Can You Eat Shrimp Shells?

Have you heard of people eating shrimp shells? Shrimp is delicious seafood and can be used in various recipes. However, most people discard shrimp shells and only eat the meat inside. But, since most of the shrimp flavor is collected in the shells, you may wonder if you can eat them too.

Eating shrimp shells is perfectly safe in most cases. While the shells can be hard and unpleasant to chew, they become crunchy and delightful when flash fried. Shrimp shells are packed with flavor and health benefits. Eating the shells helps you get the benefits and contribute to less food waste.

If you’ve never eaten a shrimp shell before, now might be the time to start! Knowing the health benefits and how to cook shrimp for perfectly crunchy shells is the best way to ensure the shells are pleasant to eat and delicious. In addition, you might be curious to know how else you can use the shrimp shells if you don’t want to eat them.

Is It Safe To Eat Shrimp Shells?

Despite their hard texture, it is perfectly safe to eat shrimp shells. People in countries like Japan and China always eat shrimp shells, and it would never occur to them to remove the shells before eating the meat.

Of course, the shells have a harder texture that takes some getting used to. However, the reward of eating the shells with the meat will be worth it once you get used to eating the shells. Also, eating shrimp shells will save you time as you don’t have to waste it trying to peel the shrimp without tearing the flesh.

Furthermore, a lot of the shrimp flavor and health benefits are trapped in the shells, and you lose a lot of the shrimp flavor and umami when you peel the shrimp first. Finally, eating the shells also helps you contribute to less food wastage.

Many people also worry if the human body can digest shrimp shells. Rest assured, it can! Shrimp shells may be slightly harder to digest. However, as they pass through your body, their minerals and healthy components are absorbed. So what’s left gets digested without worry.

Despite being safe to eat and packed with flavor, you may not be convinced that shrimp shells are pleasant to eat. The shells will be hard and distasteful if you don’t cook them correctly. Fortunately, we have learned a lot from Chinese and Japanese cooking and now know how to cook shrimp for crunchy and delicious shells. 

How Do You Eat Shrimp Shells?

The head is usually already removed when buying frozen shrimp in the supermarket. However, if you want to try and eat shrimp shells, it’s best to find shrimp with the head intact. You don’t have to eat the head, but most of the flavor is in the head.

After buying the shrimp with their heads on, you must consider how to cook them for maximum crunchiness and flavor. In Japanese and Chinese cooking, shrimps are usually coated with rice or corn flour and seasoning before being flash fried in some oil for two minutes.

The high heat of the oil is what ensures crunchy shrimp shells. Therefore, this is how we recommend cooking shrimp shells for maximum crunch. You can choose to eat the heads or twist them off and suck out the delicious juice while leaving the heads off. Cooking the shrimp with the heads on will ensure you have more flavor in the shells and meat.

Now, you might wonder if you need to remove the vein from the shrimp before or after cooking. Shrimps have a digestive vein running down the back of their shells. These veins contain undigested food and may also have bacteria necessary for the shrimp’s digestion. The veins are usually removed before eating as they have an unpleasant taste.

Therefore, we recommend removing the veins before cooking. You can do so by making a thin cut down the back of the shrimp tail. Then, pull out the vein and cook the shrimp. Once cooked, the vein isn’t dangerous as the cooking heat kills all the bacteria. So, if you don’t mind the taste and texture, you can eat it.

What Are The Benefits Of Shrimp Shells?

Of course, you’d want to know the health benefits of shrimp shells before eating them. Fortunately, there aren’t any dangers to doing so unless you have poor digestion, which may make you constipated.

For the most part, shrimp shells have many of the same health benefits as shrimp meat. Shrimp meat is high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Shrimp shells also contain a lot of calcium, which assists in healthy bones and teeth.

Shrimp, like other seafood, is also high in the minerals required for brain health and development, so you should consume seafood at least once a week. A 3-ounce serving of shrimp contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 84.2
  • Protein: 20.4g
  • Magnesium: 33.2mg
  • Iron: 0.433mg
  • Phosphorus: 201mg
  • Potassium: 220mg
  • Zinc: 1.39mg
  • Sodium: 94.4mg

As you can see, shrimp is low in calories and nutrients. Eating the shrimp shells enhances the nutrients you get from them more, making it the perfect combination. Therefore, if you don’t have a shellfish allergy, you should consider eating shrimp shells next time you dine on seafood.

For some, however, eating shrimp shells is not an option, and the idea of eating the shells may seem too daunting. In this case, you might wonder if there is any other way to incorporate the shells into your diet without eating them directly.

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What Else Can You Do With Shrimp Shells?

If you don’t want to eat the shrimp shells or don’t like the crunchy texture, there are ways in which you can still get the benefits and flavor from the shells. The easiest way to do this is by making a shrimp stock or using the shrimp shells in a seafood broth or soup.

By making stock, the flavors will release from the shrimp shells and flavor your stock with delicious umami shrimp flavors. As the shells break down in the stock, they also release some of their calcium and nutrients, meaning that you will get the health benefits of the shells without having to eat them.

You can use shrimp stock to make seafood soup, chowder, or paella. In addition, add some shrimp stock over seafood pasta for more depth of flavor. You can also store shrimp stock in the freezer for up to six months, but we doubt it will last that long.


Shrimp shells are safe to eat and provide additional texture and flavor to your shrimp dish. Coating the shrimp in flour and seasoning before flash frying it in oil is the best way to cook the shrimp for crunchy shells.

If you don’t want to eat the shells, you can also use them to make a delicious and nutritious shrimp stock for soups, pasta, and chowder. Shrimp shells are high in nutrients and beneficial addition to your diet. So, why not try eating the shells next time you cook shrimp?