Salt and Pepper Shrimp (椒盐虾)

5 from 4 votes
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This salt and pepper shrimp is perfect for you if you’re looking for an easy appetizer. The juicy shrimp are coated with a crunchy crispy coating and tossed in a garlicky salt and pepper mixture, creating a delicious dish no one can refuse. {Gluten-Free}

Salt and pepper shrimp in a plate

Growing up in Northern China, seafood was quite expensive and was typically an occasional treat. Salt and pepper shrimp was always one of my favorite appetizers when we went to a restaurant. Back in China, restaurants usually use head-on shrimp with the shell to make this dish. The shrimp are lightly battered and fried until crispy, and tossed in a salt and pepper mixture. It tastes heavenly served with cold beer.

Making salt and pepper shrimp in a home kitchen, I made some small adjustments and used peeled shrimp instead. Even though fried shrimp shells are OK to eat and are supposed to have a lot of calcium, it’s not my favorite part. Plus, when I’m busy, I do like to use peeled and deveined frozen shrimp to make my life easier.

Homemade salt and pepper shrimp

Cooking process

Cooking salt and pepper shrimp is so easy. The cooking process is separated into two parts.

Part 1 – shallow fry the shrimp

  • Coat the shrimp with cornstarch
  • Shallow fry both sides until cooked through and crispy
  • Drain the shrimp on a wire rack to get rid of the excess oil

Note: you can drain the shrimp on paper towels as well, but I prefer to avoid this method because it might make the bottom of the shrimp soggy.

Shally fry shrimp cooking step-by-step

Part 2 – Toss the shrimp with aromatics

  • Saute garlic and chile pepper to release fragrance
  • Toss the shrimp with the garlic and chile pepper
  • Add the salt and pepper mixture and toss again

Making salt and pepper shrimp step-by-step

That’s it! You will get super juicy and crispy shrimp that are bursting with flavor.

It’s best to serve the dish immediately when the shrimp are hot. But the coating stays crispy pretty well and will remain tasty even after the shrimp cool off a bit.

Cooking notes

(1) Leave the shrimp tails on

I prefer to use frozen shrimp when I’m busy. If you bought shell-on shrimp, try to leave the tails on when you peel the shrimp. I find it easy to grab the tail of the shrimp when you coat them in the batter.

(2) Salt and pepper mixture

The classic northern salt and pepper mixture always uses one part salt and one part white pepper. If you have Sichuan peppercorns on hand, you can replace the white pepper with ground Sichuan peppercorn to create a different flavor profile, like the ones in Sichuan restaurants.

(3) How much oil to use

You can use very little oil to pan fry the shrimp. But I found that the texture gets so much better if you add enough oil to cover half of the shrimp to shallow fry them. The coating will turn fluffy, crispy, and a bit crunchy.

Salt and pepper shrimp close-up

More delicious shrimp recipes

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

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Salt and Pepper Shrimp (椒盐虾) | This recipe is perfect for you if you’re looking for an easy appetizer. The juicy shrimp are coated with a crunchy crispy coating and tossed in a garlicky salt and pepper mixture, creating a delicious dish no one can refuse. {Gluten-Free}

Salt and Pepper Shrimp (椒盐虾)

5 from 4 votes
This salt and pepper shrimp is perfect for you if you’re looking for an easy appetizer. The juicy shrimp are coated with a crunchy crispy coating and tossed in a garlicky salt and pepper mixture, creating a delicious dish no one can refuse. {Gluten-Free}
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: comfort food
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (450 g) shrimp , peeled & deveined

Coating

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Pepper salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper (*Footnote 1)

Cooking

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 red chile peppers , sliced (Optional)

Instructions

  • Dry the shrimp thoroughly with paper towels.
  • Mix the salt and cornstarch in a plate or tray. Add the shrimp. Mix everything together until all the shrimp are lightly coated in the cornstarch.
  • Make the pepper salt by mixing the salt and white pepper together in a small bowl.
  • Heat 1/4” (1/2 cm) of oil in a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 375 °F (190 °C). If you do not have a thermometer, drop a tiny pinch of cornstarch into the oil. You should see small bubbles rapidly forming around the cornstarch. (*Footnote 2)
  • Line a baking tray with a wire rack.
  • Add the shrimp one at a time into the pan in a single layer. Use your fingers to grab the tail of the shrimp, shake off the extra cornstarch, and gently lay the shrimp into the oil. You might need to cook the shrimp in batches. Cook each side for about 2 minutes, until the surface turns pale golden and the shrimp are curled. Once done, transfer the cooked shrimp onto the lined baking sheet to drain the extra oil.
  • Once all the shrimp are done cooking, pour the extra oil into a ceramic bowl and only leave about 2 teaspoons of oil in the pan.
  • Add the garlic and chile peppers into the pan. Stir a few times to release the fragrance.
  • Add the shrimp and sprinkle the salt and pepper mixture over them. Toss until the shrimp are evenly coated.
  • Transfer everything to a plate and serve hot as an appetizer or over steamed rice as a main dish.

Notes

  1. You can use Ground Sichuan peppercorns instead of white pepper to create a numbing tingling spiciness.
  2. You can also use a deep fryer for this step.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 240kcal, Carbohydrates: 12.4g, Protein: 26g, Fat: 8.8g, Saturated Fat: 1.5g, Cholesterol: 239mg, Sodium: 569mg, Potassium: 205mg, Fiber: 0.2g, Calcium: 108mg, Iron: 1mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don't forget the last step! Tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!
Salt and Pepper Shrimp (椒盐虾) | This recipe is perfect for you if you’re looking for an easy appetizer. The juicy shrimp are coated with a crunchy crispy coating and tossed in a garlicky salt and pepper mixture, creating a delicious dish no one can refuse. {Gluten-Free}

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Marissa says:

    5 stars
    This was delish! Even my kids ate it. Thank you!

  2. Helen says:

    5 stars
    This was so good and easy! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Brooke says:

    Would this work on the air-fry function of a toaster oven?

  4. Herman says:

    5 stars
    So good, Maggie. Great recipe. We each had eight large shrimp, light brown steamed rice and some baby spinach salad, accompanied by a very nice Chardonnay. Thank you.

  5. Volkan says:

    I just made it. And i am so hungry today. And i can eat it now. Its a recipe that is super simple but so much power in aroma. Unbelievable. Its unbelievable real.

  6. Volkan says:

    Why is it making the bottom of the shrimps soggy if drain with paper towel? Thank you.

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      The paper towels trap heat and moist from the shrimp and prevent air ventilation, which might “steam” the bottom a bit. That being said, sometimes I do drain the shrimps with paper towels when I’m too lazy to set up the racks and the result is just fine. When writing the recipe sometimes I try to list the method that will create the prefect result.

  7. Food fan says:

    5 stars
    Made this last night for dinner and it came out wonderfully! Better than the restaurant!
    I did substitute green chili’s and added diced onions and orange bell peppers for a little more color. Thanks for sharing this. It’s one of my favorite dishes!

  8. Robyn-Jane says:

    Hi Maggie
    Love your recipes and posts discovered through Recipetineats. Would the pepper shrimp stay more crispy if you did not fry with the garlic just added the garlic & pepper to serve?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      It’s totally OK to directly add the garlic without frying them. Happy cooking 🙂

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