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Atomic Buffalo Turds (ABT)

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Chalkboard design for the term Atomic Buffalo Turds including a definition and a sketch of two ABTs on a platter with a drink in the background.

What is an Atomic Buffalo Turd?

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Atomic Buffalo Turds, often abbreviated as ABTs, are a beloved appetizer in American barbecue. The dish consists of jalapeño peppers that are halved, deseeded, filled with a mixture of cream cheese and shredded cheddar, then wrapped in bacon. The stuffed peppers are then smoked or grilled until the bacon reaches a crispy finish and the pepper becomes tender.

Key Takeaways

  • Atomic Buffalo Turds (ABTs) are jalapeño peppers stuffed with cream cheese and cheddar, wrapped in bacon, and smoked or grilled.
  • The quirky name ‘Atomic Buffalo Turds’ humorously alludes to the dish’s spiciness and its distinctive shape after preparation.
  • The dish’s preparation invites variation, allowing adjustments in spiciness and the addition of other ingredients to suit personal preferences.
  • ABTs are a popular appetizer in American barbecue culture, often featured in competitions and community events.

Understanding the Atomic Buffalo Turd

When it comes to unappealing food names, Atomic Buffalo Turds (a.k.a. ABTs) ranks at the top of my list. However, when you cook these smoked bacon wrapped jalapeño poppers, they’ll be gone faster than the last corndog at the county fair.

Clint Cantwell, Champion Pitmaster

Atomic Buffalo Turds, fondly known as ABTs, are a staple appetizer in American barbecue cuisine. Despite their amusing and somewhat unsavory name, ABTs are a delightful combination of flavors and textures, boasting a balance of spiciness, smokiness, creaminess, and crispiness.

History and Origin

The exact origin of ABTs is shrouded in the smoky mists of American barbecue culture. They appear to have evolved from the tradition of stuffing jalapeno peppers with cream cheese and wrapping them in bacon – a combo seen in various cuisines. However, the particular incarnation known as ABTs, complete with a piece of smoked sausage or brisket, seems to have been birthed within the realm of American barbecue enthusiasts, perhaps during barbecue competitions or community events.

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Preparation and Ingredients

Do Atomic Buffalo Turds actually contain buffalo meat?

No, Atomic Buffalo Turds do not contain buffalo meat. The name is humorous and metaphorical, not literal. The actual ingredients are much more common.

The preparation of ABTs involves a medley of ingredients that, while simple, contribute to the rich complexity of the dish. Traditionally, ABTs are made from jalapeño peppers, cream cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, a choice of smoked sausage or brisket, and bacon. (For an extra treat, plan ahead and make your own homemade bacon for these.)

Sliced jalapeños being prepped for making ABTs.

The jalapeños are halved, deseeded, and generously filled with a mixture of cream cheese and cheddar. A piece of smoked sausage or brisket can then be added optionally, and the stuffed pepper is wrapped in a bacon slice. This prepared morsel is smoked or grilled until the bacon reaches a crisp finish and the pepper becomes tender.

The recipe invites variation, with some chefs opting to add different types of cheese, spices, or other smoked meats. The spiciness can be adjusted by selecting milder peppers or thoroughly removing the seeds and internal ribs of the jalapeños.

Cultural Significance and Popularity

ABTs have gained considerable popularity, particularly within the barbecue community. They are a common sight at barbecue competitions and gatherings, beloved for their bold flavors and playful name. This quirky nomenclature reflects the irreverent humor often found in barbecue culture, with “atomic” hinting at the potential spiciness of the dish and “buffalo turds” evoking its distinctive shape.

Serving and Consumption

Cooked ABTs on cutting board.

ABTs are typically served as an appetizer or side dish at barbecue events, but they are versatile enough to be a part of any casual dining experience. Pairs well with a cold beer or soft drink, and complements other barbecue fare such as pulled pork, ribs, or coleslaw. Despite their popularity, a word of caution is often given to those unaccustomed to spicy foods, as the heat of the jalapeño can be surprisingly intense.


In summary, Atomic Buffalo Turds are a quintessential representation of the creativity and flavor fusion that defines American barbecue. With their fiery kick, smoky undertones, creamy filling, and crispy bacon exterior, they offer a taste experience that is as memorable as their name. Whether prepared at a competition, backyard gathering, or simply for a personal culinary adventure, ABTs are a testament to the rich, diverse, and sometimes humorous world of barbecue cuisine.


Can Atomic Buffalo Turds be made without a smoker or grill?

Yes, you can also prepare ABTs in an oven. Bake at a temperature around 375°F (190°C) until the bacon is crisp and the peppers are tender, usually around 20-30 minutes.

Can I adjust the spiciness of Atomic Buffalo Turds?

Absolutely. The heat can be controlled by choosing milder peppers or by thoroughly removing the seeds and internal ribs of the jalapeños, which is where much of the capsaicin (the compound that gives peppers their heat) is found. Ramp up the heat with even hotter peppers like the Carolina Reaper or Ghost peppers, but warn your friends and keep those away from the kids!

Are there vegetarian or vegan versions of Atomic Buffalo Turds?

Yes, there are vegetarian and vegan variations. The sausage or brisket can be replaced with a vegetarian substitute, and the cheeses and bacon can be replaced with vegan alternatives. The peppers can also be filled with other ingredients like rice, beans, or grilled vegetables. But, let’s be honest, then it becomes something different. Delicious maybe, but different.

What would be the best drink to extinguish the ‘atomic’ fire after eating ABTs?

For dealing with the heat from spicy foods like ABTs, dairy-based drinks are often recommended because they contain casein, a protein that helps neutralize capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their heat. Therefore, a glass of milk or a lassi (a yogurt-based drink from the Indian subcontinent) would work well. Non-alcoholic beer can also help, as can a sugar-sweetened drink, which can help to counteract the sensation of heat. Drinking water isn’t as effective because capsaicin is oil-soluble, not water-soluble.

jalapeno popper
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