What part of crawfish can you not eat?

Crawfish, also known as crayfish or crawdads, are freshwater crustaceans that are popular in Cajun and Creole cuisines. While most of the crawfish is edible, there are some parts that are typically not eaten.

Can you eat the head of a crawfish?

Yes, the head of the crawfish is edible. The head contains fat and flavor that enhances the taste of the tail meat. However, some people may find eating the head unappetizing due to the eyes and brain matter. The head meat can be difficult to extract as well.

Can you eat the tail of a crawfish?

Yes, the tail meat is the prized part of the crawfish that is most commonly eaten. The tail meat is tender and delicious when boiled or sauteed. Peeling the tail shell away reveals the sweet, succulent meat that is a signature of Cajun and Creole cuisines.

Can you eat the legs of a crawfish?

Yes, the legs of the crawfish are edible. They are not as meaty as the tail, but sucking and nibbling the meat and fat from the legs is considered part of enjoying crawfish. The small claws may also contain some good meat.

Can you eat the innards of a crawfish?

Yes, the innards or “fat” inside the main body cavity of the crawfish are edible. This yellow substance is the hepatopancreas, which functions as both the liver and pancreas. It has a soft texture and concentrated seafood flavor. However, some people prefer to avoid it as it can have a grainy texture.

Can you eat the antennae of a crawfish?

Yes, the antennae are edible but they do not contain much meat or flavor. Some people may suck or chew on the antennae while eating the rest of the crawfish.

Can you eat the eyes of a crawfish?

Yes, the eyes are technically edible. However, most people find the idea of eating the eyes unappealing and prefer to avoid them.

Can you eat the shell of a crawfish?

No, the shell or exoskeleton of crawfish is not meant to be eaten. The shell is made up of chitin, which is indigestible for humans. Attempting to eat the shell can cause choking hazards or internal blockages. Any edible meat should be removed from the shell before eating.


In summary, the entire crawfish is edible, but there are some parts that are more desirable to eat than others:

  • Eat: tail meat, head meat, fat/innards, legs, antennae
  • Avoid: eyes, shell

The sweet, tender tail meat is considered the tastiest part of the crawfish. The head and innards also provide flavor. While the antennae, eyes, legs, and shells are technically edible, they do not provide much desirable meat and are often not eaten.

Nutritional Profile of Crawfish

Here is an overview of the nutrition found in 3 ounces (85 grams) of boiled crawfish tail meat without the shell:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 84
Protein 17 g
Fat 1 g
Cholesterol 153 mg
Sodium 336 mg
Carbohydrates 0 g
Sugar 0 g
Fiber 0 g
Calcium 69 mg
Iron 1.5 mg
Potassium 252 mg
Magnesium 34 mg
Vitamin C 1 mg

As you can see, crawfish meat is high in protein and low in fat and carbohydrates. It provides minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium. The cholesterol content is moderately high.

Selecting and Storing Crawfish

When selecting fresh crawfish, here are some tips:

  • Choose crawfish that are still alive and moving. They should not have an overly fishy smell.
  • Pick crawfish that have a straight, non-limp tail. This indicates fresher meat.
  • Avoid crawfish with blackened heads or tail spots which may indicate decay.
  • Store live crawfish in a container in the refrigerator up to 2 days. Place damp paper towels over them.
  • Cooked crawfish tails can be refrigerated 3-4 days or frozen up to 3 months.

How to Prepare and Eat Crawfish

Here are some tips for preparing and eating crawfish:

Boiling Whole Crawfish

Place live crawfish in boiling water seasoned with spices like garlic, lemon, peppercorns, coriander, and bay leaves. Boil for 3-5 minutes until shells turn red. Drain and serve. Provide seasoning like Cajun spice mix, lemon wedges, garlic butter for dipping.

Peeling Crawfish Tails

Grab the end of the tail and straighten it with a quick tug. Pinch the bottom shell segment between your thumbs to split it open. Peel back the segments slowly, extracting the meat. Reserve the fat found inside the tail shell.

Eating Boiled Crawfish

Suck the head meat from the head cavity. Use your hands or small pliers to snap the tail off. Peel open the segments. Extract the meat. Optionally eat the fat. Suck meat and flavor from the legs and claws. Avoid the eyes and shell. Provide dipping sauces for the meat.

Other Cooking Methods

You can also sauté crawfish tails in butter or oil. Add spices like Cajun seasoning for flavor. Crawfish meat also works well in seafood stews, boiled seafood mixes, étouffées, and bisques.

Popular Crawfish Dishes

Here are some popular dishes that feature crawfish:

Crawfish Boil

Whole boiled crawfish are seasoned with spices and corn on the cob, potatoes, onions, garlic, lemons, and sausage. Serve with dipping sauces.

Crawfish Etouffee

A stew featuring a brown roux, vegetables like onion, celery, bell pepper, and crawfish tails served over white rice.

Crawfish Pie

Crawfish tails baked in a creamy filling with vegetables inside a pie crust.

Crawfish Bisque

A creamy crawfish-based soup made from a seafood stock and thickened with butter and flour roux.

Crawfish Beignets

Fritter-style dumplings with crawfish tails fried and served hot with various dipping sauces.

Where to Buy Crawfish

Here are some places you can buy fresh or frozen crawfish:

  • Seafood markets in the Southern United States, especially Louisiana
  • Online seafood retailers that overnight ship live or frozen crawfish
  • Asian food markets that sell seafood and frozen crawfish imported from Asia
  • Some large supermarkets like Kroger, Walmart, and Costco may carry crawfish seasonally
  • Local crawfish farms in the Southern coastal states like Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama

Look for reputable sellers offering fresh, lively crawfish. Make sure frozen crawfish do not have signs of frost burn or rotted parts. Live crawfish and freshly cooked crawfish tails should be consumed within 2 days after purchasing.

Crawfish Pairings

Here are some tasty food and beverage pairings to enjoy with crawfish:

Food Pairings

  • melted butter or garlic butter
  • lemon wedges
  • Louisiana hot sauce or other hot sauces
  • Cajun seasoning
  • pasta dishes
  • potato salad
  • coleslaw
  • corn on the cob
  • cornbread
  • rice
  • beans

Beverage Pairings

  • light, crisp lagers or pilsners
  • wheat beers
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • unoaked Chardonnay
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Rose wines
  • lemonade, iced tea, soda

The rich, sweet flavor of crawfish pairs well with butter, citrus, spices, and corn. Cool, refreshing beers and crisp white wines help cleanse the palate after eating the peppery crawfish.

Crawfish Facts

Here are some interesting facts about crawfish:

  • Also referred to as crayfish, crawdads, mudbugs, and yabbies
  • Over 640 species found in bodies of water worldwide
  • Omnivores that eat plants, insects, snails, fish, and dead animals
  • Have 10 legs including large front claws for defense and feeding
  • Nocturnal and prefer to live in muddy bottoms of ponds, rivers, and swamps
  • Farmed and harvested commercially in man-made freshwater crawfish ponds
  • Louisiana supplies most of the crawfish for the US food industry
  • Peak crawfish harvesting season is from March to June
  • Considered iconic to Cajun and Creole cuisines in the Southern US

Crawfish are an important seafood delicacy, especially in the culinary traditions of Louisiana. Their sweet, succulent meat has been enjoyed by Native American tribes and Southern home cooks for hundreds of years.

Health Benefits of Crawfish

Here are some of the health benefits crawfish can provide:

  • High in protein – Crawfish are an excellent source of lean protein needed for muscle growth and development.
  • Low in fat – Crawfish meat without the shell is very low in fat and calories, making it a healthy choice.
  • Good source of vitamins and minerals – Crawfish contain vitamins like B12, C, and E. They also provide minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Contains omega-3 fatty acids – Crawfish have small amounts of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA.
  • May support heart health – The omega-3 fats, vitamins, and minerals in crawfish promote cardiovascular wellness.
  • Promotes bone strength – The calcium and phosphorus in crawfish helps maintain healthy, strong bones.

Crawfish make a nutritious addition to your diet. Enjoy them in moderation as part of an overall balanced meal plan.

Potential Drawbacks of Eating Crawfish

While crawfish offer many benefits, there are some potential drawbacks to be aware of:

  • Allergy risk – Some people may be allergic to crawfish, which can trigger reactions like rashes, nausea, or anaphylaxis.
  • High cholesterol – Crawfish contain relatively high amounts of cholesterol, which should be limited in some diets.
  • Foodborne illness – Eating undercooked or contaminated crawfish can lead to contracting bacterial infections, viruses, parasites, etc.
  • Choking hazard – Eating peeled crawfish too quickly without fully chewing may present a choking risk.
  • Sodium content – If boiled in heavily salted water, crawfish can contain high amounts of sodium.

Consult your doctor about any health concerns. Carefully source and cook crawfish to reduce risks. Remove any uneaten parts like the shell, eyes, etc. to avoid potential issues when consuming crawfish.


While the entire crawfish is technically edible, the tail meat is the most prized part to eat. Other favorable parts include the fat/innards and head meat. Less popular but still edible parts include the legs, antennae, and eyes. The shell is inedible and should be avoided. Crawfish are an iconic and delicious seafood popular in Southern cooking. Follow proper cooking methods and food safety practices to enjoy their succulent meat and one-of-a-kind flavor.

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