How to Cook Balmain Bugs

Did you know that cooking Balmain Bugs is a thing? It’s true! These bugs are found in the Australian outback and they have a taste similar to lobster. If you want to learn how to cook Balmain bugs, then read on!

how to cook balmain bugs
Balmain bugs. Credit: canva

Popular Food in Australia
About Balmain Bugs

What are Balmain Bugs?

Balmain bugs, also known as butterfly fan lobster, are a species of slipper lobster. They live throughout Australia in shallow waters. They are the subject of a small-scale fishery.

The bugs are flattened, reddish-brown animals that can be up to 23 centimeters long and 14 centimeters wide.

The Balmain Bug is found all over the Australian Coast, from Southport in Queensland to New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania to Geraldton in Western Australia. Also found in New Zealand.

Why is it Called Balmain Bug?

The scientific name of this species is Ibacus peronii. Australians commonly refer to it as a “Balmain bug.” The name derives from Balmain, a suburb on the coast of Sydney, Australia.

Other common names include Eastern Balmain bugbutterfly lobsterflapjackPéron’s Ibacus crabsand crayfishsand lobstersouthern shovel-nosed lobsterprawn killer, and squagga.

Perhaps a more appropriate title would be “butterfly fan lobster” as it’s the name favored by the Food and Agriculture Organization.

What do Balmain Bugs look like?

In common with other slipper lobsters, Balmain bugs have flat bodies and a large carapace and are considered flathead lobster. The body is reddish-brown in color.

These oddly-shaped lobsters have antennae that are long and broad, not to mention the flattened shape of the entire animal. It typically goes partially into moist substrates such as dirt or leaves. Its legs have claws on each pair of them.

Normally caught animals weigh around 120 grams, but that can be anywhere between 80-200 gms.

What Does Balmain Bug Taste Like?

Some people said that the flesh has some taste of garlic.

The average yield of this dish is 30% because the edible bug flesh is only the tail meat. The larger Bugs have a lower yield due to their head size.

The bug has a medium-strong flavor (fishier than Moreton Bay Bugs), low oiliness, and dry, firm flesh.

Balmain Bug Vs Moreton Bay Bug

balmain bugs moreton bay bugs
Balmain Bugs vs Moreton Bay Bugs. Credit: canva

What is the difference between Balmain bugs and Moreton Bay bugs?

The Balmain Bug is often confused with the Moreton Bay Bug. The key differences between these bugs are in their eye positions and the presence (or absence) of posterolateral teeth on the head.

Balmain bugs have eyes closer to the claws while Moreton Bay bugs have their eyes at the end of their legs.

In addition, Moreton Bay bugs have no postero-lateral teeth on the head. Balmain bugs have 6–8 individual teeth on each side of the head.

How to Catch Balmain Bugs?

Only wild-caught Balmain bugs are available, but some aquaculture research is ongoing.

Fishing for the bug focuses on New South Wales, mostly caught as bycatch in trawling for fish and prawns.

Balmain bugs are caught using otter trawls that keep to just over the seafloor. Trawling is also conducted on sandy and muddy surfaces in and around the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

How to Cook Balmain Bugs?

balmain bugs
Credit: canva

Cooking methods

The most humane, and easiest, method of killing any crustacean is to chill it in the freezer for about 45 minutes until it becomes insensible (but not long enough to freeze it). Once chilled, it should be killed promptly by splitting in half.

The most common cooking methods are steaming, poaching, deep-frying, pan-frying, stir-frying, grilling, and barbecue. It is also excellent cold, as part of cold seafood plates.

To BBQ, cut in half lengthwise and cook in the shell. The firm bug meat holds together well in soups, salads, curries, and casseroles and can be cubed for kebabs.

Balmain bug recipes

There are so many recipes for cooking using Balmain bugs (or Moreton bay bugs), from the most famous recipes to the quick and easy ones.

Here are several recipes that you can try at home.

Moreton Bay bugs with Herb and Garlic Butter Recipe (by Matt Moran)

If you love garlic butter goodness, then this bugs with garlic recipe will be perfect for you.

  • Prep & Cooking time: 17 minutes
  • Serves: 4


  • 4 green Moreton Bay bugs (or can be substituted with Balmain bugs), split in half lengthways
  • Olive oil, to drizzle
  • Lemon wedges, to serve

Herb and Garlic Butter:

  • 100g softened unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs finely chopped continental parsley leaves
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 tbs finely chopped oregano leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed


  1. Preheat a barbecue with a lid to medium-high.
  2. For the herb and garlic butter marinade, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap. Chill until ready to use, then bring to room temperature before serving.
  4. Put the bugs side-up on a plate, drizzle with oil, and season them.
  5. To cook Balmain bugs, put the bug with its shell side-down on a barbecue grill. Close and cook for 6 minutes, then turn to grill flesh-side down for 1-2 minute until lightly charred. Transfer bugs to a platter.
  6. To serve these bugs, brush some butter over the bug flesh. Serve with remaining butter on the side and lemon wedges if desired.
mreton bugs
Moreton Bay Bugs and other Crustaceans. Credit: canva

Grilled Balmain Bugs with Lime and Pepper Dressing Recipe (by Justin Schofield)

This recipe is an easy yet perfect gourmet seafood salad. Let’s try this.

  • Cooking time: 20 minutes
  • Serves: entree for 4


  • 6 Balmain bugs, can be substituted with Moreton Bay bugs or large prawns
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Pinch of chili powder
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 carrots, julienned


  1. Mix the lime juice, pepper, and pinch of salt until they’re well incorporated.
  2. First, with a sharp knife turn the bug on its back and cut down the center.
  3. Peel and clean the bugs by removing any tracks or innards. Dry with some paper toweling.
  4. To remove the lobster meat from the shell, twist the head away from the body.
  5. Place the tail on its back and cut down each side of the tail using a sharp kitchen scissor.
  6. Remove this softshell and intestinal tract. Drizzle with a small amount of oil and sprinkle chili powder.
  7. Heat a large griddle pan over high heat.
  8. Grill the bugs for 30 seconds on their flesh side before turning them and grilling for another 2-3 minutes.
  9. Grilling your bug for 30 seconds on each side will ensure the meat is well-cooked.
  10. Add the carrots and serve with the dipping sauce on the side.

Balmain Bug and Apple Salad Recipe

Bug salad? Why not. It is easy and refreshing.

  • Cooking time: 30 minutes
  • Serves: entree for 6


  • 1 kilogram cooked butterfly fan lobster meat, can be substituted with prawns, lobster, scampi, or crab.
  • 2 Lebanese cucumbers (260g), cut into ribbons
  • 2 apples (300g), halved, sliced thinly
  • 2 cup loosely packed fresh Vietnamese mint leaves
  • 2 cup loosely packed fresh coriander leaves
  • 3 purple shallots (75g), sliced thinly
  • 2 fresh small red Thai chilies, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lime rind
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) lime juice
  • 2 tablespoon grated palm sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce


  1. Make purple shallot dressing. Combine ingredients in bowl; stand 8-10 minutes.
  2. Combine meat in a large bowl with remaining ingredients; add dressing, toss gently.

How to Eat Balmain Bugs?

To remove meat from shells, either split Bug lengthwise or, to keep the meat in one piece, remove the head, turn tail over and cut down either side of the tail using kitchen scissors, peel underside of tailback, and remove meat.

Do not recook cooked Bugs. Eat cold in salads or with a dipping sauce.


How long do Balmain bugs last?

There are many differences in the life histories of two species of bugs found in NSW, eastern Balmain and smooth. Eastern Balmain bugs generally live for longer periods – more than 15 years – but this is not the case with smooth bugs which only have about 7 years left to live on average.

Is seafood a bug?

insects, spiders and scorpions, and shellfish are all part of the animal phylum Arthropoda. lobsters look more like insects than they do fish.

See also: How to Cook King Crab Legs in Air Fryer?