Can You Eat Barnacles?

Can You Eat Barnacles?

Barnacles are edible. However, they are not commonly sought after as a food source. Barnacles are often considered more of a delicacy in certain cultures, particularly in coastal regions. They are typically harvested from rocks, piers, or the hulls of boats.

It’s important to note that only certain species of barnacles are used in dishes, such as the goose barnacles (percebes) eaten in Spain and Portugal. Other types of barnacles, like the acorn barnacle, often have a less desirable taste and are not typically consumed.

If you are considering eating barnacles, ensure that they are collected from clean and unpolluted waters. Studies have shown that barnacles are filter feeders and microplastics can be found in their digestive systems.

Additionally, be cautious if you have any allergies or sensitivities to shellfish, as barnacles are closely related to other crustaceans like crabs and lobsters.

Can You Eat Barnacles?

Yes, you can eat barnacles. However, barnacles are often considered more of a novelty or curiosity to eat rather than a staple food.

These sea creatures are consumed in various cuisines:

In Spain, particularly in Galicia and Catalonia, barnacles known as “percebes” are highly prized. In Spanish cuisine dishes, they are often served as a tapa.

Barnacles are also popular in Portugal, especially along the Atlantic coast. They are boiled and enjoyed as a seafood delicacy.

Along the Chilean coast, barnacles are called “picorocos”. They are often cooked and served as a part of seafood platters.

While not as common as in some other countries, barnacles can be found on the menu of certain seafood restaurants in coastal areas of the United States, particularly in regions with a strong seafood culture.

What Part of the Barnacle Is Edible?

The edible part of a barnacle is the soft, fleshy portion found inside the hard outer shell or “cap.” You typically remove the cap of the barnacle before consuming the edible portion inside.

The process of removing the cap involves twisting or breaking it off to reveal the meaty portion.

What Are Percebes?

Percebes, also known as goose barnacles, gooseneck barnacles or stalked barnacles, are a species of barnacle highly prized in Spain and Portugal. These edible barnacles are commonly found clinging to rocky shores and exposed areas along the Atlantic coastlines of Europe and North America.

They have a long, blackish shell-like exterior and a tender, fleshy interior.

In culinary preparations, these types of barnacles are typically cooked briefly to preserve their natural tenderness and flavor. They are boiled or steamed and then served whole, with diners using their fingers to pull out the soft, edible portion from the shell. Percebes are often enjoyed as a standalone dish or included in seafood platters, tapas, or seafood stews.

It’s worth noting that percebes can be quite expensive due to the effort and risk involved in their harvesting, as well as their limited availability.


What Does Barnacle Taste Like?

The taste of barnacles is briny, similar to other types of seafood. They have a distinct flavor that can be somewhat salty and reminiscent of the ocean.

The texture of barnacles can vary depending on the cooking method, but they are generally firm and chewy, and their texture is similar to crab meat. Some people also note a slightly sweet or nutty undertone in the taste of certain barnacle species.

Goose barnacles
Goose barnacles

How Do You Prepare Barnacles?

  • Start by rinsing the barnacles under cold water.
  • The hard cap or shell of the barnacle needs to be removed to access the edible portion inside. It may require some force, as the cap can be tightly attached.
  • Once the cap is removed, you will see the fleshy stalk or peduncle inside. Use your fingers or a small fork to separate the meat from the inner walls of the barnacle.
  • Rinse the edible portion under cold water to remove any remaining debris or fragments of the shell.

The Best Method to Cook Barnacles

Barnacles can be cooked using various methods such as boiling, steaming, or grilling. Most barnacles recipes recommend bringing a pot of salty water to a boil and then adding the barnacles. Cook them for a few minutes until the meat is tender and cooked through.

Once cooked, barnacles are served immediately. Otherwise, using an ice bath for cooked barnacle meat can help to cool it down quickly and maintain its freshness. Just place the barnacles in a bowl with cold water and ice and once the barnacle meat has sufficiently cooled, carefully remove it from the water and drain off any excess water.

Barnacles can be enjoyed as a standalone dish, served with lemon wedges or drizzled with lemon juice, aioli, or other dipping sauces (like lemon butter sauce or garlic butter sauce).

Read more: Can You Eat the Green Stuff Inside a Lobster?

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