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What Do Oysters Taste Like? Love ‘Em Or Hate ‘Em?

When you want to know what do oysters taste like, we have some thoughts on these popular seafood gems. This article looks at oysters, their taste, varieties, and culinary uses. 

The oyster is one of the ocean’s sought-after delicacies and a true gem that many chefs love due to its complex, unique flavors, and unusual texture.

If you haven’t tried oysters and want to know more about them, let me share this definitive guide!  

Oysters may be famous and tasty to others, but Andi and I aren’t fans of this seafood.

We tried the mollusks once and never thought of eating them again. 

Uh, uh, big no-no. As per Andi, “No, thanks! Never again.”

Well—don’t get us wrong, ostreophiles (just the fancy word for oyster aficionados). 

We aren’t discouraging others from trying raw oysters. 

Instead, we’re just sharing our opinion based on our experience.

So many people are huge fans and flock to oyster bars to eat oysters on the half-shell, which are pried open and served on platters of ice with lemon wedges. 

Each oyster sits in its own liquor and has been loosed from its shell to help the eater toss it back.

Table Of Contents

What do oysters taste like?

Oysters are bivalve mollusks often found in temperate and warm coastal waters such as bays and oceans. 

They feature oval or pear-shaped hard shells that enclose ivory-white meat. 

Moreover, the oysters texture on the inside is soft and slick.

The jelly-like oyster meat is the edible part of the sea creature, which has a nice, salty flavor (sometimes sweet, nutty, coppery, or creamy), but most of the time—oysters taste like the ocean they come from and the marine algae they feed on. 

Their flavor depends on other factors, including what species they belong to and the conditions in which the mollusks are inhabited. 

Do oysters taste fishy?

No, oysters shouldn’t taste fishy, but you may notice a hint of salmon roe or Beluga caviar when you eat them. 

Good oysters also taste like the ocean with a fresh and mild briney smell. 

Take note: If oysters smell like rotten fish, it indicates bad oysters, so we recommend discarding them immediately.

Do you chew or swallow oysters?

If you’re about to eat oysters for the first time, it’s advisable not to swallow or slurp it whole as you can’t get its full flavor profile. 

Instead, the best way to enjoy fresh oysters is straight from the half-shell: Sip a little of the “liquor” it sits in (a slight puddle of its own juice, not anything alcoholic), slip the flesh into your mouth; chew once or twice; then swallow. 

Types of oysters

About 200 oyster species inhabit the world’s oceans, but only five of these are grown and harvested in the United States.

Here are the five oysters species found in the U.S today:

Pacific oysters

Also known as Japanese oysters or Miyagi oysters, pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas) are considered the world’s most cultivated oysters. 

They’re small (but can reach up to 10 inches in length) with a thick, rough, elongated shell. 

The meat of the pacific oyster is white with purple streaks. 

This type of oyster can be found on the West Coast and Europe.

Olympia oysters

Olympia oysters (Ostrea lurida) are simply a type of oysters known for their white to purplish-black shells with stripes of yellow or purplish brown. 

They reach up to three inches in length and 1.3 inches thick. Their flesh is often white to olive-green in hue. 

Moreover, this variety features an earthy, coppery taste and is the only oyster that’s native to the west coast of North America.

Kumamoto oysters

Kumamoto oysters (Crassostrea sikamea) originated in Yatsushiro Bay, Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan, but now can be found on the West Coast. 

They’re small (with an average size of two inches) and have a fruity, sweet, slightly briny, and melon-scented flavor. 

The shell of these oysters is sharp, pointy, and deeply fluted.

Atlantic oysters

Atlantic oysters (Crassostrea virginica) are often called Eastern oysters or American oysters. 

They reach up to eight inches with a white to brownish color flesh and oval-shaped shell.

Anyone can find Atlantic oysters and eastern North America from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico. 

Today, the population of these oysters has dwindled because of disease, overharvesting, and changing conditions due to climate change.

European flats

European flats or Belon is a native oyster of Europe. 

Compared to Olympia oysters, they’re larger and have a stronger, smoky, and metallic taste. 

European flats (Ostrea edulis) feature a smooth flat shell and are often harvested when three to four inches long.

Tips on ordering oysters

One great place to discover freshly shucked oysters is in a restaurant or an oyster bar, as you can discover new oyster varieties and different flavors.  

Of course, once you know if you are a fan, homemade tastes great, too! 

But when you’re new to oysters, visiting these places is a great head-start, and if you feel intimidated by dozens of different kinds of oysters from the restaurant menu, these tips on ordering oysters will help you out.

Ask the waiter recommendations

If you’re unsure what to order, it’s advisable to ask the waiter to find some advice or find out the most famous oyster dishes available in the restaurant.

Know your taste preference

There’s no point in ordering a dozen oysters that don’t fit your taste buds. 

So it’s best to get familiar with the flavor that you like or dislike. 

Do you prefer oysters with fruity, sweet, slightly briny, and melon-scented flavor? 

Choose Kumamoto oysters. 

Are you an adventurous type of person and can handle a taste that’s earthy and slightly coppery? 

Then pick Olympia oysters.

Do a little experimentation

Consider trying four kinds of oysters, probably two East Coast and two West Coast varieties. 

Identify whether you like the minerality of the East Coast oysters or the creamy sweetness of the West Coast oysters. 

Once you already know your preference, enjoy a second round with your preferred oysters. 

How to eat oysters

If you’re ever interested in knowing the bivalve’s taste, you have to know how to eat oysters to enjoy these sea creatures properly. 

In this section, I will introduce to you some ways to enjoy oysters (aside from snacking on them raw right out of the shell).

  1. Combine oysters with butter, cheese, garlic, and pepper then bake.  
  2. Scrape off the oyster meat inside the shell and make these fried oysters
  3. Use fresh oysters to create this hearty dish filled with Asian flavors. 
  4. Add the oysters to this comforting stew dish
  5. Grill them and slather some red barbecue sauce on each oyster. 
  6. Mix the oysters with ginger and shallots to make this steamed-based recipe
  7. Add another layer of flavor and texture to oysters by stuffing bread crumbs, tarragon leaves, and celery. 
  8. Brine your oysters and garnish them with cilantro and a fresh squeeze of lemon. 
  9. Or oyster cocktail, everyone?

The bottom line

Oysters have complex flavors that are loved or hated, and it seems with no in between. 

However, they’re generally described as briny and can vary depending on the harvested species and region. 

They’re a delicacy in many parts of the world. 

Most of them are consumed raw, but you can also enjoy steamed, fried, broiled, baked, or even added to your favorite cocktails!

Fan of scallops and lobsters too? Learn what they taste like here and here.