This crispy, crunchy popcorn shrimp is the most addictive seafood appetizer ever! It’s so good, it tastes like it came straight out of a restaurant.
Serve the shrimp with marinara or cocktail sauce, or even on their own. It doesn’t matter. They’ll be gone in less than a minute.
Despite its name, popcorn shrimp doesn’t actually contain popcorn.
Instead, it’s a mind-blowingly addicting appetizer/snack made of bite-sized shrimp coated in batter and deep-fried to golden perfection.
The shrimp itself is flawlessly delicious with its sweetness and plumpness. But the breading is pretty darn good, too.
Infused with a blend of spices and seasonings, the outside is just as delectable as the inside.
Together, they’ll make the perfect combination.
- Shrimp – You’ll want to use very small shrimp such as rock shrimp to make the perfect, bite-sized snack. If you’re using a different shrimp variety, be sure to pick ones in the 61/70, 51/60, or 41/50 count size.
- Flour – The first layer of coating. I use regular all-purpose flour here.
- Egg and Milk – The second layer of coating that adds richness, flavor, and something the breadcrumbs could stick to.
- Dry Breadcrumbs – The third layer that gives the popcorn shrimp maximum crunch.
- Seasonings – I use a mix of salt, basil, parsley, garlic powder, and onion powder for the best flavor.
- Vegetable Oil, For Frying – Use oil with a high smoke point to keep the shrimp from burning. That said, I don’t recommend olive oil. Peanut oil, canola oil, and corn oil are all great options.
How to Peel and Devein Shrimp
Use your fingers to pinch and pull on the legs. The shell will start to peel away easily after that.
To devein, make a shallow cut along the top of the shrimp with a paring knife. The cut should run from the front to the tail.
This will expose the dark vein of the shrimp, which you can then easily remove with the tip of your knife.
Run the shrimp under cool water and rub off any remaining veins with your fingers.
Or, if you don’t want to go through the trouble, just purchase raw shrimp that’s already been peeled and deveined!
Tips for the Best Popcorn Shrimp
- Assemble the breading station accordingly to make the breading process a breeze. The bowls should be lined up from left to right in this order: shrimp, flour, egg mixture, bread crumbs. Also, place a plate to the right of the bowl of breadcrumbs – that’s where you’ll put the breaded shrimp.
- Keep your hands clump-free by using one hand to dredge the shrimp in dry ingredients and another hand in the wet ingredients.
- Pat dry the shrimp before coating. The flour won’t stick properly if the shrimp is wet.
- Don’t stack the shrimp on top of each other after breading to keep the coating intact.
- Use a frying thermometer to maintain the temperature of the oil – it should remain at 350 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. The shrimp will burn if the oil is too hot. If it’s too cold, the shrimp will become too greasy.
- Don’t overcrowd the deep-fryer. Cooking too many pieces at once will cause the temperature of the oil to drop. Fry in batches if necessary.
- The cooking time may vary depending on the size of the shrimp, so keep a close eye on them as you deep fry. Take them out of the fryer as soon as they turn golden brown.
Just like regular popcorn, your popcorn shrimp can come in a variety of flavors! All it takes is a bit of creativity and a lot of spices. Just add any of these spice blends into the flour or bread crumb mixture, and voila.
- Tex-Mex: 2 teaspoons chili powder + 1/4 teaspoon cumin.
- Italian: 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder + 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning. Also, sprinkle parmesan cheese over the cooked shrimp.
- Cajun: 2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
- Asian: 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger + 1/2 teaspoon 5-spice powder. Also, sprinkle sesame seeds and minced green onions over the cooked shrimp.
Storage and Make-Ahead Instructions
Popcorn shrimp is too addictive to have leftovers! But just in case, here’s how you should store leftovers.
But first, a caveat: popcorn shrimp is best served immediately. You can store leftovers for a few days, but don’t expect them to have the same level of crunchiness as the day they were made.
Store popcorn shrimp in an air-tight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Or, freeze them in a freezer-safe container for up to 3-5 months.
Bring refrigerated/frozen popcorn shrimp to room temperature and warm them in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.
If you have an air fryer, even better! You can re-crisp popcorn shrimp at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1-2 minutes.
To make ahead, bread the shrimp as instructed and arrange them in a single layer – without overlapping – on a baking sheet.
Freeze them for 30 minutes or until frozen solid.
Transfer them into a freezer-safe container and store them for up to 3 months.
You can deep fry them straight from the freezer, but add 1-2 minutes to the total cooking time.
Air Fryer Popcorn Shrimp
There’s a simple way to enjoy this crunchy delight without all that oil: use an air fryer.
It’s not only a healthier approach but a much easier one, as well.
With the air fryer, you won’t need to stand in front of a pot of boiling oil waiting for the shrimp popcorn to cook.
Simply spray your air fryer basket with cooking spray and arrange the shrimp in a single layer.
Air fry for 2 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit and flip. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
What to Serve with Popcorn Shrimp
Popcorn shrimp is perfection on its own, but if you want to turn the appetizer into a complete meal, try these serving suggestions.
Add a few pieces on top of your favorite salad for a light meal. For a more filling dish, wrap popcorn shrimp in flour tortillas or serve it with fried rice.
As for the dipping sauce, you can’t go wrong with the classic marinara, sweet chili, or cocktail.
But if you care to make things more interesting, give these recipes a try!
Other Seafood Recipes
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