Crayfish look like miniature lobsters and are prized for their tail meat. They’re most often boiled with vegetables and seasonings and served warm.

Crayfish are known by many names: crawfish, crawdads, mud puppies, spoondogs, yabbies (), acocil (), and ecrevisse (). They look much like miniature lobsters with pincers that can deliver a painful nip.

Boiling is the preferred method of cooking. is perhaps the most recognized state for consumption and production, where Creole and Cajun traditions influence the seasoning. Scandinavians season with dill and the French use abundant vegetables in a wine brothBisques and étouffees are traditional recipes that are especially suited to crayfish.


More than 500 species of freshwater crayfish are found around the world. They are sold commercially as both wild-caught and farm-raised.

Buying Tips

Crayfish are available live or frozen. They will range in size from about three inches up to eight inches. Purchase with the shells on for greatest flavor. When alive, they will be very active and ready to pinch. In between molts, when they are without a shell, crayfish are often harvested and frozen in vacuum-sealed packages.

Storage Tips

Keep live crayfish on ice or in a bowl covered with a wet paper towel. They should be cooked the same day as purchased. After boiling, they’ll remain good for up to four days.

Usage Tips

Never eat raw or dead crayfish. They must be alive and rinsed well in cold running water before boiling.

Always boil with the shells on, as these add a wonderful flavor to the cooking liquid.

Smaller species do not contain much claw meat and it is not worthwhile to remove. Pick carefully through larger claws as they contain some cartilage.

To reach the sweet meat, twist the tail and pull. Squeeze the sides of the tail to crack the shell. Remove the intestine (sand vein).

When done (about 10 minutes boiling time), they will turn red and float to the top. If adding to a separate dish for baking, boil for just 5 minutes, let cool, and refrigerate.

The tail meat accounts for about 15% of the total weight. Approximately 10 pounds of crayfish will be reduced to 1-1/2 pounds of meat.

Substitution Tips

Shrimp or lobster.

Try one of our favorite crayfish recipes:

Crayfish Dip
Crawfish Risotto
Crayfish Tail Salad