What Are The Differences Between White, Brown And Pink Shrimps?

Though you might think all shrimps broadly taste the same, irrespective of their look or origin, that may not be true. In fact, if you observe the differences between each kind of shrimp, you’d be rather startled. White, brown and pink are the three main varieties of shrimp and knowing the difference between them can unlock your tastebuds to how different they taste and may also give you a hint of their origin. 

The Indan white shrimp is a saltwater shrimp found in India’s coastal waters, and are widely distributed throughout the waters of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, where they are primarily captured. But brown and pink shrimps are available in India as well, which begs the question, which shrimp is best? Let’s get to know each variety better.

White Shrimp

White shrimp used to be native to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, but they were eventually farmed on the southeastern coast of the United States, from North Carolina to Texas and in Asia as well. They have pale, translucent shells with a slight bluish tint and are characterised by a sweet and mild flavour. They tend to have a firm, slightly crunchy texture when cooked and these are ideal for stir-fries or slow-cooked recipes since they can hold their shape for long. 

Moreover, due to their mild taste, they pair well with bold spices and sauces. White shrimps are also low in fat and calories but rich in protein, which makes them more usable in daily meals.

Brown Shrimp

Brown shrimp have reddish-brown shells and distinctive white spots on their tails. Usually farmed in the Arabian Sea, these shrimps are medium-sized types and can reach lengths of up to 12 cm. They have a slightly stronger flavor compared to white shrimp, with a hint of sweetness and a meatier texture. Brown shrimp are commonly used in traditional curries and certain coastal recipes because they can retain flavour. They are also popular for frying due to their firm texture, which holds up well to high heat. Nutritionally, brown shrimp are similar to white shrimp, and offer a lean source of protein with minimal fat and calories.

Brown shrimp has a potent flavour and they complement spices such as cayenne pepper, paprika, and thyme. Their meaty texture makes them ideal for hearty dishes like jambalaya, Goan curries and fried shrimp platters. 

Pink Shrimp

Pink shrimp are instantly recognisable by their pale pink shells with subtle red markings and are typically smaller in size compared to white and brown shrimps. Pink shrimp has a muted sweetness and a tender, succulent texture when cooked. Since they have a natural sweetness, they are favoured in dishes where their flavour can shine, such as steamed Indian recipes (like a shorshe chingri, bhapa or thokku) and Mediterranean recipes like shrimp cocktail, ceviche, and pasta. They pair really well with citrus, avocado, and fresh herbs like cilantro and basil. Pink shrimp are also good for grilling or sautéing due to their tender texture, which cooks quickly. 

Which shrimp is best for daily use?

If you’re making robust curries or coastal gravies which has a spice-forward profile, you’ll be better off with brown shrimp. A major reason is their diet. A study by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service reveals that the marine compound bromophenol is found in marine prey species, which farmed shrimp feed on (brown shrimp is typically farmed, not caught). Bromophenol is responsible for the naturally briny ‘ocean-like’ flavour which is often found in brown shrimps. As a result, their heads can also be used up for stocks and sauces since their flavour is so potent. 

Since all main shrimp varieties are pretty much the same nutritionally, it’s best to think in terms of taste, texture and convenience. White shrimps are easier to cook since their shells are easier to remove so you can use them for weekday recipes or last-minute dishes. Pink shrimps are naturally saltier than the other two varieties since they prefer the saltier parts of the ocean, which is whey frying them, sauteeing them and seasoning them is the best way to highlight their flavour