Here’s How to Turn Frozen Shrimp into a Damn Good Dinner

updated May 1, 2019
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It’s my day job here at Kitchn that convinced me that frozen shrimp was worth keeping in my freezer at all times. Previously, I’d simply buy shrimp from the fish counter at the grocery store when I needed it. Then my colleagues kept gushing about the freshness and convenience of frozen shrimp and I soon realized a whole lot of the “fresh” shrimp I was buying at the grocery store was actually previously frozen. So I gave it a try and almost instantly became a convert.

Frozen shrimp has a few things going for it: It’s reasonably priced, often fresher than the stuff behind the fish counter, can be quickly thawed or even cooked from frozen, and it’s a wonderful safety net to have in your freezer. When you’re stuck on what to make for dinner, that bag can be transformed into more meals than you can count. Here are 12 great ideas to get you started.

1. Make the fastest, fanciest shrimp scampi.

Shrimp scampi feels like something you should skip making at home and wait to order at your neighborhood Italian joint instead. Actually, though, it’s one of the fastest dinners you can make, so get a little fancy and pop open the bottle of white wine.

2. Fall in love with sheet pan dinners.

Frozen shrimp is the one ingredient that convinced me the power of sheet pan dinners is real. Toss a bunch on a pan with some broccoli and a spicy chili-garlic sauce and you have something that will have everyone cheering in less than 20 minutes.

3. Sub shrimp for ho-hum chicken in your next salad.

If chicken continues to be your go-to protein to bulk up a salad, it’s time to break that allegiance. Shrimp is just as easy and arguably more exciting. Roast it for a taco-inspired salad or boil it for a light and lemony arugula salad.

4. Skewer shrimp and head to the grill.

What about a little shrimp on the barbie? Shrimp gets extra juicy when cooked on the grill — especially when it’s quickly marinated in lemony yogurt or chimichurri.

5. Embrace the mighty stir-fry.

The beauty of a stir-fry is how quickly it cooks up. Since shrimp cooks just as fast, it’s pretty much a perfect addition. Stir-fry it with snow peas in a sweet and savory honey-garlic sauce, or go spicy and stir-fry it with chili sauce and Broccolini.

6. Fry up some fritters.

It’s basically a fact that everything tastes better fried. When you blend some uncooked shrimp in a food processor it becomes a sticky paste that acts a binder for chopped shrimp and sweet corn. Form the mix into patties, fry, and pair with a green salad.

7. Roast shrimp and add to pasta, risotto, or couscous to make it a meal.

A simple pan of roasted shrimp can pretty much bulk up anything you’re having for dinner. Toss it with pasta, pile a bunch on creamy risotto, or stir a big handful into couscous.

8. Stir up the sangria and make a quick skillet paella.

Make a quick skillet paella — it’s basically like you made a fast trip to Spain. Scatter the shrimp over the cooked rice and they’ll cook in just a matter of minutes, thanks to the heat from the pan.

9. Pretend you’re in New Orleans and make po’ boys.

Stuff sautéed shrimp, avocado, and lettuce into a big, soft roll and you have a po’ boy sandwich that definitely qualifies as dinner material.

10. Eat shrimp cocktail for dinner!

It sort of feels like you shouldn’t do this, but let’s break some rules, right? Shrimp cocktail can make for a light dinner if you pair it with a salad or roasted vegetables — and a martini, too, maybe.

11. Make grain bowl-inspired foil packets for the grill.

Layer quinoa, veggies, and shrimp in a foil packet, toss it on the grill, and you have a complete meal that’s basically an adult version of those foil packets you used to make at sleep-away camp.

12. Toss shrimp into a stovetop casserole.

You don’t even need to defrost the shrimp if you make this hearty stovetop casserole, as it will thaw and cook right in the hot rice as long as you give it a stir here and there.