Today we continue our seafood how-to series, based on the top questions people ask Google about preparing these pescatarian wonders.
Tens of thousands of people a year wonder how to fry shrimp that is already cooked. Generally, I would advise anyone to buy uncooked shrimp if they intend to batter and fry them. But then I tested this crazy frying-cooked-shrimp situation and I can't stop thinking about how delicious the shrimp turned out. I mean, look at them!
Many years ago, I worked at a popular southern chain restaurant. I don't want to talk about it. But it rhymes with Cracker Barrel.
The food I learned to eat and cook at the old CB was simultaneously foreign and transcendent to a girl raised on Midwestern staples. Nothing on the menu was more delicious than the buttermilk breaded fried shrimp. The coating was crispy and salty with a touch of sweetness that complemented the sweet flesh of the shrimp.
When I was testing the breading for this recipe, that's the flavor I was looking to replicate. The cornstarch in the breading mixture creates an ultra-light and crispy coating, well seasoned and ready for a dunk in spicy aioli.
So if you have a bag of cooked frozen shrimp wasting away in the freezer, or leftovers from last night's shrimp cocktail, I have a basket of crispy fried shrimp magic for you!
What you'll need to fry cooked shrimp:
- cooked shrimp (tails on or off)
- self rising flour
- sea salt
- black pepper
- cayenne (optional)
- canola oil, for frying
(exact measurements and instructions included in the recipe card below)
Step by step instructions on how to fry cooked shrimp:
To begin, use paper towels to ensure the shrimp dry before coating. Then combine the dry ingredients, including self-rising flour, salt, paprika, black pepper, sugar and cayenne (if using) in a shallow dish. Stir well to mix the spices throughout the flour. Set aside.
Pour buttermilk over the cooked shrimp. Set aside.
Preheat a Dutch oven or cast iron skillet on the stove over medium high heat. Add the oil (canola, peanut oil or vegetable oil - any neutral oil with a high smoke point) enough to get about 2-3 inches of oil in the pan. You are aiming for an oil temperature of 400 degrees.
Once the oil is almost to temperature, prepare your dredging station and begin coating the shrimp.
Transfer the buttermilk-soaked shrimp to the flour mixture, coating well.
Now move the shrimp back into the buttermilk for a quick dunk, and finally, back into the flour. Be sure to really pack the seasoned flour all over the shrimp. This double-dipped coating will fry quickly, so get ready!
Carefully lower the shrimp into the hot oil and fry for about 60 seconds, until the coating is golden brown.
The shrimp is already fully cooked, so we are just looking to cook the breading and heat the shrimp through.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp from the hot oil and place the crispy shrimp on a cooling rack over a baking sheet to drain of excess oil while you fry the remaining shrimp.
Transfer shrimp from the cooling rack to a plate or basket. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and spicy aioli dipping sauce.
FAQ's and Serving Suggestions:
I usually have medium or large shrimp in the house - the medium, tail-off shrimp I used in this recipe fried up beautifully. But I'm sure jumbo shrimp would work, as well. Just be sure to keep shrimp in the pan generally in a single layer. If you over-crowd the oil, the coating on the larger shrimp may not crisp properly. Smaller shrimp will also work - particularly if you remove the tails. They will fry up more like popcorn shrimp.
French fries, coleslaw and hush puppies would be the traditional sides for this southern fried shrimp recipe. But you could also use the deep-fried shrimp in crispy shrimp tacos with a side of Mexican Caesar salad and pickled onions.
Generally, I don't recommend olive oil for deep frying. But vegetable oil, canola, sunflower or peanut oil would all work.
Almost anything on your condiment shelf! Tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, honey mustard, French fry sauce and spicy aioli are all great options for a fried shrimp main course or appetizer.
For sure! Just lower your oil temperature down to 375 degrees (medium heat instead of medium high) and cook the shrimp for about 2 minutes to ensure they are cooked through.
You can - or you can make your own buttermilk with 1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes and use in this recipe.
Storing and reheating: because we are working with already-cooked shrimp at the start of this recipe, I would not recommend reheating any leftover shrimp for a third time. So eat up!