January 10, 2022 by CC Staff

The Differences between Crawfish, Crawdads, and Crayfish

If you’re one of those people who are constantly confused by the interchanging uses of crawfish, crawdad, and crayfish then fear not — you certainly aren’t alone. Many people have turned towards the internet in the hopes of settling the one question on their minds: what is the difference?


Ultimately, there isn’t much of a difference between the three names. They all refer to the same animal, with minor differences that aren’t really significant in the greater scheme of things. In the end, everyone’s cooking and eating the same thing. So why do people use these different terms?


Geographical Significance


The main reason for all the different names is more to do with geography. The crawfish (or crayfish or crawdad) is classified under the phylum Arthropoda, similar to the lobster, and has three major families. These are the Cambaridae, Astacidae, and the Parastacidae. The Cambaridae crawfish is the biggest family, making up the majority of the US’s crawfish population.


Astacidae crawfish are commonly found in Northwestern areas of North America while Parastacidae is found in the Southern hemisphere. Regardless of the family, crawfish are freshwater animals and can be found in lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers. Some need running water to survive, but others are perfectly capable of thriving in swamps.


Crawfish vs Lobster


Now if there’s one animal a crawfish is commonly compared to but has significant differences with, it’s the lobster. Lobsters are significantly bigger than their crustacean cousins, but they’re also under the phylum Arthropoda. They also exclusively live in saltwater.


Crawfish can only grow up to six or seven inches long, depending on their species. But similar to lobsters, they have hard shells that cover their soft bodies. Crawfish also have claws at their front legs and several sets of whiskers by their mouths. They use these whiskers to hold on to their food.


Appreciating Your Crawfish


When you’re indulging in the crawfish from different states, you’ll want to remember that the south calls these crustaceans crawfish while the mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coast states call them crawdads. In the northern US, you’ll be hearing a lot of people calling these crustaceans crayfish.


No matter what the name is, the dishes they make are delicious and mouth-watering. A Louisiana-style crawfish boil is always going to be a classic crowd-pleaser but you can also enjoy crawfish as a New Orleans-style etouffee. Other people also serve it in patties, casseroles, or soup.


Final Thoughts


Whether you use crawfish, crawdad, or crayfish, you’ll be pleased to know that there isn’t a difference between any of them. All names refer to the same animal and the difference only matters geographically. If you’re concerned about fitting in, then it’s useful to know the distinctions between the names but, other than that, you’re good to use the terms as you please.


Crawfish has been one of the best, crowd-pleasing foods to serve people, whether they’re tourists or not. You can enjoy them in a classic crawfish boil or as other dishes like patties, casseroles, or soup. However, keep in mind that they’re not to be confused with their cousin, the lobster.

For some of the best crawfish in Houston, Texas you can visit the Crawfish Cafe. We serve some of the best crawfish dishes including other seafood like gulf blue crabs, black mussels, king crab legs, and shrimp.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments