Are Shrimp Shells Digestible? [Nutrients Guideline]




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 We all love to have shrimp with shells. Have we ever wondered whether the shells are absorbable in our system? Shrimp shells are not digestible but palatable indeed! The shells of shrimps and lobsters comprise kitin—a polymer that makes up the shell of almost all crustaceans.

You must be having a list of questions about the uses and benefits of shrimp shells. This write-up is to clarify all you would like to know about shrimp shells. Most cuisines use the shells for flavor, texture, and benefits to health. You will come to know that shrimp sales are safe to have.

What Are The Components Of A Shrimp Shell?

The shells and heads of shrimp comprise chitin, which is not a protein but a changed form of carbohydrate. Protein is an amino acid but chitin is a makeup of amino sugars. The complexity of chitin is because it is a natural polymer of nitrogen.

The chitin in shrimp shells renders protection and mechanical support to the soft body of shrimp and other such organisms. The chitin content in the shrimp shells makes the texture makes it unpleasant but it is safe and nutritious to eat.

The Nutritional Property of Shrimp Shell

The shrimp shells have a few health benefits although it is hard to digest. The shells are biomaterial, trapping keratin-type protein and minerals under the shell. The minerals present in chitin are calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and zinc.

what are shrimp shells made of

 The dried samples of shrimp shells show a high glutamic acid content. This amino acid is quite high in the dried shrimp shell and head. Dried shrimp shell has no aflatoxins and is safe from bacterial contamination. Unless you are allergenic, the shrimp shell adds nutrition to your diet.

The Flavor Of The Shrimp Shell

The fresh shrimp shells do not have any flavor. Moreover, cooking brings out the flavor in addition to trapping seasonings and spices in between the shell and the flesh. A typical flavor comes out when shrimp broth is prepared for adding to soups and other cuisines.  

Health Concerns

Many of us love shrimp but are concerns about the allergenic effect. Shrimp shells cause allergies and gout in some people with severity. Problems of breathing, diarrhea, cramps, and vomiting are also some of the symptoms caused by taking shelled shrimp or shrimp broth.

health benefits of shrimps shells

Gout is another reaction of the human body to shrimp. With the intake of shrimp, there is a buildup of acid, which ultimately results in inflammatory arthritis or gout.

The allergenic effect that occurs is a due overreaction of the immune system. Similar to infection, when your body finds a foreign food in the immune system it does not accept and reacts in various ways.

Parts of Shrimps Not Eaten

Almost all parts of the shrimp including the tail go into one recipe or another. However, the visible veins are not appealing or attractive. Therefore, you can remove the veins of shrimps when cooking without the shell.

Some people wonder why shrimp tails remain in shelled shrimp dishes. Although it is a crunchy addition, the tails create a special flavor and attractiveness of the dish. The tail is a delicacy and safe to eat. Controversies also exist on the safety of the shrimp head. In some cultures, the heads are a waste. Amazingly, the head contains juice and plenty of flavors to make the shrimp dish tasty.

How Many Ways Can You Cook Shrimp Shells?

Now that we know that shrimp shells are safe, let us find out the ways to cook. There are two ways to cook the shell.

1. Shrimp with the Shell

After cutting off the legs, swimmerets, and antennae, wash the shrimp thoroughly. Sprinkle with salt and flavorings of your choice and bake or broil. The cooked shrimp is eaten either as it is, or cooked in many ways.

2. Shrimp Shells Only

The shrimps and shells are boiled separately to create a stock. This stock applies as a broth or stock for soups and in gravies to create the shrimp flavor and taste.

how to eat shrimp with shell

Some Recipes of Shrimp with the Shell

To get the best out of eating shrimp, you also need some good recipes. Maybe any one of these will please your appetite for shrimp.

1. Shrimp with Garlic and Butter

Servings for 4

Time to cook: 15 minutes



  • In a cooking pan, add butter or oil. Let it heat to a medium temperature.
  • Add the cloves garlic and cook until it becomes light brown.
  • Add salt and turmeric to the shrimp and mix it well.
  • Add the shrimp to the pan and cook for 8 to10 minutes.
  • Transfer in a serving dish. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Recipes of Shrimp with the Shell

2. Jumbo Grilled Shrimp

Servings for 6

Total time to cook: 1 hour


  • 3 lbs. or 1.3 kg jumbo shrimp with shell
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Half tsp. black or white pepper
  • 3/4 cup cooking oil
  • ¾ tsp. salt or to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley


  • Wash the shrimps very well. Along the middle, snip the shell leaving the tail intact. Take out the vein taking care to leave the shell in position.
  • Mince the garlic into a paste and mix with salt in a mortar and pestle. Blend the mixture with pepper and lemon juice. Add the oil while the blender is still running. Blend well and transfer in a bowl.
  • Prepare the grill on top of the stove or a charcoal burner. Keep the temperature at medium heat.
  • Mix the shrimp ¼th of the paste in a bowl and let it marinate for about 15 minutes.
  • Grill the shrimp with the rest of the dressing for 5 to 6 minutes. Let it brown.
  • Transfer in a platter. Spread the parsley on top and serve.

shrimp shell recipe

3. Crispy Fried Shrimp

Serving for 4

Total time 25 minutes


  • 500 gram Shrimp with shell
  • 1tsp, chili powder
  • ½ tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. ginger paste
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. of cornflour
  • Salt to taste
  • Water for mixing


  • Wash the shrimp well. Devein the shrimp, keeping the shell intact.
  • Mix all the ingredients—spices, cornflour with water in a large bowl. Add salt.
  • Add a little water at a time to make it into a paste.
  • Add the shrimp and mix it well. Marinate in a fridge for 20 minutes.
  • Take a deep-frying pan and add oil. When the oil is hot, add the coated shrimps in the oil in batches.
  • Fry until golden and place in a platter with a paper towel underneath.
  • Serve hot.


Although shrimp shells are not digestible, it is safe to eat. Rather, it contains nutrients that are beneficial to health. Shrimps are a delicacy and expensive dish when served in restaurants. Because of its taste and color when cooked with the shell, it creates appealing food all over the world. However, the downside of shrimp is its allergenic effect on some people.

Shrimp with the shell with all its values create tasty preparations.

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