Escargot: What Is It & Where Does It Come From

A Frech delicacy you might want to try

When it comes to the world of adventurous eating, there are certain dishes that often rank higher in notoriety than others. From dishes such as bird’s nest soup to deep-fried chicken hearts and frogs legs, there are many cultural cuisines from around the world that often use strange and seemingly unconventional ingredients to create delicious and savory results.  Escargot is one of the top items on that list.

Although your immediate reaction may be to run away from a dish that challenges your perception of flavor, we say you should always try whatever food you are given. Otherwise, how will you ever know if you truly love or hate it?

Even the most disgusting of ingredients can be used to make something that is brimming with character and taste. So you should never turn down food because of fear or concern. 

One dish that is often spoken about in hushed tones and fearful whispers is escargot, a European recipe that has gained quite a reputation due to the main ingredient that makes up the focus of the dish.

But what exactly is escargot and is it really as bad as so many people make it out to be? Well, we are here to answer those questions!

My first time eating escargot, I was 12 year old and visiting the French restaurant in Epcot Center. My Mom thought me and my siblings would hate it, but after we had a taste, we loved it more than our Croissant sandwiches.

Down below we have compiled some fascinating facts concerning escargot and its storied history.

We have also outlined how the dish is prepared, as well as provided a detailed description of the dish’s unique and distinctive flavor. So if you have ever wanted to know more about this staple meal, then now is the time. 

So What Is Escargot?

The name escargot is derived from the French word for snail, which is exactly what the dish is made from. Yes, you read that right, escargot is famous around the world because it is a dish made up almost entirely of snails.

Considered a popular staple in French cuisine, escargot is also considered a delicacy in Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Portugal. However, the dish has also left its mark on various other countries around the world, with it often featuring on menus in French restaurants

Burgundy snail (Helix pomatia) or escargot is a species of land snail. Live Burgundy snails in a glass bowl on the stone table. Edible escargot.
Burgundy snail (Helix pomatia) or escargot is a species of land snail. Live Burgundy snails in a glass bowl on the stone table. Edible escargot.

Now we understand that the notion of eating snails may seem a little strange, and even a tiny bit gross, but did you know that snails are actually considered a fairly nutritional foodstuff?

This is because snails, like most bugs and insects, are very high in protein but are also known to contain a very low amount of fat.

However, although escargot may be made from snails, this does not mean that all species of snail are edible, as only a small selection can be used to make the dish. 

The most common species of snail used to make escargot is the helix snail, which is a variety of land snail that is known to be particularly flavorful when cooked.

When it comes to preparing the dish, the snails will traditionally be cooked inside their shells, before being served on a plate with heapings of garlic butter and parsley.

Although the idea of eating snails may still seem a little bizarre, you have to understand that they are just another animal that humans are known to consume. 

In fact, there is even historical evidence that suggests that humans were eating snails as far back as 30,000 years ago – so it’s not even a new thing!

How Is Escargot Served?

As we have previously mentioned, escargot is considered to be a staple of French cuisine and will often be served as an appetizer or entree. The traditional French recipe sees the snails cooked in garlic and parsley butter, although there are other variations that prepare the snails in a wine or brandy sauce. 

In terms of the cooking process, escargot is usually prepared in a special cast-iron pan, which ensures that the snails are cooked properly before they are served. However, some chefs have also been known to cook the snails in a traditional saute pan with herbs and butter. 

When the dish is prepared and finally served at the dinner table, the snails will usually still be in their shells, which means you have to remove them using a special utensil called a snail fork.

This is essentially a two-pronged fork that is capable of entering the shell and removing the snail without causing any damage or mess. 

Escargot. Snails prepared in traditional classical French bistro preparation

Some restaurants also choose to serve the dish alongside a slice of crispy bread, which you can then use to mop up any garlic butter you may have left behind. In some cases, the snails may even be removed from their shells and served on top of the bread, along with cheese and herbs for extra garnishing. 

If you are now interested in trying escargot but live in the United State, then your only chance of encountering the dish may be by visiting a high-end French restaurant. Not only do many French restaurants prepare and serve the dish, but they also consider it a particular delicacy, which means that it may be sold for a very high price. 

So please keep this in mind before you attempt finding the dish, as you may not be willing to pay the same price for snails as other dedicated foodies. 

What Does Escargot Taste Like?

So if you are now interested in trying escargot, you are probably wondering what the dish even tastes like. Although many passing samplers will tell you that the dish tastes very similar to chicken, hardcore escargot enthusiasts will probably disagree.

To say that the dish has a unique taste is something of an understatement, as a single bite will often contain a variety of unique flavors. 

Of course, one of the main things you will probably taste first is the sauce, which is usually so packed with garlic and herbs that it often overpowers the actual taste of the snail. But that isn’t always a bad thing!

Girl sitting in outdoor cafe enjoying escargot snails with herbs butter and white wine.
Girl sitting in outdoor cafe enjoying escargot snails with herbs butter and white wine.

We all know that garlic and butter is a heavenly pairing, but when combined with the earthy flavor of the snail, that pairing becomes almost divine. Brimming with a rich and buttery flavor, we promise that escargot will always satisfy even the most critical of garlic lovers. 

In terms of texture, escargot has often been compared to foods such as oysters, clams and mushrooms. This is because, no matter how well you cook a snail, they are always going to have a dense and rubber-like consistency.

However, this does not damper the tasting experience, as snails are also known to be smooth on the tongue and slightly gooey when eaten. If we had to compare the texture to something, then we would have to argue that the mushroom comparison is a pretty accurate one. 

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has been an influencer in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. He not only loves to eat and drink at restaurants on a regular basis, he also knows the business inside and out.