Lobsters Steamed in Chinese Wine & Cellophane NoodlesWhat is the “green stuff” you find in the head (“carapace”) of cooked lobsters?  And can you eat it?

This is the lobster tomalley, which serves as the lobster’s liver and pancreas.  Many people, especially in New England, consider it a delicacy, and eat it along with the rest of the lobster.  It is also often used in sauces and stocks which are made from the whole lobster’s body.

But while some people find the tomalley delicious, there are health concerns which should be carefully considered. Since the tomally acts like a liver and pancreas, it is a filter which can accumulate pollutants from the environment.




In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently warned consumers to avoid eating tomalley from the American Lobster because of potential contamination with dangerous levels of the toxins that cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).

The FDA advisory applies only to the tomalley;  the FDA report cited studies that have shown that, even when high levels of PSP toxins are present in lobster tomalley, lobster meat itself is typically unaffected, and that there is no indication that consumers need to be concerned about PSP toxicity in lobster meat.

The FDA recommendation includes lobsters from South Carolina all the way to Northern Canadian coast line.  Again, it only refers to the tomalley (the “green stuff”) and not the lobster meat itself.

photo by: Sifu Renka

24 Comments

  1. I can’t find any information as to whether the tomalley is larger in one versus the other, but can be found in both. It’s possible that the female may have a slightly larger tomalley considering it produces eggs and has a wider tail. The tomalley is a delicacy, however it may contain toxins as it serves as the liver and pancreas.

  2. Hello I’m Steven. My friend John & I went to Joe’s Crab Shack last night & had 1 of their lobster steampots Which actually had a whole lobster. I have never had the opportunity to enjoy a whole lobster. From watching Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, I have wanted to try everything in the lobster. When I cracked open the lobster, it was our lucky day. We had a female with tons of eggs inside. i was so excited to get to try all of those new things. At first it was a texture thing but i got past that right away cause the flavor was so intense that I nearly fell out of my chair. I also got to try the other goodies inside like the tomalley. At first i wasn’t sure what it was until i got home & looked it up online. The flavor intensity was incredible. I even cracked open the head & ate the good stuff inside also including the eyes. What an experience.

  3. Last night I went to a very upscale steakhouse, but we were committed to lobster. When our steamed 2lb lobsters came, we opened up the tail section, and all the meat was covered with a green ooze, which I assumed to be tomalley, but I had never seen it outside the head. In addition, there was black liquid that oozed out onto the plate, and the inside of the head seemed to be loaded with the green ooze. We questioned the waiter and he said it was very common. They eventually took the tail meat back to the kitchen and washed off the green, but overall it was not very tasty. I have never seen this before, do you have any explanation ? If all lobsters came like that I would be switching to steak !!!!

  4. To add, my dinner companion felt the black on hers was more like squid ink. Also, this was on the north shore of Long Island, and they said their lobsters come from Maine. Thanks in advance for your help.

  5. I bought some frozen lobster tails and found a deep dark green wormy looking thing in the tails on some of them. It was about an inch and a half long. Would this be part of the tomalley? It really looked like a worm.

  6. Hi i opened a lobster and dark slimey green stuff came out of the body and or tail… What is that stuff?? I have never seen that come out of any lobsters i have opened before . Can anyone tell me what that is and would of it been ok to still eat the tail if i cleaned it all out. I lost my appetite after that…

  7. I have found dark green and black “squid like ink” after I completely froze live lobster by accident. We rinsed them well and they seemed ok, but not as tasty. No restaurant should ever serve them

  8. Where are these questions answered? Why would black be in a lobster? I would wash off the tomally. Would others?

  9. I make the best seafood casserole…I receive so many compliments on my creation…I actually add the tomalley into my topping of the seafood stuffing with crabmeat and chopped seafood. The base is lobster meat, sea scallops, large shrimp and sometimes I will add haddock…The tomalley adds such a great flavor…

  10. I ‘M FORM MAINE AND HAVE BEEN EATING SEAFOOD ALL MY LIFE ,AND I’M 65, I LOVE CRAB, CLAMS, MOST ALL FISH, SCALLOPS, BUT WHAT I LOVE THE MOST IS LOBSTER, I EAT JUST ABOUT EVERTHING IN A LOBSTER EXCEPT THE HEAD AND THE EYES, THAT I WILL NOT EAT, BUT EVERYTHING ELSE I DO , ESPECIALLY THE GREEN TOMALLEY, THE RED EGGS ( ROE ) AND JUICE , WHEN I GET DONE , MOSTLY ALL THATS LEFT IS THE SHELL, NOW I HAVE READ SOME OF COMMENTS UP ABOVE, ONE WAS FROM RICK WILSON,HE WANTED TO KNOW WHAT THAT ( DARK WORMY THING WAS,IN A TAIL OF A LOBSTER… ITS WHAT THEY CALL, OR I CALL THE POOP-SHOOT, WHERE THE WASTE OF THE LOBSTER GOES THROUGH, ALMOST LIKSE AN INTESTINE, WHEN YOU SPLIT THE TAIL OPEN YOU WILL ALWAYS SEE IT, SOMETIME ITS VERY LIGHT IN COLOR, JUST REMOVE IT WITH YOUR FINGER AND EAT THE TAIL. THATS ALL THERE IS TO IT, ITS JUST LIKE REMOVING THE VEIN IN A SHRIMP..YOU HAVE TO DEVEIN A SHRIMP BEFORE YOU EAT IT, ITS THE SAME WITH THE LOBSTER TAIL..I HOPE I WAS OF SOME HELP TO ANY ONE ….I ALSO LIKE TO SAVE SOME OF THE LOBSTER JUICE, I ALWAYS HAVE A BOWL THAT I POUR THE JUICE IN AND SAVE IT FOR WHEN I MAKE MY LOBSTER STEW OR CHOWDER, IT ADDS INTENSE FLAVOR TO THE CHOWDER AND ITS DELICIOUS.

  11. michael/karen! i believe your lobsters were undercooked. the tomally (liver/pancreas) is black/dark green if you cut open the lobster live n uncooked. and yes there is a ‘poop’ vein like shrimp. depending on how clean the water where the lobster came from, will determine just how much of that crap will be present. for me, i rinse all of that stuff out. i don’t eat any animal livers (body filters) and don’t plan on starting with my lobstah. jes say’n. the red (roe/eggs) stuff, supposed to be a delicacy, you can be the judge of that 🙂

  12. Several months ago, I bought a lobster and ate everything but the eyes. Two days later, I broke out in a rash and had to get a shot. Now I’m thinking that it may have been the tomalley that I ate. I love lobster, and hope that what broke me out was the toxins in the tomalley and not the lobster meat. Next time, I will avoid eating the tomalley.

  13. Hi,
    If lobster is undercooked, the inside will be discusting and black; when it is cooked properly it is a green paste. That is the tomalley very rich and delicious but don’t eat too much!!

    Halifax, Nova Scotia.

  14. I live in Maine. Born here. Here are some answers.
    Lobster undercooked will have a loose tomalley. If the green tomalley is “oozy” the lobster was not cooked enough. Tomalley should be firm, just as the Roe should be firm. If the tomalley is distributed throughout the tail, send that lobster back. They did NOT cook it correctly. Lobsters should be immersed head down upside down and remain that way through the cooking process. This “settles” the tomally and roe away from the tail meat. The dark strip running up the back of the tail is the intestine and should not be eaten. Pull the strip of meat away from the upper side of the tail to expose the instinal tract and simply pull that tract out. The strip of meat should be clean from the tract also. DO NOT EAT THE “ENTIRE” LOBSTER! Anyone eating the “stomach” (located inside the head cavity) should have their own head examined. The contents of a lobsters stomach are nothing any sane human should even consider eating. The Tomalley itself can be eaten, and most likely is will not be contaminated with dangerous levels of PSP toxins, HOWEVER, the possibility IS there and this should be considered before consuming. The possibility does exist that dangerous levels could accumulate in a lobsters liver.

  15. The dark green (almost black) color sounds like it is undercooked roe, especially if it is found along the tail of a female lobster. If you cook that, it will become bright orange. The lighter green color found mostly in the abdomen (‘head’ cavity’) is the liver, or tomalley, and it stays green, but just becomes ‘firmer’ as it cooks.
    I have never had good success with freezing live lobster – the meat gets pretty mushy.

  16. Lobsters and shrimp are insects of the sea and should be avoided. They are full of cholesteral as well. Oysters. clams, and bivalves are filters thet collect toxins. There are plenty of tasty, quality healthy fish with fins and scales.

  17. @Nubeltston: What a truly wonderful, decent, magnanimous creature u must be in ur daily life. I’m sure the world is a so much better place bcoz ur mother chose not to abort u.

  18. what were the two, 1″ reddish orange rectangle that was inside my lobster? It was a waxy substance…

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