Shrimp are one of the most popular kinds of seafood in the US, and it's no wonder: when prepared correctly, they're sweet and flavorful and have a wonderful crisp-tender texture. We've taken to dry-brining just about all of our shrimp to ensure that they have a snappy bite, and we also have a few other tricks up our sleeves for a variety of cooking methods. Well-prepared shrimp can be used in all sorts of dishes, from classic shrimp cocktail and scampi to har gow and shrimp and grits, and we've rounded up 15 of our favorite recipes that showcase the shellfish in all its glory.
Note: The local grocery store might have an overwhelming number of option when it comes to buying shrimp. We've got an in-depth guide to help you out, but the short story is that we typically stick with shell-on, head-off shrimp from the freezer section.
Plump and Tender Shrimp Cocktail
Perfect shrimp cocktail starts with perfectly plump and tender shrimp. Getting there requires dry-brining the shrimp in baking soda and salt before poaching them in court bouillon. To evenly cook the shrimp, we start them in low-temperature water and slowly heat it to 170°F. The sauce itself is simple—a traditional blend of ketchup and horseradish seasoned with coriander and lemon juice.
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail (Coctel de Camarones)
In contrast to American shrimp cocktail, in Mexican coctel de camarones the shrimp are mixed with a lime- and ketchup-based sauce. It's a wonderfully summery dish, but it also can veer toward the sweet side. Our version keeps the sugar in check by replacing a lot of the ketchup with tomato purée. Don't bother with a court bouillon for poaching the shrimp since the sauce is plenty flavorful, as it's made with lime juice, orange juice, diced white onion, chilies, and cilantro.
Classic Shrimp Aguachile With Lime, Cucumber, and Red Onion
The first dish I ate the first time I visited LA is one of the city's best: the aguachile at Coni'Seafood. The zesty dish is made with raw shrimp, lime juice, onion, and cucumber, all tossed together and served quickly before the shrimp can cure. Since the shrimp are totally raw, make sure to get sashimi-quality ones from a reputable fishmonger.
Spanish-Style Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo)
Gambas al ajillo is a simple dish that's hard to mess up too badly—what's not to love about shrimp, garlic, and olive oil? A couple tricks take the dish from good to great: infusing the oil with shrimp shells, dry-brining the shrimp, and incorporating the garlic three different ways.
Shrimp Scampi With Garlic, Red Pepper Flakes, and Herbs
You might not be familiar with gambas al ajillo, but I'm willing to bet you know this classic shrimp-and-garlic dish. Shrimp scampi takes the ingredients from gambas al ajillo and adds wine and butter. Dry white wine is traditional, but the more concentrated flavor of vermouth works better. As for the garlic, mince it by hand rather than grating it so that it doesn't produce acrid fumes once it hits the hot oil.
Shrimp Fra Diavolo (Spaghetti With Spicy Tomato Sauce)
Restaurants typically make fra diavolo with lobster, but that's not the best choice at home—lobster is expensive, difficult to clean, and it doesn't provide you with enough shell to make a good stock. We use shrimp instead, pouring in clam juice for even more shellfish flavor. This dish is named after the devil for a reason, so be generous with the red pepper flakes.
Thai-Style Shrimp Cakes With Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
In this recipe shrimp again stand in for pricier shellfish to make a party-friendly alternative to crab cakes. To flavor the shrimp cakes we turn to garlic, scallions, lime zest, and a generous amount of cilantro, which turns them a beautiful shade of green. Serve them with homemade Thai sweet chili sauce or just doctor up a store-bought bottle with fish sauce and lime juice.
Shrimp and Gruyère Cheese Grits With Bacon and Mushrooms
There are countless ways to make shrimp and grits, but this version with Gruyère and mushrooms is one of our favorites. We make the grits themselves in a stock flavored with shrimp shells and mushroom trimmings, then we melt in the earthy cheese and load on the toppings.
Creamy Shrimp Dip With Shallots, Dill, and Lemon
This easy appetizer starts with brined and poached shrimp, which we chop up and mix with mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon-marinated shallot, celery, horseradish, and herbs. Using both sour cream and mayo gives the dip a little bit of a tang that would be missing if you just used mayo.
Crystal Skin Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gow)
It's hard for me to pick favorites when it comes to dim sum, but I always have trouble letting the har gow cart pass without getting an order. The hard part about making these juicy shrimp dumplings is that you have to make the wrappers from scratch—it takes practice, but eventually you'll get the wheat- and tapioca-based dough right.
Chinese-Style Deep-Fried Salty Shrimp
I don't want my fried shrimp to be masked by a heavy batter—this light mixture of egg and cornstarch adds just enough extra crunch. While I guess you could make this recipe with head-off shrimp, it's the contrast between the tender meat and crispy heads that really make the dish.
Stir-Fried Shrimp With Eggs and Chinese Chives
Scallions are a common feature of Chinese recipes, but we often prefer to use Chinese chives, which look like flattened scallions and have a garlicky, ramp-like flavor. They're worth seeking out, but scallions will also work in this egg and shrimp stir-fry.
Grilled Shrimp With Chermoula
Juicy, tender grilled shrimp start with dry-brining, but there's a little more to it than that. Packing the shrimp together tightly on skewers, letting them dry thoroughly, and getting the grill as hot as possible ensures the shrimp cook quickly and evenly. The shrimp will be plenty good on their own, but even better with chermoula, a North African sauce that is often paired with grilled seafood.
Quick and Easy Shrimp, Corn, and Tomatillo Salad
It's not quite corn season, but once it starts showing up in the market be ready with this summery salad made with poached shrimp, tomatillos, and bell pepper. We boil and chill the corn kernels, thinly slice the raw tomatillos, and chop the peppers, then mix everything together with olive oil, lime juice, and cilantro.