There is nothing that adventurous gourmets won’t eat. Name an animal, fungus, or plant, and someone somewhere has eaten it. That’s even true for a great many inanimate objects. Therefore, it should come as to surprise that people eat and drink blood. It’s not just Twilight-wannabes or ancient cannibals, either. Dozens of cultures consume blood in practically every way imaginable. Whether stirred into drinks, baked into loaves, flavoring desserts, or even made into protein bars, blood is everywhere in our food. Pulled from countries worldwide, here are ten of the best and most bizarre delicacies made using blood.
Related: Top 10 Bizarre Uses Of Blood
10 Blood Milk, Kenya
The Maasai are a tribal people native to Kenya and Tanzania. They gained worldwide fame for the traditional lion hunts they used as ritual ascendancies to manhood before modern bans on lion hunting. One practice that still draws the Maasai’s attention is their habit of drinking blood.
The Maasai’s existence is heavily dependent on their cattle. Almost the entirety of the tribe’s diet comes from the animals—not just milk and beef but blood as well. The Maasai have learned to cut the jugulars of their cattle in exactly the right way to drain their blood without killing them. They consume the blood raw, cook it into jelly, and even mix it with milk into a sort of savory milkshake.
9 Czernina, Poland
Czernina/czarnina is a Polish soup that uses its base animal, duck, more than most. The stew is a simple one, and the main ingredient is duck meat. It sets itself apart from similar meat stews with its sweet, sour, and tangy broth—made using the duck’s blood.
The broth takes on a unique quality by mixing the blood with vinegar and sweeteners like honey and fruit syrup. People will sometimes substitute the duck with chicken, pig, or even rabbit, but its blood defines the stew no matter the meat. Polish tradition says that delicious czernina was used to comfort young suitors who were turned away. I’d want to drink some blood if I was rejected…mostly I’d want to cry, but blood soup is good, too, I guess.
8 Sanguinaccio Dolce, Italy
Blood pudding should be a fairly familiar dish to the U.S. and Europe, so this next one isn’t that bizarre. In fact, it sounds pretty tasty with some fava beans and chianti.
Sanguinaccio Dolce is an Italian dish whose name means sweet blood pudding, which hits the nail right on the head. Its primary ingredients are what you would expect from a pudding recipe—milk, chocolate, sugar, and possibly flour, vanilla, cinnamon, and/or raisins. It’s the pig’s blood that makes Sanguinaccio Dolce stand out, though.
The sweet treat gained notoriety when it was featured in season three of Hannibal, a show about the murderer-cannibal of the same name. Hannibal Lector, however, chose to make his Sanguinaccio Dolce with cow’s blood and then with…another kind of blood.
7 Blood Tofu, China
There are about a half dozen different food items in China with different names that all mean the same thing. Call it what you will—dark tofu, black tofu, blood tofu, blood curd, among other names. Blood tofu is made by coagulating pig blood into a thick block with a tofu-like consistency, hence all the names.
The dark tofu poses a potential problem for travelers in the region, specifically vegetarians and vegans. People traditionally order tofu as a vegetarian substitute for meat, and obviously, blood tofu is far from vegetarian. Like tofu, though, blood tofu is used in various dishes, from rice to noodles to soups.
6 Blodplättar, Sweden
Blodplättar is an interesting meal by itself, as it’s made like an otherwise average pancake but with the addition of whipped blood. But blodplättar is also interesting because it’s the tip of a culinary iceberg.
While blodplättar is a Swedish dish, you can find almost identical recipes all across Europe. In Spain, they know it as filloas de sangre, or blood crepes. In Finland, it’s veriohukainen. In Estonia, it’s called verikäkk. And blodplättar is far from alone in Swedish cuisine. The Swedes also make and consume blood soup, blood pudding, blood potato dumplings, and blood bread.
5 Pig Blood Ice Cream, U.S.
Increasingly over the past decade, creameries in the United States have begun experimenting with using pig’s blood in their ice cream. One of the earlier creators of the recipe was D.C. chef Garret Fleming, whose goal was to combine modern ice cream with Italian blood pudding (Sanguinaccio Dolce). The result is a rich, thick cream with a higher than usual mineral taste (because of the blood).
Pig’s blood ice cream gained popularity for two other reasons as well. For one, since the fluid is mixed in as a substitute for the egg yolks, which normally thicken the cream into a custard, it makes pig’s blood ice cream an accommodating option for those with egg allergies. For the other, just the thought of bloody ice cream has made the treat a popular seasonal offering in the weeks leading up to Halloween. You may find ice cream shops offering it under names like “Dracula’s Blood Pudding.”
4 Hematogen, Russia
Though it was actually invented by the Swiss in 1890, we have long associated Hematogen with Russia. The country has produced its own Hematogen since the 1920s, used it as rations for its soldiers during World War II, and even sells it to this day in pharmacies as a nutritional supplement for children. So what is hematogen? It’s a sweet, chocolatey nutrition bar like a PowerBar. Instead of whey protein, however, it’s made with cow blood. You could probably guess it’s a blood-based food just by looking at the name.
Hematogen is sold in stores and marketed both as a sweet but healthy snack and as a medicinal supplement; its high iron content is said to help prevent anemia and support blood count in pregnant and nursing mothers. Before the collapse of the USSR, stores sold the bars nearly everywhere in Russia and its affiliated nations. Since then, a scarcity in “black food albumen,” i.e., cow’s blood, has caused the bars to be less ubiquitous.
3 Snake Wine, Southeast Asia
Snake wine goes by many names in many different Asian countries, and it is made in just as many different ways. However, what is common to every variation is that it is made from some mixture of snake blood and wine. Many Asian nations eat snake meat, though the meat has to come from non-venomous snakes to be safe. You can only consume venomous snakes if the various proteins that make up their venom are denatured. The ethanol in alcoholic drinks does the trick perfectly, and thus the popularity of snake wine.
Most snake wines fall into one of two categories: either mixed or steeped. The mixed variety is made by directly mixing snake blood with the alcohol (typically rice wine). You can use other body fluids, but never venom. The steeped variety involves placing an entire snake in a container of alcohol and letting it steep for anywhere from weeks to years. In that case, venom is denatured and therefore safe. Both varieties are claimed to have medicinal properties, most commonly as treatments for male virility problems.
2 Sundae, South Korea
It would be a shame to close out this article without bestowing some seriously useful advice: do not order a sundae in Korea thinking you’ll get ice cream and hot fudge. At least check to see what kind of sundae they mean. In Korea, “sundaes” are blood sausages, and though they sound tasty, they would be an unwelcome surprise for anyone seeking a cold, sweet treat.
Sundae comes in many varieties, but all are a vegetarian’s worst nightmare. All are made by steaming cow or pig intestines and stuffing them with blood and other ingredients, sometimes even adding bits of liver and lung. Combined with the traditional ingredients of meat, rice, and vegetables, sundae look and sound delicious, especially those served with gochujang. They’re most common as street food, so at least you’ll probably see which sundae you’re getting.
1 Black Broth, Ancient Sparta
The ancient Spartans are world-renowned for their ferocity and battle prowess, as well as the wild lengths they went to prepare themselves for battle. One such offbeat preparation was the consumption of Spartan black broth or blood soup.
The black broth is subject to intense debate. Some historians believe it was a staple food for most Spartans, while others think it was reserved only for the rich or special occasions. Historians also debate whether Spartans drank it for strength or celebration. Likewise, historians are torn about its ingredients. No recipe has survived that is 100% accurate. Most likely, the broth was a mixture of blood, pork, salt, and vinegar, and there is evidence to suggest that it was reserved for the young, while the elderly drank the blood raw instead. What we can be sure of the dish, however, is that the broth contained blood, which is so very Spartan of them.