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There is something completely irresistible about crispy Coconut Shrimp dipped in your favorite sweet chili sauce or pina colada dipping sauce. This coconut shrimp recipe is restaurant-quality but actually really easy to make at home and way less expensive! It’s one of our favorite appetizers ever!
The BEST Coconut Shrimp
Whenever we go out to eat and coconut shrimp are on the menu, Paul can’t resist ordering a plate of them for all of us to share. It’s something we have done ever since we were dating in college and would splurge to go to Outback for a “fancy” dinner together.
Coconut shrimp are one of Paul’s favorite foods, but they are pricey to get at a restaurant! So I started making them at home. Honestly? These are even better at a fraction of the cost.
Our daughter, Clara, loved these salty-sweet coconut shrimp so much that she asked me to make them again for her birthday. Along with her other favorite food, which is my chicken noodle & dumpling soup. Not exactly something I would pair myself, but when it’s her birthday she calls the shots when it comes to the menu!
We’ve made these a bunch of times since then and every time they are gone practically before the plate hits the table.
The fried version is classic and the one we make most often. But the baked kind are good too and a bit healthier so you feel like you can enjoy these more often. I’m sharing both methods below so you can choose the one that works best for you!
What kind of shrimp are best?
When I’m making coconut shrimp, I prefer the large, raw shrimp that are already peeled and deveined for me that you can buy in the freezer section at Costco. They still have the tail on and are just the right size for breading and frying.
I get the 21-25 count per pound bag and use half the bag for a batch of coconut shrimp. Just thaw overnight in the fridge so they are ready to go for the next day.
How to make coconut shrimp
The key is in your prep work by setting up three dredging stations. One has seasoned flour, which provides the base for the rest of the coating to stick to.
The second station is a fairly thick batter, almost like pancake batter, where we take the opportunity to amp up the coconut flavor of the shrimp by mixing in some coconut milk, along with spices and more flour to create a batter for the shrimp.
The final station is one that gets all the glory though because it’s a mix of shredded sweetened coconut and crunchy panko bread crumbs. Don’t use regular breadcrumbs because they are too fine and you won’t get the same deliciously crispy coating on your coconut shrimp.
Because shrimp are smaller, I use medium-size bowls for each station, but square baking dishes, pie plates, and even shallow, rimmed plates will work just as well.
Once your stations are all set up, dip the shrimp in the flour first, then shake off the excess before dipping in the batter. Let the excess drip off back into the pan, then drip the shrimp into the coconut mixture, pressing it into the shrimp so it sticks well.
Lay the shrimp on a plate or baking sheet as you finish dipping them and repeat until all of the shrimp have been coated. Discard any leftover dredging materials.
Place the shrimp in the freezer for at least 10-15 minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes while getting your frying station ready. This helps “set” the outside coating so it doesn’t fall off as easily in during the cooking process, and it’s the same technique that I use for fried chicken.
Heat oil in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium heat until it reaches 375 degrees F. There should be enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan by at least 1-2 inches.
When the oil is hot, carefully add the shrimp in batches, frying a few at a time for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy. Carefully transfer the fried coconut shrimp to a wire rack set over a clean baking sheet to drain while you repeat the process with the remaining shrimp until all the shrimp have been cooked.
Serve the shrimp immediately with your favorite dipping sauce! Our favorite is a sweet chili sauce, but the pina colada sauce is another wonderful option to have on the table, and I’ve included a few other easy and popular options in the notes to the recipe below. Try them all and decide which is your favorite!
Making baked coconut shrimp
To make baked coconut shrimp, follow the same instructions and measurements just as you would for fried coconut shrimp. Except rather than frying, lay the breaded shrimp in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, then spray the tops of each shrimp with cooking spray. Bake for 11-15 minutes until the shrimp are golden on the outside and have turned pink and opaque on the inside, which is your indicator that they are cooked through.
Pina colada dipping sauce
Although a sweet chili sauce is my personal favorite for dipping coconut shrimp, this pina colada dipping sauce is another good one with more of a sweet, tropical flavor that makes me feel like we are in the Carribbean.
Just combine coconut milk, crushed pineapple, and pineapple juice in a small saucepan, heating over medium heat just until it comes to a simmer. Then whisk in a cornstarch and cold water slurry to thicken it slightly before removing from the heat and adding lime juice and cream of coconut. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.
More easy appetizer recipes
- Slow Cooker Little Smokies in Honey Garlic BBQ Sauce
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Crispy Onion Strings
- Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends
- Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers
- Crispy Loaded Potato Skins
- Tomato Basil Bruschetta
- 1 lb. large shrimp, deveined with tails on (about 21-25)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2/3 cup coconut milk
- 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
- 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
- Vegetable or peanut oil, for frying (about 2-3 cups)
- Sweet chili sauce, for serving
- Lime wedges, for serving
Pina Colada Sauce
- 1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained with juice reserved
- 2 tablespoons reserved pineapple juice
- 1/2 cup coconut milk, full fat
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 2-3 tablespoons cream of coconut
- Squeeze of lime juice
- Make sure the shrimp are thoroughly thawed, if previously frozen, then pat dry with paper towels.
- Place 1/2 cup of flour in a bowl or shallow plate for dredging the shrimp. Season with a little salt and pepper.
- In a second bowl or plate, combine another 1/2 cup of flour with the baking powder, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne pepper. Whisk in the beaten egg and coconut milk to create a medium-thick batter, similar to pancake batter.
- Combine the shredded coconut and Panko bread crumbs in a third bowl or plate.
- Dredge the shrimp first in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess, then in the coconut milk batter, then in the coconut/breadcrumb mixture.
- Transfer the breaded shrimp to a separate plate or baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or stick in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. This step allows the coating to set up a bit and keeps the shrimp cold so it cooked evenly when frying.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat with enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan about 1-2 inches deep. Heat until the oil reaches 375 degrees F. I find it helpful to use a thermometer to keep the oil at a constant temperature.
- Cook the shrimp for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Work in batches and don't crowd the pan.
- Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and lime wedges for squeezing over the shrimp.
Pina Colada Sauce
- Combine the crushed pineapple, pineapple juice, and coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and cold water to create a slurry. Drizzle the slurry into the coconut milk mixture, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 1-2 minutes.
- Remove the sauce from the heat, then add the cream of coconut and lime juice. Cool completely and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Apricot Dipping Sauce: 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce + 1/4 cup apricot preserves. Heat in the microwave for 30-60 seconds and stir well.
- Orange Marmalade Sauce: 1/2 cup orange marmalade + 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard + 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish + dash salt + 2 tablespoons honey. Whisk well to combine.
- Baked coconut shrimp: Instead of frying, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. After breading, arrange the shrimp on a parchment-lined baking sheet and spray the tops of the shrimp with cooking spray. Bake for 11-15 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 619Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 23gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 199mgSodium: 1296mgCarbohydrates: 66gFiber: 7gSugar: 27gProtein: 25g
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.
Adapted from All Recipes.