What Does Sea Urchin Taste Like – Yummy or Eewy?

what does sea urchin taste like

While you might not be racing to Uber Eats a plate of sea urchins, it’s definitely worth trying at least once in your lifetime. This unique dish is packed full of flavor and is a must-try for anyone who loves seafood.

In case you are a continental type of carnivore, you may be wondering what does sea urchin taste like, what it is, and if it’s edible to begin with.

Sea urchins are unique animals, found in oceans around the world. This uncommon animal, despite its spiny exterior, is also considered a delicacy in many countries such as Japan, Chile, and the Mediterranean.

Sea Urchins taste salty and briny, similar to the flavor of oysters. If you love hitting the raw bar at your local seafood shop, take a bite out of this guide to what sea urchins taste like. 

What Is Sea Urchin?

Before we jump into what sea urchin tastes like, let’s take a moment to learn about these unique animals. After all, don’t you want to know what’s on your plate?

(Spoiler alert: NOT the spines!)

Sea urchins are invertebrates that are closely related to sand dollars and starfish. They have spiny outer shells that protect their orange reproductive organs, called gonads, inside them. This is the part of the animal that you can eat.

sea urchin spines
NOT this!

Sea urchins are often called Uni. Uni is a Japanese word but has become popular as a term for sea urchins around the world. 

What Kinds of Sea Urchin Can You Eat? 

Even though there are nearly 1000 different types of sea urchins, only 18 of those are edible. 

So no, you can’t harvest and eat any random urchin just because you stepped on it!

A few of the more common varieties of sea urchin include: 

  • West Indian Sea Egg
  • Red Sea Urchin
  • Green Sea Urchin
  • Stony Sea Urchin
  • Pacific Purple Sea Urchin
  • Chilean Red Sea Urchin

These are just a few of the many different types of sea urchins that you can eat. The sea urchins you’ll see at your local market will depend on where in the world you’re located and what animals live in that area.

What Is Sea Urchin Supposed to Taste Like?

So how to describe sea urchin taste?

Not very easy to relate! Sea urchins have a salty, briny flavor with some subtle sweetness blended in. Behind their more potent flavors, these animals have an umami taste that brings out the richness of the sea creature.

When you eat sea urchin, you’ll notice that it’s extremely creamy. It feels like foie gras on the tongue and has a consistency similar to that of custard. 

While this is the standard sea urchin flavor, there are a few factors that affect how it tastes. Let’s take a look at what these factors are and how they impact what your sea urchin tastes like!

Age

Sea urchins should always be eaten fresh. They can live for 3-5 days out of the water, but after that time is up, they’ll die. 

Sea urchins are typically eaten live, but you can eat them after they’re dead too. The trouble is that the older a sea urchin is, the more bitter it tastes. Sea urchins that are older also taste metallic, while younger ones have more of a buttery flavor. 

Location

Sea urchins are found all over the world. The particular ocean that a sea urchin is harvested from, however, will affect the flavor of the animal. That’s because the sea urchins have access to different food sources. 

Sea urchins harvested in the Pacific ocean tend to have a creamy and thick texture. In contrast, sea urchins found in the Atlantic ocean have a tougher texture and are much brinier than their Pacific counterparts. 

Recipe

what does uni sea urchin gonad taste like
Now, this looks better…

Every sea urchin recipe is different. The sauces and condiments you pair it with will affect how the sea urchin tastes. 

Different chefs prepare sea urchins differently. Plus, different cultures pair the animal with various side dishes, which will affect the dish’s overall flavor. 

How Do You Prepare Sea Urchin?

Are you ready to get cooking and prepare sea urchin yourself? Here’s how to prepare your sea urchin. 

  1. Turn the sea urchin upside down and use a knife or a pair of kitchen scissors to cut around the mouth. (Don’t be surprised to find out it has a set of teeth!) Be careful not to puncture the inside of the sea urchin.
  2. Pull off the part of the shell covering the mouth. This will reveal the gonads inside the urchin. 
  3. Empty the water out of the sea urchin. 
  4. Flip the sea urchin over and remove any organs using a pair of tweezers. 
  5. With a spoon, gently remove the gonads from the sea urchin. You can dip the urchin in ice water to prevent the gonads from separating. 
  6. Serve your urchin as part of a sushi dish or simply squeeze some lemon over the gonads and enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have more questions about sea urchins? Here are some answers to make your Umi eating experience the best possible. 

Is Eating Sea Urchin Healthy?

Yes, sea urchin is healthy. It’s an animal that’s packed with dietary fibers, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein. It provides your body with essential nutrients that you need to function at your finest.

In addition, sea urchin contains vitamins C and A, zinc, and beta carotene. All of these nutrients are important for us, making sea urchins a great way to incorporate these into your diet!

What Goes Well With Sea Urchin?

If you’ve decided that you love sea urchins, you’re probably wondering what to pair with your new favorite food. Sea urchin tastes great with simple sauces such as ponzu sauce or a bit of lemon or lime juice. Tangerines or yuzu are other great options for your plate of umi. 

As for side dishes, sushi rice and seaweed salad are great pairings. These simple flavors won’t distract from the sea urchin flavors, but will help bring out the salty nature of the dish!

How Long Can You Keep Sea Urchin in the Fridge?

Just because you’ve bought a plate of sea urchin doesn’t mean you’re going to eat it right away. The good news is that you can store sea urchins in the refrigerator for about 48 hours. You should store it at temperatures between 35 and 40ºF.

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