30 Easy Ideas for Shrimp

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Shrimp is the most popular seafood in America. According to the National Fisheries Institute, we consumed 4.7 pounds of the little crustacean per capita in 2019 — the latest year for which data is available — handily outdistancing our No. 2 favorite, salmon, at a mere 3.1 pounds. 

What’s so great about shrimp? To begin with, it isn’t fattening: Three ounces’ worth — about three jumbo shrimp or six to eight large ones — adds up to only 85 calories. (That’s not counting the garlic butter, bacon, or deep-fried breading you might cover them with, of course.) Shrimp is also low in mercury — a major health concern with some types of seafood — and high in protein, selenium, vitamins B12 and D, and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. (No wonder shrimp has its place in our list of the best seafood to eat.)

Never mind all that, though. What’s really so great about shrimp is that it’s delicious, widely available all year long, and extremely versatile. Almost every major cuisine has popular shrimp recipes, and many of them are quick and easy. 

It’s always a good idea to buy the best-quality shrimp you can find, of course. There are literally hundreds of individual species, from both warm and cold water (cold-water shrimp are usually more flavorful), both wild-caught and farm-raised, in all sizes from tiny to immense. 

An estimated 90% of what we eat in this country is farmed and frozen in Southeast Asia or Latin America. Some of this can be very good, but if you ever have the opportunity to buy fresh, wild, U.S.-caught varieties — like West Coast spot prawns, Key West pink shrimp, Atlantic northern shrimp from New England, or Gulf shrimp from Texas or Louisiana — go for it. They’re worth the money.

What’s the difference between shrimp and prawns, by the way? They’re very similar, and the terms are often used interchangeably, with “prawn” generally referring to larger examples. There is an anatomical difference, however. Shrimp have one pair of legs (or tiny claws) while prawns have three.  

24/7 Tempo has combed through numerous cookbooks and recipe websites to come up with a list of easy ideas — both appetizers and main dishes — for shrimp (or prawns). Included are examples from Mexico, Spain, Italy, India, Thailand, and elsewhere around the world — as well as plenty from the U.S.A. 

You won’t find recipes here, just photographs and brief descriptions, but an online search will return recipes galore. (And if you’d rather let somebody else do the cooking, you’ll find plenty of shrimp preparations at the best seafood restaurants in America according to Yelp.)