Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Iguana Food for People

Believe it or not, people actually eat those greens and other plants most iguana keepers buy for the first time when they get a green iguana.

Compiled by Melissa Kaplan


Okay, so you've been buying mustard greens, dandelions, collards, and driving your grocers nuts trying to get them to order you some kabocha squash. You're used to the blank stare the supermarket checkers give you when, upon asking you how you prepare these odd foods, you reply, "Oh, they're not for me, they're for my iguanas!"

The fact is, people really do eat these plants, and there's no reason why you can't at least try adding them to your own diet. Based on some of the ingredients in the following recipes, you won't necessarily be sharing the resulting dishes with your herbivores, but at least you will now have some alternatives when your iguana is too little to be eating a whole bunch of mustard greens before they spoil, or you decide to take advantage of the great deals at the local farmer's market.

Warning: For health reasons, my diet is much closer to the "total carnivore" end of the omnivore spectrum, so don't be surprised by the appearance of many recipes that include animal protein. If you haven't spent much time browsing through any of the many excellent and extensive recipe websites that are available on the Internet, I've linked to some of the ones I regularly trawl.

Suggested quick reading: Know Your Greens



Alfalfa Soup
(Ha! And you thought there'd be no alfalfa recipes here! Of course, I have no idea why anyone would eat this...)

Alfalfa Cubes
1 cup of corn oil
1 1/2 gallons hot water

Fill a 5 gallon feed bucket 1/3 of the way full with alfalfa cubes. Mix in the hot water. Let this mixture sit for 15- 20 minutes and then add the corn oil. Add more water if necessary. This should make a thick soup. Serve warm to a deserving horse. Thanks to the Equine Estates Cookbook.


Braised Mustard Greens
8 servings

4 slices bacon, chopped
3 bunches mustard greens, trimmed and chopped
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
Coarse salt
2 cups chicken broth

In a large skillet over medium high heat brown bacon and render its fat. Add chopped greens to the pan in batches and turn until they wilt, then add more greens. When all of the greens are in the pan, add vinegar and cook a minute. Season greens with sugar and salt. Add chicken broth to the pan and cover. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer greens 15 to 20 minutes then serve. (Source: Rachel Ray, 30 Minute Meals)

Lemon Spiked Garlic Greens
4 Servings
Note: Kale, collard, turnip, or beet greens are excellent choices for this quick-and-easy healthy vegetable.

Garlic-flavored vegetable cooking spray*
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 pounds greens, washed, stems removed, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup water
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Spray large saucepan with cooking spray; heat over medium heat until hot. Sauté onion and garlic until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add greens and water to saucepan; heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until greens are wilted and tender, about 5 to 8 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper. (Source: 1,001 Delicious Recipes for People with Diabetes)

*Note: You can make your own garlic-flavored oil by simmering, in a saucepan, peeled cloves of garlic in extra virgin olive oil. This alternative to slow roasting garlic heads in the oven makes a yummy spread to top bread or crackers. Pour the oil into a clean bottle and refrigerate. Use within a couple of weeks.

Spicy Collard Greens
4 Servings

1 pound collard greens
2 cups Vegetable Stock, or Chicken Broth
3 to 4 leaves fresh basil, or 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf basil
2 teaspoons virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon grated gingerroot
1 teaspoon chopped jalapeño pepper
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Rinse greens well in tepid water and slice in thin strips. Place in a saucepan with the stock and basil, cover and cook about 30 minutes, until greens are tender. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet and sauté onion and garlic; stir in gingerroot and jalapeño pepper. Add collards and stir until liquid is nearly evaporated. Add sesame oil and pepper to taste; stir. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. (Source: Light and Easy Diabetes Cuisine, by Betty Marks)

Spicy Greens
4 1/2 cup servings

1 lb fresh spinach (or collard greens or kale)
1 Tbsp peanut oil
1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 large tomato, chopped into small pieces
1/2 small lemon, sliced thin
Fresh ground pepper to taste
2 Tbsp curry powder, or to taste

Wash the spinach thoroughly. Cook in a saucepan over low heat about 5 minutes; do not add water. (There is usually enough water already clinging to the leaves to steam the greens.) Collard greens or kale may take 7 - 10 minutes. Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onion and tomato for 4 - 5 minutes. Add the cooked greens, lemon slices, and seasonings; stir constantly for a few minutes. Serve hot. (Source: How to Cook for People with Diabetes)

An Eclectic Recipe Selection...
Alfalfa Bread
Bean & Swiss Chard Soup
Beer-Batter Fried Kale
Collard Greens Slaw
Curried Greens with Golden Onions and Cashews
Greek Country Salad
Mixed Greens
Portuguese Kale Soup
Linguini with Collard Greens and Bacon
Spicy Rice and Kale
Quick Kale with Bacon
Vegetable- and Ricotta-Stuffed Collard Rolls with Tomato Sauce

Squash and Parsnips

Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup with Pancetta and Sage
8 servings

1 (4-pound) kabocha squash, halved and seeded
1 cup vegetable oil
20 whole fresh sage leaves plus, 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/4 pound sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced -
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roast squash: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Roast squash, cut sides down, in an oiled roasting pan in middle of oven until tender, about 1 hour. Set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, scrape flesh from skin.

Fry sage leaves while squash roasts: Heat vegetable oil in a small, deep saucepan until it registers 365 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry sage leaves in 3 batches until crisp, about 3 to 5 seconds. Transfer leaves with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Cook pancetta and make soup: Cook pancetta in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until browned. Transfer pancetta with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Add olive oil to pancetta fat remaining in pot, then cook onion, stirring, until softened. Stir in garlic and chopped sage and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add squash, broth, and water and simmer 20 minutes to blend flavors. Puree soup in batches in a blender, transferring to a bowl. (Use caution when blending hot liquids.) Return soup to pot and reheat. If necessary, thin to desired consistency with water. Stir in vinegar and salt and pepper, to taste. Serve sprinkled with pancetta and fried sage leaves. Cook's Note: You can make this soup 3 days ahead and chill it, covered. (Source: Gourmet Magazine)

Squash & Black Bean Stew with Tomatoes and Green Beans
6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
2 pounds Kabocha or butternut squash, halved, seeded, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 15- to 16-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained
1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeño chili
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender and golden, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder and cumin and stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juices; bring to boil. Stir in squash and green beans. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until vegetables are almost tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in black beans and jalapeño. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. (Source: Gourmet Magazine)

Creamy Mashed Parsnips
8 servings

2 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled and quartered
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

Place the parsnips in a saucepan with water to cover. Add the bouillon and lemon juice. Simmer for 20 minutes or until very tender; drain. Mash, adding the butter and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnished with snipped chives. (Tip: Select smaller parsnips, which are more tender.)

Whipped Parsnips with Roasted Garlic
Great as a side dish or as a base for pan-seared salmon or scallops
4 servings

1 medium head of garlic
1 pound parsnips, peeled, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut 1/4 inch off top of garlic. Discard top. Wrap head tightly in foil. Place on rack in oven; roast until garlic is tender, about 1 hour. Cool. Press garlic to release from skin. Transfer garlic to small bowl; mash.

Cook parsnips in pot of boiling salted water until very tender, about 25 minutes. Drain well, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Return parsnips to pot. Add cream, butter, nutmeg, and mashed garlic. Beat with handheld electric mixer until smooth, thinning with some of reserved cooking liquid if mixture is too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


More Squash Recipes...
Butternut Squash & Hazelnut Lasagna
Pork & Pumpkin Stew
Winter Squash with Gruyere Croutons


The cooking sites I visit are all based in the U.S. If you live in another country, and have a couple of favorite recipe sites, let me know and I'll add them here.

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