Steamed shrimp are so easy to do at home and you can pack them with flavor in so many ways or keep them super simple and let your favorite dipping sauces make them shine. Learn the no fuss techniques for making tender, healthy shrimp in just a few minutes.Jump to Recipe
Have you ever wondered how long those steamed shrimp rings have been in the freezer case at the store? I know I can personally say eating those can be r-i-s-k-y business.
Plus we know that the health benefits of farmed shrimp are pretty questionable–that’s why it’s always better to choose a healthier, wild caught version and steam them yourself. Friends always ask what’s different about my shrimp when I serve it and there’s no magic: Just good quality seafood.
We love these chilled after cooking and dipped in homemade cocktail sauce. They’re always the first dish to disappear off a table spread full of food.
Tips for buying good shrimp
Buy wild caught.
When you shop, look for the term “wild caught” on the front of the package. If you don’t see it, flip the package over and look down near the bottom in the smaller print where you should find the country of origin. If it says “farm raised” put it back.
Remember we are going to cook these so it won’t help the cause much if you buy pre cooked ones. Make sure the package says “raw”. Otherwise you might run the risk of trying to cook something that’s already cooked and end up with something that has the texture of a spare tire.
Buy any size you like, but large or extra large are best
Using smaller shrimp is always an option and they’ll be cheaper, but the cook time will need to be adjusted. I always choose large or extra large shrimp to reduce the risk of accidentally over cooking them.
Shell on or off?
I always buy mine with the shell off and deveined for convenience but if you want to dig out the digestive tract and leave the shells on you absolutely can. Shells are a great way to infuse flavor in to soups and stews and even when roasting shrimp in the oven, but for steaming your final result won’t be much different either way so I say skip the shelling and buy them without.
How do you know when steamed shrimp are done?
When the shrimp turn from pink to opaque white and firm, they’re done. It’s best to stir the shrimp well once during cooking to make sure they cook evenly. If you can steam your shrimp in a single layer they’ll cook even faster, but expect large or extra large shrimp to take about 4 minutes total.
Do I need a steamer basket to steam shrimp?
No. You can use a large pot that holds a metal colander for the same purpose. Don’t use a plastic one or it might melt. I have also used a strainer to steam small batches.
You will need a lid that fits over the pot but if you don’t have a lid that works, cover the pot tightly with aluminum foil. I use a layer of parchment paper then aluminum foil. Keep in as much steam as you can.
How to steam shrimp step by step
Add water, white wine if you’re using it, a sliced lemon, salt and some parsley sprigs to a pot.
Add a metal colander or steamer basket over the steaming liquid once it’s simmering. Make sure it doesn’t touch the liquid in the bottom.
Add the shrimp and cover with a lid or aluminum foil. Steam two minutes (set a timer), remove the lid and stir the shrimp once to make sure everything is cooking evenly. Cover and steam two minutes more until shrimp are firm and white.
The shrimp can be transferred to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. I usually just move my shrimp to a bowl and let them cool to room temperature then transfer them to the refrigerator.
Sauces and dips to go with steamed shrimp
Classic cocktail sauce is our favorite.
To make it you’ll need:
- 1 cup good quality ketchup (look for one without high fructose corn syrup and maybe even sweetened without sugar)
- 1/2 teaspoon or to taste prepared horseradish (not a horseradish sauce from the mayonnaise aisle)
- juice of half a lemon
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Mix all the ingredients together and serve immediately or chill if you have the time to let the flavors meld.
Beyond that you can choose to toss your hot shrimp in flavors or make additional sauces for dipping. Explore these ideas:
Simple Steamed Shrimp
- 1 pound shrimp wild caught, raw, large or extra large and thawed
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup white wine or another cup of water
- 1/2 tablespoon sea salt
- parsley stems only if you have them, optional
- 1 lemon cut in half or sliced
- In a 4 quart pot, add the water, white wine or extra water, salt, parsley and lemon. Bring the pot to a simmer over medium heat.
- Add a steamer basket or metal colander to the pot that fits inside but doesn't touch the water, turn the heat down as low as it will go, and add the shrimp. It's okay if they are piled in together.
- Cover the pot with a lid to make a tight seal and simmer 2 minutes, remove the lid and stir the shrimp to ensure even cooking then cover and cook 2 minutes more depending on the size of the shrimp.
- Transfer the shrimp to a plate to cool or you can drop them briefly into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Once the shrimp are cooled to room temperature, refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Serve with cocktail sauce and sliced lemons.