14 Tasty Ways to Make a Healthy Meal With Shrimp
How to Cook Shrimp
Shrimp is amazingly versatile. This quick-cooking crustacean is low in calories but high in protein, making it a healthy choice for hectic weeknights. On top of that, shrimp’s mild flavor makes it a blank canvas for sauces, seasonings, and more.
So, what’s the best way to cook shrimp? From grilled, to sautéed, to broiled, there are endless possibilities. And whether you’re craving shrimp and grits, shrimp scampi, or shrimp fried rice, we have you covered. Use this guide to find the perfect healthy way to cook shrimp, then make our delicious recipes.
For more ideas, check out these 40+ Healthy Shrimp Recipes.
How to Buy Shrimp
Make sure the shrimp you’re buying is as fresh as possible. Find a fishmonger you trust and choose domestic or wild-caught shrimp (like Gulf shrimp) if available. If you aren’t going straight home afterwards, ask to have your shrimp packed on ice.
If you can't find fresh shrimp, frozen shrimp are perfectly fine to buy—and in some cases are preferable. The reason being, all shrimp are frozen at sea after they're caught, and it's hard to know exactly how long the "fresh" shrimp sitting behind the seafood counter have been thawed. Buying frozen shrimp gives you greater control over the defrosting process, since you can cook them immediately afterwards.
In addition to freshness, you’ll also want to consider the size of the shrimp. Shrimp are sold in many different sizes, from small to large to jumbo. Does it matter which one you buy? Yes. Different-sized shrimp have different applications, and you’ll want to choose wisely depending on how you’re planning to cook them. Smaller shrimp are best for salads, pasta dishes, and soups, while larger shrimp are best for high-heat cooking methods like grilling and sautéing.
Instead of “small” or “jumbo,” which can vary from one purveyor to another, pay attention to the count per pound. Here are some common shrimp counts and associated sizes:
51-60 / lb = small shrimp
36-42 / lb = medium shrimp
31-35 / lb = large shrimp
16-20 / lb = jumbo shrimp
15 or less / lb = colossal shrimp
Whether you’re using fresh or frozen shrimp, double check their quality before cooking. Look for a slightly salty smell like the ocean and firm flesh that springs back when pressed. If you find a foul, fishy odor or mushy texture, throw the shrimp away immediately—and take out your trash before they smell up your kitchen!
If using frozen shrimp, the best way to thaw them is in the refrigerator. Do not thaw them on your countertop or in warm water, as this exposes them to the danger zone (between 40 °F and 140 °F) where bacteria is most likely to grow.
How to Peel and Devein Shrimp
The final question is, to peel or not to peel? If you’re serving shrimp on a platter as an appetizer, it’s perfectly fine to leave the shells on during cooking. In fact, for methods like poaching, keeping the shrimp in their shells help them stay juicy and moist. But if you’re grilling or pan-sautéing shrimp, it’s best to remove their shells.
Once peeled, devein the shrimp by running a paring knife along the back and underbelly, then gently pull out the dark veins. Lastly, hang onto those shrimp shells—and add them into seafood stock, bouillabaisse, and bisques to unlock delicious flavor.
Check out this step-by-step guide to learn how to peel and devein shrimp.
Shrimp scampi is a classic comfort dish featuring shrimp sautéed in garlic, butter, white wine, and lemon juice. Traditionally served over fresh pasta noodles and topped with chopped parsley, it’s possible to make this indulgent dinner a little healthier with a few simple swaps. This craveworthy recipe swaps the pasta for spaghetti squash noodles and incorporates a generous handful of sautéed spinach for more nutrition.
Shrimp and Grits
Shrimp and grits is an iconic Lowcountry dish that’s creamy, comforting, and crowd-pleasing. Traditional recipes use copious amounts of butter, bacon, and cheese—but our version achieves the same crave-worthy flavors for significantly fewer calories and less saturated fat.
Perfect shrimp and grits is all about timing. Cook the grits first, then keep them warm over the lowest heat setting on your stovetop and stir occaisionally. (If they thicken, you can thin them out with a little extra water or stock.) Sauté the shrimp at the last minute so they don’t overcook, then serve immediately.
Shrimp tacos are a fun, family-friendly weeknight dinner that you can toss together quickly. Just make sure the shrimp you’re buying aren’t too large to fit inside your tortillas (medium or small shrimp work best). Sautéed shrimp or grilled shrimp are best in tacos—and you can elevate their flavor by tossing them with a homemade taco seasoning before cooking.
We also recommend using corn tortillas, as they’re far superior to flour tortillas in terms of flavor, texture, and nutrition. They aren’t great cold, however (they tend to break apart), so here’s a trick to warm them up and make them more pliable: Preheat your oven’s broiler on the HIGH setting, and then put the tortillas in for about 15 to 30 seconds just before serving.
Sautéed shrimp make a delicious addition to salads, pasta dishes, tacos, and rice bowls. If executed correctly, this high-heat cooking method can result in a flavorful, golden-brown sear on the surface of the shrimp. Shrimp cook fast, however, so you want to minimize their time in the skillet while also ensuring that they actually brown. Start with a smoking-hot cast-iron or stainless steel skillet—and make sure it’s large enough so that the shrimp can spread out and properly sear.
Shrimp cocktail makes any party or special occasion feel classy. While it’s fairly simple in nature, this popular finger food is impeccably balanced—slightly-sweet shrimp and the tangy, horseradish-spiked dipping sauce make a perfect match.
Because the shrimp are front and center in this appetizer, you want to be sure they’re as fresh as possible. Poaching the shrimp in their shells keeps them juicy and gives them a vibrant pink color. Using a variety of aromatics in the poaching liquid infuses the shrimp with even more flavor. Our recipe calls for fresh lemon and coriander seeds, but you could also toss in bay leaves, black peppercorns, a halved garlic head, fresh parsley, a splash of apple cider vinegar, and even a pinch of Old Bay Seasoning.
Grilled shrimp reminds us of warmer weather and outdoor cookouts. They also happen to be pretty tasty—a flaming-hot grill creates a smoky char on the surface of the shrimp that compliments their natural sweetness. Large, extra-large or colossal shrimp are best for grilling because they won’t slip through the grates. Skewering your shrimp can also be helpful because it holds them together in one spot on the grill.
Marinating the shrimp beforehand with a mixture of olive oil, salt, and pepper helps keep them juicy during cooking. Make the most of grilled shrimp by tossing other veggies on the grill like bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, and even shishito peppers.
Adding shrimp is an effortless way to make any pasta dish feel special. Simply sauté shrimp on the stovetop, combine with your sauce, toss with pasta, and you have a satisfying main dish. When it comes to choosing the perfect pasta sauce for shrimp, you can’t go wrong with marinara, pesto, alfredo, or a simple mix of olive oil and garlic. The same goes for type of pasta—linguine, fusilli, orecchiette, orzo, and penne are all delicious options.
Coconut shrimp disappears quickly at any party, and it’s easy to overdo it on this addictive appetizer. Fortunately, coconut shrimp is the perfect candidate for your air fryer. This magical appliance yields crispy food for a fraction of the oil needed for deep-frying. Here, peeled shrimp are dipped in a coconut-panko batter, air-fried to golden-brown perfection, and paired with a sweet chili dipping sauce.
Shrimp Fried Rice
Forget takeout—and make your own shrimp fried rice from scratch. It’s healthier, faster, and much tastier. This comforting Asian dish is traditionally made with crispy leftover rice, egg, and plenty of veggies. Our five-ingredient version incorporates shrimp and boosts the nutrition by using riced cauliflower instead of white rice.
To pull off perfect fried rice, you need to cook each ingredient separately. Cook your proteins and vegetables first, then add them just before serving. For the egg, cook it like you would an omelet, slide it onto a cutting board and cut into small pieces. Lastly, whether you’re using rice or riced cauliflower, leave it alone in the skillet while it crisps for the best results.
Elevate shrimp by soaking them in a quick brine of water and salt before cooking. Whether it’s shrimp, turkey, or pork chops, brining helps break down muscle fibers so that your meat stays juicy and tender during cooking. Add brined, cooked shrimp to salads, rice bowls, quesadillas, or the tasty corn- and-bell pepper sauté featured here.
For a step-by-step guide on how to brine shrimp, check out this guide. No time to brine? Try this quick trick: cut raw shrimp into small pieces, rub with kosher salt, then let sit for about five minutes to tenderize. sauté and serve over crusty bread for a satisfying lunch or appetizer.
Baking shrimp is completely hands-off, and it frees you up to knock out other tasks in the kitchen. Baked shrimp won’t pick up as much of a sear in the oven as they would on the stovetop, but they’re also less likely to overcook. You can toss the shrimp in a simple marinade or cover them with a sauce beforehand to help them stay juicy during cooking. Bake the shrimp by themselves in a baking dish, or combine them on a sheet pan with rice and veggies for an easy, one-dish meal.
Shrimp’s mild flavor makes them an ideal protein for boldly-flavored curry dishes. We prefer medium shrimp for stews, soups, and curry dishes, as this size meshes the best with other ingredients. Because curries need to be simmered to let their flavors develop, it’s best to cook the shrimp separately and add them in just before serving. The key is to gently warm the shrimp in the curry while not cooking them more.
Shrimp kebabs are great for grilling outside, roasting in the oven, or cooking on the stovetop in a grill pan. Don’t overstuff your skewers with the shrimp—giving them a little space helps them to cook more evenly. You can marinate the shrimp beforehand or brush them with a tangy glaze to infuse them with flavor. Serve shrimp kebabs over a bed of whole grains and pair with a bright, citrusy salad for the ultimate refreshing meal.
Broiling shrimp is one of the speediest and easiest ways to prepare them. Simply toss the shrimp with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and let your broiler work its magic. For a pretty presentation, you can leave the tails on the shrimp but it’s perfectly fine to remove them before broiling if you prefer. Arrange broiled shrimp over ice on a platter and serve with a dipping sauce like creamy remoulade or classic cocktail sauce.