Blackened shrimp are a delicious Cajun meal that cooks up in 15 minutes! Make this recipe for a stand alone dinner or an easy appetizer!
If you’re a fan of big, bold flavors, this spicy shrimp recipe is right up your alley. With a quick, easy, and versatile recipe like this in your back pocket, you can create enough ideas for an entire week.
What is blackening?
Thinking back to when you were in elementary school, you may remember learning about homonyms. Those are words that look and sound alike, but have different meanings. That’s what this word is!
One definition of blackening describes a cooking technique. It involves brushing melted butter onto food, then coating it with a spicy dry rub of seasonings.
The cooking process takes place very quickly, because it’s done at a high temperature. Essentially, you are searing the spices onto the food. This is what creates the crispy, blackened edges.
To clarify, blackened food is NOT burned. The black you see are spices, and delicious ones at that. The blackening technique works best in cast iron, because it retains heat so well. However, you can also make blackened food on a hot flat top grill.
The second definition describes the blend of spices. Blackening seasoning is very simple to make, and always involves plenty of cayenne seasoning.
Spices for blackening fish and seafood
These are the spices most often used for the seasoning blend, but they aren’t set in stone. If you have other spices that you prefer, feel free to add them to your blend. You could even use my blackening seasoning for meat, which is a bit spicier than this blackened fish seasoning is.
For this to be an authentic Cajun dish, the only required ingredient is cayenne pepper.
- cayenne pepper
- black pepper
- ground ginger
- fennel seeds
- ground cloves
Best size shrimp for blackened shrimp
Because the shrimp cook so quickly, it’s important that you use either a medium or large size. If you use a smaller size than that, you may actually end burning them.
Obviously, fresh shrimp are going to provide the best flavor, but frozen shrimp are perfectly fine to use. If you do use frozen, just be sure to thaw them completely and pat them dry with paper towels to absorb any excess water.
Making perfectly blackened shrimp
STEP ONE: Clean the shrimp.
Before you can start cooking, you’ll need to peel and devein the shrimp. If you’ve never done this, it’s a simple process. You can find instructions in my Cajun shrimp and rice recipe post.
STEP TWO: Make and apply the seasoning.
Start by melting your butter. You can microwave it in a bowl, or in a pan on the stovetop. Then, combine the spices in a bowl that’s large enough for the shrimp to fit into.
Either hold the shrimp by their tails and dredge them through the melted butter, or use a basting brush to apply it. After you coat them with the butter, toss them in the bowl of spices.
TIP: Pressing the shrimp gently down into the spices will help the seasoning stay on.
STEP THREE: Preheat the skillet.
Be sure that your pan is smoking hot before you start cooking – literally. Expect to see smoke rising from the dry pan.
You may even want to open a window or ventilate the area another way, because it will become very smoky when the shrimp go into the pan.
STEP FOUR: Cook and serve!
The cooking time will depend on the size of your shrimp. Medium shrimp typically need to cook 30 seconds per side. Larger shrimp may take up to 1 minute per side.
Serve your blackened shrimp on a bed of white rice with lemon wedges, or use them as part of a different dish, as explained earlier.
What to serve with blackened shrimp
For a quick appetizer, pair the spicy shrimp with a simple homemade cocktail sauce. In just a few minutes, you’ll have a spicy shrimp cocktail ready to serve at your next game day party.
Or, pan sear shrimp along with another protein, such as chicken or even another seafood like scallops. Then, serve them together for an elevated version of New Orleans shrimp and grits!
If you enjoy a fusion of two cuisines, create a Cajun-Mexican fusion and serve blackened shrimp in tacos or enchiladas. Add a cup of spicy chicken enchilada soup on the side, and you’re in for delicious feast.
Perfect Blackened Shrimp
- 1 lb large shrimp peeled and deveined (see notes)
- 1/4 cup melted butter
Blackening Spices for Shrimp
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp oregano
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/8 tsp ground clove
- Rinse the deveined shrimp and pat dry with paper towels.
- Add shrimp blackening spices to a small bowl and stir to combine; set aside.
- Place a clean, dry frying pan or cast iron skillet over high heat until it starts to smoke. Keep kitchen area well ventilated.
- Toss the shrimp in melted butter and then dredge both sides in blackening spices. Press spices to adhere if necessary.
- Immediately sear shrimp in preheated pan over high heat for 30-60 seconds on each side. Don't overcook, as they will dry out. Serve immediately with slices of lemon. Or, use them as part of another recipe, like shrimp and grits.
- If you have never cleaned shrimp, don’t worry; it’s very easy to do. There are instructions on how to peel and devein shrimp in my Cajun Shrimp and Rice recipe post.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.