Boiled Shrimp Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep/Total Time: 20 min.
These boiled shrimp pop with flavor and make a quick appetizer. Spread the shrimp out on a platter with garlic butter or another favorite sauce, or save for salads, sandwiches and more.

Updated: Jul. 08, 2024

Boiled shrimp, which cook quickly and taste delightful, make excellent party food. Use them instead of plain shrimp in a shrimp cocktail, as a topping on a green salad or in a summertime pasta salad. Our boiled shrimp recipe uses your favorite seafood spice mix, lemon, onion, and bay leaves. The result is juicy shrimp that bursts with flavor, perfect with a zippy cocktail sauce or any condiment you choose.

The first time I attended a seafood boil where heaps of shellfish simmer in huge pots—with hunks of corn on the cob and potatoes mixed in—the deep flavor of the food blew me away. I wondered how something boiled could taste so good. The answer: Add seafood seasoning and other aromatics to the bubbling water. There are many brands of seafood seasoning. Some include celery seeds, paprika, salt and pepper, while others are more complex.

Cooking shrimp in a seasoned broth means it cooks fast—too long and you’ll have rubbery shrimp. By using a seasoning blend, you get tons of flavor in a short amount of time. Boiled shrimp are terrific hot or cold, served at room temperature and with a sauce or not.

Boiled Shrimp Ingredients

overhead shot of ingredients for boiled shrimpTMB Studio

  • Lemon: For this recipe, add sliced lemon to the cooking water. You don’t even need to worry about the seeds! Make sure to rinse the lemon before using it. If you bought a bag of lemons and have extra, here are some lovely lemon recipes.
  • Onion: A yellow or white onion fits the bill, although you could use another type of onion. If you have a medium onion instead of a small one, that’s fine, too.
  • Seafood seasoning: Seafood seasoning blends vary from simple to complex. Think Old Bay or Zatarain’s shrimp and crab boil spice. Read the labels in the grocery store to find one that meets your needs, or toss together some fish seasoning from scratch.
  • Bay leaves: The astringent flavor of bay leaves goes well with shrimp. Make sure to use fresh leaves—the ones that have been in the back of the cupboard for five years probably don’t taste like much.
  • Shell-on shrimp: Some seafood—think scallops and shrimp—is measured by the number of pieces in a pound. This recipe calls for 26/30 shrimp, which means there will be a maximum of 30 shrimp per pound. If you use larger shrimp, simply add a few seconds to the cooking time. The quality of shrimp varies wildly, so read our article on various types of shrimp before you shop.
  • Garlic butter: Make this quick (and optional) sauce with salted or unsalted butter, minced garlic and chopped fresh parsley.

Directions

Step 1: Season the water

In a large saucepan, combine water, lemon, onion, seafood seasoning and bay leaves. Bring everything to a boil.

Step 2: Cook the shrimp

overhead shot of veggies and shrimp in a large saucepanTMB Studio

Add shrimp to the boiling pot.

overhead shot of shrimps drained from saucepanTMB Studio

Cook until just pink, one to two minutes, and drain. Serve the shrimp hot. If desired, drop the shrimp into a bowl of ice water to cool. Discard the lemon, onion and bay leaves.

Editor’s Tip: Chilling something hot in a bowl of ice water is called “shocking.” It’s an excellent technique for preparing delicate seafood that can overcook quickly and for vegetables like green beans and spinach.

Step 3: Make the garlic butter (optional)

overhead shot of melted butter with garlic in a saucepanTMB Studio

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for one to two minutes.

overhead shot of parsley added in the butterTMB Studio

Remove from heat and add parsley.

high angle shot of boiled shrimps served with garlic butterTMB Studio

Serve with shrimp.

Recipe Variations

  • Swap the seasoning: It’s easy to get creative by changing the spices. If you like heat, try homemade Cajun seasoning or Creole seasoning. Other store-bought spice blends, like jerk seasoning or seasoned salt, could also work.
  • Add alcohol: Beer or an inexpensive white wine are a flavorful addition to your shrimp pot. Make the poaching liquid from 1 1/2 quarts of water and two cups of your favorite libation, add the seasonings and proceed with the recipe.
  • Make it herbal: Fresh herbs are an excellent pairing to boiled shrimp. Dill, tarragon, parsley and fennel fronds would all be wonderful in this recipe. You could also throw some garlic cloves into the cooking water.

How to Store Boiled Shrimp

Like most seafood, boiled shrimp is very perishable. Immediately refrigerate any shrimp you don’t plan to eat, storing them in an airtight container. Leftover cooked shrimp will taste best if eaten within a day or two, although the USDA says it’s safe to keep cooked shrimp for up to four days. For more info on keeping food safe and fresh, here’s a handy guide on how to store leftover food.

Boiled Shrimp Tips

overhead shot of boiled shrimps served with garlic butterTMB Studio

Do you boil shrimp with the shells on or off?

Whether you boil shrimp with the shells on or off is a personal preference. It’s perfectly fine to cook shell-on shrimp and peel it as you eat it. If you’d like to remove the shells and tails, you can do that, too. If you buy shrimp that needs to be deveined, here’s how to clean shrimp from head to tail.

How do you serve boiled shrimp?

Serve boiled shrimp with a rich sauce, such as garlic butter, cocktail sauce or aioli. If you serve peel-and-eat boiled shrimp, make sure to offer somewhere to dump the shells. Or make a whole mess of shrimp and dump them onto a paper-lined table with corn on the cob, little red potatoes, crusty bread and ice-cold beer.

What else can you do with boiled shrimp?

Boiled shrimp is a perfect salad topper, especially on a Caesar salad or any other salad with a delicious homemade dressing. Just-boiled or leftover shrimp can be used to dress up cold pasta salads and grain bowls. You can also put ’em on top of cheesy grits. Boiled shrimp can be chopped up and made into a refreshing salad using mayo, celery, lemon and fresh herbs (think tuna salad but with shrimp), rolled up in rice paper rolls or even used as a Bloody Mary garnish!

Boiled Shrimp

Prep Time 20 min
Yield 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 small lemon, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons seafood seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-1/2 pounds uncooked shell-on shrimp (26-30 per pound)
  • GARLIC BUTTER (OPTIONAL):
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine water, lemon, onion, seafood seasoning and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Add shrimp. Cook until shrimp just turn pink, 1-2 minutes; drain. Serve hot or, if desired, immediately drop shrimp into bowl of ice water. Discard lemon, onion and bay leaves.
  2. If desired, in a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic; cook and stir 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in parsley. Serve with shrimp.

Nutrition Facts

4 ounces cooked shrimp: 144 calories, 2g fat (0 saturated fat), 207mg cholesterol, 235mg sodium, 1g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 0 fiber), 28g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 4 lean meat.