Shrimp are among the most popular fish consumed in the US, and for good reason: High-quality, well-prepared shrimp are sweet and flavorful, with a satisfyingly crisp yet tender texture. But shrimp can also go very, very wrong when prepared poorly, becoming rubbery, mushy, and in any case totally unappealing. Plus, now more than ever, it pays to be extra careful about where your shrimp are coming from, given recent revelations about human trafficking in the shrimp industry in Southeast Asia. That may mean you find yourself paying more for domestic catch at retailers or farmers markets in order to ensure reputable sourcing—all the more reason to use your purchase well. Beyond knowing where your shrimp come from, we strongly suggest sticking to frozen, shell-on, and head-off shrimp for most preparations—read more details in our extensive guide to buying shrimp.
To nail the right amount of firm, snappy bite, we always recommend brining shrimp in salt and baking soda before cooking, though we also offer different tricks based on your chosen cooking method. Master the basic techniques and you'll be ready to tackle the recipes below, including a classic shrimp cocktail that's leaps and bounds above any store-bought tray, Singapore noodles, and shrimp scampi infused with vermouth and garlic.
Plump and Tender Shrimp Cocktail
If you've never tried shrimp cocktail that didn't come in a clear plastic party tray, you're seriously missing out. We dry-brine our shrimp in baking soda and salt before poaching them in an aromatic court bouillon, starting them off at a low temperature and gradually bringing it up to 170°F to keep them plump and cook them evenly. For the sauce, we use a traditional blend of ketchup and horseradish, seasoned with coriander and lemon juice.
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail (Coctel de Camarones)
Mexican coctel de camarones, made with a tangy lime and ketchup sauce, is a wonderful summery dish, but often runs the risk of ending up too sweet. In our recipe, we replace a good portion of that sugary ketchup with tomato purée to mellow out the sweetness, and add lime juice, orange juice, diced white onion, jalapeño or serrano pepper, and cilantro besides. Because the sauce is so flavorful, you can skip poaching the shrimp in court bouillon—water with a little lime juice is fine.
Colombian-Style Shrimp Ceviche Cocktail
The Colombian version of this dish is a sort of delicious ceviche–cocktail hybrid, made with cooked shellfish and dressed with a mixture of lime juice, ketchup, mayonnaise, and hot sauce. A little extra-virgin olive oil punches up the flavor.
Classic Shrimp Aguachile With Lime, Cucumber, and Red Onion
I fell in love with aguachile the very first time I tried it, at LA's excellent Coni'Seafood. It's made with raw shrimp tossed in a zesty, refreshing sauce of lime juice, onion, and cucumber—and, unlike ceviche, it's served before the shrimp has had time to cure. For that reason, don't abide by our usual shrimp-buying rules: Look for fresh, never-frozen, sashimi-quality shrimp, and try to find them with the heads on—you can save the heads to fry for an awesome snack.
Chinese-Style Deep-Fried Salty Shrimp
Fried shrimp heads are plenty tasty on their own, but when you fry whole jumbo shrimp, the contrast between the tender meat and the crispy heads makes them even better. Here, we batter the head-on shrimp very lightly in egg and cornstarch before frying, then toss them with minced garlic, green onions, and red chili flakes once they come out of the oil.
Peruvian Fried Seafood Platter With Lime-Marinated Onion and Tomato Salad (Jalea)
The Peruvian dish jalea is a study in pleasing opposites—a big plate of golden-fried seafood, topped with a bright, fresh salad of red onions, tomatoes, and cilantro marinated in lime juice. A mix of firm white-fleshed fish, shrimp, and squid is traditional, but you're free to choose other fish based on availability and taste. We coat the pieces in a crispy beer batter, made extra light with cornstarch and baking powder, before frying.
Spanish-Style Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo)
Gambas al ajillo is one of those dishes that are good even when they're not so good—how can you go wrong with perfectly cooked shrimp in aromatic garlic-scented olive oil? That said, really good gambas al ajillo are a thing of beauty. Here, we start with good-quality shell-on shrimp and use the shells to infuse the oil we'll cook with. Then, to create layers of flavor, we incorporate garlic in not one, not two, but three stages: marinating the shrimp in minced garlic, adding smashed garlic to the oil, and sautéing slivered garlic before adding the shrimp.
Crystal Skin Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gow)
Firm, juicy shrimp make an excellent filling for dumplings, and these pretty, translucent, purse-shaped numbers, called har gow, are among the best ways to show them off. Homemade wrappers are just about essential here—fortunately, with practice, getting the right texture from the wheat- and tapioca-based dough isn't too difficult.
Harissa Quinoa With Shrimp and Chickpeas
Quinoa has so many things going for it—it's easy to cook, packed with protein, and takes well to whatever flavors you like—it should really be a regular feature in your weeknight menus. This one-pot recipe flavors the tiny grain with fiery North African harissa and adds shrimp and chickpeas to make it a filling meal. Diced cucumber, cilantro, and lemon juice balance out the heat.
Shrimp and Gruyère Cheese Grits With Bacon and Mushrooms
Devising the absolute "best" recipe isn't feasible when you're facing a dish that comes in as many variations as shrimp and grits. But you can certainly strive for the best version of a specific take on it. For us, that means making our grits in a stock enriched with shrimp shells and mushroom trimmings. Gruyère melts well into the grits and adds a subtle earthy flavor. The bacon, shrimp, and mushrooms used for topping are cooked separately and sequentially, so that nothing overcooks.
Shrimp Scampi With Garlic, Red Pepper Flakes, and Herbs
Even a simple dish like shrimp scampi—shrimp cooked in a sauce of white wine, garlic, butter, and olive oil, usually served over pasta—can be improved with a few small tricks. We use vermouth instead of wine for a more concentrated flavor; hand-mince the garlic instead of grating it to avoid producing acrid fumes; and finish the dish with a shower of minced fines herbes, a step up from just the traditional parsley.
One-Skillet Orecchiette With Shrimp, Spinach, and Mushrooms
Cooking the pasta in a small amount of liquid that doesn't require straining makes this truly a one-pot dinner. Start by sautéing delicate oyster mushrooms, then remove them from the heat. Then boil the pasta, add the spinach and shrimp and cook until the shrimp is heated through, and finally return the mushrooms to the skillet. You'll end up with tender shrimp, silky strands of wilted spinach, and flavorful mushrooms that retain some bite, without the least bit of sogginess.
Italian Seafood-Salad Pasta Salad With Vietnamese Noodles
A mashup of two classic salads, Italian-style seafood salad and pasta salad, this dish combines lightly cooked shrimp, squid, and crabmeat in a tangy vinaigrette. Italian spaghetti tends to take on an odd acerbic flavor with vinaigrettes, so swap it out for Vietnamese rice noodles, which perform much better.
Singapore noodles probably don't hail from Singapore, but that shouldn't stop you from adding this tasty recipe to your repertoire. They're made with shrimp, vegetables, egg, curry powder, and char siu, or Chinese roast pork. We cook the ingredients in batches so that each enjoys the highest heat possible, and shower them individually with curry powder to ensure adequate seasoning. Look for rice stick noodles labeled "kong moon," which are thin but won't fall apart when stir-fried.
Curried Coconut Noodles With Shrimp
Sometimes, good things take time. This is not one of those cases: These flavor-packed noodles come together in just 10 minutes thanks to the powerful combination of rich coconut milk and hot curry paste. Add bok choy, cilantro, bean sprouts, and shrimp, and you've got a super-quick, satisfying dinner perfect for busy weeknights.
DIY Thai Coconut Curry With Shrimp Instant Noodles
Need to shake up your workday lunch routine? DIY noodle bowls are the answer. This version combines a mixture of chicken base, curry paste, chili-garlic sauce, and fish sauce with raw mushrooms, cooked shrimp, and rice noodles or ramen. Pack the ingredients in individual jars, and when you're ready to eat, just add hot water and stir in scallions and lime juice.
Stir-Fried Shrimp With Eggs and Chinese Chives
You might not be familiar with Chinese chives, but you should be. Resembling flat, wide scallions, with a garlicky flavor reminiscent of ramps, they're often used in place of scallions in Chinese cuisine. In this dish, a Cantonese home-cooking favorite, we stir-fry the chives and combine them with just-cooked-enough shrimp and fluffy scrambled eggs.