Coconut Shrimp with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
Coconut Shrimp is popular at restaurants, but once you see how quick and easy it is to make at home, you’ll want to make it yourself. This recipe only takes 15 minutes altogether, with all prep and cooking. It’s a simple, crunchy, and satisfying appetizer, with a sweet, spicy, and tangy dipping sauce for pairing.
For a long time I thought of coconut shrimp as restaurant food.
I mean, deep fried delicious things ARE normally the kind of food you find when you’re dining out, but this coconut shrimp recipe is very easy to make at home, and you don’t even have to deep fry here if you prefer not to.
What’s Great about This Recipe
✅ You can shallow fry OR deep fry (with option for baking too) – I understand it’s annoying to set up a deep fried cooking arrangement, because then you have to figure out what to do with all the leftover oil. While you can absolutely deep fry these (and use the leftover oil to make Homemade French Fries or Homemade Mozzarella Sticks), the shrimp can also be cooked in a shallow fry setup with a similarly robust crunch and fast cooking time. I also share a baking option below.
✅ Quick (15 minutes) – All we need to do here is bread the shrimp, then quickly fry them. They cook up in 2 minutes, so most of the work is done in the prep of breading them.
✅ Great coconut flavor without being excessively sweet – We’ll use unsweetened coconut here, which will give us a nice crunch and flavor without tasting like dessert.
✅ A simple fried shrimp dipping sauce for pairing – I’ll share an easy sweet chili sauce that’s delicious for pairing. It’s sweet, spicy, and tangy.
How to Make It Step by Step:
This whole recipe boils down to these three simple steps:
- Season the shrimp.
- Bread each piece in flour, then egg, then coconut.
- Cook for 2 minutes.
Buying guide: what size and type to use
The shrimp you see here are 21/25 shrimp, which refers to the size. This means there are between 21 and 25 pieces per pound. I usually select this size because it’s the largest I can reliably buy that’s already peeled and deveined, but with the tails still on.
You may absolutely use larger shrimp here, but I don’t recommend going any smaller, or else it will be too tedious to flip and manage.
Also, make sure to use RAW shrimp and not pre-cooked, otherwise the end result will turn out overcooked and rubbery.
Both farmed and wild varieties are welcome here. Wild tends to have more flavor, but farmed is usually a little cheaper.
Season with Salt and Pepper
To get started, spread the peeled and deveined shrimp out on a tray and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper:
Bread each piece
Take each piece of shrimp and first dip each one into all-purpose flour, making sure to shake off the excess to prevent the breading from falling off later:
Then dip into beaten egg, again shaking off the excess:
And finally, dip into unsweetened, shredded coconut:
Unsweetened coconut flakes should be fairly easy to find. I get mine from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
Why not the sweetened baking coconut? If that’s what you have, feel free to use that instead. Personally I find that type of coconut to be excessively sugary, especially with the dipping sauce. But it’s ultimately your call.
Lay all the breaded pieces down onto a tray while you finish dipping the whole batch:
Time to cook!
Once you’ve finished the coating process, you’re ready to either deep fry, shallow fry, or bake.
What kind of oil/fat to cook in
Normally for deep frying I always use tallow, which is a flavorful and stable fat that tolerates high heat frying with the least amount of oxidation (I discuss this at length in my podcast). That would be a great choice, but you can also use coconut oil, which is another stable fat that will add extra coconut flavor to the dish.
Deep fry or shallow fry
For the simplest and most even cooking: deep fry the shrimp for 2 minutes, until the coconut is golden and the shrimp is cooked through. You can either do this in a dedicated deep fryer or in a saucepan filled with a few inches of your frying fat of choice, checking the temperature with a thermometer (we will cook at 350F).
If you want to deal with less oil: You can shallow fry the shrimp in a high-sided cast iron skillet. Just know that unlike deep frying, you’ll have to flip each piece halfway through cooking:
Remove the shrimp from the pan, and let them drain on a paper towel-lined plate:
I recommend serving the coconut shrimp with a sweet chili dipping sauce. You can buy ready-made versions at the store, or make your own “cheat sauce” with orange marmalade, apricot jam, and either garlic chili sauce or sriracha (the recipe is in the recipe box).
What to do with the used cooking oil?
One benefit of using tallow or coconut oil instead of unstable fats like soybean oil or peanut oil, is it’s stable enough that it can be reused again and again. I simply filter it to remove any crumbs or sediment, then use it for another deep fried recipe, such as Fried Calamari, Homemade Corn Dogs, or Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Enjoy!
More Seafood Recipes
Recipe FAQ and Expert Tips
It won’t have the same crunch or color, but technically you can. Place the shrimp on a rack set on a sheet pan, spray with cooking spray, and bake at 425F for about 10 minutes, until the shrimp is cooked through.
I don’t recommend it, as the breading will get soggy, but fortunately the recipe only takes 15 minutes to make.
These definitely need some sort of sauce, and my favorite is sweet chili sauce. There are some great ones you can buy, or you can make your own using my recipe.
Be warned that these will not taste as good reheated, so I recommend cutting the recipe in half or making whatever amount you think you’ll eat. However, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for 2 months.
Spread the coconut shrimp in an even, single layer on a tray, and bake in a 300F oven for 10 minutes, until warmed through.
Coconut Shrimp with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
For the Coconut Shrimp:
- 1 lb 21/25 shrimp peeled, deveined, tail still intact
- black pepper
- 1 cup flour
- 2 large eggs whisked
- 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- tallow or coconut oil for frying
For the Dipping Sauce:
- 1/4 cup orange marmalade
- 1/4 cup apricot jam
- dash of sriracha or chili sauce to taste
- Start by seasoning all of the shrimp on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Set up a breading station by placing the flour in your first bowl, eggs in the second bowl, and the coconut in a third bowl.
- Set a platter or large sheet of wax paper on your counter, then dip each piece of shrimp in the flour, then in the egg, then in the coconut, shaking off the excess at each step, which will prevent the breading from falling off during cooking. Lay the pieces on the tray as you finish the batch.
- For deep frying: Heat a few inches of tallow or coconut oil to 350F, then cook the shrimp for 2 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through (if you want to double check the temperature, 120F inside is fully cooked for shrimp). After cooking, move them to a paper towel to drain. Depending on the size of your frying vessel, you may prefer to do this in two batches, cooking half a pound at a time.
- For shallow frying: Add 1/2" of fat to a skillet, then heat over medium high to about 350F. Add the shrimp in a single layer and cook for 60 seconds on each side, until cooked through (if you want to double check the temperature, 120F inside is fully cooked for shrimp). After cooking, move them to a paper towel to drain.
- For the dipping sauce: Stir together the orange marmalade, apricot jam, and chili sauce to taste, and serve as a fried shrimp dipping sauce. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
This post was updated from the archives with new photos, writing, and a video. Originally published August 2011.