You can call several sea creatures sand fleas, but the most common is the Atlantic sand hopper. These arthropods are between a quarter of an inch and an inch long and look almost like hermit crabs with shorter legs and oblong shells. Can you eat sand fleas?
Despite their tiny size, you can prepare them just like crabs. You can eat them yourself or use them as bait to catch other larger animals.
You can find sand fleas (Atlantic sand hoppers) by raking the wet sand where bubbles are coming up on the beach after a wave has gone back out.
Do People Eat Sand Fleas and Is It Safe?
Yes, it is safe to eat sand fleas. Sand fleas are not only edible, but they take on the flavor that you season them with, much like crabs.
Sand fleas have mild-tasting meat just like blue crabs do, so it’s how you cook them that determines the flavor.
Because consuming sand fleas is uncommon in the States, no regulations determine how many you can catch and take home to eat.
In Asia, people regularly eat sand fleas and their cousins. Asians prepare sand fleas like any other seafood—tempura style, spicy soup, raw, wrapped in rice paper, and more.
What Does It Taste Like?
Sand fleas taste like ordinary crabs, especially if you cook them before you eat them. You can fry or roast them whole with the shell on, even the harder-shelled and smaller male sand fleas.
Some people compare fried sand fleas to shrimp taste, but some do not enjoy it and compare them to cockroaches of the sea.
Can You Eat Sand Fleas Raw?
You can eat raw sand fleas, but if they are larger than one inch, you should cook them first. If you eat them raw and don’t want to crunch the shells, break the shell or scoop out the fleshy animal inside. Females are better than males to eat raw because they’re larger and have more meat.
How to Cook Sand Fleas
Typically, you cook sand fleas in pots or woks on high heat, and you can use any method to cook them that you would use for crabs.
You can pan fry, deep fry, boil them with spices, cook them into soups or stews, use them to make broths, tempura fry them, or eat them completely raw–shell and all.
When you cook sand fleas, you can leave them all in their shells, which adds a nice crunch to your dish, or extract them from the shells before cooking.
Sand Flea Recipes
You must always wash the sand fleas you intend to eat. Although you can eat them raw, they may contain parasites in their shells with them because they are cleaners of the ocean.
The safest bet is to boil them first. This kills any parasites, and it also makes their shells softer.
Is It Safe to Eat Sand Fleas?
Yes! You may prefer to eat female sand fleas, which can grow up to an inch long. These have more meat, and their shells are softer.
The males, which are less than half the size, have harder shells, so it’s safer to extract them from their shells before eating or cooking.