Prawns Vs Shrimp – What is the difference

prawns vs shrimp

Prawns and shrimps are delicious seafood consumed all over the world. Due to their similar appearance, the terms shrimps and prawns are used interchangeably to mean the same thing in commercial and fishery circles.

In recent times, aquaculture literature has been trying to make clear distinctions. The term prawn reserved only for freshwater forms of the Palaemonidae. On the other hand, shrimps refer to the different marine penaeids types.

The British population prefers the term prawns in their menus than shrimps. It is the opposite case in America. Here prawn loosely translates to mean a giant shrimp.

Most of the commonwealth nations follow the British definition. In some cases, prawns are used exclusively to represent both prawns and shrimps.

Consumption of shrimps and prawns is forbidden in some communities. The Kashrut laws among Jews prohibit consuming shrimps as food. They are considered abominations and should not be eaten. The only finfish is acceptable.

Among Muslims, Maliki, Hanbali, Ja’fari, and Shafi’ I Schools allow shrimps consumptions. The Hanafi School forbids.

In French-speaking communities, you will often encounter the term crevette in their hotels and restaurants.

What Are Shrimps And Prawns

Both prawns and shrimps are shellfish. Though similar in appearance, they belong to different suborders among the Decapods.

Shrimps have two pairs of clawed legs, while prawns have three. It’s the main difference between them. The body shapes, a shell covering overlaps, and gills have distinctive features too.

When it comes to taste, most people find them similar. However, others have claimed that shrimps taste buttery while prawns taste like chicken. That is a matter of personal preference if you ask me.

Amazingly, the nutrition in both shrimps and prawns almost match. Prawns have an average of twenty grams of protein, while shrimps have twenty-four grams.

Shrimps have shorter legs and are smaller. Prawns are bigger with longer legs. It explains why shrimps are more often confused as small prawns.

They share similar behavioural characteristics and feeding habits. In prawns, the second pincers are more giant while in shrimps, the first pincer is the larger one.

Nonetheless, shrimps and prawns are hard to distinguish once they are out of their shells. They are delicious meals with a whole range of tasty recipes to try out.

These differences are usually pure biology and have negligible significance when it comes to matters of meals and delicacy.

How Are Shrimps And Prawns Fished?

Prawns and shrimps are either wild-catch or farmed. Wild catch refers to those caught in the seas and oceans, planted are those reared in fishponds. There have been reports of child and slave labour used in their production in Thailand and Indonesia.

These two countries are the largest exporters of shrimps and prawns in the United States. These countries mostly export farmed shrimps.

Trawling is the most common method used to catch prawns and shrimps in the sea. Environmentalists, due to the bycatch effect, frowns upon this method.

The shrimps and prawns lay up to a million eggs and have a lifespan of two years. Tons of this seafood is fished each season. For this reason, there are restrictions in some countries. Fishing prawns and shrimps on average only happen for half the year in regulated areas.

In the open seas, fishing is not restricted and occurs throughout the year. fishing in the high seas in particular areas is required to join a Regional Fisheries Management Organizations

However, there are no tangible regulations or tough decisions made by these organizations. Overfishing of seafood continues to be a significant issue.

Overfished prawns and shrimps lead to overstocking. With their limited shelf life, most of the excess stock ends up as waste.

Different Types Of Shrimps/ Prawns

There are over three hundred species of shrimps/prawns in the world. For today, we will look at the edible varieties available.


School prawns- have a short shelf life and are very small. They are lovely and moist. Most of the time, they are sold aired cooked.

King prawns- Are among colossal prawns. They have a rich flavour, are moist, and their flesh is medium firm. They have a distinctive bright blue tail.

Tiger prawns- Are large and rich in flavour. They have firm flesh, are moist but not as flavour-rich as King prawns.

Banana prawns- there are two varieties of banana prawns the regular and white banana prawns. They are medium-sized with a sweet and mild flavour.


White shrimps: They are sweet with a nutty taste. The Mexican and Chinese white shrimp are farmed in wide varieties that are not wild-caught. These cultivated varieties are less sustainable.

Pink shrimps Are small and pink when raw, earning the name.

Rock shrimp have a hard shell and have to be deshelled before they can be sold. More often, they are compared to lobsters due to their firm texture.

Brown shrimps: They contain more iodine and turn pink when cooked. Have a richer mineral flavour than the pink and white shrimps.

Royal red shrimp have a distinctive bright red colour.

Tiger Shrimps: they are small and characterized by stripes. Mostly, they are farmed hence not sustainable over an extended time.

Health Benefits Of Eating Shrimps/Prawns

The USDA reports that three ounces of shrimps/prawns contain-

60 milligrams of calcium

94 milligrams of sodium

33 milligrams of magnesium

20 grams of protein

0.24 grams of fat

0.17 grams of carbohydrates

Prawns are delicious delicacies in addition to being very nutritious. The health benefits of prawns are.

They have low calories content. A medium-sized shrimp has seven calories; this means that an average serving will have about 84 calories. Compare this to a meal of chicken on the same quantity; you get more nutrients but low-calorie content. Therefore, the shrimp is a healthier protein source.

They are very rich in protein. Being dish, shrimps, and prawns are primarily protein foods. They are protein-rich as compared to similar white meat sources like chicken. They also have fewer carbohydrates and fats. Add this to the fact that they are delicious, and you have an ideal protein source.

They provide several nutrients. A surprising fact to note is the number of nutrients that shrimps/ prawns have. A single meal of this delicacy is enough to provide you with

  • Recommended the daily amount of selenium
  • Three-quarters of B12 vitamins
  • Phosphorus
  • Copper, iodine, and choline

They are a source of antioxidants. Shrimps get their primary colour from a mineral called astaxanthin. It is an antioxidant that has been proven to reduce inflammation and reduces aging. Selenium is another essential antioxidant found in shrimp. It gets rid of radical elements that lead to the destruction of cell membranes and DNA.

They have high cholesterol content. There is a raging debate about cholesterol intake. There is a misleading notion that cholesterol is bad for your health. The truth is cholesterol is an essential nutrient, but its consumption should be limited to 300 milligrams in a day. Therefore, you should take no more than 7 ounces of shrimp meat in a day to avoid high cholesterol.

How To Prepare Shrimps/Prawns

Shrimps and prawns can be prepared and served both when hot and cold. Their delicacies have so much versatility and can add extra flavour and brighten up any meal.

Smaller species are sweeter and succulent hence a perfect choice for salads and sandwiches. The larger species are better when prepared as main dishes.

There are several ways to prepare a prawn or shrimp dishes. Most of the time, it is a matter of your preference and how creative you can be with your ingredients and spices. Several recipes that are easy to follow are also available.

Shrimps and prawns can be steamed, boiled, grilled, baked, deep-fried, sautéed, or baked; you have so many options. You can choose to cook them with or without the shells, with veins or not.

If you choose to buy cooked shrimps/prawns, add them a few minutes before the specified time on the recipe. It is because they are frozen, and you will need to heat them first.

Defrosting Prawns And Shrimps

Freezing is the best way to sustain prawns and shrimps for longer. Most of the time, your prawns and shrimps will be frozen individually to keep them fresh. It is imperative that you thoroughly defrost them before you prepare them.

Start by removing them from their packs, then wrap them tightly in a cling film and place them in a bowl of water, let them defrost overnight. If their packaging if watertight, you can defrost them quicker, by merely putting them in a sink filled with water.

Defrosting ensures even cooking and prevents contamination of your delicacy by bacteria.

Shelled Or Unshelled, Which Way To Go?

You can choose to prepare your shrimps and prawns with their shells and head on then removed while eating. However, removing the shell and head when slightly frozen just before cooking is more relaxed.

Cooking them with their shells ensures firm meat with tastier flavour from the shell. Removing the shell can make the beef disintegrate, especially if you overcook.

The shells and heads can be cooked as a delicacy on their own. Fry them in a little olive oil on high heat for a few minutes.

Bring them to boil for about fifteen minutes. Sieve it and store it in an airtight container. Let it cool to your desired temperature before serving. If you want to save it, let it cool completely before taking it to the freezer.

How To Remove The Shell

Deshelling a shrimp or prawn is easy and straightforward. Just twist the head then pull it off together with the legs. Holding the tail, lift the shell upwards then pull it off the body.

Another way is using kitchen scissors to cut through the middle. Then you can peel off the shell.

The tail is for its aesthetic value since it makes the dish look nice.

How To Remove The Intestinal Vein

The intestinal vein can be removed before or after preparing your shrimps/prawns. They are edible, though some people may not like them.

Though possible, removing the vein with the shell still on can be a daunting task. Find one side of the thread on one side then draw it out from end to end.

You can also cut a part of the shell and find one end of the end to draw it out.

Way Of Cooking Shrimps And Prawns

Boiling them

This is the easiest and most common way to prepare your shrimps and prawns. Take care not to put too much water, as it is straightforward for them to be overcooked. It is a balancing act since they should not be undercooked either.

  • Bring about two litres of water to boil in a saucepan and add salt to taste.
  • Add the shrimps/ prawns shelled or unshelled depending on your preference.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and let it simmer, counting the time depending on the size.
  • They will be cooked when they float, and the flesh turns opaque/ white. You can cut one to check.
  • Remove them and run over tap water for some seconds.
  • They are now ready to eat.

Prawns and shrimps cooking time will depend on their size and quantity, but they only take a couple of minutes to cook. The larger ones take a little longer. Cook the medium and small ones for 4 minutes max, the larger ones for five to seven-minute and the jumbo for a maximum of eight minutes.

Pan-frying shrimps and prawn

This is a very delicious option to cook them. In this form, you can serve them as a main meal or as a starter. 

  • Rinse your shrimps/ prawns in tap water and dry them.
  • Melt butter and olive oil in a frying pan.
  • Add chopped garlic and cloves.
  • Add your prawns/ shrimps.
  • Season with black pepper and salt
  • Let it fry depending on size; more gigantic shrimps/ prawns will take longer. They will be ready when the shell turns pink.
  • Serve while hot

Deep frying

Nutritionists frown upon this method of preparation, as they do not view it as healthy. Well, it is a delicious option that you can indulge in occasionally. If you are deep frying already cooked prawns/shrimps, reheat on a gentle heat to avoid them being overcooked.

  • Put a few inches of vegetable oil in a deep fryer and heat to 190 degrees Celsius
  • Remove the shell from your shrimps/ prawns
  • Deep them in milk dusting with flour and put them in the fryer
  • Fry until they have a golden colour
  • They are now ready to be served and eaten

Grilling prawns/shrimps

It is a popular method of preparation, especially for the more giant prawns. Marinate them first for three hours, then put them in a hot grill or over barbeque coals. You can also bake them in a hot oven. If you use a furnace, extend the cooking time for a few minutes.

  • Deshell the shrimp/prawn but keep the tail.
  • Remove the intestinal vein, as you have learned earlier.
  • Soak wooden skewers in warm water for twenty minutes the arrange you prawns/ shrimps
  • Put aluminium foil on the rack to preheat it to high temperatures.
  • Arrange the skewers on the foil, spacing them well.
  • Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle pepper, garlic, and salt to taste.
  • Grill till they turn pink. Then turn the skewers for both sides to grill.
  • They are now ready to serve. 

Already cooked prawns and shrimps can be eaten fresh from the packaging without added preparation. Some people like to enjoy them as snacks. I0

If you are cooking them to later use in a recipe, you can store them in a refrigerator. Put them in a sealing bag then store them in the freezer. It is recommended you use them within three days after cooking and storing.

There are so many recipes to try out. Do not limit yourself to the ones above. Be creative and imagine new recipes too.

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