Shrimp and prawn: what are their differences?

Many think that talking about shrimp and prawn is the same. In fact, in some countries like England and Australia they are both called prawns, while in Latin America they are called prawns. However, despite their similarity, there are several differences.

Both are animals with a short life cycle and when they are adults they are grouped in schools to be the object of commercial fishing. The similarities come from their biological origin. The biologist Marcelo Scelzo describes that they are decapod crustaceans, since they have shells and 10 legs.

There are some differences in their body, their habitat, their reproduction, and their taste. Is it prawn or shrimp? Learn how to differentiate them below.

They are biologically different

Although both are crustaceans belonging to the same family, they have different body structures. France and Grace point out that the prawns belong to the suborder Dendrobranchiata, that is, they have branched gills. Of the 10 legs, the first 3 pairs end in a double clamp. Shrimp of the suborder Pleocyemata They have pincer-lamellar gills on only two pairs of front legs.

If you want to find more practical differences, check the antennae and the shell. Prawns have long, sturdy antennae that can triple their body size. If you look at the shell you will see that the segments overlap across the abdomen. In shrimp the second segment of the shell overlaps the first and third.

Shrimp usually hatch their eggs on their swimming legs; there they remain attached until they hatch and become part of the plankton. Some species of shrimp are male at first and become female as they age. While the prawn reproduces by copulating males and females and then releasing the fertilized eggs in the water.

Shrimp are smaller and have a higher protein content than prawns.

Also read: How to prepare lemon shrimp paste

Where do shrimp and prawn live?

Shrimp are found on all the bottoms of the world's seas and oceans. They need enough oxygen, so they prefer shallow waters. It is common to find them in tropical and temperate waters of rocky areas, coexisting with sea grasses, lake bottoms, reefs, muds, beach sands, brackish and sweet lagoons. They are also found in caves, crevices, and other running and stagnant waters.

They move through the sea in schools and easily resist any change in temperature. This allows them a wide distribution all over the planet.

Most of the prawns are exclusively marine, located in the parallels 40 degrees north latitude and 40 degrees south latitude. The species most exploited by fishing activity, the Penaeidae, lives in shallow coastal waters. Others dig on the seabed during daylight hours to emerge at night and feed.

Shrimp larvae are not very resistant to low temperatures. This seems to be the reason for its poor distribution in increasing latitudes.

Shrimp or prawn: which is larger?

If you want to quickly differentiate a shrimp from a prawn, look at its size. Prawns are much larger than shrimp.

They can be up to 15 centimeters or 20 centimeters long and are gray in color, while shrimp can average between 1 and 3 centimeters in length. The largest can measure a maximum of 8 centimeters and are brown in color.

Nutritional differences between shrimp and prawn

At first glance it is the same to eat shrimp or prawn, but there are nutritional differences in the content of its edible part. Let's see.

As indicated in the food composition table of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), fresh shrimp is about 20% protein (similar to fish, chicken and other meats). The fat content is low, which is why it is considered lean. It barely provides 1.73% with a predominance of polyunsaturated fat of the omega 3 type. Cholesterol is high, with 152 milligrams%.

Shrimp also provide minerals, such as 52 milligrams% calcium and 2.4 milligrams% highly absorbable iron. Of the vitamins, A stands out with 54 retinol equivalents. Potassium, sodium, magnesium, and zinc are in good amounts.

In the case of shrimp, it provides only 16% protein and less fat than shrimp. Other nutrients are also below, such as calcium with 27 milligrams%, iron with 1 milligram% and vitamin A with 16 equivalents of retinol. However, potassium is much higher in shrimp, with almost 300 milligrams%.

On the other hand, it is worth mentioning that both crustaceans provide one of the most powerful antioxidants in food: astaxanthin. It is the pigment that gives shrimp and prawns their pinkish color when cooked. As López Roldán points out, this pigment has broad health benefits.

Prawns can accompany other dishes, such as rice, providing potassium.

Which one tastes better?

From a gastronomic point of view, there is a small difference in the taste of both species of crustaceans. Shrimp is subtly sweeter than shrimp, which undoubtedly influences the type of preparation. Shrimp have a more intense flavor, so they go very well in a rich casserole or in a delicious broth.

Prawns are recommended with garlic, with butter and lots of parsley. If you prefer, they work well as a stew to accompany pasta or rice. They are also prepared grilled or grilled, thanks to their size. Although shrimp is better for a seafood paella because of its invasive flavor.

Regarding the texture, the prawn is firmer, with a tougher meat and less juiciness. You have to be very careful not to overcook it to avoid a preparation that is not very palatable.

Read also: Cajun prawns with lemon

Do differences affect the quality of the shrimp or prawn?

Beyond size, shell, habitat or reproduction, the differences between these crustaceans further affect nutritional value and culinary preparation. If I need to increase my protein or iron intake, I should eat shrimp. But if I need more potassium and less fat, better lunch with shrimp.

When choosing a preparation with seafood and intense flavors, select shrimp, but for dishes with more balanced flavors and textures, shrimp is better. Enjoy your meal!