How To Eat Boiled Crawfish

Make quick work of the crawfish shell so you can get right to those tasty morsels.

How To Eat Boiled Crawfish: 5-Star Recipes
Photo: Beth Dreiling Hontzas

If you grew up in Louisiana, eating crawfish is probably second nature, but in other parts of the South, it's not so intuitive.

It doesn't help that if we're being honest, crawfish aren't the most attractive little creatures. The height of crawfish season runs roughly from February to May, so celebrate the arrival of spring with crawfish alongside other seasonal treasures.

Enjoying crawfish outdoors is customary, preferably piled high on a table lined with newspaper, and then everyone can dig in with their hands. Although, once you learn how to eat these delightful freshwater crustaceans, you'll learn that's far from the only way to enjoy them.

How To Buy Crawfish

Many seafood stores in the South carry crawfish in season. Or, you can order them from,, or

The standard is about 3 pounds per person. (Unlike shrimp, only a small part of a whole crawfish is actually meat.)

How To Clean Crawfish

Before you get to cooking, it's important to make sure your crawfish are clean. Ask your supplier if the crawfish have been cleaned before purchasing.

If not, it’s easiest to clean them before bringing them inside: Place them in a cooler with a drink spout at the base. Fill with cool water, and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain the dirty water through the spout until the water runs clear. 

The Best Way To Eat Boiled Crawfish

Here's how to make quick work of the shell and get to those tasty morsels.

  1. Grasp: Hold crawfish on both sides of the tail joint, your thumbs on one side of the shell and your index fingers on the other.
  2. Twist and snap: With a twisting motion, snap the head away from the tail. Optional step for diehards: Suck the juice from the crawfish head. Even if you aren't ready to eat the heads, don’t toss them out! They're packed with flavor and create a rich seafood stock when simmered with vegetables and herbs.
  3. Peel: Use your thumbs to peel away the shell from the widest part of the tail, pulling back from the center, just as you would peel a shrimp.
  4. Tug: Hold the tip of the tail and gently tug out the tender meat. Enjoy!
How To Eat Boiled Crawfish: Peel
Illustration: Ryan Kelly

Do You Eat The Yellow Stuff In Crawfish Heads?

Yes! The yellow stuff doesn't necessarily look edible, but many consider it the best part of the crawfish. We won't judge if your first time trying crawfish, you skip this part.

Simply suck it out after separating the head from the tail, and enjoy its briny, sweet taste.

Now that you know how to eat crawfish, it's time to get cooking with these mudbugs. Try one of these three delicious ways to prepare crawfish.

01 of 03

Crawfish Boil

Crawfish Boil
Southern Living

This classic crawfish preparation is perfect for a gathering. Just make sure to have plenty of napkins ready, as it can get a little messy.

02 of 03

Crawfish Étouffée

Crawfish Étouffée
Southern Living

Étouffée is traditionally made with shrimp, but celebrate the height of crawfish season with this twist on the Cajun and Creole dish.

03 of 03

Hot Crawfish Dip

Hot Crawfish Dip

Will Dickey

Crawfish is a staple of Mardi Gras celebrations, but this crawfish dip is a year-round crowd pleaser.

If you're looking for more crawfish cooking inspiration, check out 10 Crawfish Recipes To Make The Most Of Mudbug Season for even more recipes.

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