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

What sea urchin etiquette is

Sea urchin etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and eat sea urchins. 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 sea urchins to your guests appropriately.

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

how to serve and eat sea urchin

What you should know about sea urchin

Sea urchins are spiny marine animals belonging to the phylum Echinodermata. They are found in oceans around the world, from shallow rocky shores to deep-sea habitats.

Sea urchins have a round or oval shape, covered in spines that can be long or short, thin or thick, and can come in different colors such as purple, green, red, or black. The texture of the shell is hard and brittle, and the inside contains five bright yellow or orange-colored reproductive organs known as roe or uni. The flavor of sea urchin is briny and sweet with a slightly nutty taste.

Etiquette rules to serve and eat sea urchin

1) How to store sea urchins

The ideal temperature to store sea urchins is between 34-39°F (1-4°C) in the refrigerator. To store sea urchins in the pantry, keep them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Consume it within 24 hours. Frozen sea urchins can last up to three months if stored at a temperature of -4°F (-20°C). In the fridge, fresh sea urchins can last up to three days.

To store sliced or cooked sea urchins, place them in an airtight container and keep them in the fridge for up to two days.

2) How to clean sea urchins

To clean a sea urchin, use a pair of scissors or a sharp knife to carefully cut open the shell. Remove the roe and discard the rest of the shell. Be careful not to touch the spines as they can be sharp and cause injury. There are some risks associated with eating sea urchins, such as allergies, and it is recommended to seek medical advice if experiencing any adverse reactions.

Signs that sea urchin has turned bad include a strong odor, discoloration, or slimy texture.

3) How to prepare & cook sea urchin

Sea urchins can be eaten raw or cooked. To prepare sea urchin for cooking, remove the roe and discard the rest of the shell. Use a spoon to carefully scoop out the roe, taking care not to break it. The most common ways to cook sea urchins are grilling, baking, and sautéing. To cook sea urchin, use a sharp knife to slice it open and remove the roe. Some utensils that are commonly used to prepare and cook sea urchins include scissors, knives, and spoons.

Sea urchin is commonly used in sushi and sashimi dishes, pasta, risotto, and soups.

You can use sea urchins in salads and sandwiches. Sea urchins may not be suitable for guests on a vegan, keto, or paleo diet.

4) How to serve & present sea urchin

Sea urchin is appropriate for a variety of occasions, from formal to informal meals. It can be served as a side dish, appetizer, or main course.

To serve sea urchins, it is best to present them on a small plate or bowl. The ideal serving temperature is cold, and it is recommended to use a small spoon or chopsticks to eat it.

Accompany sea urchins with lemon, butter, and herbs such as parsley and chives. They can also be served with pasta or rice.

5) Food and wine to pair sea urchins with

Sea urchin pairs well with vegetables such as asparagus, fennel, and artichokes, and fruits such as mango and citrus. Vegetables to avoid include those that are too strong in flavor, such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

Sea urchin does not traditionally pair well with cheese and dairy products. However, some people enjoy sea urchins with mild and fresh cheeses, such as ricotta, mozzarella, and burrata. It is best to avoid pairing strong and aged cheeses with sea urchins, such as blue cheese, cheddar, and parmesan.

Sea urchin pairs well with seafood, especially with shellfish such as crab, lobster, and scallops. It also goes well with some meats, such as pork and chicken, but it is not a typical pairing. It is best to avoid pairing sea urchins with red meats and gamey meats, as the strong flavors can overpower the delicate taste of the sea urchin.

Sea urchin pairs well with white wines that have high acidity, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Chablis. Champagne and sparkling wines also complement the salty and briny flavor of sea urchin. It is best to avoid pairing red wines with sea urchins, as the tannins in the wine can clash with the delicate flavor of the sea urchin. Sea urchin also goes well with sake, light beer, and dry sherry.

6) How to eat sea urchins

The most polite way to eat sea urchins is to use a small spoon or a specialized sea urchin spoon to scoop out the flesh from the shell. It is not polite to eat sea urchins with your fingers. The spines of the sea urchin should be removed before eating, and only the edible parts of the sea urchin, such as the roe and the soft flesh, should be consumed.

Sea urchin 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 sea urchin etiquette mistakes:

  • 8/10. Not properly cleaning the sea urchin.
  • 8/10. Serving sea urchin that is not fresh or properly stored.
  • 7/10. Wasting edible parts of the sea urchin.
  • 6/10. Using inappropriate utensils.

Additional information for properly serving sea urchin

How many calories per serving?

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

Sea urchin contains approximately 45-60 calories per 100 grams, depending on the species. A single sea urchin contains approximately 100-150 calories.

How to buy the best sea urchin

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

Season and availability 

Sea urchin is available year-round, but the best season to buy sea urchin is in the late fall and winter when the sea urchin’s roe is at its fattest.

Choose the best

Sea urchins can be found fresh, frozen, canned, and dried in specialty seafood markets, fishmongers, and online seafood retailers.

The most common varieties of sea urchins in commerce are the California Red, Purple, and Green sea urchins. The most prized varieties are the Japanese Uni (sea urchin) and the Hokkaido Uni, which are known for their sweet and delicate flavor.

When buying fresh sea urchins, look for sea urchins that are heavy for their size, have a firm and intact shell, and do not have any cracks or holes. The spines should be intact and not broken or bent. The sea urchin should also have a sweet and briny smell, indicating that it is fresh.

Alternatives to sea urchin

Some common alternatives to sea urchins include salmon roe, trout roe, caviar, and other types of shellfish such as lobster and crab.