How to Cook Shrimp | 21 Recipe Ideas

There are so many ways to cook and eat shrimp, it’s almost hard to count without the help of the classic scene from the movie “Forrest Gump”, where Bubba so eloquently described the ways:

“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. They’s uh, shrimp kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That – that’s about it.”

Did you get all that? If you kept count, then you noticed that right there is 21 different ways to eat shrimp! And we’ve got a recipe to go with each. But before we get into our list of shrimp recipes, let’s start with the basics.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this guide:

How to Clean and Prepare Shrimp for Cooking

From thawing and peeling to deveining and butterflying, here are some tips for cleaning and preparing shrimp for cooking.

How to Defrost Shrimp

When it comes to defrosting shrimp, you have a few different options. If you’re not in a hurry, your best option is taking them out of the freezer the night before you want to cook them. Slow and steady wins the race, just like a tortoise…or a shrimp.

But, we all know one of the best things about shrimp is how quickly they thaw out and cook up, so your next best option is the cold water method. There are two ways to do this: 

  1. Place the frozen shrimp in a sealed plastic bag and submerge it in a bowl of cold water, changing the water as needed until the shrimp are thawed (about 45 minutes).
  2. Dump the shrimp directly into a bowl of cold water, making sure they’re all completely covered, and let them sit for 10 to 20 minutes. Just make sure that water is cold as warm water can change the texture of the shrimp.

And if you need to get these shrimp thawed out like RIGHT NOW, then there’s always the microwave, although it’s really not recommended. But if you must, then simply place the shrimp in a microwave-safe dish and use the defrost setting in short bursts. Be sure to check the shrimp frequently to make sure they don’t start cooking. Nobody likes rubbery shrimp!

How to Devein Shrimp

Whether your recipe calls for peeled or shelled, the most important step to preparing shrimp is removing the vein. The easiest way to do this is with a tool called a shrimp deveiner, which has a tapered point that does most of the work for you. You simply put the tool under the shell, push in to split it and remove the vein in one swift motion.

However, there’s not always a deveiner handy and deveining shrimp without one is a great knife skill to have – not to mention, you’ll have one less specialty tool crowding your kitchen drawer. The paring knife is a great tool for this very occasion, as its blade design and small size makes it easy for this type of delicate, detailed work. 

To devein both peeled or unpeeled shrimp using the paring knife, hold the shrimp in your hand and use the tip of the blade to slice through the back of the shell (if still on), then cut a shallow slit along the flesh to expose and remove the vein, again using the tip of the knife to carefully lift it out.

More Reasons to Own a Paring Knife: Top 5 Big Uses for the Small Paring Knife

In the below video, Brand Ambassador Justin Grimm shows us how to devein shrimp using the F.N. Sharp Utility Knife, which also comes in handy for this task:

Knife Knowledge 101: Top Uses for a Utility Kitchen Knife

Don’t have a paring knife, utility knife or shrimp deveiner? Then here’s a handy tip: use a toothpick. To do this, start by taking off the legs and shell by hand, then poke the toothpick through the shrimp crosswise, about a half inch above the tail, so it’s almost touching the vein. Then, gently pull the toothpick up and through the shrimp and (if you do it correctly) the vein will come right out. You should be left with a veinless, shell-less and legless ready to cook shrimp.

Get All the F.N. Sharp Essentials: The F.N. Sharp’s 6-Knife Set & Magnetic Knife Block

How to Peel Shrimp

If you’re following a recipe that calls for peeled shrimp, you can simply peel off the legs and the shell of the shrimp by hand, starting from the underside. Then, follow the steps in the section above to remove the vein, if not already removed. You can leave the tail on if you like, as it can help with presentation (depending on the dish, of course). 

It’s a good idea to rinse the shrimp in cold water before you start cooking, too. You can also brine the shrimp by mixing a pinch of baking soda and a teaspoon of salt in a bowl of water. Then add the shrimp and make sure they’re submerged. Leave them for an hour and they’re ready to cook.

How to Butterfly Shrimp

Butterflying shrimp is a technique used to split the shrimp down the back to create a larger, flatter piece of shrimp. It’s like giving your shrimp wings to fly (figuratively, of course). This technique not only makes the shrimp look more elegant and presentable, but it also allows for quicker and more even cooking. Plus, it gives you more surface area to play with when adding seasonings or breading. It’s like giving your shrimp a stage to show off its flavors.

To butterfly your shrimp, start by laying the shrimp flat on a cutting board and using the tip of a sharp knife to make a shallow cut along the back, from the head to the tail. Be careful not to cut all the way through! Next, gently open up the shrimp along the cut you made and remove the vein. Then, press down on the shrimp to flatten it out and voila! You’ve just butterflyed your shrimp. It’s like giving your shrimp a makeover, turning it from a regular shrimp into a fancy butterfly shrimp.

Phew, now that we’ve got the prepping overwith, let’s get to the many different ways to cook shrimp!

How to Cook Shrimp, From the Oven to the Stove

Plated shrimp skewers with cocktail sauce

From baking in the oven to steaming on the stove, here are eight different ways to cook shrimp!

How to Bake Shrimp

Baking shrimp is just as easy as thawing them – you just put them in their place and sit and wait. First, preheat your oven to a toasty 400. While the oven is heating up, grab your shrimp and give them a good rinse. Peel and devein those bad boys (or buy them pre-peeled if you’re feeling lazy – no judgment here), then get them all dressed up for the oven. Drizzle them with some olive oil, sprinkle on your favorite seasonings (garlic, paprika, and a pinch of salt and pepper are always a good choice), and give them a toss to make sure they’re coated evenly.

Next, pop those seasoned shrimp onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Slide the sheet into the oven and let the shrimp bake for about 8-10 minutes. Keep an eye on them – you’ll know they’re done when they turn pink and opaque. Once your shrimp are perfectly baked, take them out of the oven and squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the top for a zesty kick. Serve them up hot and enjoy the fruits of your baking labor!

How to Boil Shrimp

Now let’s learn how to boil raw shrimp, which is done when making a shrimp boil (of course) or some shrimp cocktail. To boil your shrimp, fill a pot with water, making sure there’s enough to fully submerge the shrimp. Add a generous amount of salt to the water to season the shrimp as they cook. Bring the water to a rolling boil over medium to high heat.

Once the water is boiling, carefully add the shrimp to the pot and let them cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they turn pink and opaque. Be careful not to overcook them, as they can become tough and rubbery. You can also use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the water. When it reaches 170℉, pull the shrimp off the stove and rinse them with cold water, that way they’ll stop cooking. Some people prefer to put them in an ice bath, which is a must for shrimp cocktail, but the concept to remember is you don’t want them to keep cooking.

How to Air-Fry Shrimp

So, you’ve got a hankering for some shrimp, but you’re tired of the same old boiled or grilled options. Why not shake things up a bit and try air-frying your shrimp? It’s quick, easy, and oh-so-tasty. 

Start by preheating your air fryer to 400°F (or 200°C for you fancy folks). While it’s heating up, toss your shrimp in a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you fancy. Once the air fryer is ready, pop those shrimp in a single layer in the basket. Don’t overcrowd them – they need their space to get nice and crispy.

Depending on the size of your shrimp, you’ll want to cook them for about 5-10 minutes (larger shrimp work best for this method since they shrink up a bit). Give the basket a shake halfway through to ensure they cook evenly. You’ll know they’re done when they’re pink, opaque, and have a lovely golden brown crust.

Once your shrimp are cooked to perfection, it’s time to dig in. Whip up a quick cocktail sauce, garlic aioli, or just squeeze some lemon over them. The world is your oyster – or should we say, shrimp?

How to Deep-Fry Shrimp

Got a deep fryer instead of an air fryer? Then, let’s dive into the deep fryer and get these little sea critters sizzling! First things first, you’ll need to gather your ingredients. Grab some fresh shrimp, flour, eggs, breadcrumbs, and your favorite seasonings. Don’t be shellfish – make sure to share the bounty with your friends!

Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails intact for easy handling. Season them up with your favorite spices – a little garlic powder, paprika, and salt should do the trick. Now, it’s time to batter up! Dip each seasoned shrimp in flour, then egg, and finally breadcrumbs. Make sure they’re fully coated for that extra crunch factor. It’s like giving them a little breadcrumb blanket to keep them warm in the fryer!

Next, heat up your oil to around 350°F (177°C) – you want it hot, but not smoking. Carefully drop in the breaded shrimp, making sure not to overcrowd the fryer. Fry them for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until they’re a beautiful golden brown. 

Once your shrimp are cooked to perfection, take them out of the fryer and let them drain on a paper towel. Serve them up hot and crispy with your favorite dipping sauce. These little guys are sure to make a splash at your next gathering!

How to Pan-Fry Shrimp

Don’t have a deep fryer or air fryer? Then it’s time to pan-fry those shrimp! But first, let’s talk about what pan-frying actually means. It’s like frying, but in a pan. Mind-blowing, right? This method involves cooking food in a hot pan with a bit of oil (about a 1-inch depth), creating a crispy exterior while keeping the inside juicy and flavorful.

Now, let’s talk flavor. Season your shrimp with whatever floats your boat – garlic, lemon, herbs, spices, you name it. Get creative! Don’t be shy with the seasoning – you want those flavors to pop with each bite. 

Before you get started, make sure your pan is hot but not smoking. You want that shrimp to sizzle when it hits the pan, not shrivel up in fear. Medium-high heat is your friend here. As for cook time, shrimp are quick little critters. They only need about 2-3 minutes per side to cook through. Don’t overdo it unless you want rubbery seafood.

When it’s time to flip your shrimp, don’t be timid. Use a spatula or tongs to flip those babies with confidence. You want an even golden brown color on each side. No one likes a lopsided shrimp. Trust us on this one.

Once your shrimp are cooked to perfection, it’s time to dig in. Serve them up hot and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Whether you’re pairing them with pasta, rice, or just diving in solo, pan-fried shrimp are sure to hit the spot.

How to Grill Shrimp

So you want to cook up some shrimp on the barbie? This method is quick, easy, and oh-so-delicious! Just get that grill nice and hot, preheating to around 400-450°F (medium-high heat) for perfect shrimp grilling. You want them to cook quickly and get a nice sear without drying out, so don’t be afraid to turn up the heat a bit.

Now, you can’t just throw those shrimp on the grill naked (that would be indecent), so try marinating them in a tasty mix of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and your favorite herbs for about 15-30 minutes before grilling. Or, if you’re in a rush, a simple sprinkle of salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon will do the trick.

Skewering your shrimp is a great way to keep them from falling through the grates (no one wants to lose a shrimp to the flames). If you’re using wooden skewers, make sure to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes beforehand to prevent them from catching fire. Or, if you’re feeling rebellious, you can grill the shrimp directly on the grates – just make sure they’re big enough to not slip through.

When it comes to shrimp, less is more. These little guys cook up fast, so you’ll only need about 2-3 minutes per side. That’s it! Overcooking shrimp is a crime, so keep a close eye on them and don’t wander off to check your Insta feed.

How to Saute Shrimp

Sauteing shrimp is like a culinary dance – quick, flavorful, and oh so satisfying. It’s all about cooking the shrimp over high heat in a little bit of oil or butter until they turn pink and opaque. Simple, right?

And don’t be shy with the seasonings! Add some garlic, lemon, herbs, or spices to really amp up the flavor. Get creative and make your taste buds sing with joy! Next, crank up the heat! You want your pan to be sizzling hot before you add the shrimp. It’s like a shrimp disco party in there – they want to sizzle and dance! 

As mentioned before, when it comes to cooking shrimp, less is more. Shrimp cook super fast, so keep an eye on them. They’ll only need about 2-3 minutes per side. You’ll know they’re done when they’re pink and opaque. 

How to Steam Shrimp

Steaming shrimp is a fantastic way to lock in all that delicious flavor and keep the shrimp tender and juicy. Plus, it’s super easy and quick, making it the perfect option for a hassle-free meal.

Start by bringing a pot of water to a boil. You can also add some spices and seasonings to the water for an extra flavor boost. Old Bay seasoning, garlic, lemon, and a pinch of cayenne pepper can take your steamed shrimp to the next level. Once it’s bubbling away, place a steamer basket over the pot and add your shrimp. Cover the pot and let those little guys steam for about 5-7 minutes, or until they turn a lovely pink color and are no longer translucent.

Once your shrimp are perfectly steamed and seasoned, serve them up with some cocktail sauce, melted butter, or just enjoy them as they are. However you choose to indulge, you can’t go wrong with a plate full of freshly steamed shrimp!

Now that we’ve covered how to prepare shrimp and cook them all the different ways, let’s check out some recipe ideas to go along with Bubba Blue’s list of ways to enjoy shrimp from the movie “Forrest Gump”.

21 Easy Shrimp Recipes Inspired by Bubba Blue of Forrest Gump

Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta Recipe

Here are some great Bubba-inspired recipes to get the ol’ shrimp boat motor running.

  1. BBQ Shrimp – This one is a fairly salty dish that keeps the shrimp in the shells when cooked. They’re buttery, spicy and come with a lot of kick.
  2. Boiled Shrimp – A Louisiana favorite, this boiled shrimp recipe delivers a delicious blend of Southern flavors.
  3. Broiled Shrimp – If you love spice, you’ll definitely love this one. From paprika and cayenne pepper to creole seasoning and Worcestershire sauce to lemon and butter, this broiled shrimp recipe is exploding with spicy flavor.
  4. Baked Butter Garlic Shrimp – As the name suggests, butter and garlic come together in this deliciously easy recipe for baked shrimp.
  5. Cajun Shrimp Pasta – This is the sauté portion of our article with a recipe that pairs up some shrimp with Andouille sausage and penne pasta.
  6. Shrimp Kabobs – Honestly, the hardest part about this method is probably threading them onto the skewers, but man, there’s something about sliding them off that’s so satisfying. Worth it!
  7. Shrimp Creole – Another spicy favorite, you can even add some bacon if you’re feeling particularly fancy. The fresher the shrimp, the better.
  8. Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo – Here’s another Louisiana favorite, and it’s really simple to make. The shrimp will boil in the sauce, and it goes great with rice.
  9. Pan-Fried Shrimp – This is for when you want something crispy but not overdone. Few things in life go together better than fried shrimp and cocktail sauce.
  10. Deep-Fried Shrimp – This is fried shrimp but after a night at the gym pumping weights. This is when you up the ante and go for the gold.
  11. Garlic Shrimp Stir Fry – Maybe artery clogging isn’t the way to go for you. If that’s the case, stir fried shrimp glazed in garlic sauce is an easy, delicious alternative.
  12. Pineapple Shrimp – Time to get tropical – with a fruity flavor that’s easy to whip up. Serve this one in a hollowed out pineapple because why not? Live a little!
  13. Lemon Garlic Shrimp – Lemon, garlic, and a handful of other flavors all come together in this seriously delicious pasta dish. What makes it even better is it takes less than 20 minutes to pull together. Hello busy week night meal!
  14. Coconut Shrimp – If you’re the type who loves the texture and taste of coconut, you’re in luck. This recipe is sweet and crispy all at once.
  15. Pepper Shrimp – This one is a nice spicy dish that can be prepared with the shell on or off, depending on your preference. This recipe is especially decadent because you’re going to want some bread to soak up all the goodness.
  16. Shrimp Soup – This is a great “cold day” dish, as it has all the right elements of heat. Very comforting dish.
  17. Shrimp Stew – What’s the difference between a soup and stew, you ask? It’s heartier! And in this case, shrimpier.
  18. Shrimp Salad – A pleasant, refreshing dish that’s both light and filling, this recipe combines crunchy celery flavor with a bright dill sheen and a creamy finish.
  19. Shrimp and Potatoes – A nice alternative to steak and potatoes, this dish is a quick and easy way to mix baked potatoes (yeah!) with shrimp.
  20. Shrimp Burger – You knew this one was on the way. This recipe involves forming the shrimp into patties, so there’s some prep work involved, but it’s definitely worth it.
  21. Shrimp Sandwich – This one has all the stuff, like avocado (what!) and creamy chipotle avocado mayonnaise (what!) and toasted bread rolls (whoa!). And who doesn’t love sandwiches? They’re the world’s most perfect food!

Well there you go – a shrimp dish for literally every occasion. And that’s all we’ve got to say about that.

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