Most people think that prawns are just big shrimp. But the fact is, prawns and shrimp are actually two completely different creatures.
Sure, they look similar, and they are often used interchangeably in recipes but they are actually not the same thing.
We know what shrimp tastes like, as it is one of the most beloved and consumed seafood in the U.S. But what about prawns?
What Do Prawns Taste Like?
Prawns have a mild, sweet taste with a meaty texture. They are similar in taste to shrimp but are generally less salty and less briny compared to shrimp. As they taste similar, they are often used in place of each other in recipes.
What Are Prawns?
Prawns are small crustaceans with 10 legs that live in water that are part of a family called Decapoda, which also includes crabs, shrimp, lobster, and crayfish.
While they are technically different from shrimp, they look very similar and taste very similar which is why they can be used as a substitute for shrimp in most recipes.
Types of Prawns
There are many different types of prawns. We’ll look at some of them below.
1. Tiger Prawns
Tiger prawns are found mostly in Asia, Africa and Australia and can grow up to 13 inches long. They are named as such for the black and white stripes on their shells, which change into a bright orange or red when they are cooked.
They are actually predators that feed off smaller prawns and are more commonly farmed.
2. Banana Prawns
Banana prawns are named as such because they are shaped like bananas and are sweeter in flavor compared to other prawns. They are translucent to yellow in color with reddish-brown spots and have either yellow legs or red legs.
They live in tropical and subtropical waters and are used for dishes like curry and other hot foods, rather than cold food.
3. Spot Prawns
Spot prawns are prized for their sweet and delicate flavor, and are recognizable due to the pair of white spots found on their bodies.
Their colors can be reddish to reddish-brown. They are the largest prawn species found in North America.
4. Kuruma Prawns
Similar to tiger prawns, kuruma prawns also have stripes on their exoskeletons but are a different species of prawns.
They have a sweet taste and a firm texture, and is highly prized in Japan, and can be expensive. They are often the prawn of choice for the Japanese dish tempura in restaurants.
5. Eastern King Prawns
Native to Australia, Eastern king prawns have a long spike between their eyes as a means of protection.
They are big and their size can reach up to a foot long. They are usually transparent with a colorful tail. They are moist and flavorful and do well with grilling.
The Difference Between Prawns and Shrimps
Prawns and shrimps are two very different creatures, scientifically speaking. While they are both crustaceans with 10 legs, they look, live, and behave quite differently.
We’ll explore some of their differences below.
1. Taxonomy and Classification
Shrimp and prawns are both decapods or crustaceans with 10 legs with an exoskeleton. However, shrimps belong to a suborder called Pleocyemata (which also includes lobsters and crabs) while prawns belong to a suborder called Dendrobranchiata.
2. Anatomy and appearance
Prawns and shrimps also have different body structures. In prawns, each segment of their outer skeleton overlaps the one just behind it (the first overlaps just the second, the second just overlaps just the third, etc).
In shrimps, this is not the case. The second abdominal segment overlaps both first and third segments of their body.
This may not sound important but this is what actually allows the shrimp to bend their bodies in a way that prawns cannot. This is the reason why prawns tend to have a straighter body and shrimp, a more curved and curled body structure.
Their gills and claws are also different. Shrimp have layered plate-like gills while prawns have branching gills. Shrimp legs are shorter than prawn legs, and they only have claws on two pairs of those legs, while prawns have them on three pairs.
Prawns are typically larger than shrimp, although there are shrimp varieties that can be bigger. In general, though, shrimp tend to be smaller.
Shrimp are typically sold by number of pieces per pound. To learn more, check out: How Many Shrimp Are in 3 Oz?
4. Reproduction and Gestation
Prawns release fertilized eggs from their bodies into the water. Shrimp, on the other hand, carry and brood their eggs with them, under their bodies.
Most prawns are found in freshwater, while shrimp mostly prefer saltwater. Of course, both varieties are present in both but in general, prawns are freshwater creatures.
Do Prawns and Shrimp Taste Different?
While prawns and shrimp are very different scientifically speaking, culinary-wise there isn’t much of a difference between them in terms of taste.
Prawns tend to be a little bit sweeter than shrimp, owing to the fact that most of them are from fresh waters, and thus would not taste as salty and briny as their saltwater counterparts.
However, this might differ depending on where you source your prawns and shrimps from as of course what they eat would have an effect on their taste.
Also, as prawns tend to be larger and hardier than shrimp, they also tend to be heartier and meatier and can do well with more intense cooking methods like grilling.
However, aside from that, there really isn’t much of a difference between them, which is why they can be successfully used in place of each other in recipes.
Can You Eat Raw Prawns?
Like shrimp, it is not advisable to eat raw prawns as they potentially carry bacteria and pathogens that may cause food-borne illnesses. Like shrimp, it is important to make sure that they are cooked, and not judge by the color alone as some varieties can take on a reddish hue even when raw. (Read: Can Raw Shrimp Be Pink).
Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, stomach pain and muscle aches are all potential symptoms that may last for days and even cause hospitalization.
Healthy individuals may get away with just being sick for a few days but if you are immunocompromised or otherwise have health issues, such an episode may potentially be life-threatening.
There are so many things that you can do with prawns that are delicious and quick that putting yourself at risk for food-borne illnesses is probably not worth the trouble.
Prawn Recipe Ideas
Prawns can be cooked in a variety of different ways, and do well with different cooking methods. They can be baked, grilled, fried, or added to salads and stir-fries.
They cook fairly quickly, and one thing we must watch out for is to not overcook them as they can be tough and rubbery when cooked too long.
To get the most out of your prawns, make sure to only cook them for just the right amount of time to ensure they are still tender and moist.
My favorite way to have prawns is to simply saute them in butter and garlic, and sprinkle them with a little parsley afterward for a quick meal.
Sometimes I would also make a lemon butter sauce to go along with it, and other times, I would marinate the prawns in lemon-lime soda first prior to sautéing to give them a sweeter taste.
I’ve also read that some people simmer them in lemon-lime soda and chili, resulting dish in a dish that is sweet and spicy, and satisfying.
There are many other ways you can cook prawns. Some delicious ideas can be found here.
Frequently Asked Questions to What Do Prawns Taste Like?
Do Prawns Taste Like Shrimp?
Prawns and shrimps are technically different species but have a very similar, almost indistinguishable flavor profile. Prawns tend to be a little sweeter and meatier than shrimp as they are generally bigger, but in culinary uses, they can be interchangeable.
Do Prawns Taste Like Chicken?
Prawns and chicken have two different flavor profiles and do not taste the same. However, as prawns can also have a meaty texture like chicken, they can probably taste similar depending on how it is cooked and the sauces and seasonings used.
Conclusion to What Do Prawns Taste Like?
Prawns have a mild, sweet taste with a meaty texture. They taste similar to shrimp even if they are technically different animals.
The terms prawn and shrimp are often used interchangeably, and depending on the region where you come from, one term may be more popular in usage over the other.
Even if they are technically different, they can be used similarly in recipes and work as perfect substitutes for each other. They both absorb flavors very well and both have similar health benefits.