Can You Eat Starfish? What Does It Taste Like?

As I was walking through the local fish market the other day, I came across an unusual sight – buckets filled with strange, spiky creatures that resembled stars. “What are these?” I asked the vendor. “Starfish!” he replied enthusiastically. I had seen starfish before on the beach and in aquariums, where they captivated me with their bright colors and magical shape. But could you actually eat starfish? Intrigued, I decided to do some research to find out if starfish are edible.

Starfish as Sea Creatures

When you think of a starfish, you likely picture a cute sea creature with five arms that you admire while strolling along the beach. Starfish are marine invertebrates that are closely related to sand dollars and sea urchins. While they live underwater and have the name “starfish”, they are not actually fish.

Starfish have a central disc that branches out into five or more arms, giving them their star shape. The arms are equipped with tiny tube feet on the underside that help the starfish slowly creep along the seafloor. While starfish come in a rainbow of colors like red, purple, orange, and yellow, they are commonly bright blue or pink.

Can You Eat Starfish?

While starfish may seem too beautiful to eat, they are considered a delicacy in many Asian cultures. Eating starfish is common street food in coastal regions of China and Japan. Vendors will cook up carts of sizzling starfish for hungry passersby.

Those unfamiliar with the practice of eating starfish often react with shock and disbelief. But starfish have a long history as an edible animal in many coastal communities. However, it’s important to note that starfish should only be prepared and eaten by experienced chefs or street food vendors. They require cautious handling and cooking to avoid poisoning.

Cooking Methods for Starfish

If you want to try starfish, it’s essential to cook them properly to avoid health risks. Here are some common cooking methods used by experienced starfish eaters:

  • Grilling – Starfish are often grilled on skewers or a barbecue, giving them a smoky charred flavor. The high heat helps remove any toxins.
  • Boiling – Dropping starfish into a pot of boiling water is a rapid cooking method. This is often done before other preparations like deep-frying.
  • Deep-frying – Coating starfish in batter and quickly deep-frying is popular for street food. Deep-frying locks in moisture and provides a crispy exterior.

No matter the cooking method, the starfish must reach very high temperatures throughout to make it safe to eat. Starfish require much longer cooking times compared to other seafood.

Taste and Aroma of Starfish

So what does starfish actually taste like? Many describe it as challenging to put into words. The taste has been compared to sea urchin, ground beef, and even toothpaste!

The starfish itself has a mild, briny flavor. But recipes often pair it with sauces and spices to add more punch. The texture is chewy yet tender. When cooked properly, the aroma is said to be ocean fresh with a subtle sweetness.

Health Benefits of Eating Starfish

Beyond being a novelty delicacy, starfish provide legitimate health benefits when eaten. Starfish contain high amounts of protein but no carbohydrates or sugars. They are rich in minerals like zinc, magnesium, iron, and selenium.

Recent research has revealed anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in compounds derived from starfish. These could potentially help treat inflammatory conditions in the future after more studies.

So while munching on a grilled starfish, you can gain protein, minerals, and antioxidants for better health. Just be sure to get it from the right source.

Edible Parts of Starfish

Starfish have some body parts that are edible and others that must be avoided. Only the meaty sections inside the starfish’s arms and body are suitable for consumption. These leggy parts offer plenty of edible meat.

The hard outer shell and skin, spiny feet on the underside, and the central disc area are all inedible. They are not only unpalatable but also potentially poisonous if eaten. Removing the edible parts and discarding the rest is a meticulous process best left to experienced preparers.

Safety Precautions and Legal Considerations

Clearly, eating starfish comes with risks if not done carefully. Make sure to only purchase starfish from reputable fishermen and cooks who have experience preparing them safely. Proper cooking methods that reach high temperatures are crucial for consuming starfish.

In many places, it is illegal to harvest starfish due to overfishing concerns and habitat protection laws. In the United States and Europe, eating starfish is generally prohibited or strictly regulated. Always research the local laws before seeking out starfish to eat.

Eating raw starfish is extremely dangerous and can cause serious poisoning or paralysis. Cook starfish thoroughly until piping hot throughout before eating. Consuming decomposition fluids or internal organs also poses a health hazard. Only eat starfish from trusted sources.


While starfish may look enticing, they require careful handling and preparation to eat safely. With the right culinary skills, starfish can provide a tasty novelty meal full of health perks. But strict precautions are needed, along with confirming local legality. After researching the risks and regulations, I personally won’t be eating starfish anytime soon. But trying this unique seafood delicacy can certainly make for an adventurous food experience!

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