North Carolina has earned national prominence for its exceptional oysters. Our oysters carry distinct flavors, reflecting our diverse waters — saltier oysters are harvested near ocean inlets, and less salty ones are harvested closer to rivers.
Like wine, oysters can have complex flavor profiles. They might first taste salty, then sweet, and end with a floral or fruity finish. That makes oysters excellent for eating steamed, broiled, char-grilled, fried, baked, in stews or on the half-shell.
Rowan Jacobson, author of A Geography of Oysters and The Essential Oyster, even describes our waters as the Napa Valley of Oysters.
Thanks to a thriving shellfish aquaculture community, North Carolina oysters can be found in markets year-round. But, in coastal fishing communities, they are especially celebrated during winter holidays. While your oyster roast may be limited to family this year, see our recipes below for some new dishes to try.
Check in with North Carolina Sea Grant for more information on this increasingly sustainable seafood tradition.
Find Oysters Near You
The North Carolina Oyster Trail, created this year, includes growers, markets, restaurants and processors, along with community businesses and organizations that celebrate oysters. You can view the map to the right as well as a map created by the council.
By buying local, you are supporting North Carolina oyster growers and boosting local economies. Ask for them at your local seafood market, check out the Got to Be NC website for specific contacts, or download the Visit NC Farms app.
At the North Carolina Local Food Council, we are #thankful4oysters and all the seafood producers on the coast who cultivate and harvest North Carolina’s finest seafood every day!
Map from the NC Oyster Trail, a partnership of North Carolina Coastal Federation, North Carolina Sea Grant, and the North Carolina Shellfish Growers Association
Map created by the North Carolina Local Food Council. Last updated January 2021.
Get to Know Your Oyster Farmer
Chris Matteo of Chadwick Creek Oysters and Siren’s Cove Shellfish
Look through the recipes linked below for some yummy and filling oyster-based entrees to serve over the holidays.
In need of some dressing on your dinner table? Whether or not you have a holiday bird, serve these dressings that you bake separately on the side with a nice warm stew too!
Find more recipes from the Mariner’s Menu at marinersmenu.org
Looking for a place to taste some fresh oysters without the hassle? Consider supporting these NC restaurants serving up NC oysters!
Feature photo courtesy of Baxter Miller/Courtesy NC Sea Grant
Other photos and video courtesy of NC Sea Grant