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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, and finished with creamy, spicy shrimp taco sauce, a scatter of fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.
This is a shrimp taco recipe that I worked on for years and they are literally the best shrimp tacos I have ever tasted. (Check out the comments to see that I’m not alone!) They’re weeknight easy too (watch the video for the easy step by step). You can make them start to finish in just 30 minutes.
Table of Contents
- Ingredients You Need to Make Shrimp Tacos
- How to Buy Shrimp
- How to Thaw Frozen Shrimp
- Quick, Easy and Essential: Shrimp Taco Sauce
- How to Peel and Devein Raw Shrimp
- Recipe Tips
- Mistakes to Avoid
- What to Serve with Shrimp Tacos
- More Mexican Food Recipes You’ll Love
- How to Make Shrimp Tacos
- Shrimp Tacos Recipe Video
- Shrimp Tacos Recipe
Ingredients You Need to Make Shrimp Tacos
- 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
- 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
- Ground Black Pepper and Kosher Salt
Shrimp Taco Sauce
- Mayonnaise: Use your favorite brand or homemade mayonnaise.
- Sour Cream: Choose full-fat sour cream for the creamiest sauce.
- Sriracha Sauce: or your preferred hot sauce
- Water: as needed to thin the sauce
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 results, thaw frozen shrimp 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.)
Quick, Easy and Essential: 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 (step by step photos below). 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).
- Emphasize Fresh Ingredients: Opt for fresh garlic, cilantro, lime, and other produce whenever possible. Fresh ingredients guarantee a more vibrant and flavorful dish! If you live in an area where fresh shrimp is readily available and it smells sweet and fresh, lucky you! But remember that frozen shrimp can be equally good option when handled properly.
- Customize Your Heat Level: If you prefer milder flavors, reduce the amount of sriracha sauce in the Shrimp Taco Sauce, or if you want it spicier, consider adding a dash of cayenne pepper or extra hot sauce.
- Char the Tortillas for Extra Flavor: For a smoky flavor, try charring the tortillas on an open gas flame for a few seconds on each side. Keep a close eye on them to prevent burning.
- Consider Alternative Toppings: Don’t feel confined to the listed toppings. Consider adding sliced avocado, crumbled queso fresco, or a sprinkle of chili powder for different textures and flavors.
- Make the Shrimp Taco Sauce Ahead: The sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 3 days. It’s one less thing to do the day you make the tacos.
- Serving for a Crowd: If serving these shrimp tacos at a party or gathering, consider setting up a taco bar with all the ingredients and sauces so guests can assemble their own according to their preferences.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Overcooking Shrimp: Shrimp cook quickly, and overcooking can lead to a rubbery texture. Watch them closely and remove from the skillet as soon as they’ve developed a crust and are cooked through.
- Overcrowding the Pan: Frying too many shrimp at once can cause them to steam rather than crisp. If needed, fry in batches to ensure even cooking.
- Using Low-Heat Oil: Olive oil and other low-smoke-point oils can burn at the temperatures required to crisp the shrimp. Use a high-heat oil like avocado or grapeseed oil instead.
- Uneven Thawing of Shrimp: Thaw shrimp completely and evenly to ensure consistent cooking. Follow the instructions for thawing provided in the post.
- Skipping the Cornstarch Coating: Cornstarch helps to create a crispy texture on the shrimp that really makes these tacos. Don’t skip this step.
- Over-Saucing: While the shrimp taco sauce is delicious, using too much can make the taco soggy and overpower the other flavors. Apply the sauce sparingly and serve more on the side to add if needed.
What to Serve with Shrimp Tacos
Though these are a meal on their own, they would be great alongside:
- Homemade Refried Beans
- Tortilla chips with Pico de Gallo or Mango Avocado Salsa and Salsa Guacamole for dipping.
- And, 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!)
- Shrimp Tacos with Mango Salsa (These are absolutely bursting with flavor!)
- Pork Carnitas (Made in the slow cooker – easy, super juicy and flavorful.)
- 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
Finely chop cabbage and radishes (and fresh cilantro if desired). Set aside.
Make Shrimp Taco Sauce with equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream and sriracha sauce to taste. Dribble in water to thin if desired.
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.
Toss shrimp with cornstarch.
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 (a riff on these Salt and Pepper Shrimp). Transfer shrimp to a plate.
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
- 1/4 cup avocado oil or other high heat oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup finely chopped cabbage
- 1/2 cup finely chopped radishes
- 1/2 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.