It’s quite amazing how often we hear people using prawns and shrimp interchangeably, even within the farming, fishing, and culinary realms. There are even misconceptions out there that prawns are merely gigantic shrimp. The truth is, they are quite distinguishable in many ways. We’ve put together this helpful guide to walk you through the differences and similarities between the two so you know exactly what you’re looking for on your next run to the market or online seafood delivery order.
Shrimp vs. Prawn Around the World
People enjoy eating shrimp and prawns all over the world. In fact, where one lives may just determine what you call it. For those who use the terms interchangeably, here's a quick look at how it compares around the world:
- In the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland, prawn is the typical word they use to refer to both prawns and
- In North America, shrimp is more common when describing them in general. However, the word prawn tends to describe larger species or those found in freshwater.
As you can see, shrimp and prawns are not often used consistently in the same context. The indistinction can make it a bit difficult to know which crustacean you are ordering at a restaurant, purchasing at a market, or for seafood delivery, without prior knowledge of your own.
Anatomy of Shrimp and Prawn
If you take a close look at the two, you’ll see how distinctly different they truly are. Both prawns and shrimp have a thin exoskeleton, and their bodies are divided into three main segments: the head, thorax, and abdomen. While both are decapod crustaceans, meaning both have ten legs and external skeletons, their classification similarities end there. The main difference in anatomy between prawns and shrimp is their body form.
Shrimp belong to the sub-order Pleocyemata, which also includes crayfish, lobsters, and crabs. Their thorax overlaps their head and abdomen in shrimp, allowing them to bend their bodies more so than prawns. Shrimp have two pair of claw-like legs, unlike prawn, and plate-like gills.
Prawns belong to the sub-order Dendrobranchiata. Each segment of a prawn overlaps the segment below it. For example, their head overlaps their thorax, and their thorax overlaps their abdomen. It’s because of this that prawns are unable to bend their bodies in the way shrimp can. Prawns also have three pairs of claw-like legs - longer than shrimp – second pincers, which are larger than the front, and branching gills.
Another difference between prawns and shrimp worth mentioning is how they reproduce. Prawns release their eggs into the water then leave them to grow on their own. Shrimp will carry their fertilized eggs in the undersides of their bodies.
Size Differences of Shrimp and Prawns
Keep in mind that size is not always an accurate indicator of a shrimp or prawn. Both may vary in size depending on their species. So, while there is no standard size limit that differentiates the two, we typically classify crustaceans by count per pound instead.
The general sizing guidelines for shrimp and prawns are:
- Large: usually forty or fewer cooked shrimp or prawns per pound
- Medium: usually fifty per pound
- Small: usually sixty per pound
Taste and Texture Differences
There is no real distinguishable difference in the texture or taste between shrimp and prawns. While some may argue there are differences in taste between saltwater and freshwater crustaceans, others may argue one species is sweeter than another. The truth is, they are very similar in both taste and texture. Instead, it is much more likely that a shrimp or prawn's diet and habitat influence its taste and texture. It really boils down to how this allows them both to be used interchangeably in a wide variety of incredible dishes.
Typically, prawns tend to be more expensive due to their generally larger size. However, you will undoubtedly come across large shrimp species that can easily be mistaken for and priced as dwarf prawns.
There are other factors to consider when shopping for shrimp and prawns for your next seafood delivery or at your local market when evaluating price. Prices vary between farm-raised and wild-caught seafood, with farm-raised typically being less expensive.
There may also be differences in price between:
- cooked vs. raw
- fresh versus frozen
- peeled and deveined vs. shell on
Health Benefits of Shrimp and Prawns
Both shrimp and prawns are excellent protein sources and low in calories, with no significant differences in nutritional value. Consuming three ounces, or eighty-five grams, of shrimp or prawns, contains roughly eighteen grams of protein and around eighty-five calories.
Although prawns and shrimp may sometimes find themselves in judgment for having high cholesterol content, their ongoing list of positive health benefits is just too hard to ignore. Both options provide a rather impressive fat profile, including an incredible amount of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and excellent vitamin B12, iron, and phosphorus sources.
Shrimp and prawns offer a lean protein source and are an excellent source of the antioxidant selenium. You'll receive nearly fifty percent of the daily value of selenium in your three-ounce serving. More notably, the type of selenium you’ll get from shellfish is well absorbed by the body.
Habitat Differences of Shrimp and Prawns
While both live in waters worldwide, there are some notable differences in where each can be found. Depending on the shrimp species, you may find them in saltwater, both warm and cold areas, and even some in freshwater areas.
Most prawns live in freshwater, although you will sometimes find some species in slightly salty water. While they prefer warm water, some live in cold water in the Northern Hemisphere.
Cooking Shrimp vs. Prawn
Both shrimp and prawns are easy to prepare and known for their ability to cook quickly, making them the perfect seafood choice for any meal or appetizer. There are various ways to prepare these tasty shellfish, and the convenience of seafood delivery services makes it that much easier to prepare for your next meal! Each can be fried, grilled, or steamed to perfection, with its shell on or off. The options for delicious shrimp and prawn dishes are endless.
Now that we have your mouth watering let us help you plan your next shrimp or prawn feast for the family. With quick, reliable seafood delivery service right to your doorstep, and delicious side dish ideas perfectly paired for you, you’ll have everything you need for your next seafood meal.