How to Make Seriously Delicious Crispy Coconut Shrimp

Inviting some pals over to hang out can quickly turn stressful when you realize they’re going to expect some food. Before you reach for your phone to order delivery, take a few deep breaths. Homemade eats don’t have to be difficult. With original recipes from our Everyday Appetizers series, you can pull off show-stopping starters without losing your cool. 

Most people go into a seafood restaurant with some flexibility about what they’re going to order, except when it comes to the appetizer. If coconut shrimp is on the menu, they’re a no-brainer. The combination of succulent shellfish and a crispy, coconut-flecked coating is just too delicious to pass up. Since you shouldn’t have to wait for a pricey outing to enjoy this fried restaurant appetizer, we decided to show you how to make crispy coconut shrimp in your kitchen. Even without the mango sauce, this dish is a winner.

About this recipe

crispy coconut shrimp served with spicy mango sauce

Crispy coconut shrimp on a plate with spicy mango sauce | Christine Skopec/Culture Cheat Sheet

If there’s any question as to what our top priority was for this dish, just take another look at the name of the recipe. That’s right, crispy texture. Nothing is worse than digging into a plate of deep-fried food only to find the finished product is soggy. In order to guarantee a great crunch, we opted for a coating made from dried, shredded coconut and panko breadcrumbs. The coconut obviously gives us the lightly sweet, tropical flavor coconut shrimp is known for while the panko delivers a far crisper texture than any other type of breadcrumb.

Because preheating the oil takes a bit of time, you’ll want to get started with the accompanying mango sauce. All you have to do is toss the mango, lime juice, and Sriracha in a food processor, then blend until the sauce is smooth. Though you can use any type of mango you like, we strongly suggest going for ataulfo, sometimes called champagne. They have a great balance of sweet and tart, plus a texture that blends into a perfectly smooth sauce. If you go for one of the larger mango varieties, know the sauce won’t be as smooth. You’ll also probably need to adjust the seasoning a bit with salt and/or sugar. Other varieties are also larger, so you’ll only need half to two-thirds of the fruit.

ramekin filled with spicy mango sauce served with coconut shrimp

Spicy mango sauce with crispy coconut shrimp | Christine Skopec/Culture Cheat Sheet

Of course, you can skip the sauce completely if you don’t want to bother. Try using a purchased mango chutney or sweet chili sauce. Chutneys can be extremely sweet, though. If you go this route, you’ll likely want to add a splash of vinegar or lime juice to help balance out the sugar.

Before we get to breading the shrimp, let’s talk seafood specifics. You may have noticed before that shrimp prices can vary a lot, sometimes by $10 per pound from one option to the next. This is because shrimp in the U.S. is imported from Asia, where they’re farmed in mass quantities. These shrimp are far less expensive, but they’re really not a good choice for a few reasons. First of all, the cramped quarters are often unsanitary. According to Consumer Reports, the bacterial contamination for these imported shrimp is out of control. American shrimp are also better for our planet. Time reports the U.S. adheres to stricter environmental standards for producing shrimp.

Don’t feel like you have to buy fresh, either. Frozen shrimp are usually high in quality, and they tend to be less expensive. It’s best to let them thaw in the refrigerator overnight, but you can also do it the day of. Place them in a large bowl in the sink, then run cool (not hot or warm!) water over them until they’re ready to use.

For coating, you’ll do a standard breading procedure. You’ll need a decent amount of work space and three shallow dishes: one for each the flour, eggs, and breadcrumb-coconut mixture. It’ll get messy one way or the other, but it usually works best to use one hand for the flour and breadcrumbs and the other for eggs.

After all of your specimens are coated, fry them in batches of six or seven before removing to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Batch frying is another secret to keeping the coating crispy because trying to cook too many at once drops the oil temperature, causing the breadcrumbs to absorb too much grease.

As soon as you’re done frying, it’s time to serve. The final secret to guaranteeing crispy shrimp is crispy is by going straight from fryer to the table. Hopefully you have a couple of crisp lagers at the ready.

Crispy Coconut Shrimp with Spicy Mango Sauce

detail of crispy coconut shrimp served with mango sauce

Crispy coconut shrimp appetizer | Christine Skopec/Culture Cheat Sheet

When buying shrimp, choose the size based on count rather than the particular label because one store’s extra large is another’s jumbo. For this dish you want something around 20 shrimp per pound. This recipe makes enough to serve 4.

Ingredients:

  • 3 quarts vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 ataulfo mango, peeled, pitted, and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 pound 16/20-count shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions: Preheat oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a deep, heavy pot. Meanwhile, combine mango, lime juice, and Sriracha in a food processor. Blend until smooth, transfer to a small bowl, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Place flour in a shallow dish and season with ¾ teaspoon salt. Mix to combine. Add eggs to a second shallow dish. In a third shallow dish, combine coconut, breadcrumbs, and remaining salt. Mix to combine.

Dredge shrimp in flour, shaking to remove excess. Coat in egg, allowing excess to drip back into bowl, then coat with breadcrumb mixture, pressing to adhere. Repeat with all shrimp.

Working in batches of six or seven, fry shrimp until deeply golden and cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Allow oil to return to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, then repeat until all shrimp are cooked. Serve at once with mango sauce.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec

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