Culinary Experiment: Limpets

Last week, I wrote about the different animals I found in the tide pools of California. In that post, I introduced the limpet, a flat snail-like animal that lives on the rocks. Today, I found a lot of limpets on a jetty and decided to try my hand at cooking them.To catch a limpet, you need to sneak up on them. This is not hard to do, since they are practically blind, but if you touch them they hold fast to the rock and are nearly impossible to remove. The best thing to do is to knock them off when they are not expecting it by hitting them sideways with a rock. This will dislodge them effectively. Within a half hour or so I had this nice mess of limpets.


I like to stack them foot to foot, so that they don’t clamp back down onto the rock when you put them down. You can see that they are similar to snails when you look at their underside.


On the left is the head, with the mouth visible. The white ring around the foot is the mantle, and the yellow part is the foot. This is the part that is edible. Limpets are well known to be edible, but I could never figure out why Americans tend not to eat them when conch and abalone are so popular.

I caught almost 20, and took them home to clean. The first step is to wash them very well, to get the sand and small invertebrates off. You can then easily cut them out of their shell with a paring knife.

4-Removed from Shell

Here you can see the animal removed from the shell. The large white part is muscle, and the green stuff is guts. That part, I removed, leaving me with a neat little piece of meat:


To cook them, I put some butter, garlic, and oregano into a small pan, and heated it until the butter was boiling. I tossed in the limpets and sauteed them for about thirty seconds.

6-Cooked Limpet

They look very tasty! When I tried them, I found that they taste very good. The flavor is mild, and I think I overwhelmed it just a tad with the herbs. The texture, on the other hand, is harder to get over. It is like chewing on rubber. My guess is that I should have tenderized the meat before cooking, or maybe stew them for a few hours to soften them. They are very common around here, so I might try both and see! Once again, they taste quite good, so I would like to make this work. Let me know if you have any secrets to cooking limpets!

6 thoughts on “Culinary Experiment: Limpets

  1. thalassa

    Fantastic!!! While I’ve never tried limpets, I’ve never had snail that wasn’t rubbery, and whelk is pretty much the same…I’m not sure that you can do anything for that. BUT, if there is anything to be done, I’d look for snail and whelk recipes (hey, they are all mollusks!) and see what people recommend. If you are beach foraging, not sure if you have them where you are at (though I know they are a west coast item) but mole crabs are edible and fairly easy to find (I generally find them more in the spring here on the east coast).

    1. The Homesteading Hippy Post author

      I had a recipe for whelk that involved chopping them finely and letting them sit in lemon juice for an hour or two. At that point, I made little balls and pan-seared them like fritters. I’ve never heard of eating mole crabs, but I am intrigued. They are very common here. How do you prepare them?
      ~The Homesteading Hippy

      1. thalassa

        Pretty much you just bread ’em, fry ’em, and eat ’em, shell and all. There’s a pretty good write up on Eat the Weeds ( We also do pretty well for sea lettuce, blue crab, and flounder in the bay and we can get coquina if we hit the oceanside ( …if you haven’t tried them out and you have them nearby. For oyster and scallops, we have to go to the market… I think

    1. The Homesteading Hippy Post author

      There are species on the East coast, but they are restricted to rocky coastlines. I’ve seen them on sea-walls before in Florida, and I know they occur in the tidal pools of Maine.
      ~The Homesteading Hippy

  2. Pingback: Limpets: Revisited | The Homesteading Hippy

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