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What Does Crawfish Taste Like? Facts About This Shellfish

Are you wondering, what does crawfish taste like? How do you eat this shellfish? This article will share with you interesting facts about crawfish. We’ll also answer common questions you may have about this seafood.

Crawfish taste is unique and flavorful and can please even the pickiest of eaters. They are versatile and easy to cook, which makes them a great addition to any meal!

Bowl filled with cooked crawfish cocktail

What Is Crawfish?

A crawfish is not a shellfish. It got its present name from its ancient Anglo-French name, “creveis.”

The second syllable of this word sounds like “fish,” and over time, people started calling them that name.

That said, the “fish” in crawfish does not have anything to do with the fish we know. And it definitely doesn’t mean that it’s a fish.

Crawfish is a crustacean closely related to lobster. Unlike lobsters, which live in saltwater, crawfish thrive in freshwater.

The shellfish does not grow as big as lobsters. They stay small even after reaching full age. Depending on where you live, crawfish can also go by the name crayfish or crawdad.

The easiest way to cook crawfish is to boil it. Always cook crayfish; it’s not recommended to eat crawfish uncooked. They are likely to contain dangerous and parasitic lungworms that can cause conditions requiring medical attention.

Infographic showing crawfish with notes about this seafood.

What Does Crawfish Look Like?

The crawfish looks like a mini lobster. It is also an invertebrate, so it does not have bones inside its body. Instead, what it has is a tough shell or exoskeleton.

It is typically 3 inches long and can come in dark brown, red, yellow, or green.

Similar to other crustaceans, crawfish turn bright orange once properly cooked.

Crawfish, like crabs, prawns, and shrimp, are decapods. This term means they have five pairs of legs – ten in total. These shellfish also have five pairs of swimmerets or tiny little legs that assist them in moving.

Their first pair of legs are larger than the rest and are actually claws or pinchers. They share this feature with lobsters along the same-shaped body. A crawfish also has a curled tail and a pair of long antennae.

Black serving board with boiled crawfish

What Does Crawfish Taste Like?

Crawfish have a slightly sweet taste with some saltiness and a mineral-like flavor. For this reason, a crawfish tastes like a cross between crab, shrimp, and lobster.

The claw meat is small and milder than the flesh from the crawfish tail.

However, the meat from crawfish tails is a bit tougher than the claw meat but still pleasant to chew.

Crawfish easily absorb whatever flavor you soak them in. That said, its taste is highly influenced by the cooking method and the ingredients you add.

For example, people usually put cajun seasoning in water used to boil crawfish. If this is the case, boiled crawfish taste bold, spicy, and earthy.

How To Eat A Crawfish

So you got served some cooked crawfish – it looks delicious and smells amazing.

You want to dig right in, but you are unsure how and where to start. Does this sound familiar?

The shellfish looks a bit complicated to tackle. But you shouldn’t let anything get between you and a delicious crawfish dish.

When eating a crawfish, you should know that you can only eat the following:

  • Meat from the tail
  • Meat from the claws
  • Crawfish roe (eggs of the female crawfish)
  • crawfish tomalley (hepatopancreas, “crawfish butter)

Here’s a quick guide with steps:

Step 1. Break It Apart

The first thing you need to do is detach the tail from the rest of the crawfish. To do this, you must pinch and twist the head lightly while holding the tail with your other hand.

Be careful not to pinch the head too much. It contains delicious juices you don’t want to waste.

Step 2. Suck The Head (Optional)

During the cooking process, the head absorbs lots of flavors. And since there is no meat in the head, the best way to make the most out of it is to suck it.

This way, you’ll get the “crawfish butter.” This “butter” is a yellow or orange fat that many consider a delicacy. Most people think this is a big factor in the overall experience of eating crawfish.

Step 3. Remove Some Shell From The Tail

Remove parts of the shell from the tail until you see flesh long enough to hold. This flesh will serve as your “handle” for the next step.

Step 4. Hold, Pinch, and Pull The Flesh

Then, with your thumb and index finger in the “handle,” that flesh, pinch the other end of the tail to cut it off from the shell. Then, finally, pull out the single piece of meat and enjoy.

Cooked crawfish serviced on the black slate board.

What Part Of Crawfish Should You Not Eat?

You should not eat the shell and the head.

When it comes to crawfish, you can only eat the meat, most of which is in the tail.

You can also get meat from the crawfish claws, especially if they’re big enough. The yellow stuff in the head is also edible, and that’s just about it.

What Is A Crawfish Boil?

A crawfish boil is a traditional social gathering very popular in the South. An event like this is especially common in Texas and Louisiana.

People gather in backyards to boil crawfish and feast on them together.

It involves cooking crawfish in a large pot of water seasoned with different spices.

Corn, red potatoes, and andouille sausage are usually added to the pot. Afterward, they arrange all the pot contents on a large table covered with newspapers.

Large bowl served with crawfish boil meal.
Does Crawfish Taste Fishy?

Fresh crawfish should not taste fishy. It should taste similar to crab and shrimp – slightly sweet and meaty. Remember that its meat goes bad the minute the crawfish dies, so you must cook it alive. If your crawfish is fishy, it must not have been that fresh.

Crayfish Vs. Lobster Taste

Crayfish and lobster have similar flavor profiles. After all, people often describe their flavors as a combination of crab and shrimp. Perhaps the biggest difference is that crayfish tend to be milder. Lobster has an intense taste, at least when it is side-by-side with crawfish.

Crawfish Vs. Shrimp Taste

Crawfish and shrimp do not taste very different from each other. In fact, most people use shrimp’s taste to describe the flavor of crawfish and vice-versa.
They’re both sweet, but shrimp has nuances of butter and a bit of creaminess. Crawfish do not have that richness, so they take a bit of a backseat compared to shrimp.


If you’re planning to eat crawfish for the first time, you’d better know what you’re getting yourself into. It will be messy but so worth it. So, what does crawfish taste like? Is crawfish meat delicious?

The easiest way to describe this shellfish flavor is by taking shrimp and crab and throwing a bit of lobster into the mix. Crawfish is mild-tasting, slightly salty, and sweet. This seafood is definitely worth a try.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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