Rocky Mountain oysters

Rocky Mountain oysters or mountain oysters,[1] or meat balls, also known as prairie oysters in Canada (French: animelles), is a dish made of bull testicles. The organs are often deep-fried after being skinned, coated in flour, pepper and salt, and sometimes pounded flat. This delicacy is most often served as an appetizer.[2]

Rocky Mountain oysters
Rocky Mountain oysters, served with lemon and cocktail sauce.
Alternative namesMeat balls, prairie oysters, calf fries, cowboy oysters
CourseHors d'oeuvre
Region or stateWestern North America and South America
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsTesticles (bull calf), flour, pepper and, salt
Food energy
(per serving)
1 cup = 182 Calories kcal
Raw bovine testicles in an Italian market

The dish is served in parts of Canada, where cattle ranching is prevalent and castration of young male animals is common. "Prairie oysters" is the preferred name in Canada where they are served in a demi-glace.[3] In Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle, they are often called calf fries. In Spain, Argentina and many parts of Mexico they are referred to as criadillas, and they are colloquially referred to as huevos de toro (literally, "bull’s eggs"; besides its literal meaning, huevos is a Spanish slang term for testicles) in Central and South America.[4] Rocky Mountain oysters are sometimes confused because of their appearance with cattle fries or animelles (cattle testicles), which are served in a similar manner. A few other terms, such as "cowboy caviar", "Montana tendergroins", "dusted nuts", "swinging beef", or simply "mountain oysters" may be used.[5]

The dish, purportedly cowboy fare,[6] is most commonly found served at festivals, amongst ranching families, or at certain specialty eating establishments and bars.[5] They are, however, also readily available at some public venues (e.g., at Coors Field during Colorado Rockies baseball games). Eagle, Idaho, claims to have the "World's Largest Rocky Mountain Oyster Feed" during its Eagle Fun Days (now held the second weekend in July).[7] Clinton, Montana; Deerfield, Michigan; Huntley, Illinois; Sesser, Illinois; Olean, Missouri; Severance, Colorado; and Tiro, Ohio also hold testicle festivals.[8] Rocky Mountain oysters are sometimes served as a prank to those unaware of the origin of these "oysters". They are also considered to be an aphrodisiac by many people.[8]

The primary goal of testicle removal is not culinary. Castration in veterinary practice and animal husbandry is common and serves a variety of purposes, including the control of breeding, the growth of skeletal muscle suitable for beef, and temperament alteration.[9]

Similar dishes

Testicles from other animals can also be used in similar dishes. The most common is lamb fries (not to be confused with lamb's fry which is another term for liver of lamb) made with testicles from castrated sheep. In some cases, pig testicles are used as well to make "pig fries".

Another dish found on occasion is turkey fries made from turkey testes. These are sometimes known as "short fries" as well.

  • In season 2, episode 4 "Dancing in the Dark" (2008) of the Canadian television series Heartland, Scott Cardinal asks the unexpected guests from the Dude Ranch if they have ever had a prairie oyster, to which they reply "No, but we love seafood".
  • In season 7, episode 21 "Goodbye Michael" (2011) of the American television series The Office, Dwight presents Michael with rocky mountain oysters while atop the Dunder-Mifflin office building.
  • In season 8, episode 21 "Shawn And Gus Truck Things Up" (2014) of the American television series "Psych", Character replys back to Gus, "Those aren't meatballs, honey. Those are prairie balls."
  • In season 15, episode 12 "Sunday Supper" (2017) of the American television series Top Chef, the chefs prepared and cooked Rocky Mountain Oysters as a Quickfire Challenge to present it to be judged on Top Chef: Colorado.
  • In season 5, episode 6 "Chapter 60" (2017) of the American television series House of Cards, Raymond Tusk offers Mountain oysters to Frank Underwood, to which he replies, "You mean bull's testicles, don't you? I prefer to call things what they are."
  • In the Try Guys series Without A Recipe, Eugene uses Rocky Mountain Oysters for his mac and cheese recipe in Episode 16.
  • In the computer game Far Cry 5, set in Montana, the side missions "Testy Festy" and "Prairie Oyster Harvest" both revolve (humorously) around the preparation of the ingredients for a fictional festival.
  • In season 1, episode 1, "What You Want & What You Need" (2022) of the American television series The English, there is an extended scene regarding the presentation and consumption of "Prairie Oysters".
  • In the first chapter of Cormac McCarthy’s “All the Pretty Horses”. Lacey Rawlins asks Jimmy Blevins; “what’s the strangest thing you ever ate?”. Blevins responds “Oysters” and Rawlins questions whether they were mountain oysters or regular.

See also


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