Crowd-pleasing coconut shrimp are crispy little bites of golden-brown deep-fried goodness with juicy jumbo shrimp inside. This recipe is super easy, quick to whip up, and served with a tangy, sweet, and savory coconut shrimp sauce that everyone loves.
Do you know who can resist coconut shrimp? No one. They're fantastic appetizers for any party no matter what time of the year: Memorial Day, 4th of July, Easter, Labor Day, Christmas parties, New Year's Eve parties. You name it, coconut shrimp should be there.
They're crispy and crunchy, with a bit of sweetness from the coconut and panko breading. It's dredged and breaded and ready to fry in only 15 minutes, then fried to a crisp and ready to eat in another 20.
How to Make Coconut Shrimp
Frozen Jumbo Shrimp
Two things ruin a perfectly delicious coconut shrimp: soggy, greasy breading and tiny little shrimp. We don't want to serve our friends wimpy little shrimps overloaded by coconut and breadcrumbs, we want big juicy shrimp!
This is why we want to use jumbo shrimp, and preferably frozen jumbo shrimp. It can be hard to find fresh shrimp at their peak for a great price, but it's easy to find a bag of uncooked (and hopefully already peeled and de-veined!) jumbo shrimp in the frozen section of your local grocery store.
What's a 'jumbo' shrimp? Honestly, it's a non-official term for shrimp, but you want shrimp that are 20 count or less. That means there are about 20 shrimp per pound; the lower the number, the bigger the shrimp! And that means more sweet seafood goodness per coconut shrimp.
How to Quickly Thaw Frozen Shrimp
Get those frozen shrimp ready for their coconut shrimp dress by placing them in a colander or sieve in a bowl, run them under cold water (must be cold!) and shake them about in the colander occasionally for a couple of minutes, then let them thaw in the cold water for 10-15 minutes.
Prep to Fry (a make ahead step!)
Great party tip: A huge reason why I love this for parties is because you can prep the shrimp --dredge, egg, and bread-- then let them rest in the fridge overnight and fry them the next day!
The whole thing is an easy three step system. If you've got kids or friends who want to help get them on a conveyor line:
First, take each shrimp and dredge in the seasoned flour. I like seasoning my flour simply with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. But if you like a little heat, a smidge of cayenne would work perfectly. Also, smoked paprika isn't a bad idea either!
Next, dip the shrimp in a beaten egg with a little milk.
Lastly, you want to bread them in sweetened coconut flakes and panko breadcrumbs. The panko fries up to an amazingly crispy texture, but use regular breadcrumbs if that's what you have. The coconut gives a sweet, but not too sweet, tropical flavor that pairs so well with dipping sauce!
Pat the breading on gently, otherwise it may not stick and you'll have burning bits of coconut in your oil.
If making them ahead: put them in one layer on a parchment lined plate and cover loosely with plastic wrap before placing into the fridge.
Deep Fry those Coconut Shrimp!
Fry in about two inches of oil in a cast iron skillet or another pan with a heavy bottom, flipping after about one to two minutes, then frying for only a minute and then taking out to cool. Make sure the shrimp doesn't curl up tightly into a coil, that means it's overcooked and can be tough and rubbery. A gentle, loose curl lets you know that the shrimp is perfectly cooked.
A cast iron skillet is my choice because it holds heat well and evenly, so when you drop the shrimp into the oil (and the oil cools down because of it) the cast iron is able to hold on to the heat and bring it back up to temperature quickly.
When you take out the shrimp, it's important to put them on a wire cooling rack. Why? Remember the two things that ruin a perfect coconut shrimp: wimpy shrimp, and soggy, greasy breading.
Doing it the old school way on a paper-towel-lined plate causes soggy greasiness! One part of the shrimp is steaming into the paper towel with no wear for that moisture to go, and then sits in a greasy little pool on the paper towel until all the frying is done. No bueno.
That's why having a wire rack sitting over a paper towel lined baking sheet is better! The excess oil can drip down to the paper towel while air is able to circulate around the entire shrimp so there is no sogginess.
And boom you have the tips to make delicious, crispy, perfectly cooked coconut shrimp.
How to Make Coconut Shrimp Sauce
The best part of making coconut shrimp --you know, besides have a crispy, perfectly fried piece of pure heaven-- is dipping them into tangy, sweet, savory saucy goodness.
What's the best sauce to dip coconut shrimp in? It's a mix of sweet Thai chili sauce and a little apricot or orange marmalade mixed together. It's super easy to make, especially if you have the chili sauce on hand.
Other sauces that are perfect for dipping:
- Bang Bang Sauce, this is a Bonefish Grill copycat that is super popular! They use a specific sweet chili sauce that you can buy on Amazon.
- My Everything Tomato Sauce is a perfect marinara to dip them in.
- Chimichurri Sauce. Super herbaceous and fresh with tangy, zingy flavors and a bit of spice.
- Homemade Thai Sweet Chili Sauce. This by itself is super flavorful, sweet, tangy, savory, and a little spicy.
What to Serve with them
Coconut shrimp make perfect appetizers, but they're also great as a side dish or a light main dish with a salad or a quick and easy pasta recipe.
Fabulous Dishes to serve with Coconut Shrimp this Summer:
- Bang Bang Chicken. More dip-able goodness drizzled with bang bang sauce.
- Butter Lobster Rolls. These Connecticut style lobster rolls are perfect for lunch al fresco!
- Calamari. A favorite of mine! There's just something about a platter of fried seafood in the summer.
- Sparkling Ginger Strawberry Lemonade. Super refreshing and goes great with the tropical flavor from your coconut shrimp.
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Coconut Shrimp + Dipping Sauce
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 pound raw 16/20 count shrimp peeled and deveined with tails attached
- vegetable oil for frying
- ½ cup Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
- ¼ cup apricot or orange marmalade
- Use three medium sized bowls for breading prep. Combine the flour, kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic powder in one bowl. Beat the eggs together in a second bowl. Combine the panko breadcrumbs and coconut in the third bowl.
- Dredge both sides of the shrimp through the flour, then dip each one into the eggs, and then bread the shrimp into the coconut and panko breading. Press the shrimp gently into the breading so the coconut sticks well. Set the coated shrimp aside on a plate as you coat the remaining shrimp.
- Add enough vegetable oil about 2 inches deep in a cast iron skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Fry the coconut shrimp in batches, never overcrowd or the oil will cool down. Fry for two minutes, then flip and fry the other side for another two minutes or until golden brown.
- Place the finished coconut shrimp on wire rack over a baking sheet to drip off excess oil.
- Sprinkle with a pinch of extra kosher salt and serve.
- Dipping Sauce
- Mix together the sweet chili sauce and marmalade in a small serving bowl.