Popcorn Shrimp are juicy, tender shrimp coated in breadcrumbs and seasonings and fried to golden brown, crispy perfection. They can also be baked in the oven or air fried.
Whether you dip them in cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, or squeeze lemon juice over them, you’ll find my Popcorn Shrimp recipe is simply irresistible.
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What is Popcorn Shrimp?
Ever wondered why it’s called popcorn shrimp? It’s because you’ll want to grab a handful just like actual popcorn! Actually, crunchy popcorn shrimp are small shrimp that are coated in seasoned Panko bread crumbs and fried until they are light and crispy.
You can serve them with a variety of dipping sauces for an easy appetizer, or even as a easy meal with fries and coleslaw. They are great for making shrimp tacos or burritos, too.
This is the best popcorn shrimp recipe exactly as written and it tastes great. Of you can add your own spin with different flavors and seasonings. One bite and you’re be completely addicted to that crispy texture.
Ingredients for Popcorn Shrimp
- Small Shrimp – often referred to as “salad shrimp” or “bay shrimp” these juicy little morsels can be found in the fresh seafood section of the grocery store, or in the freezer.
- Panko Breadcrumbs – I love Panko for the extra crispy texture it creates, but you can also use regular breadcrumbs.
- Vegetable Oil – for frying. Choose a neutral oil with a high smoke point like vegetable or canola oil.
- Eggs, Milk, and Flour – for battering the shrimp.
- Seasonings – I like keeping it simple with just salt, pepper, and a little dried parsley. But you can add about a teaspoon of other seasonings based on your preferences, like Old Bay, garlic powder, and paprika.
How To Make Popcorn Shrimp
This easy recipe takes about 10 minutes of prep work and 10-15 minutes of cooking time.
Be sure to check the recipe card below for full ingredients & instructions.
- Heat oil in a large, deep pot. If you have a deep fry thermometer, it would be helpful, so you’ll know when the oil temperature reaches 370°F.
- Create a breading station for the shrimp. Mix together the breadcrumbs, salt, and parsley in one small mixing bowl, whisk eggs and milk in a separate bowl, and place flour in a third bowl.
- Dredge the raw shrimp through the flour, egg mixture, and breadcrumbs mixture. With each step, gently shake off the excess.
- Fry in the hot oil in batches until they reach golden perfection (about 6-12 shrimp at a time), depending on the size of your pot. Each batch will take about 2-3 minutes. Drain on a paper towel. Serve with cocktail sauce and fresh lemon wedges.
Baked or Air Fried Popcorn Shrimp
Air Fryer Popcorn Shrimp: Preheat your air fryer to 400°F. Arrange the breaded shrimp in the air fryer basket in a single layer; spray with cooking spray. Cook for 2 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
Oven Baked Popcorn Shrimp: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the breaded shrimp on a foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer; spray with cooking spray. Cook for 5 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 5-6 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through.
Smaller rock shrimp are best, usually sold in packs of 61/70 shrimp per pound. You can also use shrimp that are a little larger shrimp, in packs of 51/60. The amount of shrimp in the package will vary slightly but you’ll get one pound either way. Any size will work, but the larger they are, the long they will take to cook.
I recommend serving with some lighter appetizers, like Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes, Fruit Kabobs, and my epic Cheese Board. Try to resist serving fried everything! Don’t forget the dipping sauce, and add some lemon wedges and fresh minced parsley for garnish. My favorite dipping sauce for fried shrimp is a lemon aioli – it’s the perfect combination of tangy and creamy.
I kept my recipe very simple, so you can choose seasonings that pair well with the rest of your spread. Some of my favorite seasonings to use are lemon pepper, cajun seasoning, and Old Bay seasoning.
Storing Leftovers and Freezing
While you can store the shrimp for a couple of days in an airtight container in the refrigerator, fried shrimp is best when served fresh. You can reheat in the oven or in an air fryer, but it can easily become overcooked and rubbery.
Freezing: Bread the raw shrimp and arrange (uncooked) on a baking sheet and pop them into the freezer. Flash freeze for about an hour or until solid, then transfer to a plastic resealable bag. You can freeze them like this for at least 6-8 months. To cook, place the frozen shrimp on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 8-10 minutes.
- This recipe will work for shrimp of any size. Just make sure that you clean and devein them before cooking, and be aware that the cook time will vary depending on the size.
- I highly recommend using a frying thermometer to keep the oil at an optimal temperature.
- For best results, make sure to pat the shrimp dry so the flour and seasonings will be able to stick well.
- Serve immediately. Like most fried foods, fried shrimp is best served right away and with your favorite sauce for dipping.
More Classic Hot Appetizer Recipes
- 1 pound small raw shrimp (51/60 pound) thawed, shelled, deveined, and tails removed
- vegetable oil for frying roughly 1 quart should be enough
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon dried parsley
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- For serving: lemon wedges and cocktail sauce
- Heat 3-4 inches of oil in a large, deep pot to 370-375 degrees F.
- Add breadcrumbs, salt, and parsley to a small mixing bowl and mix until combined.
- Whisk eggs and milk together in a shallow bowl.
- Add flour to a third bowl.
- Place shrimp, one at a time, into flour and shake off excess, then egg mixture, then breadcrumbs mixture. Transfer coated shrimp to a plate.
- Add shrimp in batches (about a dozen at a time) to preheated oil and cook for 2 – 2 ½ minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve with fresh lemon and cocktail sauce.