If you’re not sure how shrimp tastes, you’re in the right place. Not only because we’re going to give you the in-depth answer, but also because you’ll want to try some shrimp right after reading this, and I’m willing to bet you’re going to love it! So, what does shrimp taste like?
Shrimp has a slightly salty and sweet flavor. The texture should be firm, but also soft and a bit chewy. The flavor is quite subtle and very complimentary to a plethora of seasonings, dipping sauces, and dishes that shrimp can either be the star of or a strong compliment to.
Many people say that shrimp has a delicate and light flavor similar to that of other crustaceans, including lobster and crab. Shrimp is a favorite of seafood lovers around the globe. Many cultures feature shrimp in their cuisine for its firm texture and delicate flavorings.
We go into much more depth on all things shrimp flavor, and how to best season it below!
We cover the following items in this post:
- What Do Shrimp Taste Like?
- How Would You Describe Shrimp?
- How Does Shrimp Taste With Cocktail Sauce?
- What Does Raw Shrimp Taste Like?
- What Does Bad Shrimp Taste Like?
- The Difference In Taste Between Frozen Shrimp and Fresh Shrimp
- What Does Shrimp Taste Good With?
- Final Thoughts
So, What Do Shrimp Taste Like?
Before we dive into the taste, keep in mind that there are roughly 3,000 different species of shrimp in the world! Many of which aren’t consumed by humans, but we point this out so you know there are countless options, and each one has a bit of uniqueness when it comes to flavor.
However, the most commonly consumed shrimp are:
- Rock Shrimp
- Pink Shrimp
- Brown Shrimp
- White Shrimp
- Tiger Shrimp
- Chinese White Shrimp
- Atlantic Northern Shrimp
- Spot Shrimp
In the United States, the Atlantic Ocean supplies a vast amount of white, pink, and brown shrimp.
What Is The Flavor Profile Of Shrimp?
Shrimp should have a slightly salty and sweet flavor. The texture should be firm, but also soft and a bit chewy. Shrimp does not have a strong flavor on its own. Depending on how it is prepared and the type of shrimp, the flavor profile can change.
Sometimes, shrimp has very little flavor. This is why shrimp is usually served with some sort of condiment or sauce that will inject its flavor into the shrimp. But be careful because it’s easy to overpower the delicate flavor of shrimp with external flavors.
How Would You Describe Shrimp?
Some have described shrimp’s texture as almost “bouncy.” When you bite into a shrimp’s flesh, you should experience a slight bit of resistance as you bite through. Almost immediately, your mouth will be flooded with delicate shrimp flavor.
On its own, shrimp contains almost no fat. So, the shrimp flavor does not coat the mouth as fatty pork or beef does. This leads many to compare shrimp favorably to meats like chicken.
Of course, much of shrimp’s texture and flavor depends on whether it is wild-caught or farm-raised.
- Wild-caught shrimp usually has a very firm texture and sweet flavor that is reminiscent of other crustaceans. Its flavor is similar to lobster and crab but with a different texture. Wild-caught shrimp usually has a much firmer texture compared to other crustaceans.
- Farm-raised shrimp generally is less sweet and a bit “fishier” in its flavor. Often farm-raised shrimp are treated with the food additive tripolyphosphate, which adds to this. Compared to wild-caught shrimp, the texture of farmed shrimp is often more rubbery and has less of a defined “snap” when bitten into.
What Else Should We Know About The Taste Of Shrimp?
The two main additives that are usually added to shrimp are sodium bisulfite and tripolyphosphate. Sodium bisulfite does not affect flavor, but tripolyphosphate does.
Sodium bisulfite is often added to shrimp after being taken out of the water to keep their shells from changing color. On its own, a shrimp’s shell will start to change color once it is exposed to oxygen.
The same process happens to an apple when you leave its inner flesh exposed. Many consumers will only buy shrimp if the shell is perfectly pink, so sodium bisulfate is used to preserve this. Because the shrimp shell is generally not eaten, it has no effect on flavor.
Tripolyphosphate is used by the shrimp industry to make the shrimp absorb more water. This increases the weight of the shrimp, which means they can sell for more money. Shrimp that has been treated with tripolyphosphate have a less firm and more rubbery texture. Their flavor has been described as watery and less strong than unadulterated shrimp.
How Does Shrimp Taste With Cocktail Sauce?
Cocktail sauce, also known as “seafood sauce,” is a red sauce usually served chilled along with cold seafood such as shrimp.
Most often, shrimp and cocktail sauce go together as part of a shrimp or prawn cocktail. In this preparation, cooked and cooled shrimp are usually served around a bowl of cocktail sauce. Traditionally, in fine dining restaurants, a shrimp cocktail is served in a large martini glass that is filled with cocktail sauce. The shrimp are then carefully placed around the edges of the glass so that their tails stick out.
Cocktail sauce basically tastes like spicy ketchup. Generally, cocktail sauce is made up of tomatoes or ketchup and horseradish. Fancier cocktail sauces may also include additions of Worcestershire sauce and lemon. The acidity of tomatoes and the horseradish spice are the two most prominent notes in cocktail sauce.
When shrimp and cocktail sauce are combined, a unique flavor experience is created. The cold and slightly sweet shrimp is juxtaposed with the sharp and acidic flavor of the cocktail sauce. Make sure not to dip too much, as the strong flavor of cocktail sauce can easily overpower shrimp’s delicate sweetness.
Because shrimp served with cocktail sauce is usually plain, and without any seasonings or marinades, the cocktail sauce’s spicy and acidic nature perfectly complements the shrimp’s delicate flavor.
Worth noting: Bottled cocktail sauce is fine and will do the trick. However, fresh cocktail sauce, with some fresh lemon added, is one of the best compliments to shrimp around. It just doesn’t get much better!
What Does Raw Shrimp Taste Like?
Raw shrimp has a very different flavor and texture than cooked shrimp.
When eaten raw, shrimp’s natural sweetness is usually much more prominent. Contrary to what many may think, raw shrimp is actually much less likely to have a “fishy” taste than cooked shrimp. Some have described the flavor of raw shrimp to be almost buttery. On its own, the flavor of raw shrimp is generally very mild.
The texture of raw shrimp is much less meaty and firm than when cooked. When shrimp is cooked, its flesh firms up quite a bit. This obviously doesn’t occur when shrimp is served raw. Because of this, raw shrimp has a texture much closer to other raw fish like ahi tuna.
Raw shrimp is much more firm than raw salmon but less firm than raw octopus or squid.
What Does Bad Shrimp Taste Like?
Like many seafood items, shrimp is best eaten as fresh as possible! Shrimp that has gone past its expiration date has an intensely sour and bitter taste. Bad shrimp is much more likely to have an intensely fishy flavor.
On its own, shrimp should not have any sort of strong flavor. Likely, you will immediately know something is wrong with your shrimp, even if you’ve never had shrimp before. If your shrimp tastes like bleach, then it’s likely gone bad.
You can likely discover bad shrimp through its smell. Bad shrimp may smell like ammonia, which is a good indicator the shrimp is spoiled.
Shrimp should never have a strong odor when raw. If your raw shrimp is noticeably stinky, do not eat it. Bad shrimp that is past its prime usually has a very slimy texture and may have spots or discolorations.
How Does The Taste Of Frozen Shrimp Compare To Fresh Shrimp?
They taste the same, at least in our opinion. Shrimp, as we’ve noted, is best served while complimented with seasoning or sauces to dip it in. We cover some of the best compliments to shrimp in the section below.
But properly frozen shrimp, which is also properly thawed out, can be just as strong a choice for a dish as fresh shrimp. And chances are, if you’re asking this question, you probably don’t have access to truly fresh shrimp, which was caught hours before you purchased it.
Keep in mind that the longer the shrimp are kept out before being frozen or consumed, the higher chances you have of bacteria growth. And if your frozen shrimp smells fishy, it means it has gone bad and shouldn’t be eaten.
As such, we love frozen shrimp at He Needs Food!
What Does Shrimp Taste Good With?
Before we dive into the below, we want to share this list of shrimp dishes that are popular across the world. We love this list as it shows you common shrimp dishes from different nations. Fair warning: it can make you a bit hungry!
Now, back to the question. Shrimp is so versatile that it makes this question tough to answer. However, growing up on seafood, and shrimp specifically, below are my favorite ways to season shrimp:
- Old Bay
- Zatarain’s Extra Spicy Shrimp Boil Seasoning
- Any combination of garlic powder, salt, and cayenne pepper
- Magic Seasoning Blends – Shrimp Magic Seasoning
- McCormick Perfect Pinch Cajun Seasoning
Some great treats to dip your shrimp in include:
- Warm butter
- Cocktail sauce
- Yum Yum Sauce (mayo, ketchup, vinegar, garlic, sugar, paprika, and water)
- Thousand island sauce
- Tartare sauce
- Thai sweet chili lime sauce
And some great shrimp side dishes include:
- Asparagus (however you prefer it)
- Pesto pasta
- Jasmine rice (or rice of your preference)
- Potato or macaroni salad
- Au gratin potatoes
But, What Is The Tastiest Shrimp?
For me, it’s shrimp in creamy pasta, seasoned with old bay. There are a ton of recipes on this, and each one is a winner. My second-place winner is just a strong shrimp cocktail – it’s hard to beat.
For you, it’s whatever you find to be best with shrimp! The beautiful thing is that you have so many options.
Final Thoughts: What Does Shrimp Taste Like, And Why Is It So Good?
Overall, shrimp is characterized by a slightly sweet, sometimes slightly fishy, delicate flavor that is reminiscent of other crustaceans like lobster and crab.
Shrimp is very lean, so eating it is a closer experience to eating chicken than pork or beef. When eating cooked shrimp, you will notice a certain bounciness to its firm texture.
And why is shrimp delicious? I truly believe it’s because shrimp is the chameleon of the sea. It’s so lean and can be paired with numerous seasonings, sides, and dipping sauces. It can be the star of the meal or an appetizer. It really doesn’t get any better than shrimp!