Despite their name, sand fleas are small crustaceans. They aren’t fleas at all, so you don’t have to worry about them biting you during your next trip to the beach! Sand fleas are also known as sand crabs and the Pacific mole crab.

Sand fleas are typically used for bait, but did you know they are also edible? While they aren’t commonly served in the United States, they are eaten in some parts of Asia. Keep reading to learn more about these fascinating crustaceans, including how to cook them!

A grenish/grayish mole crab on a tan colored sandy beach.
Sand fleas are typically used for bait but they are also edible.

iStock.com/Vinicius-Moreira

What Do They Taste Like?

Surprisingly, many people find sand fleas delicious, and all parts are edible. The flavor is a mix between cooked shrimp and crab. Thry have a delicate flavor that pairs well with a wide variety of sauces and seasonings. They are also very crunchy, although, like shrimp, some people remove the shell before cooking the soft meat, and, the larger they are, the most flavor they have.

Are Sand Fleas Nutritious?

Sand fleas are safe to eat, but you should never eat them raw, as you are risking a nasty infection if you do! They also harbor parasites, so be careful when cleaning them before cooking them. So, what are the health benefits? They are generally considered to be nutritious. Sand fleas and full of healthy, natural fats. They contain high levels of vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are linked to lower tricyglerades and improved heart health. Research also suggests eating seafood included, can lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

How Do People Use Sand Fleas?

Sand fleas aren’t just great for cooking, many people also use these small crustaceans as bait when fishing. They are easy to find, prepare, and hook. If you have any leftover after a day of fishing, you can freeze them for later use. Sand fleas attract a wide variety of different fish and are a good bait mackerel, amberjacks, redfish, and flounder. When using mole crabs as bait, shore fishing is best, since the surf is where the fish hunt for them. Females with eggs attract the most interest when used as bait.

A type of sand crab, a mole crab, with hundreds of egg in the palm of a hand.
Sand fleas attract a wide variety of different fish and are good bait.

iStock.com/jess311

Where To Find Sand Fleas

While you can buy sand fleas in some grocery stores and fish markets, if you live near the ocean, it’s a lot easier to hunt for them. They live along coastal areas of North and South America. They are also found on the Atlantic coast of Africa, and some parts of Australia. Catch sand fleas using nets, shovels, or your own hands!

Next time you visit the beach, sit in the shallow surf zone and look at the sand. When the water starts rushing and pulling back into the ocean, keep your eyes peeled for a “v” shape, which indicates the presence of sand fleas. Try not to stomp your feet, as they areand will retreat if they sense danger. With a hand or a small shovel, scoop the sand into a sand sifter, revealing your catch.

How to Cook Sand Fleas

A woven, light brown, grass bowl filled with crispy sand fleas to be eaten. The small crustaceans are on top of a green leaf. The bowl sits on a taupe marble table.
Season sand fleas like you would season your favorite seafood dish.

Hanifah Kurniati/Shutterstock.com

Once you have collected enough fresh sand fleas, its time prepare them. You’ll want to clean them well before you prepare them. Sometimes, these small crustaceans are hosts for parasites and bacteria. Rinse them well wit a solution of 10 parts water to one part vinegar.rinse them. This should get rid of sand, dirt, and most pathogens. After they are clean, take out their digger, a small appendage they use to dig. Next, remove the tail and clean the area around the area to remove any lingering feces. You can remove the shell or leave it. In a large saucepan, add butter or some other type other type of cooking fat. Season them like you would season your favorite seafood dish. Cook on both sides for at least two minutes. It’s a quick dish to make because these crustaceans are tiny little delicacies.

Sand fleas are versatile crustaceans that are equally delicious to fish and humans alike!

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