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Are Shrimp Tails Edible?

Today, we’re going to be answering a question that has probably crossed every fan of seafood’s mind at some point in their lives. 

Let’s set the scene: perhaps you’re at a fancy restaurant, or you’re attending a dinner party at your friend’s place. Either way, you’re sitting at the table, the dish has just been placed before you, and it looks amazing. The shrimp is golden, crispy, and smells just as great as it appears.

At this point, you want to just cut the small talk and dig straight in… but, at closer inspection, it appears that the shrimp’s tails haven’t been removed. 

This is fairly normal for most seafood dishes: more often than not, the tails stay right where they are, and it is your decision whether you want to remove them. 

So, what happens if you don’t remove them? In fact, are they even edible? If they’re not, why haven’t the chefs removed them before presenting them on your plate?

Well, if this question has crossed your mind and you never actually followed it up, you’re at the right place. Today, we’re going to look into the real questions: are shrimp tails edible? Are they digestible? And, if so, do they taste good?

Let’s jump straight into it.

Are Shrimp Tails Safe to Eat?

The short answer: yes.

If you really, truly want to eat the tails of the tiny sea creatures, you are more than welcome to. 

While some may tell you that our human stomachs cannot digest shrimp tails, they’re wrong, and you may tell them that next time they bring it up.

As long as the tails, along with the rest of the shrimp – yes, even including the shell, if it is also still on the shrimp – have been cooked and fried to the point that they are a sort of crispy texture, they are completely safe to consume. 

In fact, not only are shrimp tails edible and digestible, they are actually pretty good for you: they contain a polymer called Chitin, which has been proven to lower cholesterol levels.

Of course, depending on the size of the shrimp, the size of the tail isn’t going to be particularly large anyway, so it’s not as if you’re going to reap tons of nutritious benefits from them. Regardless, they won’t harm you if consumed, and a little nutritional value is better than none, right? 

So, you can go right ahead and eat the tail, if it is your heart’s desire to truly do so. Crisis averted!

What do Shrimp Tails Taste Like?

Some food lovers may argue that this question is more important than the previous one: after all, even if a food is edible, why would you want to eat it if it tastes bad? That is just pointless. What does it taste like, anyway? Is it truly worth it?

Well, to answer your question, a shrimp’s tail tastes exactly how I suppose you would imagine it to: the texture is crispy and crunchy, like tiny little bones, with a slight fishy flavor.

While that probably doesn’t sound particularly appetizing – well, the bone part, at least – many people have agreed that shrimp tails are one of the tastiest parts of the shrimp itself! If cooked and fried correctly, it will contain a lot of flavor, and it is definitely worth trying a taste of if you are even remotely curious. 

However, the larger the shrimp, the less appetizing the tail will be. This is due to the fact that if the tail is particularly large, it will be much tougher to chew, and not as nice to eat.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t eat it, though: as we said before, shrimp tails are, mostly, all edible, and the odds are that if the chef has left the tail on the shrimp to be served, it will be unlikely to harm you and your insides. 

It is pretty much a game of trial and error: perhaps you will love the taste and texture of a tail, and once you’ve tried it, you won’t be able to imagine a life in which you didn’t eat the tail.

Such a waste! Or, maybe you will hate it, and you will never try it again. Who knows? All you can do is give it a go and see if it works for you.

Why do Restaurants Leave the Tails On?

While many people are unaware that shrimp tails are, in fact, edible, it causes confusion as to why the chefs leave the tails on in the first place.

After all, most of the time, they remove the heads and the shells: why do they leave the tails?

There are actually a number of reasons for this. While the obvious reason may seem to be that it allows the person eating to have an easier grip on the shrimp, being given a small, pink handle to hold onto while you bite in.

Another reason is that, as previously mentioned, the tail itself adds flavor to the meal. It also, according to many chefs, makes the shrimp look more attractive, while also making it look bigger, so it appears to fill your plate more. 

Also, of course, we now know that the shrimp’s tail can actually be very tasty, so why should the chef remove it? If it is edible, and it has been cooked properly, there is no harm in leaving it there.

After all, if a person has an issue with the shrimp’s tail not being removed, they can always remove it themselves before they begin their meal, and this is fairly simple: you simply pinch the tail and pull it out.

To Eat a Shrimp Tail, or Not to Eat a Shrimp Tail

What this all boils down to – excuse the pun – is that shrimp tails are, indeed, edible and digestible, therefore they can be consumed. 

People may give you funny looks if you do this in public, but you can simply educate them on the tasty flavor and the many benefits of eating them.

If you decide that you do not like the taste or texture, no one is going to force you to eat them: in fact, you will be less of an outcast if you do decide not to. Either way, it is completely up to you! 

Now that you know the facts, you can make that decision yourself next time you’re eating your appetizer at a fancy restaurant, or you’re attending a friend’s dinner party. Plus, you now have an interesting fact to share with the table! It’s a win-win situation all around.


Jess Smith