Can you eat a shrimp tail? (3 Cooking Tips)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, can you eat a shrimp tail? We will discuss some reasons which beg you to keep the shrimp tail while cooking and why professionals prefer to do so. We will discuss whether you should choose to keep the shrimp tails on or cut them off.

Can you eat a shrimp tail?

You can eat a shrimp tail which has quite a lot of flavors and a texture that some people might enjoy. Shrimp tail is the shell, composed of chitin and is edible. Shrimp tails are left on for aesthetics and to retain the flavor of the dish and are not served to be eaten. The shrimp tails are chewy and hard, and eating them is optional. 

Smaller shrimps are easy to eat as they are soft and chewy. However, bigger shrimps such as Jumbo and colossal have large and hard tails. It is recommended to avoid tails of big shrimps as it is easy to choke on them.

What are shrimp tails made of?

The tail and shell of shellfish are made of chitin, which has a purpose of protecting the shrimps. Chitin is a hard yet brittle substance that is a part of most insects and shellfish and is supposed to be a protective shield for the creature.

Why are shrimp tails left on?

Shrimp tails are left on as part of the presentation. Shrimp dishes like fried shrimp and seafood platter have their tails intact. In more complex shrimp dishes, the tails are removed beforehand. For pasta, salads, paella, stir fries; the shrimp tails are snipped off to spare you of the inconvenience.

In other cases, it is practical to leave the shrimp tail on. While eating, breaded fried shrimp, the tails can be easy to hold on to. While frying, if you leave the shrimp tail on, it is easy to lift them out of the hot oil without smushing the coating or the tender part.

Shrimps also contribute to the flavor. When you cook, you can keep the tails on and remove them when they are served. The shrimp tails have a concentrated flavor which improves the overall profile of the shrimps. Especially if you are making a stock or even while frying the shrimps, leave the shrimp on for an optimized experience.

Can you leave the head on?

You can leave the shrimp’s head while making a stock. When you simmer and boil, keeping the whole shrimp body intact will improve the flavor significantly. Undeniably, while making any kind of stock, the most flavor comes out of the bones, skin, cartilage and connective tissue. 

After you are done making the stock, you can remove both the head and the tail. However, there is no harm in leaving them on and eating them together with the flesh.

Who should avoid eating shrimp tails?

Shrimp tails have high purine levels. For conditions like gout or high uric acid levels, you need to keep kinds of seafood and shrimps and shrimps with tails to a minimum. The nitrogen compounds; purines and pyrimidines are found in high quantities in meat. An adequate protein in the diet is necessary but to avoid the build-up of uric acid in the body, you should keep seafood a scarce part of your diet.

Some people are allergic to crustaceans that include shellfish. Shrimps and their parts such as the tails need to be avoided in case of a shellfish allergy. You must avoid second-hand consumption of shellfish by using the broth, stocks, and make sure that your food did not come in contact with any part of shellfish. 

Shellfish allergies are potentially life-threatening and in case of an attack, the person requires immediate medical attention. 

Why must shrimps be part of your diet?

Seafood such as shellfish is good for not only the heart and body but for brain function as well.

The American Heart Association recommends eating seafood twice a week.

Seafood generally has the following nutrients that differ with different classes of seafood and species. The nutrients serve particular functions in the body by ensuring the healthy function of various organs.

Shrimps are rich in good fats and proteins. Nearly all fish have omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids benefit the body by contributing to the following functions:

  • Lowering blood pressure
  • promoting brain function
  • aids fetal development
  • reducing the risk of mental illnesses
  • reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases

Other nutrients present in the shrimps are potassium, calcium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin D, and B2. 

In this brief guide, we answered the question, can you eat a shrimp tail? We discussed some reasons which beg you to keep the shrimp tail while cooking and why professionals prefer to do so. We discussed whether you should choose to keep the shrimp tails on or cut them off.


Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.