In the vast and diverse world of seafood, things can often get a bit confusing. You can easily mistake one species of water dweller with another. One such example is the confusion surrounding langostino and crawfish. Both terms refer to crustaceans, which are very popular in the restaurant industry. But are they the same animal? What are the differences between langostino and crawfish?
Crawfish are freshwater crustaceans, whereas langostino is saltwater crustaceans. Crawfish refers to one specific superfamily of crustaceans, whereas langostino mainly refers to crustaceans in the Galatheidae family. Langostinos are typically longer and slimmer than crawfish.
Due to similar evolutionary traits, it can be very hard to differentiate between many varieties of crustaceans. And the way many restaurants market these animals, the distinctions become even more muddled.
So, in this article, we are going to take a deeper look at two more common crustaceans used for food – crawfish and langostino – and see how they are similar and different.
Langostino vs. Crawfish: Differences
I will discuss their appearance, taste, culinary application, habitat, nutrition, and many more, so you will easily differentiate them. First, I give you a table that you can use as a cheat sheet.
|Price||$15 to $16 per pound||$5 to $6 per pound|
|Taxonomy||Anomura infraorder||Astacidea infraorder|
|Size||Larger and slimmer||Short and stubby|
|Taste||More salinity||Less salinity and sweeter|
There are many confusions surrounding the use of the term “langostino.” In the restaurant industry in the US, the term “langostino” most commonly refers to squat lobsters. Now, squat lobsters are not the same as true lobsters or crabs. They belong to a related group as crabs and lobsters and are in the same order, Decapods.
But langostinos belong to the Anomura infraorder and the Galatheidae family of crustaceans. In contrast, the American lobster is in the infraorder of Astacidea, and true crabs are in the infraorder Brachyura.
Crawfish belong to the same order of crustaceans known as Decapod. But they are in a different infraorder known as the Astacidea, which is similar to American lobsters and not langostinos.
As far as taste goes, langostinos or “langostino” lobsters have a very similar taste to regular lobsters. Hence, why many restaurants will use langostino meat instead of actual lobster (like the American lobster) as the price of langostinos are almost half. The tail meat of langostinos is sweet and delicate, similar to lobsters, but has a slightly different texture.
Similarly, crawfish also tastes like lobster but with a sweeter flavor. This is because crawfish are exclusively freshwater animals, while most lobsters that you eat are saltwater.
Langostinos refers to the crustaceans found in the Anomura infraorder. These animals have a “crab-like” exterior. But their dorsal or last pair of legs are hidden by their carapace. This gives the illusion that they only have four pairs of legs. In reality, they have five pairs of legs as the entire order of Decapods is named by these character traits.
Langostino looks like small and stubby lobsters. They have notable purple racing stripes, which are completely absent in crawfish. Crawfish do not have any such striped or spotted markings on their body.
Crawfish are also decapods but have a shorter and stouter body shape compared to langostinos.
In the US, the crustaceans that are labeled as “langostinos” are no longer than 8 cm (or 3 inches) and weigh less than 200 grams. They are smaller than typical lobsters, having a size that resembles much closer to prawns.
Crawfish look like the shorter, stubbier, cousins of lobsters. Due to the similarities in appearance, these animals are often referred to as “freshwater lobster.” For reference, true lobsters are all saltwater animals. On average, Crawfish can grow up to 17.5 cm or almost 7 inches, which is much longer than langostinos.
Langostinos are saltwater crustaceans. They come from many countries. Chile exports two species of crustaceans labeled as langostinos, both of these belong to the Galatheidae family. Two other species come from New Zealand. These animals can be either pelagic (lives in the middle of the sea) or benthic (bottom dwellers).
Crawfish or crayfish are exclusively freshwater creatures, meaning they live in rivers and lakes. They are also found in swamps and paddy fields with water. They are mostly benthic animals, preferring to live near the bottom of the body of water to feed on vegetation, decomposing animals, and detritus.
Langostinos are very popular as seafood in different parts of the world. They are frequently imported from the regions of Chile and New Zealand. In recent years, the demand for langostinos has increased dramatically, especially in the US market.
This is because the cost of using langostino lobsters is much less than typical American or spiny lobsters. This is why many restaurants such as Rubio, Long John Silvers, etc. have substituted typical lobsters with this variety. In such cases, the law requires that the market designate the crustacean as “langostino lobster” or something similar to highlight the difference.
Compared to langostinos, crawfish have been popular for a much longer time and in more areas. They are found in great numbers across Northern America, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and South Africa. As such, these animals are a staple of the seafood in all of these regions.
To make it easier for you, I made a table that sums up the nutritional value differences between langostino and crawfish.
|Nutrition (per 3 oz)||Langostino||Crawfish|
|Total Fat||0||0.8 g|
|Cholesterol||125 mg||97 mg|
|Sodium||170 mg||49 mg|
|Protein||15 g||14 g|
Langostinos are cooked in much the same ways as lobsters and prawns. In the US, these animals are often grilled or fried and used on top of pizza. They are also frequently paired with pasta dishes. Or in a simpler use, the langostinos are boiled or sauteed in wine and garlic and served with a lemon wedge and chopped herbs.
The tails of the langostinos, in particular, are very widely used and sought after. They offer the perfect bite-sized portion ready to be served in dishes such as pizza, pasta, and soup.
Crawfish can be enjoyed and served in multiple ways. You can simply boil or sauté them and serve them hot with a squeeze of lemon. Or you can pair them up with pasta or pizza. Crawfish pot pies and crawfish boil are popular dishes in the US.
In the US market, a pound of the whole langostino sells for $15 to $16. But you can get them at a cheaper rate if you buy them in bulk. For example, a 5 lb.-bag of langostino can go from $13 to $14. IQF langostino tails can sell for $7 to $8 in the US market. This price is nearly half that of lobster tails, which explains the growing demand for langostinos.
Live Louisiana crawfish can go for $4-$5 per pound. Fresh boiled crawfish can sell for $5 to $6 per pound depending on the season.
Are Langostino and Crawfish the Same Thing?
Though they may look sort of similar on a seafood platter, langostinos and crawfish are not the same groups of animals. Langostino crustaceans belong to the Anomura infraorder of decapods. Crawfish, on the other hand, belongs to the Astacidea group of decapods. For reference, a decapod means it has ten legs.
Can You Substitute Langostino with Crawfish?
You can replace langostino with crawfish due to their similar appearance and texture. But they will not taste the same in a dish.
Both crawfish and langostino taste similar to lobsters. But crawfish, being a freshwater animal, has slightly sweeter meat. Langostino has more salinity due to them being saltwater crustaceans. The meat in crawfish tends to be a bit more tender than langostino.
So, while you can replace langostino with crawfish, they will not produce the same taste.
Can You Substitute Crawfish with Langostino?
For the same reason, you can substitute crawfish with langostino if you want or are forced to do so. They are similar enough in taste and texture that you can get away with it. But a keen eater will be able to pick up the difference in taste between the two.
Is Langostino a Scampi?
Scampi, also known as Norway lobster, is an edible crustacean in the Nephropidae family. Langoustine is just a localized name for this family of crustaceans. So, no, langostino is not a scampi.
Does Langostino Taste Like Lobster?
As far as most people are concerned, langostino meat tastes very identical to lobster meat. They are sweet but not as sweet as freshwater crabs or crawfish. Langostinos are also less meaty than lobsters.
To conclude, both crawfish and langostino offer a terrific substitute for lobster at a cheaper cost. So, if you are a fan of lobster or similar seafood, you can try these crustaceans instead without worrying about compromising on the taste.