Shrimp Tails in Pasta: Nay or Bae?

Imagine biting into mouthwatering pasta carbonara only to discover a crunchy, inedible shrimp tail hidden in the creamy sauce. 

Many high-end restaurants leave shrimp tails on in pasta dishes and other offerings, much to the chagrin of consumers. 

When scrolling through Reddit, I found a question in the popular R/cooking sub asking culinary experts on the site whether tails should remain on shrimp.

The debate rages ever on, but some of the responses are enlightening. 

It’s Normal

It’s normal, but I hate it.” said one Redditor. Most Italian restaurants leave shrimp tails intact, even in creamy pasta dishes.

That doesn’t mean we have to like it, though. 

Tails Add Flavor…

But don’t shrimps with tails on enhance the flavour of the dish?” asked one user.  “That was my understanding for why people would keep them on.”

Other commenters weren’t so sure. “ I’ve tried side by side and didn’t notice a difference at all.” said one. “I’m sure somebody will swoop in and swear up and down it makes a night and day difference. To each their own,” they added. 

But There are Other Ways to Get It

Redditors who agreed that tails add flavor said there are other ways to a flavor boost without leaving the shells on. 

You can find ways to use the empty shells while cooking and remove them before serving. I literally made some shrimp Alfredo tonight and tossed the shells in with the butter and strained them out before adding the cheese.” said one user, while another suggested wrapping the shells in a cheesecloth and removing it before serving. 

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People Shouldn’t Have to Fish Through Their Food

When I cook I remove them.” stated one user.  “I don’t want people fishing around in their food.

In a later comment, they expanded upon the thought, saying, “I just think it’s annoying having to fish out sauce covered shrimp with my bare hands when I should be focused on shoveling cheesy carbs into my maw. I’d rather do a bit of extra work in the kitchen so I can relax and enjoy my meal later on.”

“I never order seafood pasta for this reason.” offered another.  “With the shrimp tails and clam shells, my meal is half trash.”

It’s Not a Big Deal

Some users were shocked by the debate, saying that shrimp tails in pasta isn’t a big deal. 

Whenever I see this issue come up, I feel like I’m the only one who just pulls the tail off as I eat the shrimp?” they asked. “Skewer shrimp with fork, bite from front end, pinch and remove tail with fingers. I’m not sure if other people find that incredibly rude or what, but it seems a pretty good solution to me,” they added. 

More Efficient to Leave it

Restaurants may opt to leave the tails on because it’s easier. “I’m guessing because it’s a lot of prep-work, a restaurant might cut that step to save time.” speculated one user. 

They added that they wouldn’t expect homemade pasta dishes to include shrimp tails. 

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Keep the Tails on for Aesthetics

One Redditor who said they’re a chef said they keep the tail on for aesthetics. Shrimp looks better with the tail on. 

Another suggested tails make it look like you get more bang for your buck. “It’s normal for a restaurant because the tail makes the shrimp look bigger, so they can sell you less shrimp for more money,” they said. 

shrimp pasta dish without tails
Photo Credit: Mehrab via

The Tail & Vein Are Dirty

I was always told it was “dirty” to leave the tails on and not peel it and cut out the ‘poop line’.” offered one user. 

Others explained that you could devein shrimp without removing the tail, and it’s not as gross as you think. “Their poop isn’t a health hazard to eat, but it’s gritty, and well, it’s waste product but don’t worry too much if a little is ingested.” they clarified. 

Tails Make it Difficult to Eat

I, personally, don’t like it, and I think it makes the dish more difficult to eat.” said one user. 

Another said it depends on how people will eat the shrimp. “I typically let form follow function,” they said. “If people are eating the shrimp with hands: tail on. If they are mixed into something eaten with utensils (seafood stew, pasta, etc.), tails off for cleanliness and ease of my guests/family.”

Many users complained about eating shrimp with intact tails, especially in pasta dishes. “What if I told you that people don’t want to fuss around shells when the dish has a sauce?” protested one commentator. 

The Tail Meat Goes to Waste

Many users said leaving the tails on forces diners to waste the tail meat. One even quoted Miss Manners, saying, “in a formal setting, one does need to let the tail meat go as there is no polite way to retrieve it with a knife and fork, but that it’s a shame.”

Tails On or Off?

What do you think about the great shrimp tail debate on Reddit? Do you prefer meals with shrimp tails intact, or would you rather a restaurant de-tail shrimp before tossing it in pasta?