Can you eat sea snails?

In this brief article, we are going to answer the question “Can you eat snails?”. We will discuss the kinds of sea snails that are edible and the methods of preparing them for safe consumption. Further, we will look at a recipe for periwinkles, a kind of sea snail.

Yes, you can eat sea snails. They are a kind of mollusk and only a few of them are edible and safe for consumption. Some of the common mollusks consumed are Abalones, periwinkles, Kellet’s whelk, channeled whelk, and common whelk. They are called sea snails or shellfish.

There are several types of them. Some are toxic to humans or become toxic depending on how they are harvested. Sea snails are cleaned of sand, fried, and consumed in a short period of time after collecting them directly from the ocean. They need some time to prepare and consume, but given their nutritional value and delicious taste, they are well worth the effort.

Despite some of the species being edible, all of them need some preliminary planning and preparation before cooking them. For example, abalone meat must be battered and tenderized. Similarly, whelks require a period of rest before opening their operculum-a small section of hard shell which is used as a cover.

Escargots are snails that are cooked in their shells and are famous in France. The snails are most specifically nurtured and fed grape leaves to make them nutritious and safe for consumption.

How to prepare and clean sea snails?

Land snails are more difficult to clean than sea snails because they are coated in slime which aids their movement. However, this is not a concern with sea snail variations. 

Put them in clean water for 15 to 30 minutes to wash them and remove the sand. This will also relax the muscles that keep the protective operculum on their shells closed at this period. Now, check if they are alive by probing them with a teaspoon. They are alive if they close their operculum when they are touched. Dead ones won’t react and should be thrown away. 

Boiling them for 25 minutes in a pot of salted water will also remove the sand and grit trapped inside the shell and tenderly cook the snail meat.

Then, you can extract the cooked sea snail from its shell by piercing it with a thick pointed pin. It’s important to remember to take out the operculum. Periwinkles are commonly eaten whole; however, the black mushy portions can be removed if desired.

How to cook sea snails?

Cooking time for little snails like periwinkles and whelks is only a few minutes. In a saucepan, heat extra-virgin olive oil and cook smashed garlic cloves and chopped fresh chile pepper for a few minutes.

Pour 1/3 cup white wine for every pound of snails into the pot with the snails in their shells. Periwinkles should be cooked for around 7 minutes, while larger whelks should be cooked for 10 to 15 minutes.

Toss the snail combination with chopped fresh parsley and season with salt to taste. Serve the snails right away. Dislodge snail flesh from the shells with a pair of wooden toothpicks or skewers.

Snails in Lemon Butter Sauce

Small sea snails, such as periwinkles, are generally simpler to cook straight in the sauce. Whelks should be partially cooked by boiling for 10 minutes in salted water before being added to a sauce. 

Heat dry white wine, peeled and quartered lemons, chopped garlic, and minced onion in a large pan. Use enough wine and lemons to cover the snails you’re preparing. Cook for 3 minutes, breaking the lemon slices apart with a spoon as they soften. 

Then add parboiled whelks or well-washed periwinkles to the sauce. Cook for another 3 minutes after adding black pepper, salt, and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. Reduce the heat to low and add pats of butter to the pan to thicken the sauce, swirling regularly to incorporate the butter with the other ingredients. 

After you are done adding flavors or seasoning, take them out of the pan and serve them with skewers or toothpicks to pluck the flesh out of the shells. 

You can also try periwinkles in garlic and wine:


  • 1.4 kg fresh cleaned and cooked Sea snails, in shells
  • 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 fresh chili, chopped
  • 235 ml of good White wine
  • 1 bunch of fresh Parsley or Green Onions, chopped


  1. In a saucepan, heat up olive oil and sauté garlic and chili peppers.
  2. Add snails and wine and cook for a few minutes.
  3. Add salt, parsley and toss together well.
  4. Serve immediately.


In this brief article, we answered the question “Can you eat snails?”. We discussed the kinds of sea snails that are edible and the methods of preparing them for safe consumption. Further, we looked at a recipe for periwinkles, which is a kind of sea snail.


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