Kangaroos: They’re Australia’s most recognizable animal, and an evolutionary oddity that’s long been a favorite for cartoon artists. These marsupials are part of the family Macropodidae — literally translated to mean “large foot”, which one look at these curious beasts will confirm as true.
But we’re not here to talk about the science behind kangaroos (okay, maybe a little bit). We’re here to talk about eating them! What in the world can you do with kangaroo meat? Do Australians eat it regularly? Is it even safe to eat?
Rest assured, we’ll answer all your burning kangaroo questions — and more that you didn’t even know you should ask, like where to ethically source kangaroo meat from — in this handy guide.
By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll be ready to throw another ‘roo steak on the barbie, baby!
What Does Kangaroo Meat Taste Like?
Despite their sometimes massive size, every type of kangaroo is a strict herbivore. They subsist entirely on the grasses, herbs, barks, and trees available in the Australian outback (along with the camels, emus, and ostriches common to outback ranching).
But unlike other common herbivores used for meat — cows being the prime example — kangaroos have a single-stomach digestive system that converts nutrients very differently.
Why is all of this important? Because the type of food that an animal eats, in addition to its genetics and activity levels, basically determines what that animal’s meat tastes like.
So in the case of kangaroos, you have an animal that is completely herbivorous, very active, and naturally lean. This means that kangaroo meat will have a rich, red meat flavor that is concentrated even further by the fact that it has so little fat.
The closest comparison is a very lean beef, or perhaps grass fed bison, and kangaroo meat can be eaten in many of the same ways as those meats (more on that in a moment).
Kangaroo Meat is Eco Friendly
In case you didn’t know, Australia is essentially filled with kangaroos. This is only a slight exaggeration, as the main reason kangaroos have not taken over every city from Sydney to Melbourne is because of hunters who keep their overall population in check.
Even so, it’s a constant battle to maintain a healthy population of kangaroos — and that means there’s an awful lot of kangaroo meat to go around.
Because kangaroo meat comes from wild sources and is overall plentiful across Australia, it’s also one of the most sustainable meats that you can eat. They subsist almost entirely on scrub brush and wild growing vegetation, and do not contribute to the same ecological problems that factory farming creates.
Kangaroo Meat Nutrition
In addition to its benefits for the environment, kangaroo meat has a whole host of benefits for human health too. Here are the nutrition facts for a 3 ounce serving of kangaroo meat, courtesy of nutritionix.com:
- 125 calories
- 3.4 grams total fat
- 1.2 grams saturated fat
- 62 milligrams cholesterol
- 22 grams protein
All of that is in addition to a healthy range of B vitamins and minerals too. Compared to other popular red meat choices like pork and beef, kangaroo is exceptionally healthy because it is lower in fat and cholesterol and higher in protein.
Risks and Considerations for Eating Kangaroo Meat
As with any wild-sourced meat, kangaroo meat comes with a few more warnings than your generic grocery-store-bought proteins.
The trouble here, as pointed out by the kangaroo activists over at Kangaroos At Risk, is that not all kangaroo meat is ethically sourced or prepared with due caution. That means they’re prone to contamination by parasites, bacteria, and viruses, especially while being transported from the outback to processing houses.
So should you avoid kangaroo meat entirely? That’s probably not necessary. Look for high quality sources of kangaroo meat, and don’t eat any that’s not been fully cooked, and you should be good to go.
How to Cook Kangaroo Meat
When you’re looking to cook kangaroo meat, heed this advice: Treat it exactly like you would lean beef. That goes for ground kangaroo meat, kangaroo steaks, and everything in between.
Instead of giving you play-by-play instructions for how to cook kangaroo meat, I’d like to share some “no recipe” recipes here instead. That will get your foot in the door, and let you start thinking about the best ways to prepare the kangaroo meat that you have access to.
Kangaroo steaks are the first order of business, of course. But if you just throw one on a hot grill without some preparation, you’re going to have a tough time once you get down to chewing. Because kangaroo steaks are so lean, there are two ways to handle them well: Either use an oil-based marinade to give it extra moisture, or use heavy salting and an extended rest period prior to grilling.
For the former method, simply cover the steak in a high quality oil (avocado is especially good here), add a few pinches of salt and pepper, seal it in a plastic bag, and let it rest in the fridge overnight. When it’s time to grill, pull the steak out and pat it dry before searing it hot and fast.
For the latter, start with a nice quality kosher salt. Rub it into the steak generously, by the handful — you almost want a thin crust of salt. Put the steak on a plate and cover it lightly with a clean towel, and store it in the fridge for 24 hours. The salt will work its molecular magic, tenderizing the tough ‘roo meat and making it perfectly ready for a hot and fast cook.
Kangaroo kebabs can use the ‘off’ cuts of kangaroo meat to great effect, or even the trimmings from larger steaks. Marinate 2-inch cubes of kangaroo meat in oil, salt, and pepper, then skewer them with red onion, bell pepper, and par-cooked potatoes. Once again, a screaming hot grill is the way to go — it’ll add char and flavor without overcooking the meat.
Kangaroo burgers are tougher to make than you might imagine, again because of the meat’s naturally low fat content. Use just kangaroo meat without any additives, and you’ll probably end up with a chewy, overcooked burger without a ton of flavor.
Mix in a little bit of a very fatty meat — like bacon. Or, go ahead and do a 50/50 blend of ground kangaroo meat and a fattier ground beef (80/20 blend works great). But if you’d rather keep it “pure” kangaroo, you can mix in breadcrumbs and egg yolks instead; it’ll taste a little closer to a meatball than a burger patty, but be darned tasty anyway.
Kangaroo tacos made with ground kangaroo meat couldn’t be any easier. Start a large pot with plenty of melted butter and salt, then add finely diced onions and sauté them until translucent.
Add the kangaroo meat and cook it until just browned, season with cumin and chili powder, then cover and set aside. Serve with tortillas, lime wedges, and cilantro for a traditional style, or with sour cream, shredded cheese, and lettuce for a more American take.