If you’re a shrimp lover, you want to know the answer to this question: can you eat shrimp shells? There are some people who say they can eat them, and there are those who say it’s dangerous. But, we’ll get into all of that in more detail below!
In this article, we will discuss all the factors of safety concerning consuming shrimp shells. You shall also learn if you could get sick from eating these shells.
Are Shrimp Shells Edible?
You can actually eat them! They are consumed in many Asian countries and are considered a delicacy because of their crispy texture. This texture may be a challenge in many cuisines, but it becomes one of the most delicious ways of having shrimps with the shells if deep-fried.
Can You Eat Shrimp Shells?
Most people have heard that shrimp is healthy food to eat; however, many are unaware that the shells of these creatures are also edible.
In western cultures, it’s not uncommon to find cuisines, including the shells, while others explicitly leave them out. You’ll mostly find them without heads but with their tails and shells intact.
Shrimps with shells have a texture that is similar to soft cartilage. This may be a preference for these cultures, but others consume them without the shells, in which case, the texture is like that of meat.
The shells also have a flavor like the muscles, but they are slightly saltier. Before they are cooked, shrimp shells are usually tasteless. This is the main reason most cuisines exclude the shells whenever shrimp is part of the ingredients.
When the shells are included in a meal, they easily trap spices and seasonings. If you are the type, you will enjoy every bit of sucking on the shells. Still, if you have the skill it takes to properly cook the shells, you will undoubtedly enjoy their crunch.
Broths and stews will also benefit from shrimp shells. The shells thicken the broth, but again, you need the skill to avoid an undesirable texture.
It is a delicacy in shrimp-consuming cultures of the world but mostly consumed during festivities and religious traditions.
Is it Safe to Eat Shrimp Shells?
It is absolutely safe to eat shrimp shells. Even though shrimp shells do not typically pack lots of nutrients, they have some nutritional value. For example, these shells trap some minerals and the indigestible protein chitin.
Shrimps have a fishy taste and smell. Chefs have discovered that cooking the shrimps with the shells still on reduces the odor significantly.
Some people prefer to eat shrimp with shells because this adds more flavor, but you can also take the shells off.
All in all, it is safe to be consumed by human beings and does not result in adverse effects or put the eater’s health at risk whatsoever.
It’s actually great for your body!
Eating Shrimp With Shells
You’ll find lots of recipes online and in cookbooks for cooking shrimps with shells. Some of these dishes include:
– Shrimp scampi
– Spicy shrimp curry from India
– Jumbo prawns stuffed with garlic, cheese, bread crumbs & parsley served on a bed of spaghetti sauce
These are just some of the recipes you can find when searching for shrimp with shells.
Most people will eat these shrimps boiled or fried, considering that they are deep-fried in oil and then cooked again in boiling water.
How to Eat Shrimp with Shells?
There are several ways of eating shellfish like this:
– Peel and eat
– Just suck the head and discard everything else.
– Twist off the legs, twist back on without breaking them so you can nibble up all of it until there’s nothing left but a shell.
This is most probably among the most straightforward ways to enjoy shrimp with shells! But if this method doesn’t sound appealing to you, then consider trying one of the three other ways that involve cooking:
- Baking or broiling
- In a broth or stock
If you have previously cooked soft-shelled crabs by broiling or baking, you will use the same approach with shrimp shells. Just like you cook the whole crab with the shell on and consume all of it once done, shrimps will also be cooked with the shells intact.
This is a practice that has been attempted by many cooks and chefs, and although the shell texture is somewhat a challenge, the style has grown popular throughout New Orleans.
2. In a broth
In need of a shrimp-flavored soup or gravy? Shrimp shells will get you there in a split second. Still, this is the best and arguably the most popular method of utilizing plain shrimp shells.
You will put the shells in a cooking broth or gravy and let them dissolve as the pot boils. Just like with any form of prepared shells, the resultant texture is still an issue.
Some people will pick out the shells from their finished gravy or broth. Others leave them in there and just eat around it. As you can see, this is a more personal decision that needs to be made between yourself and your dinner guests! Either way works fine, though.
If you want something flavorful but easy to prepare, then cooking shrimp shells in broth is the way to go.
Eastern cultures enjoy deep-fried shrimps that have their shells intact. They can be eaten by hand and dipped in a sauce of your choice.
If you want to try this at home, then either deep-fry or pan-fry them until golden brown. There is no need for extra seasoning because the shrimp’s flavor will come through just fine!
If done correctly, the shrimp shells become brittle as the fresh cooks. You can already guess how crispy the shrimp now becomes. This cooking method eliminates the texture issue and offers a much more enjoyable way of eating shrimp with the shell.
Shrimp Shells Health Concerns
You already know that shrimp shells are edible and may not cause harmful effects on your health. That said, it is only those who have shrimp allergies that may not consume the shells alike. These allergies manifest in the form of vomiting, diarrhea and, generally feeling sick after intake.
There is no need to worry, though. If you are not allergic to shrimp already, having the shells won’t cause any problems! This applies even if you eat them raw or undercooked.
See on Video: Can You Eat Shrimp Shells or Not?
Frequently Asked Questions
Q:What happens if you eat shrimp shells?
Shrimps shells are absolutely edible and will therefore not harm you in any way. The only issue is usually the texture, which can be improved by deep frying the shells or the shrimps with the shells.
If you want to lessen your worries cooking these shells, first make a cornstarch paste, add salt, and then coat the shells in that paste. You will think the delicacy is a crunchy meatball or meat pie.
Q: Can you get sick from eating shrimp shells?
No, it is safe to eat and should not cause food poisoning or any other adverse effects. However, if the quantity of shellfish ingested becomes too much for your stomach capacity, then there may be some mild discomfort experienced as a result.
Q: Is it dangerous to eat shrimps with shells?
No, but there is a possibility of getting sick if the quantity exceeds your stomach capacity. If you are an average eater, then shrimp in the shell should not be a problem! If you have tasted the shrimp shells before, you know the only unpleasant thing is usually the texture, but that can be corrected by either deep-frying or pan-frying them first.
Q: Can humans digest shrimp shells?
Yes, shrimp shells are entirely edible. The only thing that could happen is if the quantity of shellfish ingested becomes too much for your stomach capacity, then there may be some mild discomfort experienced as a result. This will not cause any long-term damage.
When preparing the shells, you should remove the vein, and the antenna as these have been proven unsuitable for consumption, no matter how well you try to cook them. Beyond that, you can safely consume the heads (which add a twist of flavor to the dish) and tails, which makes the dish unmistakable for any other shrimp-lookalike delicacy.
Q: Can you eat cooked shrimp shells?
If done correctly, the shrimp shells become brittle as they cook. The shells become extra crispy if first coated in cornstarch before frying.
Shrimp shells can also be used in broths and gravies to impart the shrimp flavor.
You have learned that you can eat shrimp shells, that it is safe to eat them, and they may even cause no adverse effects on your health. If you are not allergic to shrimp, eating the shell will also have no effect! The only thing that might happen if too many shrimp with shells are ingested in one sitting is some mild discomfort from overeating. If you have a unique way of consuming shrimp shells other than the three methods discussed, please let us know in the comments sections.
Enjoy the shells!