Jellyfish May Be the Snack Food of the Future

Scientists are trying to take the sting out of jellyfish blooms.

Times may have never been better for some of the world’s oldest animals. There's something about today's unbalanced oceans—disrupted by climate change, overfishing, and nutrient runoff—that make them especially hospitable to certain kinds of jellyfish. As these conditions worsen, jellyfish populations have billowed and bloomed all over the world.

Dealing with jelllyfish infestations, which can foul up power plants, swimming areas, and fisheries, is no easy task. While South Korea has deployed swarms of autonomous robots to grind the animals into a paste, Danish researchers have taken another tack: get them into the snack aisle. They have developed a way to turn cnidarians into something resembling potato chips.

The technique involves soaking the jellyfish in alcohol, and then letting it evaporate off to turn semi-sentient goo into crunchy, snackable discs. “In alcohol some gels simply collapse, and that is exactly what we see a jellyfish doing. As the jellyfish collapses, the water is extracted from it and its volume is reduced,” said gastrophysicist Mie Thorburg Pedersen to the Summit County Voice. “The mouth-feel and the aesthetic appearance in particular have gastronomic potential.”

Eating jellyfish is nothing new. People in the Philippines, South Korea, and other places have eaten them for years—but preparing them for consumption takes well over a month and produces a gristly texture, unappetizing to the Western palate. Even if the chips don’t catch on, the new method should help speed up traditional ways of making the invertebrates ready for plates.

But if Western diners do get on board with jellyfish chips, they’ll find them a healthy snack alternative—low in fat, high in selenium. They'd also be high on environmental friendliness.