Why Do Lobsters Turn Red?

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cooked lobster on ice

Photo by ksbaeg licensed under Pixabay License

Ever wonder why your lobster turns that bright, beautiful shade of red when you cook it? No, it’s not just a way for nature to tell you your lobster’s finished cooking. There’s actually a reason for it that scientists only recently discovered within the last few years. If you’ve ever wanted to know why lobsters turn red, then we have your answer.

What Color are Lobsters Naturally?

People tend to think of lobsters only in that gorgeous red hue they’re so well-known for. You see that red in lobster clip art, photographs, and almost any iconic lobster symbol. There’s even a famous seafood restaurant named after lobsters that turn red (hint hint!). 

But in nature, lobsters can come in a variety of shades, most commonly shades of brown, blue, and green. However, some rarities have been spotted, like albino lobsters that are completely white and calico lobsters with yellow or orange and black spots. Some lobsters are bright blue, others are yellow, and others even have stripes! It all depends on the waters from which they come and the type of lobster they are. 

Why Do Lobsters Turn Red When You Cook Them?

Most foods turn slightly different shades when you cook them, like steak that turns brown and chicken that turns white. Lobsters turn a completely different color, though, taking on that bright red hue we all know and love. 

Just a few years ago, scientists discovered that the color change happens because of astaxantin, a chemical in a lobster’s shell. Astaxantin itself is bright red in color but it hides within the shell of a lobster, only showing its face once the lobster gets heated. That’s the result of crustacyanin, a protein that suppresses astaxantin when its alive, separating from the chemical to allow it to be on its own and show its true color. Voila! The red lobster appears. The only lobster that will never turn red, even when it’s cooked, is the albino lobster, only because it contains no pigments in its shell.

Interesting, right? Lobsters are incredible creatures. We invite you to learn more about them by visiting Seafood University, which we stock full of informative articles, lobster recipes, and fun facts about lobster. You can also order some delicious and fresh Maine lobsters from Maine Lobster House online to have delivered to your door and ready for your next meal!