Sand fleas are exactly what they sound like, small crustaceous animals that can often be found making their homes in the sand and specifically around beaches.
Chances are that if you lift up a rock or any debris next time you go to the beach, a few sand fleas will scurry out from underneath as they usually prefer to remain in these moist areas rather than directly in the sea.
However, while they might be a common sight while on vacation at the beach, they actually have an interesting history in terms of how, why, and if they can be eaten, with more and more people over the years preaching the incredible taste of these small sand critters.
To get to the bottom of this, we have taken a deep dive into if you can eat sand fleas, how they taste, and the best ways to serve them.
Are Sand Fleas Edible?
Despite their fairly hard shell and unsanitary living conditions, sand fleas are perfectly edible and are actually quite healthy if you can get past the crunchiness.
Not only are they packed full of protein, they also contain high amounts of essential minerals and vitamins including magnesium, iron, and potassium.
However, before you go rounding up these small and nutritious critters for your next meal, there are unfortunately a few downsides that are always important to keep in mind.
For one, because of their incredibly small stature, usually growing no bigger than an inch, it means that you will need to eat at least a few to feel even partially satisfied, so if you don’t immediately like the taste, it can make for a far less enjoyable experience.
Additionally, because they spend most of their lives being buried under the sand and only scurrying out onto the surface at night time to look for food, it is always advised to never eat them raw since this can easily lead to becoming sick.
We will cover how to properly cook and prepare them later on so that they can be enjoyed without having to worry about where they’ve been.
Sand fleas are therefore perfectly edible as long as they are prepared correctly, however, while they can be enjoyed as a tasty side dish to the main meal, how do they actually taste?
What Do Sand Fleas Taste Like?
The first thing you’ll notice when biting into a sand flea is just how crunchy they are, which for a lot of people can be a real turn off, however, if you can look past this or if you enjoy the slightly crunchier texture, you can dig into the quite rich and meaty core which is extremely tender and a sheer delight to bite into.
A lot of people compare the taste of sand fleas to crab meat, which makes a lot of sense considering sand fleas are related to mole crabs which is also why their overall flavor has a hint of saltiness to it.
If you’re a fan of the soft and succulent taste of soft shell crabs, then you’re guaranteed to enjoy the crunchy sensation of sand fleas.
How To Prepare Sand Fleas
It’s crucial that you prepare sand fleas thoroughly, not only so they can taste as flavorful as possible, but more importantly to make sure that they’re completely safe to eat and won’t give you an upset stomach after eating a few.
Here is how to properly prepare and cook sand fleas so that they come out scrumptious when it’s time to serve them:
Step 1) Catch The Sand Fleas
First, you’re going to need to actually pick up the sand fleas from the sand. Keep in mind that they tend to live near the high-tide mark, so always remain around this area while you’re out on the search.
Also, since smaller sand fleas will be nowhere near as filling, be on the lookout for bigger and fatter fleas that will contain the most flavor.
Step 2) Start Boiling Water
Once you have the sand fleas ready, boil some water in a medium-sized pot over the stovetop. As soon as the water starts to bubble, drop the sand fleas in and let them cook for approximately 5 minutes.
If you managed to round up a few bigger sand fleas then it can sometimes take a little longer for them to boil.
Step 3) Check The Sand Fleas Are Ready
After boiling for a few minutes, you will be able to tell when the sand fleas are thoroughly cooked when they turn crispy and take on a slightly more brown appearance than before.
When they have been cooked to perfection, drain off any of the excess liquid which can be used as a sauce, and enjoy the tender and delicious flavor of the sand fleas.
How To Serve Sand Fleas
Since sand fleas are actually considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, there are a few different ways they can be served as part of a greater recipe.
A common way to enjoy sand fleas is with a delicious serving of noodles, or even as part of a nutritious stir fry to add even more crunchiness to complement the vegetables.
Because of their slightly tougher texture, sand fleas also mix incredibly well with softer foods such as mashed potatoes and onions to round out the overall flavor incredibly well.
There is also the incredibly popular sand flea soup which consists of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and cardamom pods to add a hint of spiciness while still allowing the soft and salty flavor of the sand fleas to stand out as much as possible.
While there’s no harm in experimenting with different recipes to incorporate sand fleas, they can be enjoyed just as much on their own, especially if you manage to catch some bigger ones which can leave you feeling satisfied after munching on a few of them.
As long as you prepare them correctly and don’t mind their incredibly crunchy texture, sand fleas can be a delicious side dish to nearly any meal, and can just as easily be eaten on their own as part of a soup or delicious stir fry.
With how much their flavor resembles crab meat, if you know that you already enjoy the taste of that popular seafood then you can be sure that you will love the taste of sand fleas just as much with their flavorful and tender core mixed with the slightly tougher outershell.
If you ever offered sand fleas as part of a recipe, or if you even want to cook up some yourself out of curiosity, they are also worth trying out.