Sous Vide Shrimp Recipe (2024)

Why It Works

  • Cooking shrimp sous vide ensures consistently plump, juicy, flavorful results.
  • Tossing the shrimp with baking soda firms up their texture.

Shrimp cooked by traditional methods can be fantastic, but nailing the perfect temperature requires precision. Let them cook just a few seconds too long—whether poaching, searing, or grilling—and they go from tender and plump to rubbery and tough. With a sous vide cooker, you don't have this issue because that short window of time between perfect and overcooked stretches out to a good half hour or so.

Sous vide also allows you to achieve textures that you can't really achieve through more traditional methods. These textures aren't necessarily better or worse per se, they're just different, which in my book makes sous vide a useful technique to add to your arsenal.

Cooking Shrimp Sous Vide Retains Flavor

Traditionally poached shrimp, like the kind you'd servein a shrimp co*cktail, lose some of their flavor to their poaching liquid. It gets leeched out and dumped down the drain. For this reason, it's common to use acourt bouillon—a quick stock flavored with lemon, wine, and aromatics—which adds back some much-needed flavor. A court bouillon is fast to make, but it requires several ingredients. The beauty of sous-vide is that when placed in a plastic bag, shrimp lose very little flavor and come out tasting extra-shrimpy and flavorful without the need for flavorings.

Sous Vide Shrimp Recipe (1)

But that's not to say that you can't add other aromatics if you'd like.Cooking sous videaffords you the opportunity to infuse the shrimp with flavor while they cook. I'm offering a simple poached-style shrimp (like the kind you'd serve chilled in a shrimp co*cktail), as well as a recipe for flavoring the shrimp.

Shrimp Tests

Sous Vide Shrimp Recipe (2)

Existing guides for sous vide shrimp are all over the place in terms of temperature and timing, so I decided to test temperature at five-degree intervals ranging from 115°F (46°C) up to 150°F (66°C). I found that any lower than 125°F (52°C) and your shrimp stay unpleasantly soft and mushy. When cooked above 140°F (60°C), shrimp start to become tough and rubbery. The 125°F to 140°F range is the sweet spot.

Sous Vide Shrimp Recipe (3)

On the lower end of that scale, the shrimp remain slightly translucent inside and have a very soft, almost buttery texture, somewhere between a poached shrimp and raw shrimp ceviche, but without the unpleasant sliminess of completely raw shrimp. At 140°F, you end up with shrimp that have the texture of traditionally poached shrimp.

As for timing, about 15 minutes is enough to cook the shrimp through completely. You can leave them in the water bath anywhere up to an hour or so with no ill effect... most of the time.

Sous Vide Shrimp Cooking Temperatures

125°F (52°C)Translucent, semi-raw with a soft, buttery texture.
130°F (54°C)Nearly opaque, very tender with a hint of firmness.
135°F (57°F)Barely opaque, moist, juicy, and tender.
140°F (60°C)Traditional poached texture with good bounce and a crisp, juicy bite.

Longer Cooking Can Result in Mushy Shrimp

In some rare cases cooking for longer than half an hour or so may result in shrimp that come out soft. I meanreallysoft. It has to do with enzymes called proteases that occur naturally within the shrimp, mostly concentrated near their heads. These enzymes are like little wrecking balls that target proteins. In live shrimp, those enzymes are kept in check and controlled. But once the shrimp dies, they can run rampant, completely breaking down the shrimp's structure.

If you get your shrimp live, it's easy to manage. Kill the shrimp by freezing them, then immediately remove their heads to prevent the spread of the unwanted enzymes. If you are buying your shrimp already-dead, I strongly suggest buying shrimp that are packedwithouttheir heads. Shrimp sold with their heads on have a higher chance of coming out mushy, though even de-headed shrimp can fall victim occasionally. This is a rare case where more processing before point-of-sale leads to a superior product in the pan.

My friend, Chef Chris Young of ChefSteps,also explains thatthe degree of starvation and molting before death can have an effect on proteases, though I haven't had the opportunity to test this out. Either way, you want to make sure to limit cooking to under half an hour just in case you have one of those mushiness-prone shrimp.

Just as an experiment, I decided to see what would happen if I cooked an active-protease shrimp for an extended period of time—12 hours. Here's what happened:

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It's seriously disgusting. Don't try this at home if you want to keep your lunch.

Want Plumper, Snappier Shrimp? Use Baking Soda

What I really want in shrimp is the opposite of mushy. I want them tender and plump, to be sure, but I also want them to have a snappy, springy bite to them. The real secret here is baking soda. It's a trick I picked up from Chinese recipes in which shrimp are sometimes tossed with an alkaline marinade before frying. I'm not sure of the mechanism involved and have not been able to find any resources that could explain it, but I do know that it works.

Sous Vide Shrimp Recipe (5)

Just toss the shrimp with a little baking soda (about a half teaspoon per pound) 30 minutes or so before cooking sous vide and they come out noticeably plumper and firmer after cooking.

A Note on Shells

The great thing about cooking shrimp sous vide is that they come out super sweet and shrimpy-tasting because you are not diluting or washing away flavor with extra liquid. It's worth mentioning that you can cook your shrimp with or without their shells; shell-on shrimp will be even more flavorful, but you'll either have to shell them afterward or have your guests do it at the table. If you do cook the shrimp with their shells, add five minutes to the minimum cooking time.

What About Flavorings?

If you'd like to add other flavors, sous vide is also an ideal method. It could be as simple as some good extra-virgin olive oil or butter along with some fresh aromatics like garlic, shallot, parsley, or tarragon. Or you can get more creative. I'm particularly fond of cooking shrimp Spanish style with garlic, sherry, olive oil, and smoked paprika (okay, the paprika is not necessarily a common ingredient with shrimp, but it comes out really tasty).

January 2017

Recipe Details

Sous Vide Shrimp

Prep10 mins

Cook15 mins

Active10 mins

Total25 mins

Serves4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds large peeled shrimp (about 700g), see note

  • Kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • Extra-virgin olive oil or butter (optional)

  • Aromatics such as garlic, shallots, tarragon, or parsley (optional)

Directions

  1. Set your sous vide water bath to desired temperature according to the chart above.

  2. In a large bowl, toss shrimp with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and the baking soda. Place shrimp in a heavy duty zipper-lock bag or a vacuum bag. If desired, add 1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30ml) olive oil or butter and aromatics. Remove all air from bag using the water displacement method or a vacuum sealer. Press shrimp into a single layer.

  3. Add bagged shrimp to preheated water bath and cook for at least 15 minutes (see note) and up to 1 hour. Remove shrimp from bag to a paper towel-lined plate. Serve hot, or chill and serve cold.

Special Equipment

Immersion circulator

Notes

You can also cook shell-on shrimp. They will be more flavorful, but you'll either have to shell before serving, or have diners shell them on their own (or just eat the shells, they're delicious). For shell-on shrimp, add 5 minutes to the minimum cooking time.

Read More

  • A Comprehensive Guide to Buying Better Shrimp
  • Easy Techniques to Improve Any Shrimp Recipe
  • Coctel de Camarones (Mexican Shrimp co*cktail) Recipe
  • Sous Vide Seafood
  • Dairy-free Mains
  • Gluten-free Mains
  • Shrimp
  • Seafood Mains
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
208Calories
3g Fat
3g Carbs
40g Protein

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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories208
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g4%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Cholesterol 369mg123%
Sodium 1972mg86%
Total Carbohydrate 3g1%
Dietary Fiber 0g0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 40g
Vitamin C 0mg0%
Calcium 159mg12%
Iron 1mg3%
Potassium 298mg6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Sous Vide Shrimp Recipe (2024)
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