Difference Between Crawfish And Langoustines

Difference Between Crawfish And Langoustines

What’s the difference between crabs and langoustines? Have you ever wondered whether crawfish and langoustines are totally different critters or basically the same thing? I know I’ve been cooking with both for years and still wasn’t 100% sure how they compare. I mean, they both come from the ocean, right?

Not so fast! As it turns out, there are actually some pretty important differences between our shelled friends that you’ll want to know before substituting one for the other in your next seafood boil. And let me tell you, getting that wrong could totally ruin your whole Cajun feast.

So if you’ve ever stared at crawfish and langoustines in the seafood section wondering, “What even are these things really?” or have accidentally used the wrong one in a recipe, you definitely want to keep reading. We’re diving into the habitat, size, taste, availability, and cost differences between these crustaceans to finally separate fact from fiction. By the end, you’ll be an expert at telling crawfish from langoustines and know exactly which one is right for your next boil. Shall we get cracking?

Difference Between Crawfish And Langoustines


When it comes to habitat, crawfish and langoustines are like night and day—or should I say freshwater vs. saltwater?

Crawfish, also called crayfish, are totally freshwater creatures. You’ll find these little guys scuttling around in rivers, lakes, ponds, and swamps. Just think of your classic Louisiana bayou, and that’s crawfish territory.

Langoustines, on the other hand, call the ocean home. Specifically, they live in coastal saltwater environments like the Atlantic Ocean and parts of the Mediterranean Sea. Major langoustine fishing grounds include the north-eastern coasts of North America and Europe.

in seas and oceans. This major habitat difference has some significant impacts on their distribution, abundance, and how we humans interact with the two species. We’ll get into more of those implications later.

For now, just remember: if it’s hanging out in freshwater, it’s a crawfish. And if it’s kicking back in saltwater, you’ve got yourself a langoustine on your hands. Their habitats are a dead giveaway for telling them apart.


When it comes to size, langoustines certainly live up to their name by being larger than our smaller crawfish pals.

Crawfish max out at around 3 inches long from head to tail. They may seem tiny, but don’t let their itty bitty size fool you—these little crustaceans are packed with big flavor.

Meanwhile, langoustines are consistently larger, growing to lengths nearly triple those of crawfish. Large langoustines can reach over 10 inches in length. That’s more lobster-sized!

The size difference stems directly from their habitats. With more space and less competition in the ocean, langoustines can grow to a larger finishing size than crawfish in smaller freshwater habitats.

Larger sizes have some culinary perks for langoustines. Their larger claws and tails yield more sweet, succulent meat, perfect for salads, pasta dishes, or eating right out of the shell. Their bigger bodies also mean an almost “meatier” eating experience.

However, diners still love crawfish for their lilliputian bundles of flavor packed into a small package. There’s something so fun and addictive about peeling back their itsy bitsy shells.


When it comes to flavor, langoustines are often described as a premium product with rich, complex seafood notes that justify their higher price tag.

While crawfish are nothing to scoff at taste-wise, langoustines have a noticeable sweeter and more intense crustacean essence. Biting into a langoustine reveals flavors reminiscent of the ocean: briny, subtly sweet, almost buttery.

Crawfish bring their own unique bayou boiler flavors, like a pinch of spicy cayenne or smoky Andouille sausage. But their flavor profile tends to be more one-dimensional compared to langoustines.

Most sources agree that langoustines have the leg up in the taste department. The larger size and slower growth rate of langoustines in the ocean concentrate their natural sugars, proteins, and minerals in a way that intensifies their sweet, succulent flavor over crawfish.

That’s not to say crawfish aren’t insanely delicious in their own right. But langoustines are generally praised as a more complex, nuanced delicacy with a more robust seafood taste.

Of course, much depends on freshness, preparation, and personal preferences. A perfectly boiled crawfish may top the charts for some. While others find langoustines to be in a flavor category of their own,. Regardless of which one you prefer, both are sure to please any seafood lover!


When it comes to finding these shellfish, crawfish win hands down in the availability department. While langoustines may have the edge in taste, you’ll have an easier time getting your claws on crawfish.

Crawfish thrive throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and beyond. They are locally sourced and regularly farmed, especially in Louisiana, where bumper crops sustain the crawfish industry. Whether you’re in the Bayou or Beijing, chances are good you can track down fresh crawfish without much trouble.

Langoustines, on the other hand, have a very limited natural range. You’ll mainly find them harvested from coastal waters in northern Europe and eastern Canada and New England. Even in these regions, they are subject to lengthy seasons, variable weather patterns, and quotas to prevent overfishing.

As a result, langoustines are far rarer and command a high price as an exclusive imported delicacy, even when imported frozen from overseas. Many grocery stores and fishmongers simply won’t stock them year-round.

So while any Cajun or Creole chef worth their salt can find crawfish locally, scoring fresh local langoustines takes more effort, planning, and fat wallets. Your best shot is to find a high-end grocer or specialty seafood market that imports them.

For most home cooks and diners, crawfish reign supreme in availability, while langoustines are a splurge-worthy seasonal splurge.


As you may have guessed based on availability, langoustines will have you shelling out way more cash than humble crawfish.

Crawfish are generally one of the most affordable types of seafood around. It’s not unusual to see them selling for $3–$5 per pound, live or boiled. Even when shipped across the country, they remain far cheaper than most other crustaceans.

Contrast that with langoustines, which routinely sell for anywhere from $20 to $50 per pound or more, depending on size and availability. A single langoustine tail can easily cost $5–10 each.

Obviously, this drastic price difference comes down to supply and demand, with langoustine supply being much more limited due to their habitat range.

Fewer langoustines caught means higher prices to entice fishermen, plus shipping charges from overseas. Freshness also drives up the cost since langoustines are highly perishable.

Crawfish farming helps control prices through reliable supply. They remain an inexpensive ingredient for crab boils and etouffées alike.

So in summary, if your budget is tight, crawfish are your crustacean. Langoustines are an indulgent splurge treat only to be busted out for special occasions. Unless money’s no object, you’ll save a pretty penny by sticking with crawfish.


Given their differences in size, flavor, and cost, crawfish and langoustines are not always interchangeable substitutes in recipes. But out of desperation, they can sometimes fill in for each other.

Looks and taste-wise, crawfish are the easier stand-in for langoustines if you want a lesser but still tasty option. Just increase the amount used to compensate for their smaller size.

Recipes like paella, risotto, or pasta dishes where langoustines are tossed in at the end can definitely go with crawfish. For boiled preparations, crawfish approximate langoustines’ texture well enough.

Going in the other direction is riskier, though. Langoustines added to crawfish boils may overpower the broth since their bold ocean flavor isn’t as mild. And their big size could overwhelm dish proportions.

For deep-fried or grilled preparations, langoustines’ large claws and tails could end up overcooked or undercooked compared to crawfish.

The expensive swap also isn’t financially prudent!


Can I eat the whole crawfish or just parts of it?

For both crawfish and langoustines, the main edible parts are the tail meat and claw meat. The heads can be used to make soup stock but are not generally eaten.

How do you prepare crawfish/langoustines?

Popular preparation methods include boiling, steaming, grilling, or broiling whole crawfish or langoustines. You can also sauté, bake, or add them to pastas, risottos, etc. at the end of cooking.

What’s the difference between crawfish and shrimp?

Crawfish are freshwater crustaceans, while shrimp live in saltwater. Crawfish have 10 legs and 2 large claws, while shrimp have 10 legs but smaller claws/no claws. Crawfish also have a thicker exoskeleton.

Are crawfish or langoustines healthier than other seafood?

They are both low in calories and high in lean protein, minerals, and B vitamins. However, like other shellfish, some people have allergies. Moderation is recommended due to the high sodium content if boiled in seasoned water.

How do you cook langoustines without overcooking them?

Langoustines only need 2–3 minutes of cooking. Boil, steam, or sauté them just until the shells turn bright red. Don’t overcook, or they will become tough. Remove as soon as done.

Is it okay to eat the whole crawfish/langoustine boiled in seasoned water?

Yes, it’s safe to eat the whole boiled crawfish or langoustine, including the head and shells. Just be aware that the heads don’t provide much edible meat. Shells are high in calcium.

What’s the difference between live crawfish/langoustines and frozen?

Live is the freshest, but it takes more work as you have to boil/prep them. Frozen food maintains quality if properly flash frozen and can be used year-round. Some flavor loss vs. live.

Can I find crawfish and langoustines frozen year-round?

Crawfish are typically available frozen year-round. Langoustines are seasonally caught and may be difficult to find frozen outside of peak seasons, depending on your location.

How long will boiled crawfish/langoustines keep in the fridge?

Boiled crawfish or langoustines will keep for 3–4 days refrigerated. The tail meat can be removed and stored for 4–5 days. For longer storage, individuals can be frozen.

What’s the best way to eat crawfish/langoustines?

Boiled is a classic preparation that lets the natural flavors shine. Peel and suck the heads, then twist off the tails. Dip the tails in melted butter.

Can children eat crawfish/langoustines?

Yes, as long as they are old enough to handle the details of peeling and eating shells. Be aware that young children may choke on small pieces. Chopped or pre-peeled tails reduce risks.

Can I freeze uncooked crawfish/langoustines? 

Yes, uncooked meat can be frozen. Individual quick freezing (IQF) or blanching before freezing maintains quality by limiting ice crystals. Use within 3-6 months for an ideal texture.


In conclusion, while crawfish and langoustines may both be delicious crustaceans enjoyed in seafood boils and upscale dishes alike, they differ significantly in their habitats, sizes, flavors, availabilities, and costs. Langoustines have a sweeter oceanic taste than larger saltwater dwellers found in limited coastal ranges, making them a splurge-worthy delicacy. By comparison, crawfish are widely available freshwater-farmed natives with robust flavors in smaller packages and very reasonable prices. For most home cooks and diners, crawfish provide a more accessible and affordable option. However, langoustines retain their appeal as a special treat and luxury ingredient. With their clear distinctions covered, you’ll now be well-equipped to distinguish between crawfish and langoustines and choose the best shellfish for your next culinary creation based on all the defining factors explored.

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