before that NW natives traditionally ate and enjoyed this common source of protein, but I can’t find the recipe! Traditionally, escargot snails are purged of potentially toxic wild plants by feeding with wine and lettuce for at least a few days, and I assume this would work as well for slugs. Came across this online book that says that raccoons will roll raw slugs in dirt before eating “to bind the slime” (see link below). The slime otherwise leaves the mouth of a predator temporarily numb, apparently. Makes me wonder if the slime could instead be rolled in, say, flour or breading to make a fritter, and if the slime, so prepared, would be at all numbing if cooked.
    Book link:

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve heard that the first nations people ate slugs and considered them a treat, but all I got from Google before your article was scare stories about possible dangers. That didn’t make any sense, since a slug is basically just a snail without a shell and we eat snails with relish (or garlic and butter more usually). I’ve always wanted to try a slug, and your instructions make this far more likely in the future. I think I will feed one a cleansing diet for a week or two before treating it like escargot.
    BTW, the slug was the mascot of the Volksmovie Group, a now defunct cooperative dedicated to making movies outside of the industrial model. There were three reasons for this. 1. slugs do very well in a world of far faster, more complicated and better equipped creatures 2. slugs are hermaphroditic ergo gender neutral 3. slugs are easy to catch. I captured one and while filming it for a promotional video was astonished to discover that it had a louse riding on it, a tiny white dot that could move very quickly over the slug’s back. It was hard to notice until I was examining the video, and I’ve always wondered whether anybody else has made note of slug lice. Have you noticed one?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah yes, that’s the critter I noticed on the captured slug. I just assumed it was some kind of louse, but it was definitely a mite. The slug I was taping had only one of them, not dozens as on these creatures in the video, but it moved with the same amazing speed over the slug’s back.
        It doesn’t look like these mites do any damage to the snail or slug. I wonder why they move so quickly, and what they are doing. They may even be beneficial for some reason. Maybe they protect the slug by eating fungus or some other organisms that would cause the slug problems. Thanks for the video link.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s