Have you ever cracked open a store bought box of popcorn shrimp and wondered what in the world you were really eating? Were there even any shrimp in there?! Do it right with this simple crispy version (great for your air fryer too)!
I bought boxed popcorn shrimp for years. Mostly because it was cheaper than getting the larger butterflied version–but neither one was just busting full of shrimp.
I’d take a bite and look inside: there’s a lot of breading and not much else.
Let me squint a second–oh there’s some shrimp.
It wasn’t a great way to spend our grocery budget and if you’ve looked at that list on the box, there’s a lot of “stuff” in there that doesn’t fall into my list of items I like to eat.
So we go back to my sentiment that anything you make yourself is better than store bought.
And as long as your shrimp are thawed, you can have these whipped up in 15 minutes or less. If your shrimp are frozen, that’s no problem. You can read about how to thaw them quickly here.
Tips for the best popcorn shrimp
- To bread your popcorn shrimp, we’ll be using flour, eggs, and panko bread crumbs.
- It’s easiest to use one hand for the dry ingredients and one hand for the eggs just to keep the gunk down on your hands.
- Feel free to swap Old Bay Seasoning for the cajun seasoning if you don’t have it.
- Use smaller popcorn shrimp if you can find them (100 per pound). I couldn’t get them in any of my stores.
- I recommend using gulf shrimp if you can get them where you are.
- If you choose to use a smaller or larger shrimp than the 51-60 size I’ve used here, you will need to adjust your frying time.
- Make sure you get raw shrimp which are sort of gray in color. You can get them already peeled and deveined in the freezer section.
- Bread all of your shrimp and allow them to sit while you heat your oil. These cook so fast, you won’t have time to bread and fry at the same time.
- In three separate bowls, prepare the coating for the shrimp: in bowl one add the flour, salt and pepper and stir. Set aside. In bowl two add the eggs and water and stir to combine. Set aside. In bowl three add the panko and cajun seasoning. Stir and set aside.
- Working with five or six shrimp at a time, dip them into the flour first, shaking off any excess. Then dip them in the eggs and finally in to the panko, pressing the breading on well. It works best to keep one hand dry and one hand wet to reduce the mess on your fingers.
- Repeat until all the shrimp are breaded and ready to fry.
- Line a plate or cookie sheet with paper towels and set aside.
- Preheat a 9-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until a little breading dropped in begins to sizzle right away--about 6 minutes but keep an eye on it. If you have a thermometer, you want the oil at about 365 degrees.
- Add the shrimp, 4 or 5 at a time to the oil. Cook on the first side 2 minutes then turn, and cook 1 to 2 minutes more until golden brown. Transfer to the paper towel to drain.
- Serve with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.