Can You Eat Gooseneck Barnacles? [Are they Safe?]

Can you eat barnacles? Yes, you certainly can. Surprisingly, the meat inside the barnacle is a tasty treat that many enjoy. The barnacle delicacy is most prevalent in Spain and Portugal, and people enjoy it in some regions of North America and Europe.

gooseneck barnacles on cutting board

The most common edible barnacle which is consumed is the gooseneck barnacle. Seafood lovers around the world seek these barnacles.

What Are Gooseneck Barnacles?

Gooseneck barnacles or goose barnacles are crustaceans that live attached to rocks, ships, or flotsam found out in the sea. You can recognize this barnacle by its fragile white shell and unusually long stem or peduncle, which anchors to an object.

These barnacles feed on plankton and detritus, and they rely on the movement of water to bring food to them. 

These crustaceans are considered to be a great delicacy. Gooseneck barnacles are one of the world’s most expensive kinds of seafood. You can enjoy a feed for about $125 per pound. Fishermen who harvest these barnacles risk injury and death every time they go out.

Is It Safe To Eat Gooseneck Barnacle?

Gooseneck barnacles are safe to eat when they are prepared correctly. You must be careful when eating these barnacles that you avoid a brine squirt. The only danger when eating this delicacy is leaving the table with a wet shirt.

What Do Gooseneck Barnacles Taste Like?

Let’s face it. Barnacles are nasty-looking creatures. If you look past their appearance, you will fall in love with this delicacy. Many people claim that gooseneck barnacles taste very similar to lobster.

Others claim that they taste very similar to clams. You will find that these barnacles have a texture very much like that of an octopus. 

When you are a fan of seafood, it’s a no-brainer that your meal has to be dipped in a bowl full of real butter. There is nothing like the sweet taste of lobster or clam covered in the velvety richness of butter.

How To Harvest Gooseneck Barnacles?

Harvesting gooseneck barnacles is a dangerous endeavor. You will find these barnacles clinging to the coastal rocks in areas with a fast-moving current. Gooseneck barnacle harvesters are known as percebeiros and risk their lives to locate the best locations for the barnacles.

gooseneck barnacles attached to a pier

Generally, the more dangerous the area, the better the barnacle will be. That said, barnacle harvesters are willing to risk life and limb to provide the best barnacles for their customers. The financial reward seems to outweigh the danger from sharp rocks, dangerous tides, and fierce winds.

The best gooseneck barnacles in the world are found in Spain’s Costa de Morte, the Coast of Death. The name hints at how dangerous it is to fish in these waters.

How To Prepare Gooseneck Barnacles?

Once you have harvested your gooseneck barnacles or bought them, whichever the case may be, they are effortless to prepare. Rinse them thoroughly with clean water, and they are ready to be cooked. 

It is important to note that gooseneck barnacles will spoil very quickly. Harvesters must pry them from the rocks in one piece and ship them immediately. Do not keep gooseneck barnacles in the refrigerator longer than three days, and you cannot store them in water.

How To Cook Gooseneck Barnacles?

You do not need any extraordinary culinary skills to cook gooseneck barnacles. They are one of the easiest crustaceans that you can prepare, and you can steam, boil or blanch them. Any way you cook them, they will be delicious. It is best to watch your barnacles closely, so you don’t overcook them.

The most popular method of cooking gooseneck barnacles is by boiling them. For the best results, you should boil them in actual sea water. If that is not an option, add sea salt and a bay leaf to your water.

You want to use enough water to cover the number of barnacles you are preparing. Use 70g of sea salt for every liter of water. Yes, very salty!

gooseneck barnacles on a plate

Once your water is boiling, add your barnacles. Once your water starts to boil again, your barnacles are done. This usually takes about ten minutes.

Remove the barnacles, place them in a clean dish towel, and dry any excess water. Keep the barnacles in the towel to keep them warm when serving.

You can also prepare gooseneck barnacles by boiling them in water with a bay leaf, salt, onion, and half a lemon. Add your barnacles to the boiling water and stir.

Reduce your heat and let the barnacles simmer until the base of the barnacle turns dark pink. This usually happens in about ten minutes. Drain the water from your pot and cover your barnacles with ice.

Some people choose to dip their barnacles in butter. When you want to enjoy their authentic flavor, it is best to serve with only a slice of lemon.

If you are thinking about serving wine with your barnacles, it is best to consider a light citrusy flavor that compliments the sweet taste of this delicacy.

You have your barnacles and wine. It’s time to dig in. Enjoying gooseneck barnacles is a true art, and you must learn the correct way to remove the barnacles from their shells.

First, hold the barnacle by its white claw end. Tear off the skin that is covering the neck-like structure. Enjoy the meaty deliciousness that you will find inside. It is best to remember that when you tear off the skin, there is a chance that you may get a splash of brine that is inside. Getting messy is a perk of eating gooseneck barnacles.

Final Thoughts

Can you eat barnacles? Yes. Gooseneck barnacles might seem like ugly creatures from the sea, but they are one of the most delicious tasting seafood in the world. They are a delicacy that you will be glad that you tried. The trick is to ignore their appearance and enjoy their natural taste. They are simple food that has become a delicacy sought by many.

Tommy Bull