Does mantis shrimp taste like regular shrimp?

Mantis shrimp, also known as thumb splitter, squilla mantis, or stomatopods, are a group of marine crustaceans that resemble shrimp. They get their name from their large powerful front appendages that can deliver a painful strike. Mantis shrimp live in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. There are over 450 species of mantis shrimp that come in a variety of colors and sizes. While mantis shrimp may look like shrimp, many people wonder – does mantis shrimp taste like regular shrimp?

Quick overview

In short, mantis shrimp does have a similar sweet, briny flavor to regular shrimp. However, there are some distinct differences in texture and preparation that impact the taste. Mantis shrimp tends to have a firmer, chewier texture compared to regular shrimp. It requires more work to remove the shell and devein mantis shrimp. The extra effort pays off though, as the meat is often more substantial and succulent. When cooked properly, mantis shrimp can be just as delicious as regular shrimp, with its own unique appeal.

Differences between mantis shrimp and regular shrimp

To understand why the taste is comparable but not identical, it helps to look at a few of the differences between mantis shrimp and regular shrimp:

  • Size – Mantis shrimp are generally larger, ranging from 4 inches up to 15 inches long depending on species. Regular shrimp are typically smaller, from 2-6 inches.
  • Shell – The mantis shrimp shell is thicker and harder to peel than regular shrimp shells.
  • Meat – Since they are larger, mantis shrimp yield more meat. The meat also has a firmer, denser texture.
  • Legs – Mantis shrimp have large, powerful front legs or claws that pack a punch. Regular shrimp have much smaller legs.
  • Habitat – Mantis shrimp live in holes or crevices in reefs and rocks. Shrimp live in sandy or muddy bottoms.

These physical differences impact the prep work required and the eating experience when it comes to mantis shrimp versus regular shrimp.


When it comes to flavor, mantis shrimp meat has been described as sweet and similar to lobster or crab. The taste is likened to shrimp, but mantis shrimp tend to be less briny since they don’t feed on algae like regular shrimp. The meat is firm with a supple, juicy mouthfeel. When properly prepared, mantis shrimp offer a delicately sweet, succulent taste that shrimp lovers will enjoy.


More chew – The firm, dense meat of mantis shrimp requires more chewing than regular shrimp. This can enhance the flavor, allowing the sweetness to come through with each bite. But the extra chewiness also means mantis shrimp can get rubbery if overcooked.


Harder to devein – The digestive tract of mantis shrimp runs the length of the body, which means deveining requires some work. Any remnants left behind can ruin the mild sweetness of the meat. Proper deveining is essential.

More work peeling – A mantis shrimp’s shell is notoriously difficult to peel. It takes some elbow grease and a sturdy pair of shears to break through and remove the shell fully.

With the extra effort devoted to prep work, mantis shrimp’s texture and taste certainly shine. The meat’s firmness is ideal for grilling, broiling, sautéing or stir frying. A quick, hot cooking method helps maintain moisture and tenderness.

Nutritional value

In addition to its appealing taste, mantis shrimp offers excellent nutritional value:

  • High in protein – Each 4 ounce serving provides over 30 grams of protein, more than half the recommended daily value.
  • Low fat – Mantis shrimp are low in fat, with under 2 grams per serving.
  • Vitamin B12 – A good source of B12, an essential vitamin.
  • Selenium – Contains high levels of the antioxidant mineral selenium.
  • Copper – Provides copper which aids energy production.
  • Chitosan – The shell contains chitosan, a fiber that may lower cholesterol.

This combination of protein, vitamins and minerals makes mantis shrimp an excellent addition to a healthy diet. The nutritional profile is comparable to popular seafood like lobster or shrimp.

Price and availability

One downside of mantis shrimp is that it tends to be pricier than regular shrimp. Some reasons for the higher prices include:

  • More labor intensive fishing and processing – The extra effort to catch and peel mantis shrimp is passed to consumers.
  • Larger size – Since they are bigger, mantis shrimp are sold by the pound rather than per shrimp which influences pricing.
  • Delicate handling – Their anatomy makes mantis shrimp more prone to damage, loss of limbs, and decomposition. This also increases costs.
  • Exclusive taste – Part of the price tag comes from mantis shrimp’s reputation as a rare, gourmet seafood item.

Specialty seafood shops and Asian fish markets are among the best places to find fresh mantis shrimp. Availability is limited based on season and local fisheries. Prices typically range from $15-25 per pound. Frozen mantis shrimp offer wider accessibility but may have texture and flavor tradeoffs.

How to prepare mantis shrimp

Proper preparation and cooking is key to enjoying mantis shrimp:

Step 1: Peel the shell

A good pair of kitchen shears makes peeling the thick shell easier. Take care not to damage the meat. Remove the head and legs which tend to get quite hard when cooked.

Step 2: Devein

Use a paring knife to slit down the length of the mantis shrimp and remove the digestive tract. Rinse well after deveining.

Step 3: Cook quickly over high heat

Mantis shrimp can be grilled, sautéed, broiled or stir fried. Cooking over very high heat helps seal in moisture and prevents rubberiness. Grill for 2-3 minutes per side, stir fry for 3-4 minutes total.

Step 4: Season to taste

Lemon, garlic, butter andOld Bay Seasoningall pair nicely with mantis shrimp. Avoid overseasoning to let the natural sweetness shine through.

Mantis shrimp recipes

Once you get the knack of preparing mantis shrimp, there are endless recipe options to take advantage of their delectable taste and meaty texture:

Garlic Butter Mantis Shrimp

Sautéed mantis shrimp in foaming garlic butter sauce. Serve over pasta or rice.

Mantis Shrimp Kebabs

Chunks of mantis shrimp grilled on skewers with peppers and pineapple.

Bang Bang Mantis Shrimp

Crispy fried mantis shrimp tossed in sweet, spicy bang bang sauce.

Mantis Shrimp Ceviche

Raw mantis shrimp marinated in citrus juice with onions, chiles and tomato.

Mantis Shrimp Pizza

Broiled mantis shrimp served atop crispy pizza with pesto and roasted red peppers.

Mantis Shrimp Stir Fry

Spicy stir fry with mantis shrimp, vegetables and rice noodles.

Should you eat mantis shrimp?

Mantis shrimp are not the most accessible or common seafood. So should you go out of your way to try them? Here are some pros and cons:


  • Unique taste – For seafood lovers, mantis shrimp offer a delicately sweet flavor and meaty texture.
  • Nutritious – High in protein, low in fat plus essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Sustainable – Most wild caught mantis shrimp are abundant and sustainable fisheries.
  • Versatile – Can be prepared many ways: raw, grilled, steamed, sautéed etc.


  • Price – Significantly more expensive than regular shrimp.
  • Hard to find – Not always available year-round or in all areas.
  • Labor intensive – Challenging to remove shell and devein.
  • Easy to overcook – Can become rubbery if cooked improperly.

For special occasions like anniversary dinners or times when you want to indulge, mantis shrimp are absolutely worth seeking out. The exotic appeal, nuanced flavor and upscale image make mantis shrimp a culinary treat. For everyday home cooking, the cost and access challenges may be deterrents. But if you get the opportunity to enjoy fresh, properly prepared mantis shrimp, it offers a uniquely delicious and nutritious seafood experience.

Attribute Mantis Shrimp Regular Shrimp
Flavor Sweet, mild, subtly briny Sweet, briny
Texture Firm, chewy, succulent Soft, flaky, tender
Preparation Harder to peel and devein Easy to peel and devein
Cooking Great for grilling or stir-frying. Cook quickly over high heat. Can be prepared many ways. Delicate so easier to overcook.
Nutrition Higher protein, lower fat High protein, low fat
Price Expensive, $15-25 per pound Affordable, $4-12 per pound


Mantis shrimp offer a taste experience that stands apart from regular shrimp. They require more effort to procure and prepare. But devoted seafood fans will find the sweet succulent meat rewarding. The unique texture and appeal makes mantis shrimp shine for special meals. While not a budget-friendly everyday substitute, mantis shrimp can be an indulgent, upscale addition to a seafood lovers repertoire.

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