Shrimps: What are they? And what is the best way to cook them?

From peeling them and frying them to grilling them

Shrimps come in all shapes and sizes. You have undoubtedly seen this tasty sea creature at the fishmongers. They have a subtle sea flavor and are ideal for a weeknight meal or when you want to quickly cook something delicious.

Baked or grilled, they are delicious and they contain vitamins and minerals that are good for your health. Below we take a closer look at shrimp.

Pittige garnalen van de bbq
Grilled spicy shrimps

Table of contents

Chapter 1

What are shrimps?

Shrimps resemble small crustaceans and belong to the order of decapods. These invertebrates do not have a backbone, but they do have an exoskeleton consisting of calcium and chitin. Shrimps are crustaceans and are therefore not officially fish.

Although they live in the water, they hardly swim. They have long antennae and ten legs. They walk on the seabed with their hind legs in search of food. The front legs have scissors that allow them to pick up objects.


Most shrimps live on the sandy seabed where they burrow during the day to hide from predators. They can change color to match the surface. Only their eyes and antennae protrude above the sand.

At night they look for food such as snails, fish eggs, larvae, small crustaceans, centipedes, seaweed and algae. They are true omnivores. They are found in both fresh and salt water and are caught in the wild, but also farmed.

The shrimp’s body is translucent and actually gray, but cooking turns it pink. They take their eggs with them and they can lay thousands of eggs up to twice a year. The larvae first emerge from this, which later develop into real shrimps. They grow to an average of 8 centimeters and live 3 to 5 years.

Where do they come from?

There are more than 3,000 species of shrimp, of which only a small proportion are widely consumed. The most popular shrimps eaten in the Netherlands come from different areas:

  1. Black tiger shrimps, also known as tiger shrimps, are farmed in the marine waters off South East Asia. They have a dark color and striking gray stripes on the tail.
  2. Vannamei shrimps: known as white leg shrimps, are widely farmed in Asia. They are large, gray tropical shrimps that live in salt water.
  3. Pink shrimp: a smaller shrimp species that is mainly caught in the coastal areas of South America and Asia. They are strikingly curved and have a distinctive pink color.
  4. Dutch shrimps: known as the North Sea or gray shrimps, are only found along the North Sea coast.
  5. Argentinian shrimps: cold-water shrimps caught off the coast of Argentina.
  6. Gambas: this is a collective name for several giant seawater shrimps. The black tiger shrimp (40 cm) and the vannamei (20 cm) are also referred to as gambas.

How do shrimps taste?

Shrimps have a characteristic, salty taste. They have a firm texture and when peeled they have a sweet, creamy smell.

Are they healthy?

Shrimp is nutritious, low in calories and a good source of vitamins and minerals such as B2, B12, iodine and selenium. Vitamin B2 and B12, among other things, ensure healthy skin and play a role in the ability to concentrate. Iodine and selenium protect cells from damage and ensure proper functioning of the thyroid gland.

Shrimps contain high levels of cholesterol which can contribute to cardiovascular disease. At the same time, they also contain the good omega-3 fatty acids that prevent the accumulation of cholesterol in the body. So don’t eat shrimp every day because by doing this, you risk getting too much cholesterol in your body.

Which wine pairs with shrimp?

Seafood is a very tasty dish to pair with wine. A light, fresh white wine goes very well with shrimp. Think of a Chablis, Soave, Chenin Blanc or a Muscadet for example. With prawns, a white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, Riesling or rosé is ideal.

Chapter 2

How to cook shrimps?

You can cook shrimps in different ways: as the centerpiece of your meal or as an extra flavor in your sauce. You can boil them in water, fry them, stir-fry them, cook them in the oven or grill them on the barbecue. Always pat the prawns dry before cooking them so that they sear better.

Marinating shrimps

Marinated shrimps are delicious. Use the somewhat larger species such as tiger shrimp for this. Small Dutch shrimps are better in a salad or cocktail.

For a classic marinade, use herbs such as parsley, lemon juice, garlic, a little tomato paste, oregano, salt and black pepper. An Eastern marinade of lime juice, fish sauce, salty soy sauce, sweet soy sauce, finely chopped garlic, brown sugar and (hot or mild) curry paste is also delicious.

If you want to be even more adventurous, try a tropical marinade of dark rum, olive oil, curry powder, some cayenne pepper, sea salt, coriander and lime juice. Marinate the shrimp in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

How many shrimps per person?

How many shrimps you should serve per person depends on the type and size. With the larger Argentinian and pink shrimp, 6 per person is usually fine. For Dutch shrimps, cook about 40 to 80 grams per person.

How do you defrost them?

You can buy both fresh and frozen shrimps in most supermarkets or at the fishmonger. When you use frozen shrimp, thaw them first before you cook them.

To thaw shrimp quickly, place them in a colander and place them under running water. Move the shrimp around as the water flows. This way they are defrosted within 5 to 10 minutes.

How to peel shrimps?

You can cook shrimps with the shell still on them so that the taste is well preserved, but you can also peel them first:

  1. Grab the tail and pull it off.
  2. Open the shell along the inside of the body and remove it.
  3. Pull the head off.
  4. Make a cut around the outside of the shrimp. The dark brown or black vein you see is the shrimp’s digestive tract.
  5. Pull the vein out of the shrimp with your fingers, a fork, or a paring knife.
  6. You can make shrimp broth from the shell.

Frying it in a pan

Shrimps should be fried at a high temperature.

  1. Remove the shrimps from the refrigerator.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil or some butter in a frying pan.
  3. Put the shrimps in the pan.
  4. Make sure that the shrimps are not on top of each other.
  5. Fry the shrimps for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  6. The shrimps are ready when they are bright pink and the flesh is opaque white.

Fried shrimps are also ideal for use in stir-fried dishes.

In the oven

Shrimps are best cooked at a medium temperature in the oven.

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 °C.
  2. Remove the shrimps from the refrigerator.
  3. Place them in an ovenproof dish.
  4. Put olive oil and garlic in a high bowl and puree this mixture with an immersion blender.
  5. Brush the prawns with the oil by using a brush.
  6. Sprinkle them with some salt.
  7. Cook them for about 15 minutes or until they are bright pink and their flesh is opaque white.

Grilling on the barbecue

Shrimps are grilled on the barbecue at a medium temperature.

  1. Ensure that the barbecue has reached a temperature of approximately 180°C.
  2. Remove the shrimps from the refrigerator.
  3. Thread the shrimps on skewers, both at the tail and at the thickest part near the head.
  4. Soak wooden skewers in water for 10 minutes beforehand so they don’t burn.
  5. Rub the prawns with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  6. Grill the skewers for 3-4 minutes on each side.
  7. The shrimps are ready when they are bright pink and their flesh is opaque white.

Chapter 3

Recipe: Grilled Shrimps in Chili-Lemongrass sauce

Geen beoordelingen

Grilled Shrimps in Chili-Lemongrass sauce

Sticky shrimps in a sweet spicy sauce from the barbecue.
Prep time10 minutes
Cooking time7 minutes
Servings: 4 persons
Author: Cultiviz


  • 500 gr shrimps 16/20

Chili lemongrass sauce

  • 120 ml chili sauce
  • 30 gr lemongrass finely chopped
  • 30 g fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp sambal oelek
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 garlic crushed
  • 1 tsp ginger grated
  • 30 g butter unsalted
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame seeds toasted

Dry rub

  • 10 g paprika powder
  • 10 gr garlic powder
  • 10 g chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt


  • Prepare the barbecue for direct use. Maintain a temperature of approximately 180 °C.
  • Toast the sesame seeds in a frying pan and let them cool.
  • Mix all ingredients for the sauce together and stir them until it becomes a mixture.
  • Also mix all the ingredients for the dry rub together. Then sprinkle the shrimp with the herbs.
  • Place a cast iron pan with some oil on the grate of the grill and heat it.
  • Then add the shrimps and fry for 7 minutes while stirring.
  • Remove the shrimps from the barbecue and add them to the sauce. Stir and serve them.

Chapter 4

All recipes

Looking for more inspiration? Then see below more recipes with shrimps. Or check our fish recipes for even more inspiration.

Fried Rice With Shrimp

This dish is simple, but oh so delicious. You can easily make fried rice at [...]

Grilled Shrimps in Chili-Lemongrass sauce

These shrimps are sticky, sweet and spicy at the same time. What else do you [...]

Spicy shrimps from the grill

This dish is super simple. Easy to prepare and ready in 10 minutes. It is [...]