Are you overwhelmed by all the different types of shrimp you see at the grocery store? This guide is here to help you learn how to buy shrimp!
Shrimp is, by far, America's favorite seafood.
At last count, we're eating about five pounds of shrimp per person each year, more than any other type of fish or shellfish.
And yet-- you might still find yourself a little confused at the grocery store.
Which type of shrimp is which?
What should you buy?
What Types of Shrimp Are Available?
There are over 300 species of shrimp and prawns, but the majority will be hard to find except in specific areas.
If you live on the coast, or are visiting a coastal area, try to find some local shrimp!
And, because nothing can be easy in the seafood labeling business, keep in mind that shrimp species are not always marked clearly (or at all) on packaging.
But sometimes they are, and I can help you know what to look for!
Here are some types of American shrimp (domestic shrimp) you might find in a grocery store or market:
- Pink Shrimp: Often from Florida, Large and meaty, Sweet
- White Shrimp: Often from Atlantic or Gulf, Also imported, Can be hard to find, Sweet
- Brown Shrimp: Often from the Gulf of Mexico, Relatively easy to find, Typically small, Mild
- Spot Prawns: Seasonal West Coast shrimp, Large, Expensive and hard to find
- Maine Shrimp: Cold water East Coast shrimp, Small, Hard to find
- Oregon Shrimp: West Coast shrimp, Small or Large, Relatively easy to find
- Royal Red: Often from the Gulf of Mexico, Large, Can be hard to find, Sweet like lobster
If you're buying imported shrimp, be on alert-- check for traceability, certifications, and chemical additives. Here are a couple of kinds you might find:
- Whiteleg Shrimp: Common shrimp, Generally imported, Easy to find, Generally not clearly labeled
- Tiger Shrimp: Farmed shrimp, Signature striped shell, Can be expensive and hard to find
Recently, there has been a marketing campaign trying to push Argentine Red Shrimp. This shrimp is not considered sustainable.
Try a pink shrimp recipe: Check out this buffalo shrimp + blue cheese grits from Taste and See.
Should I Buy Fresh Shrimp or Frozen Shrimp?
If you live near the ocean, are buying shrimp from a live-tank, or are absolutely certain that the shrimp you're buying have never been frozen-- then you could consider buying fresh shrimp.
Look for black spots on the shrimp head or body-- these are signs that the shrimp is old.
If you don't live near the ocean, or you aren't sure how old the shrimp is-- stick with frozen shrimp.
Also keep in mind that shrimp at the seafood counter was probably previously frozen, and then thawed (for who knows how long!)
What Size Shrimp Should I Buy?
It's totally up to you!
Think about how you're going to use the shrimp.
Will you be dipping them in a sauce? Go bigger.
Are they going in a salad or soup? You can choose smaller shrimp.
Should I Buy Raw or Cooked Shrimp?
No question about it.
Pre-cooked shrimp tend to be rubbery, and less flavorful. Plus, shrimp only take a few minutes to cook.
Stick with raw.
Look for Chemical-Free Shrimp
Some shrimp contain chemical additives.
Check the ingredients label, and make sure that the only thing it says is "shrimp."
Are Shrimp and Prawns both types of shrimp?
Technically no-- shrimp and prawns are similar, but different animals.
Both have similar flavor profiles, however, and the terms are often used interchangeably in cooking. You can substitute prawns for shrimp-- or shrimp for prawns-- when following a recipe.
Should I Buy Head-On Shrimp?
You'll usually only find head-on shrimp fresh, not frozen.
Again, make sure that the shrimp is very fresh, and that there are no dark spots on the head and body.
How to Devein Shrimp? (Do I Have To?)
Deveining shrimp refers to removing the digestive tract, or the dark vein that runs along the outer center of the shrimp.
Removing it is fairly easy-- simply slit open the shrimp with a paring knife and pull out the vein.
It can be time consuming though-- so do you have to?
No, you don't have to devein your shrimp-- especially in smaller shrimp where the vein isn't as dark and noticeable.
In larger shrimp, however, the vein might be noticeable to your guests, and it may even add a gritty texture to the shrimp. So no, you don't have to, but you might want to.
Are any types of Shrimp Ethical and Sustainable?
Look for domestic shrimp, or shrimp with sustainability certifications.
Read more about sustainable shrimp here: Wild Caught Shrimp vs Farmed: How to Buy Sustainable Shrimp
Should I Buy Organic Shrimp?
Maybe, but just be aware that as of right now, organic seafood is still unregulated by the USDA. It's possible that it will mean more in the future, but for now-- you should still read your labels!
Cook with Different Types of Shrimp
Once you've found some shrimp, it's time to cook! Here are a few more shrimp-tastic recipes:
- Classic Shrimp Cocktail (Any Shrimp)
- Cucumber Mousse + Dill Shrimp Bites from Sprinkles and Sprouts (Any Shrimp)
- Spicy Garlic Shrimp with Snow Peas from Pups with Chopsticks (Tiger Shrimp)
- Cilantro Lime Grilled Shrimp from Taste and See (Florida Pink Shrimp)