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What Do Oysters Taste Like? What’s The Best Way To Cook Oyster?

What Do Oysters Taste Like? What’s The Best Way To Cook Oyster?

If you’re venturing out of your regular food routine and thinking of trying oysters, you may be wondering “what do oysters taste like?” Feast your eyes on oyster details so descriptive, you can taste them. 

What Do Oysters Taste Like?


Some experience an ocean or sea-like taste when eating oysters. Other people have said their oysters have a salty flavor. Experts believe that the best way to describe how oysters taste is that they are a fusion of everything that lives in the sea. 

The phrase, “you are what you eat” rings spot on for the oyster because they taste like what they eat. Oysters are capable of filtering 60 or more gallons of water per day, so all of the bits of food and items that it took in to clean the sea water contribute to how an oyster tastes. That explains why no one oyster tastes exactly the same. 

Differences in the oyster’s food sources, such as different types of algae in that body of water will change the way the oysters taste.

Others have described oysters as going through three different phases: salty, sweet, and floral or fruity. Oysters go through these phases during different bodies of water, temperatures, and times of the year. 

Oysters Give a Taste of the Sea

The taste of oysters can depend on the body of water they come from. Based on details from the NOAA Fisheries, oysters live in salty or brackish coastal waters. That could explain why they sometimes have a slightly salty flavor when you eat them. 

Oysters also have a unique habitat that contributes to their one-of-a-kind flavor of the sea. Not only do they feed off algae and clean the shallow area’s water, but they also create beds or reefs that attract other sea organisms such as mussels, barnacles, shrimp, crab, and many types of fish.

Oysters are an acquired taste for some, but they are rich in flavor and nutrients that could make eating them worth your while. You’ll gain calcium, iron, and protein from dining on your oyster dish. 

The Time of Year Can Change How Oysters Taste

The underlying flavor of oysters can shift from sweet, savory, salty, and buttery depending on the seasons.

Fall turns the oysters into a sweet, smokey, and salty ocean flavor. In the winter, oysters store glycine and glucose in the form of glycogen to prepare for dormancy in the season.

That causes their sweetness in the season. If you chew your oysters versus swallowing them whole, you’ll get to taste the sweet flavor.

Spring rains that pour into bodies of water bring about a buttery flavor for the oysters. Finally, by summer the oysters have depleted their stored glucose supply. That brings them back to the salty taste.

Oysters May Taste Different Depending Where they Live

We discussed the different flavors that an oyster can shift to depending on the time of year, but the body of water can also influence this difference in taste. You will find oysters in salty, brackish water habitats, but not all are equal.  

Oysters that breed and develop in bays tend to taste smokier than those from the sea. Sea oysters naturally take on a saltier taste.

Most oysters stay in shallow waters and those that live in narrow inlets where valleys once were tend to have a taste of metal or minerals. 

The flavor of an oyster is very telling of the experiences it has had, good or bad. If there has been heavy pollution in the water, such as trash or oil spills, you will probably taste it in your oysters.

How you Cook or Season Oysters May Alter Their Flavor

What you’ve learned so far could influence your feelings about tasting oysters for positive or negative. If you’re looking for a fresh catch, then oysters are the perfect dish to please your palate.

However, if you’re one of those people who don’t want your seafood to taste like the sea, then you may be turned off by the fresh, fishy, sea flavor that we’ve prepared you to anticipate. Don’t give up on oysters just, you can still enhance the oyster’s flavor to meet what you are looking for. 

The Best Way to Cook Oysters

The flavor of oysters can depend on how people serve or cook them. Many enjoy oysters on ice, cold and raw, chargrilled, roasted, stewed, chowdered, fried, deviled, or pickled or seasoned with Old Bay.

Steaming oysters is a good way to reduce risk of bacteria and enjoy a healthy dish without eating fried food. There are also different popular variations of steamed and grilled oysters, such as Rockefeller and Kilpatrick. 

Oyster Rockefeller is named after the well-known businessman John D. Rockefeller. Even though he’s from New York, his namesake dish was created in New Orleans.

Toppings such as spinach, cream cheese, and butter make up the richness of this recipe and alter the flavor of oysters in a savory way. 

Seasoning Can Change The Flavor of Oysters

OLD BAY Seasoning, 24 oz - One 24 Ounce Container of OLD BAY All-Purpose Seasoning with Unique Blend of 18 Spices and Herbs for Seafood, Poultry, Salads, and Meat

Some go as simple as pairing fresh lemon juice, hot sauce, and crackers to their oysters. Garlic, garlic butter, and parmesan cheese are also hot options to spice up your oysters. 

Cocktail and mignonette sauces are also popular. Olive oil and tomato based sauces compliment the natural flavor well.

With a plate full of options for how to season, marinade, cook, and garnish your options, the flavor is really up to you. 

FAQs Related to What Do Oysters Taste Like

Here are a few more details that will give you the best experience with tasting, savoring, and consuming your oysters in whatever way you choose.

Do you chew an oyster?

Whether or not you want to chew your oyster is totally up to you. Chewing your oysters will help you enjoy more of their natural flavor. Many people chew their steamed, grilled, or fried oysters, as they have a slightly different texture that is easy to chew. Chewing fried oysters is also the best way to take in all the flavor. Some people choose to swallow their raw oysters whole. While others prefer to chew their oysters whether they eat them raw or steamed.

What do oysters actually taste like?

Oysters typically taste like a combination of what they’ve eaten, drank, and surrounded themselves with in the sea. They eat algae and filter out gallons of water to clean it, which contributes to a sea-like different flavor. Other factors such as the body of water and the season of the year can also slightly change the oyster’s flavor.

Do oysters taste like clams?

Although clams and oysters are both in a shell and may have similar textures and appearances, they don’t quite taste the same. Clams live in both freshwater and saltwater, and have a saltier flavor than oysters. Oysters have a more sea salt flavor. Oysters can also taste more buttery and sweet than clams.

Are oysters good for you?

Oysters are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. In fact, it’s hard to find all of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you’ll find in this one food source. A dozen oysters can have around 24 grams of protein. Oysters are also rich in vitamins B-12, D, Iron, Copper, Selenium, and Zinc. 

They are also low in calories, so you’ll only take in about 100 calories per serving of 12 oysters. If you’re eating fried oysters, expect about 325 calories per dozen, which is still considerably low for fried seafood.

Can oysters make you sick?

Like all forms of seafood, you risk the potential to get sick from consuming it. Many factors come into play for how to safely and healthily prepare and eat seafood. Some people get sick from overeating seafood or fried food. 

Because oysters basically filter the water around them and clean the sea of impurities, that poses a risk if the water has been heavily polluted. You also may need to make sure you cook your seafood well and to the proper temperature. Steaming oysters helps to kill harmful bacteria.

Those who choose to eat raw oysters should do so with caution. Many enjoy raw oysters, whole or chewed, with complementing sauces and seasonings, but illness is possible.

When are oysters in season?

Oysters spawn in the warm weather months. So, in certain areas, May through August is when oysters spawn. In other areas, like the Gulf of Mexico, the water is warm year-round, so oysters spawn all year long.
That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy eating oysters any time. At different times of the year, you may experience different flavors since the seasons, weather, glucose levels, etc will change throughout the year.

Will oysters open when cooked?

Yes. Oysters will open when cooked. If you steam or roast them, their shell will begin to open. It is easier to remove the oysters from their cooked open shell, than shucking them first.