Can You Eat Shrimp Shells? (FULL ANALYSIS)


Are you a shrimp lover? If yes, then you’re at the right place. Today, we answer a common question that many shrimp lovers have. Can you eat shrimp shells?

In Short:

Yes! In some dishes, you can eat shrimp shells. For example, shrimp with garlic and chilies is a popular dish in Southeast Asia where the shells also add flavor.

A shrimp is known to be a delicious treat. It is commonly used in Asian cuisines. But you probably have never eaten a shrimp shell, especially if you are from western culture.

Let’s talk more about shrimp shells and discover the answers to there following questions:

Read on!

image of cooked shrimp

Are Shrimp Shells Edible? Can You Eat?

Generally, you can eat the shells. When shrimp is cooked, it looks good and tastes good. (*)

As you are you’re preparing the shrimp, you might consider the shell to be a hindrance and void of any substance.

But you will get the most out of the meal when you eat the shrimp as is.

This includes the shell, tail, and head.

Besides, it is easier and less time-demanding to eat it whole.

Instead of wasting time deshelling all the shrimp, you will have more time to enjoy your meal.

The next time you plan to prepare a dish with shrimp, consider using it with the shell.

After all, it is made up of nutrients and can be eaten.

Learn more: Is it okay to eat shrimp tails?

Is It Safe To Eat Shrimp Shells?

If you’re searching for an answer on whether it is safe to eat shrimp shells, then here’s a simple answer. As a rule, the shells are edible and relatively safe.

They will not harm you.

In western cuisine, many cooks remove the shells for texture. Meanwhile, others keep them in for added flavor, texture, and appearance. Plus, the natural health benefits that come with it!

You can confidently eat shrimp shells, without any risk. Keep in mind, that if you are allergic to shellfish, it might not be for you.

Is It Healthy To Eat The Shrimp Shells?

While it is possible to eat shrimp shells, it might not be wise to go and eat every single one you find. There are still a few health concerns to consider, such as allergies and gout.

Let’s talk a little about allergies.

One of the most dangerous allergies that can affect a person, is shellfish allergy. (*)If you are allergic to shellfish, then you should avoid shrimp altogether. This includes the shell and any meal or broth made from them.

Even a minuscule amount might be life-threatening. Plus, another health concern is gout.

Shrimp can cause acid buildup that exasperates gout, leading to severe pain and discomfort.

Although eating shrimp shells alone can reduce this buildup, they can still retain some of the purines from the shrimp.

As a result, it leads to acid buildup.

What Do Shrimp Shells Taste Like?

Unseasoned and uncooked, shrimp shells have no flavor and no color. For this reason, a lot of cuisines don’t include it in their meals.

However, the shells are excellent at trapping seasonings, flavors, and other spices when prepared. That way, it makes them more delightful to suck on.

Shrimp shells are delicious and flavorful when they are cooked properly. By adding them to your soup or broth, the flavor will be deepened. They can offer a lot to a meal; you just need to have an open mind.

Learn more: What Does Shrimp Taste Like?

What Do Shrimp Shells Contain?

The head and shell of a shrimp are mainly comprised of chitin (a form of carbohydrate), protein, and minerals.

Although, the majority of the composition is chitin.

While proteins are made up of amino acids, chitin is comprised of amino sugars.

The chitin in the shell reacts with the protein to produce chitin-protein fibers, which are the major backbone of the shell.

It provides mechanical support and protection to the shrimp’s soft body.

The shell might be a little hard and unpleasant to the taste, but it is safe to eat.

Shrimp Shell Nutrition: Do Shrimp Shells Have Nutritional Value?

Shrimp shells are relatively safe and good for your health. They don’t have any real negatives when it comes to your health.

Instead, shrimp shells are more prone to promote health. Shrimp shells are made up of carbohydrates, protein, and minerals. (*)

The shells also trap various minerals that give the food a bit more flavor and nutritional value. So yes, shrimp shells have some nutritional value.

image of holding shrimp

How to Cook Shrimp with Their Shells On?

To get the best experience out of eating shrimp with shells, here are a few recipes that you might like.

1. Shrimp with Butter and Garlic

Serving size of 4.
15 minutes of cook time.


  • 3 Tbsp. oil/butter
  • 2 Tbsp. parsley (chop them into pieces)
  • Cleaned shrimp with the shell (2lbs/1000 g)
  • Garlic (10 cloves)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp. turmeric


  1. First, add oil or butter to a cooking pan. At medium temperature, let it heat.
  2. Second, add the 10 cloves of garlic and let it cook to a light brown color.
  3. Add turmeric and salt to the shrimp and stir it well.
  4. Then, add the shrimp and let it cook for about 8-10 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a plate and serve with sprinkled parsley.

2. Grilled Shrimp

Serving size of 6.
1 hour cook time.


  • 3/4 cup cooking oil
  • ¼ cup minced parsley
  • 2 lemons (juiced)
  • Garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1.3 kg or 3 lbs. jumbo shrimp (with shell)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. white or black pepper


  1. Clean shrimp. Down the middle, clip the shell (leave the tail intact). Remove the vein whilst leaving the shell in place.
  2. Create garlic paste by using a mortar and pestle, while mixing in salt.
  3. Add lemon juice and pepper to the mixture. While you are blending, add oil and then transfer to a bowl.
  4. Prepare grill and keep at medium heat.
  5. Mix the shrimp with ¼th of the paste in a new bowl and let it sit for 15minutes.
  6. Add the rest of the dressing and grill the shrimp for 5-6 minutes till brown.
  7. Transfer to a plate and serve with sprinkled parsley.

3. Crispy Fried Shrimp

Serving size of 4.
25 minutes of cook time.


  • 1 tsp. ginger paste
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 500g Shrimp
  • ½ tsp. turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp. cornflour
  • Salt to taste
  • 1tsp. chili powder
  • Water for mixing


  1. First, wash shrimp to clean it. Remove the veins while keeping the shell in position.
  2. Add all the ingredients (spices, cornflour…) to a bowl and mix with water. Add salt to taste.
  3. Then, mix it into a paste while adding small amounts of water.
  4. Next, mix the paste in with the shrimp. Let it sit in the refrigerator for 20 mins.
  5. Add oil to a deep frying pan. Heat the oil and add the coated shrimps when the oil is hot.
  6. Lastly, fry to a golden color and place them on a plate lined with a paper towel.
  7. Enjoy!

Learn more:

Frequently Asked Questions

Are shrimp shells easily digestible?

Apparently, as you know that you can eat shrimp shells, they tend to be more palatable than digestible.

They are not absorbed by our system.
However, they still offer nutrients that are beneficial to our health.

What can shrimp shells be used for?

Shrimp shells have a myriad of uses.

Particularly, you can use them to make shrimp broth, stock, or even a soup that is rich in nutrients and flavor.

You can also use them in your garden as a compost material to enrich the soil.

What causes shrimp shells to stick?

The soft interior of the shrimp tends to be made up of fiber-like proteins.

When heat is applied, from cooking, the proteins denature and become sticky.

The melted fiber-like proteins attach to the shell, making it relatively hard to peel.

When to shell shrimp?

To shell, or not to shell – the main determining factor is the type of meal being prepared.

Is it a meal that you can use your hands? Is it a meal that you can use a spoon and enjoy?

In the first scenario, it would be better to keep the shell on while it is best to remove it for the second case.

If you are planning to roast or grill the shrimp, you can keep the shell on it.
When it comes to soft and watery meals such as broth or soup, then you can remove the shell.

It also comes down to preference.

Final Thoughts

Can you eat shrimp shells? While shrimp shells might not be digestible, they are safe to eat. Moreover, the shell is very nutritious and is good for your health.

The shell can give an added color and flavor when cooked, making it an appealing delicacy all over the world.

However, the only drawback is its allergic effect on certain individuals.

If you haven’t tried shrimp with shells yet, give it a try.

All the best!

Up Next:

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top