In addition to frozen corn and some sort of ice cream product, one thing you’ll always find in my freezer is a bag of frozen shrimp. It’s the perfect protein for those “don’t know what to make” evenings, and it pairs with almost any vegetable, starch, or sauce. It’s also astoundingly quick-cooking (and quick-thawing—just follow the instructions on the bag—which is just as important).

Our Spanish tapas-inspired Two-Minute Shrimp isn’t just our quickest shrimp recipe, it’s also one of our most delicious. Mostly made with pantry staples, we gently cook briny-sweet shrimp in a generous amount of olive oil infused with toasted garlic, smoked paprika, and red pepper flakes. Serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread, and dinner is sorted.

One frozen shrimp tip: Look for shrimp without sodium tripolyphosphate, a chemical that causes seafood (such as shrimp and scallops) to retain water, which can alter the flavor and texture. Also: I am not a fan of paying for water.

Switch things up with simple sauces

I don’t know what marketing team decided tuna was the “chicken of the sea,” but I think that title should go to shrimp. Not because because shrimp looks or tastes anything like poultry—it doesn’t—but they both function as veritable blank canvases, and take well to a wide range of seasonings and sauces. Our Broiled Ginger and Yogurt Shrimp is tender and tangy-sweet, with a light smokiness and gentle zing from a combination of grated ginger, paprika, and lemon zest. Moroccan Harissa Garlic Shrimp—based on crevettes pil pil that home cook Houda Mehdi demonstrated for us in her kitchen in Fes, Morocco—is stewy and spicy, with cloves, cumin, and coriander, sweet-tart tomatoes, bright lemon, and cilantro. And our Shrimp in Poblano Chili and Cilantro sauce (inspired by the classic Mexican fish dish pescado en salsa poblano) is earthy, verdant, and surprisingly creamy, with moderately-spicy peppers pureed with cilantro, alliums, and Mexican crema.

Then there is the shrimp I will not shut up about: Grilled Gochujang Shrimp with Scallions. It’s a perfect shrimp dish. Sweet, spicy, tangy, and packed with umami—I make it at least once a week, and think everyone should do the same.

Frozen shrimp are the key to at-home “takeout”

“Deconstructed spring roll salad!” is what one reader called our Cambodian-Style Rice Noodle Salad with Shrimp, Cucumber, and Herbs. Cucumber, a combination of cilantro, mint, and basil, and chopped peanuts adds tons of color and texture to tender rice vermicelli noodles, and a generous measure of ground black pepper and fresh chili add layers of spiciness to the savory-sweet dressing. Make it for lunch. It takes all of 20 minutes to throw together and is way more flavorful than a turkey sandwich.

If you’re craving shrimp tacos, we’ve got two options: The classic Baja-style beer-battered fried shrimp tacos—the shrimp get an airy, crispy coating from egg whites and baking powder—and the tacos gobernador, or “governor’s tacos,” we learned to make in Mexico—chopped shrimp and stretchy mozzarella cheese stuffed into tortillas and fried until golden. Both are incredible with a cold beer.

Satay is another takeout fave that easily can be made at home with frozen shrimp. We make ours Singapore-style, with a fragrant blend of cashews and rich coconut milk and a pungent shallot-vinegar sauce for dipping. And if you’re craving Pad Thai, know that we tasted more than a dozen versions in Bangkok to nail the spicy-sour-salty-sweet profile and find a way to make the dish doable in American home kitchens. Tamarind pulp, grated palm sugar, and a trio of umami-packed sauces are key, and make sure not to crowd the wok. Packing in too much at a time will cause the temperature to drop, which makes it impossible to get the hints of smokiness that come from stir-frying over a raging-hot fire.

Shrimp is more versatile than you think

Shrimp burgers anyone? That’s what Milk Street’s director of recipes and products Matthew Card calls these 20-minute Curried Shrimp Cakes, which are equally at home on a bun or beside a salad. Shrimp is also my favorite quick-cooking protein to add to rice dishes, like this lemon-y rich risotto (we make it ultra-creamy with an added egg yolk), and this one-pot Greek-Style Spinach Rice with Shrimp.

A few more of our favorite shrimp dishes, in no particular order:

  • Corn with Shrimp, Chilies, and Scallions: Our rendition of Vietnamese bắp xào tôm khô, or stir-fried corn with dried shrimp. You should bookmark it for summer corn season (but you can enjoy it now with frozen corn).
  • Aguachile Negro: A ceviche-like combination of fresh seafood and a sauce of chilies, lime, and water that gives the dish its name. Aguachile negro, specifically, derives its dark, inky color from soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and Maggi.
  • Ramen Salad with Shrimp and Scallions: A delicious pared-down version of Japanese hiyashi chuka, or cold ramen noodles with various toppings. This recipe calls for seasoned rice vinegar, which is flavored with sugar and salt; it’s a three-in-one ingredient and a simple way to make a well-seasoned dressing.

And for the best shrimp cocktail, don’t overthink the sauce: Grab a bottle of Heinz cocktail sauce, then add a few dashes of Worcestershire and stir in our Fresh Horseradish Sauce until it’s a shade or two lighter. Pair with a dry martini, and you’ve got a perfect spring supper.

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