what part of crawfish do you eat

What part of crawfish do you eat? ­You are naturally going to ask this question if you have never been to a crawfish boil before. Or you are going to cook it for the first time at home.

Crawfish have a great flavor, but some people might find it difficult to consume. Because of this, many people are afraid to try out this delicious southern specialty.

It is not impossible to pick up and learn, though.

If you know how to prepare crawfish, they are not actually that difficult to eat.

But again, what parts of crawfish are edible? Can you eat crawfish claws?

You can eat all the meat in the crawfish, including the head, and though it is okay to eat the tail, shell, and antennae, most people avoid it.  

part of crawfish eat safely

What Part of Crawfish Do You Eat Safely?

Crawfish are small red crustaceans and a specialty of Louisiana and East Texas, where they are used as live bait by anglers to reel in everything from bass to catfish.

Almost everyone agrees that crawfish boiled in Cajun seasonings and butter is excellent, but there is still some debate over which parts of the crawfish are best. 

What is the Right Way to Eat Crawfish?

When you have decided to eat crawfish, you should also know how to do it properly.

right way eat crawfish

Step #1: Hold It Right

Hold the crawfish on either side of the tail joint.

Place your thumbs on one side of the shell while putting pressure with your index finger on the other side of the shell.   

Step #2: Deal with the Head

Use a twisting motion and you will be able to deal with the head. 

Step #3: Suck the Juices

It is not required to consume the “crawfish butter” out of the crawfish’s head, although it is highly encouraged. 

breaking crawfish

Step #4: Remove the Shell

Throw aside the head, and then, like peeling shrimp, use your thumbs to carefully remove the shell from the largest section of the tail. 

Step #5: Enjoy the Tail

With one hand holding the tail, you can use the other to pull the meat out.


Tip: Be sure to keep water handy because crawfish is all about spices which can be a bit too much for some people. 

What Part of Crawfish Do You Not Eat?

part of crawfish not to avoid

Crawfish have a lot of meat in their tails. Claw meat is edible if the claw is large enough and placed alongside the dish.

Other than the meat, crawfish are not particularly tasty. Many people do not like eating the shells as well as the head.

It may be okay to avoid shells.

Arthropod exoskeletons, like those of crawfish, are composed largely of chitin, a polysaccharide.

It is harder to break down, unlike the cellulose molecules in plant cell walls.

 The shells of crawfish can also present a choking hazard, which is why you may want to avoid eating them.

Having stated that, you should not go around chopping off their heads and discarding them.

Tip: You can recycle any extra shells into crawfish stock or use as garden compost. 

Can You Eat Crawfish Head?

eat crawfish head

A crawfish’s tail is where it stores the tiny bit of meat that can be eaten.

Many diners at crawfish boils or restaurants serving mudbugs just pinch off the tail, eat the meat, and discard the head.

Is it the right thing to do? Probably not!

Crawfish are in the same boat as their similarly shaped relatives, such as lobster and shrimp, whose heads are typically not consumed by diners. 

Should You Discard the Head?

discard crawfish head

You should not!

If you want to enjoy your mudbugs like the experts do, you should put the head to your lips and suck that stuff.

The crawfish experience reaches a new level of transcendence when you suck on the head after devouring the tail.

Yes, that meaty tail is the center of attention.

But, you should not ignore the head because all the flavor and moisture in the head will enhance your eating experience.

Why Is It Okay to Eat Crawfish Head?

eating crawfish head

The truth is that crawfish do not have brains.

Anyone who has ever seen inside a crawfish knows there is an easily misunderstood organ for either a brain or a large glob of crawfish fat.

Crawfish have an organ called the hepatopancreas, which acts similarly to the human liver by detoxifying the body of harmful compounds. 

Why Do Many People Love to Eat the Head of Crawfish?

That is because it is not the brain but the hepatopancreas that people eat!

Flavor-wise, the hepatopancreas is similar to what foie gras from the ocean would be like.

Call it the poor man’s delicacy if you want!

bowl of crawfish boil

Adding the spicy blend of oregano, paprika, cayenne pepper, and other spices used in a classic crawfish boil brings out the full flavor of the hepatopancreas.

Many seasoned crawfish boil cooks let their mudbugs sit in the spicy water for a few minutes to heighten the flavor after cooking. 

This helps the spices collect in the crawfish’s heads as they are cooked.

Tip: The standard quantity of crawfish for a boil is four or five pounds per participant, so wear expandable pants to give yourself some breathing space. 

What Part of Crawfish Do You Eat in Crawfish Boils?

eating crawfish boil

Crawfish boils are extremely popular and a time-honored Southern custom.

The bugs are boiled and eaten with garlic, corn, potatoes, and sometimes with Andouille sausage or other veggies at a number of gatherings throughout the season.

The treasures are emptied from the boiling cauldron onto long tables, all neatly covered with newspaper or plastic tablecloths. No plates are used (or only sometimes).

Napkins are provided in large numbers in the form of rolls of paper towels set out around the table. 

No one uses a fork here; everyone eats with their fingers. And the moment you devour the soils, more is dumped in no time. 

How Do You Eat Crawfish at the Boil Fest?

eating crawfish in boil fest

When you are from the North and have only ever had shellfish in the form of lobster or crab on a plate, or shrimp with their shells removed), the prospect of surviving your first crawfish boil can be daunting. 

Pick the Crawfish Carefully

When you feel ready to grab your first crawfish, go for the biggest one you can find with a curved tail, since it will have the most meat.

A crawfish with a straight tail after cooking is dead and will have a foul odor and taste.   

Break in the Natural Middle

seafood boil with crawfish

There is a natural waistline on a crawfish, and it is where you should cut it open.

If you try to break into it anywhere else, like most people do, you will probably wind up covered in its fluids. 

Drink the Juices

If you are brave enough, you may decide to suck in all the juices before you peel a crawfish.

Simply place your lips at the opening on their bodies and sip in the juices.

Juices from the crawfish’s head are sometimes consumed, but that is a tactic reserved for true aficionados of the crustacean

Target the Tail

crawfish tail

To get the meat, take the shells off the crawfish one by one, beginning at the head. (At times, more than one may fall off simultaneously.)

The meat can next be pinched and, hopefully, pulled free from the remaining shell fragments. 

Avoid the Pooper Tube

Like all other animals, crawfish have to get rid of waste products, and they accomplish this through a tiny, dark tube in their tails.

Usually, the tube can be removed alongside the shell. Still, it is a good idea to double-check and ensure you do not end up eating it.

cooked crawfish

Once spotted, the tube can be easily removed from the tail by grabbing one end and pulling. After, go wash your hands. 

Tip: Be sure to wear a ponytail because you do not want your hair to get all messy when your face and lips are covered in crawfish juices. 


Crawfish is a delicacy for those who know how delicious they really are.

But, whether you are ordering it at a restaurant or attending a crawfish boil for the first time, it is important to eat it properly.

So, What part of crawfish do you eat? Well, you can eat anything so long as it is meat.

And do not throw that head away so fast – that yellow stuff inside the head can take your eating experience to another level.