Prawn, shrimp, and crawfish belong to the same family of marine animals- crustaceans. Being that they look similar, they are often mixed up while, in fact, they are quite different. So what are the differences between prawns, shrimp, and crawfish?
Prawns and shrimp live in fresh as well as saltwater, while crawfish mainly in freshwater. All three live in muddy environments, on the bottom of the shallow part of the water. Crawfish looks like a small lobster, while prawns and shrimps look very similar. However, prawn’s body is not as bent as shrimp’s. All three are rich in protein and low in fat.
Prawn, shrimp, and crawfish, are different types of seafood, and they are to be enjoyed properly; therefore, one should be aware of their differences. I will describe the differences between prawn, shrimp, and crawfish, their habitats, taste, and quality in the following paragraphs.
Prawn Vs. Shrimp Vs. Crawfish
Prawn, shrimp, and crawfish share many similarities, but they are indeed three different types of seafood. Although they belong to the same family, they have some significant differences worth mentioning.
Here is the table that sums up their differences, and later on, we will go into detail.
|Habitat||Mainly saltwater, in the shallow end, near rocks and branches. They need calm water.||Mainly saltwater, in the shallow end, near rocks and branches. They need calm water.||Mainly freshwater, in the shallow end, they dig holes for themselves.|
|Nutrition||Low in fat and rich in protein, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and sodium.||Low in fat and rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, copper, zinc, phosphorus, and magnesium.||Low in fat and rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and calcium.|
|Popularity and use||They are primarily used as finger foods.||They are primarily used as finger foods.||They are mainly used as an ingredient in other meals.|
|Appearance and taste||Five pairs of legs and a long tail. They have claws on two pairs of legs and an exoskeleton.|
Sweet and rich, with a pungent but pleasant aroma.
|Five pairs of legs and a long tail. They have claws on three pairs of legs and an exoskeleton.|
Sweet and rich, with a pungent but pleasant aroma.
|It is shaped like a small lobster with a long tail. It has a hard exoskeleton and is bigger in size compared to shrimp and prawns. |
Buttery taste with no-fish aroma.
|Availability and price||$4 to $7 per pound, available all year round.||$5 to $10 per pound, available all year round.||$3 to $5 per pound in season and more expensive during the rest of the year.|
Shrimp and prawns are very close when it comes to taste. They are also very popular because they are easy to peel and they are edible for the most part. They are pretty meaty and full-flavored.
Both shrimp and prawn are sweet-tasting, with a pungent but pleasant aroma. They have a creamy but solid texture and are easy to peel. They are perfect to combine with a variety of salads and other types of seafood and are seafood in themselves.
Crawfish are also sweet-tasting with no fishy aroma and are very rich and even buttery. Because they live in freshwater, they have an expressive mineral whiff that makes them even more recognizable.
The edible part of the crawfish is the tail, as most of the meat is there. However, the other parts are edible too, but since crawfish have a hard exoskeleton, they are harder to peel and, therefore, not as popular as shrimp and prawns. Still, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a wide audience; on the contrary.
Crawfish is best described as a small lobster. It has a hard exoskeleton and claws and is bigger than prawns and shrimp.
Prawns and shrimp are very similar to one another. They both have five pairs of legs, long tails, and an exoskeleton, but not as hard as that of the crawfish. Prawns have claws on three pairs of legs, and shrimp have claws on two.
The best way to differentiate prawns and shrimps is to look at their body shape. Shrimps are significantly bent, while prawns are not bent that much.
In general, all three are not very big and are considered finger foods or an ingredient to another, bigger meal. However, even though it wouldn’t be easy to recognize them by their sizes, prawns are usually bigger than shrimps.
Crawfish mainly live in freshwaters, such as rivers, ponds, streams, and lakes. However, there are crawfish species living in saltwater as well. They live in the shallow end of the water surface and sometimes in holes in the ground near the water surface.
They dig themselves into the holes and throw mud or sand over them to protect themselves against predators. Crawfish are omnivores, meaning that they feed on plants as well as small insects and plankton.
Crawfish primarily live in the waters around North America, Louisiana, more precisely, and also China. However, they are farmed in other parts of the world.
There are many prawn and shrimp species, and they can be found all around the world, but they mostly live in the northern hemisphere. Shrimp and prawns prefer saltwater, but they can also be found in freshwater.
Shrimp and prawns need calm and warm water, so you won’t find them where there’s a strong current. Like the crawfish, they also live in the shallow end, but they don’t dig holes but need a safe surface to perch on. They usually lay their eggs on a rock or a branch, and that’s why they need still water and secluded space.
Just like the crawfish, shrimp and prawns can be farmed in different parts of the world as well.
Popularity and Uses
When it comes to popularity, shrimp, prawn, and crawfish have many fans around the globe. Shrimp and prawn often find their use in cocktail parties as finger foods or seafood cocktails. The home use of shrimp and prawns is pretty limited, but since they are available worldwide and during all seasons, they make their way to many households, especially in countries with marine cuisine.
Crawfish is best-known as a part of Louisiana Crawfish Boil, Crawfish Etouffee, and Crawfish Pie. Their use is mainly as an ingredient to another meal, rather than crawfish alone, although they could be found in a seafood cocktail with another type of seafood. Crawfish are also very popular, but because their exoskeleton is harder and the edible part is mostly the tail, they aren’t as popular as shrimp and prawns.
All in all, all three of these seafood types are widely used and beloved by many and offer many pairing options and countless combinations.
Crawfish, prawns, and shrimp fall under the healthy food category. They are rich in protein and low in fat, and have good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Prawns are one of the richest sources of selenium, and they also contain copper, zinc, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Shrimps are also very nutritious, containing potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and sodium. They are low in fat and calorie. 
Crawfish are rich in B vitamins and a great source of iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and calcium.
All three are very beneficial for the health, but they tend to lose some of their nutritional value when cooked. However, even then, they are still very nutritious.
Crawfish are best and most available during crawfish season, which is from early spring until mid-summer. And also from early autumn until early winter, as they require humid weather. During this time, they cost from $3 to $5 per pound, while they are more expensive during the rest of the year.
Prawns are available all year round, and their prices range from $5 to $10 per pound, depending on whether you buy them fresh or frozen.
Shrimp tend to be cheaper than prawns, and they are also available during the entire year. Their prices range from $4 to $7 per pound.
Prawn Vs. Shrimp Vs. Crawfish: Which One Is the Best?
Naturally found around the globe and farmed specifically for nutrition purposes, prawns, crawfish, and shrimp are known for their high quality and nutritional value. In addition, they are a delight for seafood lovers.
To say that one is the best would be unfair to the other two, as they all have their advantages, and when paired and combined properly, they are a true delicacy.
Shrimp and prawns are elegant and refined, making them an excellent choice for seafood cocktails at fancy parties. Crawfish is a delicious ingredient to a boil or an addition to a seafood cocktail.
Therefore, if you like seafood, you will like all three.
Can You Substitute Shrimp for Crawfish?
You can substitute shrimp for crawfish, but the dish will be milder, without the recognizable mineral crawfish whiff.
Can You Substitute Prawn for Shrimp?
Since prawns and shrimp are often mistaken for one for the other, it is only natural that you can substitute them. Their differences are more scientific than flavor-related.