These are not your average Shrimp Tacos. Imagine lightly charred corn tortillas cradling tender shrimp with a crisp salt and pepper crust, topped with crunchy cabbage and radish slaw then finished with creamy spicy shrimp taco sauce, a scatter of fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. So easy too. You can make them start to finish in 30 minutes, easy enough for a weeknight dinner!
For the past year, I've been working on perfecting this shrimp taco recipe. I've made them a dozen times and this one is IT.
Here's what happened.
There was a full moon the other night and, well, I think Brandi Carlile says it best in Hard Way Home:
I never was good at sleeping while the moon was full
I just lie and burn
Wreck my mind while the planet turns
Yes, that about sums it up.
When I wasn't thinking about: work, family, coffee, the concept of eternity, pulling weeds, what was that guy's name?..., I was conjuring these tacos. So insomnia isn't all bad.
“I need a new strategy for Shrimp Tacos,” I thought, “maybe a crunchy green cabbage and radish coleslaw and creamy spicy shrimp taco sauce. And what if the shrimp had a crisp salt and pepper crust (a riff on these Salt and Pepper Shrimp - not your average shrimp recipe, I promise.)?”
I’ll tell you what, these are literally the best shrimp tacos I have ever tasted. And they’re easy enough for a busy weeknight (watch the video if you want me to prove it 😉). A great way to mix up Taco Tuesday or to try instead of your favorite fish tacos.
Ingredients You Need to Make Shrimp Tacos
Shrimp Taco Sauce
- Mayonnaise: your favorite brand or homemade mayonnaise
- Sour cream: ideally full fat sour cream
- Sriracha Sauce: or your favorite hot sauce
- Water: as needed to thin sauce
- Corn Tortillas: or flour tortillas
- Shrimp: ideally medium shrimp (see instructions in post on how to choose shrimp and how to peel and devein them)
- Avocado Oil: or other high heat oil
- Garlic: fresh garlic cloves
- Ground Black Pepper and Kosher Salt
- Cabbage: shredded for topping, optional
- Radishes: for topping, optional
- Fresh Cilantro: optional
- Lime Wedges: for serving, optional
- Jalapeño Peppers: pickled slices or thinly sliced fresh jalapeño peppers for serving, optional
How to Buy Shrimp
For the freshest shrimp, buy frozen and thaw them at home. Because shrimp are typically frozen shortly after being caught, even 'fresh' shrimp are likely thawed by grocery store fish counters. If you do buy thawed shrimp, be sure they are not soft or slimy and don't smell like ammonia, a sure sign that they're going bad.
How to Thaw Frozen Shrimp
For the best flavor, shrimp should be thawed overnight in a covered bowl in the refrigerator. For faster thawing, place shrimp in a sealed zip-top bag and submerge in a bowl of cold water in the sink. Let stand 30 minutes, or until the shrimp are thawed. (This method works for other frozen meats as well.)
A couple of recipe tips: I love to make these with corn tortillas, but flour tortillas work just fine if that's what you have on hand. And be sure to use a high heat oil for frying the shrimp. Olive oil has a lower smoke point and you want the oil to be very hot so the shrimp get a nice, crisp coating.
Shrimp Taco Sauce
The crisp shrimp are essential to these tacos, but so is the sauce. Shrimp Taco Sauce sounds so official, but it's actually really simple and made with things that I bet you have in your refrigerator right now. It's just three ingredients: mayonnaise, sour cream and sriracha sauce, but it brings the textures together in these shrimp tacos and makes all of the other flavors shine!
How to Peel and Devein Raw Shrimp
For shrimp tacos, you'll want to completely peel and devein the shrimp. No one wants to bite into a shrimp tail!
To peel raw shrimp, first gently twist off the head (if still attached) then wedge your thumb inside the shell, just above the legs. Grasp the shell between your thumb and forefinger; lift and turn to detach the shell down to the tail segment. For shrimp with the tail intact, hold the peeled shrimp near the tail and gently pull to release the shrimp completely. (Skip this step for recipes where you want to leave the tail intact.)
To devein, use a sharp paring knife to cut a shallow slit down the center of the back. With the tip of the knife, gently lift the vein out and discard (wipe onto a paper towel). Repeat with remaining shrimp.
What to Serve with Shrimp Tacos
For a 30 minute, summertime version of these check out Grilled Shrimp Tacos.
More Mexican Food Recipes You'll Love
- Carne Asada (Check out the comments - everyone loves this!)
- Carne Asada Tacos (Perfect way to feed a crowd.)
- Shrimp Tacos with Mango Salsa (These are absolutely bursting with flavor!)
- Pork Carnitas (Made in the slow cooker - easy, super juicy and flavorful.)
- Pork Carnitas Tacos (Our favorite way to enjoy carnitas!)
- Pulled Pork Quesadillas (Crispy, oven baked and totally irresistible!)
- Pulled Pork Nachos (With my top tips for perfect nachos every time.)
- Rice Cooker Mexican Rice (SO easy to make this classic side dish in your rice cooker.)
- Mexican Cauliflower Rice (You'd never know that this is a lightened up version!)
How to Make Shrimp Tacos
Step 1: Finely chop cabbage and radishes (and fresh cilantro if desired). Set aside.
Step 2: Make Shrimp Taco Sauce with equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream and sriracha sauce to taste. Dribble in water to thin if desired.
Step 3: Lightly char both sides of each corn tortilla in a hot cast iron skillet and transfer to a packet of aluminum foil to keep warm.
Step 4: Toss shrimp with cornstarch.
Step 5: Fry shrimp in hot oil (nearly smoking) in a large wok or skillet until pink. Add salt, pepper and fresh garlic to shrimp; toss until coated and fragrant. Transfer shrimp to a plate.
Step 6: Assemble tacos one at a time, topping each tortilla with shrimp, cabbage, radishes and cilantro (optional). Drizzle with shrimp taco sauce and add a squeeze of lime (optional). Enjoy!
Shrimp Tacos Recipe Video
Shrimp Taco Sauce
- 8 corn tortillas
- 1 pound shrimp peeled and deveined
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ cup avocado oil or other high heat oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup finely chopped cabbage
- ½ cup finely chopped radishes
- ½ cup finely chopped cilantro optional
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- jalapeño peppers thinly sliced, optional
Shrimp Taco Sauce
- Whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream and sriracha sauce in a small bowl. Add water, a few drops at a time, to reach your desired consistency. Set aside.
- Place a large piece of aluminum foil near cooktop. Heat a dry, heavy skillet (ideally cast iron) over medium high heat until hot. Add one corn tortilla; cook 30 seconds on each side until softened and lightly charred. Transfer to aluminum foil and fold around tortilla to keep warm. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
- In a medium bowl, coat peeled and deveined shrimp in cornstarch.
- Heat oil in a large wok or skillet until nearly smoking. Shake any excess cornstarch from shrimp and carefully add a few at a time to wok, giving each shrimp some room to crisp up. Cook, turning often with a spatula until shrimp are pink, 2 to 3 minutes. Add salt, pepper and fresh garlic; toss with spatula just until spices are dispersed and garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and transfer shrimp to a plate or platter.
- Assemble tacos: top one warm corn tortilla with 3 or 4 shrimp and sprinkle with chopped cabbage, radishes and cilantro (if desired). Drizzle with desired amount of shrimp taco sauce. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Serve with lime wedges and sliced jalapeño if desired.