Easy Coconut Shrimp
Coconut shrimp is a delectable finger food that’s super easy to prepare and addictively delicious. Each bite is like a tropical beach vacation for your mouth with succulent shrimp covered in crispy shredded coconut. Most of the prep can be done in advance, making this the perfect way to wow your guests for game days and parties.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works?
- Deveining the shrimp using a toothpick instead of butterflying helps keep the shrimp plump and juicy.
- Trimming the tail with scissors prevents it from exploding when you fry it.
- Dipping the shrimp in batter before coating it with shredded coconut is easier than the flour and egg method. It also ensures you have a nice thick coating of crispy coconut.
- The three-ingredient orange chili dipping sauce for the coconut shrimp is effortless and provides the perfect balance of sweet and sour tastes with a spicy, garlicky kick.
Ingredients for Coconut Shrimp
- Shrimp – Any kind of common shrimp will work. I used Brown Shrimp, but Black Tiger will work just as well. For size, I recommend using jumbo shrimp (21/25 count) for this recipe. This is big enough to keep the shrimp from getting overcooked but small enough that you eat it in one or two bites.
- Salt – I like to wash the shrimp with saltwater brine to plump it up while seasoning it. If you find it is not salty enough, you can sprinkle the fried shrimp with some flakey sea salt when you serve it.
- Batter – To get the coconut to stick to the shrimp, you need to make edible glue. The most common way to do this is to dust the shrimp in flour before dipping it in egg, but this requires dirtying an extra bowl, and it tends to lead to bald spots on your shrimp. Instead, I recommend making a batter with flour, egg, and a little water. This makes getting a nice even coating of shredded coconut on the shrimp much easier.
- Shredded dried coconut – For the crispiest coconut shrimp, I recommend using dried coconut shredded into threads. The tendrils not only look great, but they also tend to stay crisp longer than coconut that’s been shredded finer. Also, be sure to use unsweetened coconut, or it will burn before the shrimp is cooked through.
Ingredients for Dipping Sauce
- Marmalade – Buy the cheapest kind of marmalade you can find (one that’s mostly orange jelly with just a little peel). Expensive marmalade tends to have more orange peel, which makes it too bitter.
- Sweet Chili Sauce – Sweet Chili Sauce is a Thai condiment made from chili peppers, garlic, vinegar, and sugar. It’s sweet and mildly spicy, perfect for this dipping sauce. If you can’t find it, sriracha will work, but you’ll want to reduce the amount down to a teaspoon for every tablespoon of marmalade.
- Lemon Juice – I like adding a little lemon or fresh lime juice into the dipping sauce to add a fresh zing and balancing tartness.
How to Make Coconut Shrimp Sauce
Mix equal parts marmalade and Thai sweet chili sauce and squeeze in some lemon juice to taste. It’s that simple!
How to Clean and Devein Shrimp
I have an easy technique for deveining shrimp without slicing it open with a knife. The method uses a toothpick to pry the vein out of the shrimp, and you can watch the video below to see how to do it. You can also check out my post on How to Clean Shrimp for a more detailed step-by-step tutorial.
I also recommend removing the telson (sharp spike in the middle of the tail) and using scissors to cut the tips of the tails off. This is because the tail has a tendency to hold a pocket of water which turns to steam and causes it to pop. Cutting the tips off the tails lets you dry them off more thoroughly while giving the steam an escape route so the tails don’t explode.
How to Make Coconut Shrimp
You want to start by cleaning the shrimp (see above) and then brining it for about 10 minutes in a solution of 2 teaspoons table salt dissolved in 1 cup of water. This not only seasons the shrimp, but it also firms it up.
While you wait for the shrimp to brine, make the batter by whisking the egg and water together in a small bowl. When the mixture is uniform in color, add the flour and continue whisking it until there are no lumps in the batter.
Add 1-inch of oil to a heavy-bottomed pot with sides that come up at least 4-inches. Preheat the oil to 360° F (180° C). Line a wire rack with two paper towels to drain the fried shrimp.
Rinse the brined shrimp under cold water until it runs clear and drain them well. Use paper towels to dry the shrimp as thoroughly as possible. Pay particular attention to the tails, which tend to trap water.
Hold the shrimp by its tail and dip it in the batter to coat everything except for the tail. Put the battered shrimp on the shredded coconut and scoop some of it on top of the shrimp. Gently pat the top and sides to get the coconut to adhere and then transfer it to a tray. Repeat with the rest of the shrimp.
The coated shrimp can be prepared a few hours in advance and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to fry and serve them.
Fry the shrimp in batches by lowering them into the oil and frying them until the coconut has crisped and browned, which should take about two to three minutes. Be sure to flip them once to ensure they brown evenly.
Drain the coconut fried shrimp on the paper towel-lined rack and serve them as soon as possible with the chili orange sauce.
Other Shrimp Recipes
Coconut Shrimp is a dish made by “breading” shrimp with dried coconut instead of breadcrumbs. This gives the fried shrimp a lasting crispy texture and the sweet tropical flavor of coconuts. It’s usually served with a sweet and spicy sauce to dip the shrimp in.
The recipe can easily be made gluten-free by replacing the flour in the batter with any gluten-free flour with enough starch to make the batter sticky. Rice flour, chickpea flour, and gluten-free AP flour are all suitable alternatives.
I don’t recommend it. I haven’t tried it with this recipe, but battered foods typically don’t work well in an air-fryer (basically a countertop convection oven).
Coconut shrimp makes for a delicious appetizer or finger food, but it can also be served on salads or as a main dish with sides. If you decide to serve it as an entre, I suggest serving this with some Garlic Rice or Garlic Noodles. It’s also delicious with Japanese Potato Salad or my No-Mayo Coleslaw.
For Dipping Sauce
- 3 tablespoons orange marmalade
- 3 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
For Coconut Shrimp
- 270 grams shrimp (12 jumbo 21/25 shrimp)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons water
- 40 grams all-purpose flour (~1/3 US cup)
- 70 grams shredded dried unsweetened coconut (~1 US cup)
- vegetable oil (for frying)
- To make the Coconut Shrimp sauce, add the orange marmalade, sweet chili sauce, and lemon juice to a small bowl and stir the ingredients together.
- Add the salt and 1 cup of water to a bowl and stir until the salt has dissolved. Peel, devein and trim the tail of the shrimp as shown in the video above and add the shrimp to the bowl of brine water. Let this soak for 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk the egg and water together until smooth, and then add the flour and whisk until the batter is free of lumps.
- Preheat a deep pot with about 1-inch of oil until it reaches 360° F (180° C). Prepare a wire rack by lining it with 2 sheets of paper towels.
- Rinse the shrimp in cold water until the water runs clear. Drain them, and use paper towels to pat them dry. Be sure to press the water out of the tails as you dry them.
- Grab a shrimp by its tail and dip it in the batter to coat it evenly. Let any excess batter drip off, and then place it in the bowl of shredded coconut. Scoop some coconut on top of the shrimp and pat it into the shrimp, so it sticks. Transfer to a tray and repeat with the remaining shrimp.
- To fry the shrimp, gently lower them into the hot oil and fry until golden brown (about 2-3 minutes). Flip them over mid-way through so they brown evenly. When they’re cooked, drain the Coconut Shrimp on the prepared rack.