It is a little-known fact that the tastiest eggs to be had in nature are not from chickens but from armadillos. Wait. No. Those aren’t from nature. If they were, the armadillo would have been extinct a long time ago, because armadillo eggs are flat-out tasty, and we would have eaten every last one of them if they could be had from nests.
No, these spicy/savory treats don’t occur in nature, but they do occur in your smoker. If you haven’t heard of them, allow me to explain. Imagine a jalapeño popper where, instead of frying it, you coat it in breakfast sausage and bacon and smoke it. Or, looked at another way, think of a Scotch egg that has a stuffed jalapeño at its heart instead of an egg. You get the idea. Here, we’ll give you the thermal low-down on these delicious creations using Meat Church’s recipe as a guide. I’m not kidding. You’re going to love these things.
Armadillo egg construction: how are they made?
Armadillo eggs are a multi-layered, multi-flavored, multi-textured food, and getting all those flavors and textures layered together the right way is important to the finished product. That construction starts with the jalapeños.
Jalapeño peppers can vary wildly in their heat level, from pleasantly hot to scorching, and all that heat resides in the veins and core of the fruit. Cutting the tops off of the peppers and scooping out the insides with a thin knife or the back end of a spoon not only gives you room to stuff the cheese filling in, but also helps control the heat. You might want to wear gloves during this part of the cook.
Next comes the cheese. Plain cream cheese would be plenty tasty here, but why not add another hit of flavor? A couple tablespoons of BBQ rub mixed in with a block of cream cheese gives this dish even more interest. I recommend something that is both a little spicy and a little sweet. A hint of sugar in there makes it all the more fun when you get to the center of the “egg.” You can use a stand mixer to incorporate it, or just get in there with your hands and knead it together.
Once the cheese filling is made up, you have to get it in the pepper. Take a spoonful of the cream cheese and scrape a small portion of it across the opening of the pepper, then repeat a few times until the pepper won’t accept any more filling. Or, use a piping bag. Get as much cheese in each one as you can!
After stuffing the peppers, it’s time to apply the first layer of meat. Take a small handful of bulk breakfast sausage, form it into a thin patty between your hands, then set the pepper in the center of it and roll the sausage around it. Rolling the pepper between your palms as if trying to roll a snake out of clay will help you get an even coating. Make sure sausage covers the open end of the pepper. You’ll need that protein to act as a cap, keeping the cheese in as it cooks. It is easy to apply too much sausage. 3 You only need a little more than 2.5 ounces to get the job done. One pound of sausage should be enough to cover six peppers.
We come, at last to the bacon wrapping. Regular, thin-cut bacon is perfectly appropriate here, as thick-cut bacon is harder to get anywhere near crisp on the smoker. Before you start wrapping, cut a section off of the whole package of bacon that is about 1–1.5″ long. These little bacon squares will go on the endcap of the eggs. Lay out a piece of bacon and roll it up the sausage-covered pepper, starting from the small end. It will reach about halfway up the pepper, so use another one to finish the job. Then, slap one of the small squares over the end.
Now we have a pepper with smooth, savory/sweet cheese surrounded by meaty, flavorful sausage and smoky bacon. Is there any room at all for additional flavor nuance? Yes! Grab a nice, sweet rub and sprinkle it on each and every armadillo egg. This final touch gives the eggs a more interesting, experiential flavor profile—you travel through sweet/smokey into meaty, then vegetal, then creamy with a nod back to the initial sweet taste. It’s a flavor journey, and one you’ll want to take over and over again.
Armadillo egg temperatures
Of course, proper construction is not the only important factor in making armadillo eggs. Temperatures really matter here! 4
There is the smoker’s temperature to think about. 275°F (135°C) is hot enough to render out the bacon and even crisp it somewhat, but not so hot that you’ll overcook and dry out the sausage or risk massive cheese leakages. Plus, it’s a heat level at which you can still get some smoke flavor. Use a Smoke X2™ and a Billows™ BBQ Control Fan to get your smoker up to the right temp and to keep it there.
But even more important than smoker temp, we have the temperature of the “eggs” themselves. They are wrapped in sausage, and that means we need a finish temp of 165°F (74°C). Insert the probe into a pepper, right into the cream cheese filling. It is, after all, quite possible that sausage juices will seep into the pepper cavity during cooking, mixing with the cream cheese and creating a food hazard if undercooked. Set the high-temp alarm on the meat channel of your thermometer for 165°F (74°C). When the alarm sounds, spot-check a few peppers with your Thermapen® ONE to be sure they are all at a food-safe temperature.
Note! You will want to bite into these as soon as you can handle them with your fingers, but do not do it! Give them time to cool or you will burn yourself. I know, because I was so impatient that I burned myself three times on one armadillo egg. The interior does not cool quickly, so proceed with extreme caution.
These are a fun, interesting treat to make. Far from being “eat-a-whole-order-of-them-before-dinner” appetizers like their diminutive jalapeño-popper cousins, armadillo eggs could easily be the main dish in a BBQ meal. Put even just one on a plate with a hunk of cornbread and a pool of beans/tangle of collards and you have an acceptably full meal on your hands.
They are miles from your standard BBQ dishes like brisket, pulled pork, and ribs. Those are all wonderful, but this is a sort of playful, fun, exciting divergence from that BBQ path that is well worth taking. Use our temperatures to guide you and you’ll be wishing you had a coop of armadillos laying for you every day.Print
Armadillo eggs: smoked, bacon-wrapped, sausage-covered, cream-cheese-stuffed jalapeños based on the recipe from meatchurch.com
For a large crowd, consider doubling the recipe. If you do, you probably won’t need to double the filling. One block of seasoned cheese will easily fill 12 peppers. You’ll have extra if you just make 6 peppers.
- Preheat your smoker to 275°F (135°C) using Smoke X2 and Billows.
- Cut the tops off of the peppers and core them out with a small, thin knife or the back end of a spoon.
- Mix the cream cheese together with the 2 Tbsp of sweet/hot rub until well blended.
- Stuff the peppers with the cheese filling using a spoon or a piping bag.
- Cover each pepper with about 2.6 oz breakfast sausage. Be sure to cover the open cream cheese end.
- Slice about 1.5″ off the end of the stack of bacon slices.
- Wrap each pepper in two slices of bacon, using the cut-off squares of bacon like a patch to cover the large end of the pepper.
- Dust the wrapped peppers with BBQ rub.
- Place the peppers in the smoker, insert a probe into one of them, and set the high-temp alarm on that channel of your thermometer for 165°F (74°C). Add a hunk of hardwood to the fire to increase the smoky flavor.
- Smoke the armadillo eggs until the high-temp alarm sounds, about 60 minutes.
- Verify the temperature with your Thermapen ONE.
- Remove the “eggs” to a platter to cool before eating.
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