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How to Prepare and Cook Conch (Whelk)

Updated on May 31, 2013

Preparing the Conch Before Cooking

The conch is a type of sea snail which can be hard to find in local stores but is very inexpensive and can be very tasty. In order for your conch eating experience to be a good one, there are several things that one must keep in mind when preparing and cooking them.

When deciding to cook with conch you must take precaution when choosing the right ones. You can go out and collect your own or buy from the store. When collecting your own, make sure that they are not protected in your area as it would be illegal to obtain them. If you are buying from the store, make sure it is from a trusted source and that only adult conchs are harvested.

Getting The Meat

If your conchs are still in the shell, you will need to remove the meat from them. The easiest way to do this is to drill a small hole in the top of the shell to release the suction. This should make it fairly easy to just pull the meat out. Once you have your conch meat, make sure that it does not have a fishy smell, and are white/pink/orange in color not gray. If your conch smells and looks good then go ahead and wash them in several changes of clean water and then cut the digestive gland off. Removing the digestive gland is VERY IMPORTANT, as it contains toxins which can be harmful if eaten. You will also want to remove the operculum or hard foot(see photo) as well as any dark pieces. Once you have nice clean pieces of conch meat you will want to tenderize using a mallet. Flatten it out to desired thickness and then you are ready to cook.

Suggestions for Cooking Conch

Conch can be cooked in many different ways. Some suggestions would be to simmer it in a stew, steam them, use them in a ceviche or combine them in a batter and fry them up to make conch fritters(see recipe below). However you decide to cook your conch, it will generally take about 15-20 minutes until done.


Conch Fritters

3.5 stars from 2 ratings of Conch Fritters

Cook Time

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 20 min
Ready in: 35 min
Yields: This will make approximately 8 conch fritters


  1. Heat the oil in a large pot or deep fryer to 365 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour egg, milk and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Add the conch meat, celery, onion, green pepper, garlic, cheese and mix well.
  3. Add rounded tablespoons of batter to the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
  4. For added flavor dip in your favorite dipping sauce.


  • 1 Quart Oil, For Frying
  • 3/4 Cup All-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp Hot Sauce(ie. Franks or Texas Pete), or to taste
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup Conch Meat, chopped
  • 1/2 Onion, chopped
  • 1/2 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
  • 2 Stalks Celery, chopped
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Pepper Jack Cheese, shredded


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    • paizley profile image

      paizley 2 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      @robin The whelk will get tender if cooked a long time or in a pressure cooker. I used to go to an Italian restaurant in Jupiter, FL that served the most tender scungilli (whelk or conch) served in a fra diavolo marinara sauce. Their secret was using the pressure cooker. The meat was fork render, no chewiness at all! It's best to cook the live conch for 15-20 minutes then remove the meat from the shell and clean. If you cook them for a long time in the shell, the meat will be too tender and will break when you try to remove it. Then you would have to crack the shells to get at it. At this point place them in the pressure cooker. I would do increments of 10 minutes the first 2 times, then 5 minutes for the 3rd or 4th time with quick release. My guess a maximum of 30-40 minutes total. This will depend on your pressure cooker, altitude, size of the whelks. This way you can check them and not overcook them. Don't forget to save the pretty shells!

    • profile image

      Robin 2 years ago

      I've read that simmering conch or welk for 90 minutes will make them nice and tender, is that true?

    • RunTrainingPlan profile image

      Chris Miller 3 years ago from Raleigh, North Carolina

      You can definitely cook the conch in the shell but it will still be tough to eat.

    • profile image

      Connie 3 years ago

      Why can't you just boil or steam the conchs first... they then pull out of the shell easily, and then clean and cut them up for soups or stews? Does that have something to do with the toxins? Would cooking them BEFORE removing the toxins make them more dangerous to eat because the toxins would contaminate the rest of the meat?

    • RunTrainingPlan profile image

      Chris Miller 3 years ago from Raleigh, North Carolina

      The smell alone would usually be a dead giveaway. Think hot dirty dumpster. The fact that yours were grey in color is an indicator that they were going bad. To tenderized, you can use an ordinary meat tenderizing mallet, chop them up in a food processor or steam them.

    • profile image

      kat 3 years ago

      Thanks I was a little worried . Now they did not have shells and were grey, so was I correct in wash in them cutting them up and cooking them. I didn't know to tenderize them but I imagine that is more for comfort. I didn't cut anything away from them. Also, how would I know if they were bad?

    • RunTrainingPlan profile image

      Chris Miller 3 years ago from Raleigh, North Carolina

      Hi Kat,

      When purchasing conch you generally want the conch to be more of a pinkish or orangish color. The more grey in color means that it has probably been sitting in the store for a couple days and not fresh out of the ocean. As long as you took proper food handling in to account and cooked thoroughly you should be fine. Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      Kat 3 years ago

      I attempted to make conch fritters. When I went to Jamaica I tried them and loved them. I decided to try to make them myself. I went to my favorite seafood market and purchased them. They were each about the size of a walnut and grey in color and had no shells. They also smelled a little fishy, but I thought the smell was because of them being aquatic and stored in a seafood market. I had NO idea that they were supposed to be a different color. What does it mean when they are grey??? My boyfriend and I had a few made into fritters but aside from excessive chewing we feel okay. Then again we only had maybe three chopped up.

    • RunTrainingPlan profile image

      Chris Miller 4 years ago from Raleigh, North Carolina

      Thank you for the comments akune. Conch fritters are very tasty if you have not tried them before. I will have to check out your friends book as I always enjoy new and different foods.

    • akune profile image

      akune 4 years ago from Surrey, England, United Kingdom

      My goodness, this is the first article I remember reading on this. I do not often have the luxury of reading through recipes and this for me is positive and DIFFERENT. My friend wrote a book which I have reviewed recently that happened to have some recipes in them. You might find some of that food quite a different taste experience.