Shrimp or Prawn?

Shrimp or Prawn?

What’s the difference? Are shrimp smaller than prawns? Are they actually the same thing? We explore...

by:  
Jeniffer Chiat  Jeniffer Chiat  on 14 Mar '20


Looking at a menu, the words “shrimp” and “prawn” appear to mean the same thing. For example, there is no noticeable difference between a shrimp cocktail and a prawn cocktail. However, once prawns begin to be described by using adjectives such as “king” and “tiger” – that makes a difference to us.

Tiger prawns are the largest, meaning they are more expensive and have more meat on them; you never see tiger shrimp on a menu. So are prawns bigger? The word “shrimp” sounds a bit like “shrink” (and it’s also a derogatory name for a short person), so does that mean that shrimp are smaller than prawns?

Turns out, yes, there are a few distinctions and differences between the two crustaceans. We’re here to answer all your shrimp-le questions and will let you decide which is the better of the two.


Shrimp cocktail


Where in the world are you?

In certain parts of the world, you rarely hear the word “prawn”, and in other parts of the globe, you may only hear the word “shrimp” on TV. In North America, the word “shrimp” is far more common, but in Commonwealth countries, the word “prawn” is more frequently used. The reality is that both prawns and shrimp are found all over the world, and the words have become interchangeable.

Shrimp or prawn? We tend to lean towards using the word “prawn” based on the fact that we use British English here at Foodie.


Are shape and size factors?

Shrimp and prawns are both crustaceans and decapods, meaning they both have 10 legs. The main anatomical difference between the two is that their bodies don’t bend in the same way. Shrimp are significantly more bendy. Prawns have longer legs and three pairs of claw-like legs. Shrimp only have two pairs (losers).

While they both come in all shapes and sizes, prawns are usually larger. This is judged by the fact that you usually get more shrimp than prawns per kilogram. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and you can‘t always tell the difference just from their size.

Shrimp or prawn? If the two were to fight it out, we’d go with prawns being the winner based on their extra claw leg. However, shrimp may surprise us with their bendy abilities.


Prawn


Do they live in different waters?

Shrimp and prawns can survive in all types of waters. They can be found in both hot and cold waters, but only about a quarter of shrimp are freshwater species. Most prawn species, on the other hand, are found in fresh water. Generally, prawns prefer warmer waters.

Shrimp or prawn? Shrimp seem slightly more plentiful since they’re found in both warm and cold waters. The numbers are not clear on this one though.


Which one is more nutritious?

Good news! Both prawns and shrimp are rich in nutrients. They’re high in protein, low in calories and full of healthy fats. They’re a great natural source of omega 3, vitamin B12 and iron.

Shrimp or prawn? Neither is superior on this front – it’s a draw!


Grilled shrimp


Which one tastes better?

It’s almost impossible to tell the difference between these crustaceans simply by tasting them. While some may claim that prawns are meatier, this usually has more to do with the species’ habitat and diet than its actual flavour. It also depends on how you season and cook them. As versatile delights, prawns and shrimp can be grilled, boiled or fried. They can be cooked and served with the shell on or off. They soak up flavour and can be mild, spicy and even sweet.

Shrimp or prawn? In this case, it depends on how the chef chooses to prepare them and what your flavour preferences are.


There you have it – the shrimp and prawn are not the same, yet they are normally interchangeable. While this information may not affect your taste buds, it will certainly give you some fun facts to add to your next dinner-party conversation.

Have a shrimp-ly delicious day!


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Jeniffer Chiat

Jeniffer Chiat

Digital Content Manager | Hummus where the heart is