Eating Iguanas? In Nicaragua the Lizards Are Often Served For Dinner

Green iguanas are often found in trees
Green iguanas are often found in trees | © EzekielRyanHo / Pixabay
Jack Guy

Eating iguanas might not be common in many parts of the world, but the practice has a long history in Nicaragua.

Green iguanas lounging

When are iguanas eaten?

You might be offered iguana at any time of the year, but there is a surge in the number of iguanas eaten during Lent. This is because the church forbids the eating of red meat during this time, but iguanas are allowed.

It’s a good way to make sure you replace the vitamins and minerals you lose when you’re not eating red meat, and iguanas are fairly common in the country.

A relaxing iguana

Good for you?

If you’re ill in bed, a Nicaraguan might recommend that you eat some iguana soup. Supposedly the soup is rich in iron and will work wonders in getting you fit and healthy again. Soups are thought to have restorative properties around the world, but iguana soup is definitely something new for most visitors.

Unfortunately, eating iguanas isn’t without its ethical dilemmas. There are worries about conservation, and certain species of the animals are endangered. However, iguanas are a valuable foodstuff in rural areas of the country, where people might not be able to afford to eat beef or pork.

A green iguana in the woods

Should you eat one?

In fact, the Nicaraguan taste for iguanas shot to international fame in 2014 when drought led to severe food shortages in the country. The government issued a statement encouraging people to eat them, and the international media seized upon the story. This predictably led to increased pressure on iguana populations, and several conservation projects have sprung up in recent years.

Whether they are eaten for restorative purposes, religious beliefs, or out of desperation, the fact remains that iguana is a common dish on menus in Nicaragua. Visitors are encouraged not to order the reptile in restaurants out of conservation concerns, but if you are served iguana in someone’s home it might be rude to refuse.

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