frequently asked question what is the black substance inside a cooked lobster


Have you ever wondered what the black substance inside a cooked lobster is? It’s a question that has puzzled many seafood lovers, and for good reason. After all, it’s not uncommon to find a black or dark green paste-like substance within the body cavity of a lobster. Is it safe to eat? What is it made of? Why does it even exist in the first place? In this article, we’ll answer all your questions about the black substance inside cooked lobsters.

What is the Black Substance?

The black substance you find inside a cooked lobster is called tomalley. It is actually the hepatopancreas, a digestive gland responsible for filtering impurities from the lobster’s body and converting food into nutrients. The tomalley has a pasty, creamy texture and is usually found in the body cavity of the lobster. It can range in color from brownish-green to dark green or black.

The location of the tomalley depends on the size of the lobster. In smaller lobsters, it can be found near the head, while larger lobsters have more distributed tomalley throughout their bodies. Despite its unique appearance and location, tomalley plays an essential role in a lobster’s digestion and overall health.

Is it Safe to Eat?

There is some concern over whether tomalley is safe for human consumption due to its function as a digestive gland in filtering out impurities from the lobster’s system. However, according to regulatory bodies like the United States Food and Drug Administration, tomalley is safe to eat because both cooking and cleaning processes remove any potential contamination.

Tomalley can be quite nutritious too—it contains high levels of vitamins A, B12, and D, as well as selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. So while some people may be squeamish about eating it, there’s no need to worry about any significant health risks.

Why Does it Turn Black?

While tomalley’s greenish-black coloration can be off-putting, it’s important to remember that color changes are natural during cooking. Just as a piece of chicken may turn brown when grilled, the tomalley inside a lobster turns black when exposed to heat.

The main reason for the color change is that the pigments within the hepatopancreas break down during cooking, producing melanin and other compounds that darken the substance. Other factors that can affect its color include diet and age, as well as storage conditions before cooking.

Interestingly, other crustaceans like crabs and shrimp also have digestive glands known as “mustard” or hepatopancreas that can turn black when cooked.

Can You Avoid It?

If you’re not a fan of tomalley’s taste or texture, there are a few ways to avoid it. One option is to remove it carefully with a spoon before serving the lobster. However, some people find that removing the tomalley makes the lobster less flavorful overall. Furthermore, doing so requires extra work and can be an unpleasant task.

Another option is to incorporate the tomalley into the dish by using it in sauces or soups. In this way, you can benefit from its unique flavor properties without having to deal with its texture.

Does It Affect Taste?

While some people may find the taste of tomalley strong or even overpowering, for many others, it adds a depth of flavor that complements the sweetness of lobster meat. This is because tomalley contains high levels of glutamic acid—a compound known for enhancing savory flavors—making it an ideal ingredient in soups or stocks.

Finally, while some people may associate tomalley’s appearance with harmful toxins or decay, in reality, the presence of healthy hepatopancreas is actually indicative of a healthy lobster that has been cooked properly.

Nutritional Value

Tomalley is more than just a mysterious, abstract ingredient. It actually contains impressive amounts of nutrients important for human health. For example, it is an excellent source of vitamin A, which is essential for healthy vision and immune function.

In addition, the tomalley gland contains high levels of vitamin B12, which helps with brain function and the formation of red blood cells. The gland also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for maintaining good heart health and reducing inflammation.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you know what tomalley is and why it turns black, you may have additional questions about cooking or eating lobsters. Here are some more frequently asked questions:

  • How do you cook a lobster properly? Cook a live lobster by boiling it in saltwater until its internal temperature reaches between 135 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (57-60 degrees Celsius)
  • Why are lobsters red when cooked if they’re normally brown? Lobster shells turn bright red during cooking due to pigments called astaxanthin that are released during the process.
  • Do all lobsters have tomalley? Yes, all lobsters have tomalley as part of their digestive system and it is safe to eat when prepared properly.


Tomalley can be a bit of a mystery to those unfamiliar with it, but it’s an essential part of a lobster’s digestion system that can also contribute to its unique taste profile. While some people may find the texture or color of tomalley unappetizing, it is perfectly safe to eat when prepared correctly. If you’re still unsure about whether to try it or not, remember that eating tomalley can provide many nutritional benefits like vitamins A, B12, and D, omega-3 fatty acids, and selenium. So, the next time you crack open a lobster, don’t be afraid to try the tomalley—you might even find it adds a new level of flavor to your meal!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the black substance inside a cooked lobster?

The black substance inside a cooked lobster is commonly known as the tomalley. This greenish-gray substance is located in the body cavity of the lobster and serves as its digestive gland.

Is it safe to eat the tomalley?

Yes, it is safe to eat the tomalley. In fact, many people enjoy it for its unique flavor and texture. However, it is important to note that consuming too much tomalley can be harmful due to its high level of heavy metals.

Can I cook with the tomalley?

Yes, you can use the tomalley in various dishes as it contains a rich blend of flavors similar to that of liver and other organ meats. It can be used as a flavoring for sauces and soups or as a stuffing ingredient for seafood dishes.

Why does the tomalley turn black when cooked?

The color change in the tomalley is due to its exposure to heat. When cooked, hemocyanin, which is found in the blood of lobsters and other crustaceans, breaks down into melanins causing the change in color. However, note that not all tomalleys turn black when cooked, some may remain greenish-gray depending on factors like freshness and handling.

Similar Posts