Food & Drink

Rocky Mountain Oysters Aren't Shellfish. They're Testicles.

Proof that just about anything can be deep-fried.

Don’t let the the word “oyster” in “Rocky Mountain oyster” fool you into thinking it’s a briny bivalve. When it comes to these “oysters” (also known as Prairie Oysters), seafood is not involved.

In fact this dish originated in the North American West, far from any ocean. Created by ranchers, Rocky Mountain oysters are in fact, most famously, bull testicles. Though sheep, bison and pig can be used, too.

Rocky Mountain oysters.
Rocky Mountain oysters.

Let us explain how this dish came to be.

Ranchers annually dehorn, brand and castrate their spring calves ― this protects members of the herd from each other, and from injuring the ranchers themselves. At the end of a day of castrating, big ranches can end up with over a hundred testicles. In the spirit of not wasting, the ranchers made use of them by cooking and eating them. It just made economic sense.

Traditionally, the testicles were thrown on the branding coals or iron to cook, but these days they’re more commonly breaded and deep fried. In Montana, there are festivals dedicated to this dish ― the most famous being Testy Festy, where 50,000 pounds of testes are consumed on average.

Rocky Mountain oysters are just one example of the culture of eating organ meat. In Peru, beef heart ― known as anticuchos ― is a common street food option. Calf brain is eaten in many countries. And in fact, the Rocky Mountains aren’t the only place in the world that chows down on testicles.

If you’re feeling ready to dig into offal, we have just the recipes you need to get started.

1
Chicken Fried Sweetbread Nuggets
Spoon Fork Bacon
2
Grilled Chicken Hearts With Parsley Vinaigrette
Palate/Palette/Plate
3
Sweetbread Terrine With Sauce Poivron
Cooking in Sens
4
Tuscan Chicken Liver Paté
Sarah Shatz/Food52
5
Beef Heart With Chimichurri Sauce
Phoenix Helix
Get the Beef Heart with Chimichurri Sauce recipe from Phoenix Helix The flavor of beef heart is so mild that lots of people use it as a replacement for steak, or grind it into burgers. The texture is a bit denser than other cuts of beef, but it is totally delicious and full of vitamins and minerals.
6
Vietnamese-Style Spicy Pig Ear Salad
vrunka/Food52
7
Sherried Chicken Livers On Wilted Greens
TASTE
8
Foie Gras Au Gros Sel
cristinasciarra/Food52
9
Steak And Kidney Mini Pies
Sarah Trivuncic
10
Braised Pork Cheek Ravioloni
Emiko Davies
11
Menudo
No Recipes
12
Beef Tripe Sauce Chasseur With Angel Hair
A Beautiful Day
13
Chickpeas With Blood Sausage, Pine Nuts, & Raisins
wildgreens/Food52
14
Deep South Dirty Rice And Shrimp Stuffing
New Media Publishing
15
Red Wine Braised Beef Tongue Tacos
What Jew Wanna Eat
16
Sautéed Calves Liver With Onions And Bacon
Flat Art Studios