If you’ve never tried shrimp before, you might be a bit unsure of what it actually tastes like! These tiny sea creatures look quite unlike any other type of food, and many people are put off by their strange appearance.
However, many people will tell you that shrimp are a delicacy that you should definitely try!
But what do shrimp taste like? Shrimp have a mild, sweet, salty flavor that tastes a little like the smell of the ocean! They are less intense than many other types of seafood such as lobster, crab, or crawfish. Shrimp take on other flavors well when cooked and have a fleshy texture that is easy to chew.
Many people absolutely love eating shrimp, and we would like to convince you to give this much-loved seafood a try! So, let’s take an in-depth look at the world of shrimp and how to make the most of their lovely flavor.
What Are Shrimp?
Shrimp are small aquatic creatures that are normally caught in the ocean. They are classified as crustaceans, which means their skeleton is on the outside of the body!
This is not as weird as you might think — it just means that they have a hard outer shell covering the fleshy interior.
You may have seen shrimp in many different forms – raw, cooked, shell-on, and shelled. When freshly caught and raw, they are grey in appearance, but when cooked they turn a vivid pink color.
Each shrimp has a hard outer body to which is attached a large head, ten small legs, and a tail.
Shrimp are commonly served with their shells removed, so you may not have come across a whole shrimp. It is more likely that you will have seen larger seafood such as prawns or langoustines served whole inside their shell.
Peeled shrimp will have had their entire shell removed, including the head, legs, and tail. This will leave a fleshy, crescent-shaped piece of seafood that can be eaten whole once cooked.
You may also come across peeled shrimp that have their tails left on — this is normally done as a matter of presentation and convenience.
Although the tail is edible, many people prefer to leave this crispy part to one side.
Leaving the tail in place is also handy if the shrimp are to be served as finger food at a buffet.
The solid tail makes it easy to grasp and eat a shrimp, rather than attempting to pick up the slippery, de-shelled body.
How Are Shrimp Eaten?
Shrimp are one of the smallest crustaceans we eat, and they are consumed in many different ways.
While larger crustaceans such as langoustines are often presented with the shell intact, it is more commonplace to eat shrimp that have had the shell removed.
The shell is generally removed before the shrimp are cooked, and they are commonly used in stir-fries, curries, and other sauce-based dishes.
Shrimp can also be used as a topping for pizza and salads, or as the world-famous shrimp cocktail starter.
Deshelled shrimp can be eaten whole, which is why they are popular in sauce-based dishes. They soak up other flavors well, and you don’t have to worry about getting messy fingers from removing the shells.
However, if you are served with a plate of whole shrimp in their shells, it is important to know the best way to remove this hard outer casing!
First, you need to remove the head from the body. Take a hold of the head and bend or twist it until it comes off.
For some, the juices inside the head are a delicacy, but we will leave it up to you to decide if you want to suck these out!
Next, pinch the legs and pull them away from the body.
You should then be able to peel back and slide off the head and tail from the body. And voila – your shrimp is ready to be eaten!
As these crustaceans are very small, many chefs find that it is too fiddly to expect diners to peel all their shrimp themselves. It is commonplace to be served a dish containing mostly peeled shrimp, with just a few unpeeled shrimp as a garnish.
One final point on the peeled vs unpeeled shrimp debate — all parts of the shrimp are completely edible, including the head, legs, shell, and tail!
In some cultures, you will come across unpeeled shrimp that are intended to be eaten whole, without peeling them first. These have normally been fried, and the crisp outer shell is considered to be a delicacy.
What Do Shrimp Actually Taste Like?
Describing what something tastes like is never an easy task, but shrimp have a very distinctive flavor that is easy to imagine!
To put it quite simply, shrimp taste like the smell of the ocean.
Yes, we know that sounds weird, but if you took a big sniff of the ocean breeze and could transform it into a flavor, you would get shrimp!
As well as the great flavor of the sea, shrimp have a delicate sweetness that works really well with the salty tang. If you’ve ever eaten prawns or langoustines, then shrimp taste like a milder version of these.
The sweetness of shrimp comes from a mild, creamy, buttery flavor, which is often missing in other types of seafood.
Some people liken the flavor of shrimp to a fishy version of chicken, which is a good way to explain it if you’ve never tried shrimp before.
Shrimp are often compared to other sea creatures in terms of flavor, such as squid or lobster. While they are similar to many other types of seafood, they really do have a flavor profile that is all of their own.
What Is The Texture Of Shrimp?
If you’ve been put off the idea of seafood by the texture of fish dishes, then you will be pleasantly surprised when you try shrimp!
Unlike the flesh of fish, which tends to be flaky and somewhat mushy, the texture of shrimp is firm and pleasantly chewy.
Shrimp do not fall apart easily when cooked and are robust enough to maintain their texture in sauces and broths.
While shrimp have a firm texture, they are not difficult to chew and almost melt in the mouth when eaten.
Do Shrimp Taste Fishy?
It makes sense that shrimp have a slightly fishy flavor – after all, they do come from the same place as fish!
Many people are put off by the intensely fishy smell of seafood, as they imagine that it will taste as fishy as it smells.
When it comes to shrimp, they smell far fishier than they taste. Their flavor has only a mild hint of fishiness, which is so mild that you’d barely notice it.
Most people would tell you that shrimp do not taste fishy, as they have a unique flavor all of their own.
We do have one tip when it comes to buying fresh shrimp, or any type of seafood or fish for that matter! All seafood and fish should be consumed when it is as fresh as possible, to make the most of their delicate flavors.
Fresh seafood and fish should have barely any odor at all — the fishy smell only develops when it has been stored for 1-2 days.
So, if the shrimp at your local fish market smell strongly of fish, they are possibly not as fresh as you would like! It is far better to buy frozen shrimp than fresh shrimp that are a few days old.
What Do Shrimp Taste Like When They Are Fried Or Grilled?
Frying or grilling shrimp is a great way to enhance the flavor of these tiny crustaceans.
The firm flesh holds up well to these cooking methods, but their tiny size means that they don’t take long to cook at all!
If grilling shrimp you will need a fine-meshed grill to stop them from falling onto the hot coals.
The great thing about frying or grilling shrimp is that it really emphasizes the sweetness of these delicate creatures, and adds a new dimension of caramelized flavor.
Many people like to marinade shrimp before cooking them on the grill, as they soak up flavors well. Their versatility means they work equally well in light, herby sauces as they do in rich, zingy marinades.
If you’ve never tried shrimp, then cooking some up on a griddle pan is the way to go! The sweetly caramelized flavor and firm flesh are light, delicate, and absolutely sublime.
What Do Breaded Shrimp Taste Like?
Breaded shrimp are made by coating fresh shrimp with egg, flour, and breadcrumbs.
They are normally seasoned to enhance the flavor of the shrimp, with combinations such as garlic and paprika or lemon and herbs.
The breaded shrimp are then deep-fried in oil to give a crisp exterior with juicy, fleshy shrimp inside. It is common to leave the tails on breaded shrimp, as this gives something to hold when picking them off the plate.
Breaded shrimp will take on the flavors of their seasoning well, and the breadcrumb coating also helps to lock in moisture.
When you bite into freshly-fried breaded shrimp, you’ll be rewarded with a crisp, light outer coating with a deliciously tasty and juicy shrimp inside.
What it actually tastes like will depend very much on what it has been seasoned with, but you can be assured that the mild seafood flavor of the shrimp will still be apparent!
These tasty little creatures have a strong enough flavor to stand up to a range of different ingredients.
And if you want to go really punchy, try dipping your breaded shrimp in a sweet chili and zingy lime dipping sauce — positively divine!
What Spices And Sauces Work Well With Shrimp?
There are many different ways of cooking shrimp, and they work very well with a wide range of flavors and sauces!
Shrimp is a firm favorite in Mediterranean cultures, including the classic Spanish “Gambas al Ajillo” – shrimp cooked in olive oil and garlic.
In Portugal, they are griddled and served with Piri-Piri sauce, while in Italy you will be served “Shrimp Fra Diavola,” cooked in a hearty tomato sauce.
In southeast Asia, shrimp are often used as the key component in dumplings, as their flavor and texture stand up well to this intricate cooking style. These should be eaten with chopsticks and served with a range of different dipping sauces.
In northern Africa, you will come across shrimp cooked with harissa and chickpeas, seasoned with lime juice and coriander. This is an interesting variation of the traditional Moroccan tagine which works surprisingly well.
Shrimp is also a key component in Singapore noodles, where they absorb the punchy blend of spices like a sponge.
This ability also makes them great for including in curries and stir-fries!
If you’re looking for a simple way to serve cooked shrimp, then add mayonnaise or a light dressing and serve in a sandwich or as part of a salad.
This will allow the full flavor of the shrimp to shine, giving you a light, delicate seafood snack that tastes absolutely delicious!
Whatever your preferred way of eating shrimp, it is clear to see that this popular seafood is one of the most versatile food sources we can use! Shrimp is also a healthy source of protein, making it a great choice for dinner.
So, if you haven’t tried shrimp before, what are you waiting for?
So, now you’ve got a good idea of what shrimp taste like and how to eat them, let’s take a look at some other commonly asked questions!
Can you eat shrimp tails?
These days it is very fashionable to serve shrimp with their tails on, normally as part of a finger-food buffet. But should you eat the tail, or put it to one side?
The hard outer shell of the tail of shrimp is edible, but most people find the crunchy texture off-putting. The shell is left in place as it is a handy way to pick up and eat a shrimp, without eating the tail.
But if you were to accidentally eat the tail, it wouldn’t do you any harm!
There is one little trick that many people miss when pulling the tails off cooked shrimp — inside the shell is a tiny but absolutely delicious piece of shrimp meat!
Gently peel away the shell rather than pull the tail off, and you will be rewarded with one of the most succulent and tasty parts of the shrimp.
What Do Dried Shrimp Taste Like?
The flavor of dried shrimp is best described as a more intense, sweeter version of fresh shrimp.
Dried shrimp are gently sun-dried, so that all excess water evaporates from these tiny sea creatures, leaving behind just pure, intense shrimpy flavor.
This intensity gives dried shrimp a great balance of saltiness and sweetness, which is complemented with an intensely savory umami flavor.
When it comes to dried shrimp, a little bit goes a very long way. The flavor is very intense, and a small amount can bring about some big changes to your dish.
Dried shrimp have a hard, slightly chewy texture that works well in stir-fries and broths. They are often soaked before eating, making them softer and less chewy. Alternatively, they can be finely ground or chopped into smaller pieces.