The etiquette rules on how to serve and eat abalone. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest and avoid any embarrassment.

What abalone etiquette is

Abalone etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and eat abalone. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect your hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow the etiquette to serve abalone to your guests appropriately.

As a guest, respect the etiquette rules to properly eat abalone at the dining table and avoid offending your hosts or embarrassing yourself.

how to serve and eat abalone

What you should know about abalone

Abalone is a type of sea snail that belongs to the Haliotidae family. They are found in rocky coastal areas around the world and are highly prized for their meat and shells.

Abalone has a flattened, ear-shaped shell with a series of small holes along the edge. The meat is ivory-colored with a firm, slightly chewy texture, and a mild, slightly sweet flavor with a hint of ocean saltiness.

Etiquette rules to serve and eat abalone

1) How to store abalone

The ideal temperature to store fresh abalone is between 32-36°F (0-2°C). You can store abalone in the pantry for up to 24 hours, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, and in the freezer for up to 3 months. Store them in an airtight container or freezer bag.

Store cooked abalone in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

2) How to clean abalone

To clean the abalone, remove the meat from the shell and rinse it in cold water. Scrape off any remaining tissue with a spoon or dull knife. There is a risk of injury when cleaning the abalone, so use a sturdy glove to protect your hand.

Signs that abalone has turned bad include a foul odor, slimy texture, or discoloration.

3) How to prepare & cook abalone

Abalone can be eaten raw or cooked. To prepare abalone for cooking, remove the meat from the shell and pound it to tenderize it. Use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to cut the abalone into thin slices. The most common ways to cook abalone are by grilling, sautéing, or frying. Use a heavy-bottomed pan or griddle to cook abalone, and avoid overcooking it, as it can become tough.

Popular dishes that feature abalone include abalone sushi, abalone stir-fry, abalone soup, and abalone ceviche.

You can use abalone in salads and sandwiches too. Abalone is not suitable for vegan, keto, or paleo diets.

4) How to serve & present abalone

Abalone is appropriate for both formal and informal meals. You can serve it as a side dish, main course, or appetizer. It is not typically eaten for breakfast, brunch, or as a snack.

Abalone should be served at room temperature on a plate or bowl that showcases its shape and color. Use a sharp knife and fork or chopsticks to eat abalone, and avoid using your fingers.

You can accompany abalone with lemon, garlic, and butter. You can serve it with vegetables such as asparagus, bok choy, or green beans, and also with accompaniments such as rice or noodles.

5) Food and wine to pair abalone with

Abalone pairs well with vegetables such as mushrooms, artichokes, and bell peppers, and fruits such as grapefruit, pineapple, and kiwi. Avoid pairing abalone with bitter vegetables such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts.

Abalone does not pair well with cheese or dairy. It pairs well with seafood such as lobster or shrimp, and with meats such as chicken or pork. It does not pair well with red meat.

Abalone pairs well with white wines such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, and with red wines such as Pinot Noir or Merlot. It also pairs well with sparkling wine and light beer.

6) How to eat abalone

To eat abalone, use a sharp knife and fork or chopsticks. It is not polite to eat abalone with your fingers. You can eat the whole abalone, but you should remove the tough outer layer before eating.

Abalone etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the most common abalone etiquette mistakes:

  • 8/10. Not properly cleaning abalone before cooking.
  • 7/10. Serving abalone undercooked.
  • 6/10. Overcooking abalone until it becomes tough.
  • 5/10. Eating abalone with your fingers.

Additional information for properly serving abalone

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and correctly plan a menu.

Abalone contains approximately 23-24 calories per ounce (28 grams) or 80-85 calories per 100 grams. A single abalone typically contains around 30-40 calories.

How to buy the best abalone

A crucial factor in abalone etiquette is serving your guests the best product possible.

Season and availability 

Abalone is available all year round, but the best season to buy it depends on the specific variety and location. Generally, abalone is harvested in the winter months when the meat is at its fullest and richest.

Choose the best

Abalone can be found in commerce in various forms, including fresh, canned, dried, frozen, and live.

The most popular varieties of abalone in commerce include black, red, white, green, and pink abalone. The most prized variety is considered to be the red abalone, which is larger and has a sweeter flavor than other types.

When buying abalone, look for specimens that are firm, heavy, and have a fresh sea smell. Avoid abalone that has a fishy or ammonia-like odor, is soft or slimy to the touch, or has discolored or cracked shells.

Alternatives to abalone

Some common alternatives to abalone include scallops, clams, mussels, oysters, and other shellfish, as well as fish or seafood dishes that have a similar texture and flavor profile.