Crawfish Vs Crayfish: What is the Difference

Chefs and cooks appreciate a proven recipe with ingredients used in accurate proportions. You see; you cannot just throw random ingredients into a pot and expect the dish to turn out well-seasoned and delicious. Enough with the blabber, now let’s concentrate on one element of cuisine that has left many aspiring chefs puzzled – the crawfish vs. crayfish.

What’s the difference between crawfish vs. crayfish or crawdad?


A crayfish refers to a tiny, freshwater crustacean which closely resembles a small lobster. Crawfish are related to small lobsters, but they are not lobsters. These freshwater crustaceans can grow up to a maximum of 4 inches in length and have claws.


Also, these crustacean species can take up to seven years to reach adulthood. Over 500 species of this crustacean live in shallow streams, riverbeds, and shores of lakes in North America. Taxonomically, they are members of the Parastacoidea, Astacoidea, and Superfamilies.

Being omnivores and scavengers, crayfish eat live or decomposing things including fish eggs, insects, or leaves. These freshwater fish crustaceans are a tasty treat to many people as well as predators like muskrats, snakes, and raccoons.  Confusingly known as crawfish in the US New Orleans dinning, crayfish have a superb flavor, turning into a splendid deep scarlet color when cooked. Only the claw meat and tail can be eaten.


The name crawfish is used in some regions in reference to a crayfish. Other names that can be used to refer to the same animal include crawdads, yabbies, lobsters, mudbugs, or koura. You may use any of these terms depending on where you grew up. Those in south Louisiana often say crawfish, while the Northerners are more likely to settle on crayfish as a dialectical variant implying to the same animal.


It is also not strange to find people from the Arkansas or West Coast, Kansas, and Oklahoma using the term crawdad to refer to the same animal. The same crustacean is known as mudbug in the Mississippi Delta. English-speaking countries outside of North America use even more terms to refer to this creature.

In Australia, for example, a crawfish is known as a koura or a yabby. These crustaceans are not indigenous to Singapore. However, some Singaporeans who buy them as pets use the term freshwater lobsters in reference to the crayfish.

The word crawfish is widely accepted in American English particularly in the context of local cuisines. A Cajun-style eatery whose menu items feature these animals is more likely to refer to crayfish as crawfish, in a bid to preserve or promote the regional authenticity. On the same token, seafood stores and restaurants that are prone to crustacean inflation use fancier terms in their labeling to attract classier audiences or better prices.

Crawfish vs. crayfish – Verdict

Crawfish are versatile animals that have been featured in many dishes including salads, soups, pastas, and butters among others. They have graced more than a dozen cookbooks, too. People who love variety will more likely love crawfish. Millions of tourists flock to New Orleans annually just to sample the crawfish etouffée. So, no matter what you choose to refer to this polyonymous crustacean, you can prepare a variety of mouth-watering dishes with it.  

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