What Does Shrimp Taste Like? An Insight For Non-fish Eaters

shrimp on a plate at dinner with friends

Shrimp was once a dish reserved for the rich but is now popular seafood and widely consumed. You can eat shrimp hot from the barbecue grill or cold as an appetizer, and its taste can be described as prawn or crab-like, but more ocean-like. 

Shrimp is an inexpensive and readily available staple, but what does shrimp actually taste of? 

What are the determinants of its true flavor as opposed to spoilt or contaminated shrimp? Also, is it okay to eat raw shrimp, and what are the risks? 

Could you be playing Russian roulette with your health by eating iodine or chlorine smelling shrimp? Read on to find out what taste textures and flavors you can expect from properly prepared shrimp. 

Making a Delicacy out of Shrimp

What Types of Shrimp are Edible?

In one year, Americans eat more than a billion pounds of shrimp, which translates to above four pounds for each person. Alone, the seafood chain Red Lobster retails an annual average of over 44 million pounds of shrimp. 

Although there are over two thousand shrimp species, it’s a different story at the grocery store or seafood market.

Only three types of shrimp are made available commercially for your plate. These are;

  • White Shrimp 
  • Coldwater Northern Shrimp 
  • Tiger Shrimp 

How does shrimp taste Compared to Other Seafood?

One of the most delicious seafood to have, shrimp are crustaceans that taste delicately and can be grilled, smoked, or eaten raw. This versatile seafood also goes well with many other condiments to create the most novel dishes to grace your dinner plate. 

Shrimp lets you know when it’s cooked by turning from an almost see-through gray color to an opaque pinkish white. Its meat is delicious, available practically anywhere in seafood markets or grocery stores, and if you’re lucky enough to live near a bay area, you can get shrimp fresh off the boats. 

Fresh prawn has a mildly salty, savory, semi-sweet taste, and you can feel muscles and fibers as though you were eating a firm but tender chicken thigh. 

It’s hard to compare shrimp, and other oceanic crustaceans for that matter, with any land going meat, as that would be like comparing beef to mangoes. If you’ve ever eaten lobster, then that was a larger, less flavorful shrimp. 

Cooked Dishes Shrimp Is Commonly Used In

Enamored with fleshy bodies and not much exoskeleton like their larger lobster cousins, prawns smell and taste of the sea, rivers, or farm waters from where they originate. Mild and salty, prawns can accompany many dishes to augment your dietary options, including; 

  • Strife cabbage with shrimp
  • Prawn noodle soup that includes the shells and head for additional flavor
  • Prawn roes or heads with noodles
  • Shrimp paste that enhances any broth

There is a vibrant import market for shrimp, and cuisines on offer vary from South African Piri Piri or puri shrimp, Danish smoked shrimp, or India with tandoori shrimp. 

Can You Eat Raw Shrimp?

In many cultures and regions across the world, raw shrimp, particularly the head, is considered a delicacy. But is it safe to eat raw shrimp as compared to cooked ones?

Experts warn that eating raw shrimp is playing a dicey game of cat and mouse with bacteria, parasites, and viruses.  In over 70 species of a bacterium known as Vibrio, 12 can be deadly to humans, and it’s often found in raw shrimp.

Apart from Vibrio, other bacteria on raw shrimp known to cause food poisoning include bacillus, e-coli, and salmonella.

Such pathogens will cause contamination, food poisoning, and other serious illnesses, but this hasn’t stopped connoisseurs of raw shrimp from eating them raw. Harmful microbes in raw shrimp can only be eliminated with thorough cooking at high temperatures. 

What Does Raw Shrimp Taste Like?

There is liquid in the head of raw shrimp that’s very sought after, and the Chinese dip these shellfish while still living in baijiu liquor before gobbling them down. 

If you’ve ever eaten fresh sashimi from japan, well, there’s raw shrimp in that too. 

The taste of raw shrimp has been described as snappy and succulent like a grape, but with an earthy seafood-y flavor. 

How Can You Know When Shrimp Have Gone Off?

Shrimp can go off real quick, in a matter of hours, especially in warm temperatures, typical of most types of seafood. The best way to know if your shrimp has gone bad is by smelling, touching, and looking out for a few red flags. 

If your raw shrimp smells strongly fishy or has a soft mushy feel to it, the chances are that it’s bacterial-infested and as such bad for you. Some shrimp that’s past their safe eating days will have odors that range from bleach to ammonia, sort of what urine smells like. 

How Does Shrimp Taste When It’s Bad?

Shrimp that’s gone off will taste weird, very much as though you shoved a handful of garbage into your mouth. I can guarantee that you’ll retch from the acrimonious taste of shrimp that’s spotted with bacteria growth or has white patches that result from mold growth. 

The taste won’t be the only thing bothering you after eating bad shrimp, as chances are you’ll suffer a bad case of contamination or food poisoning. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does shrimp taste fishy?

Depending on whether your fresh shrimp have been harvested wild from the ocean or aquaculture centers, it will have a residual taste of the water. Shrimp beyond fresh may smell and taste overly fishy but cooking it well, and seasoning is a viable solution. 

Does shrimp taste like chicken?

The closest comparison in taste that can be made between shrimp and any land-based animal is stewed chicken, especially the soft and succulent thigh part. 


Saltwater shrimp have increased sweetness, overall succulence, and umami, which heighten flavors. This is due to the iodine in salt water, but these oceanic shrimp can end up tasting metallic when it’s too high. 

For shrimp with a milder, smoother, and less earthy taste, find species that have been fished from the mouth of rivers where the salt content is lower. 

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