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Coconut Shrimp Recipe | Leite’s Culinaria

4 min read

Coconut shrimp takes big, juicy shrimp and coats them with sweet, crispy coconut and breadcrumbs. After being lightly fried, they’re drizzled with a sweet and spicy mango habanero salsa. They make an exceptional dinner or appetizer.

Coconut shrimp on a big sheet of paper towel with a glass bowl of mango habanero salsa.

Adapted from Pati Jinich | Treasures of the Mexican Table | Mariner Books, 2021

Imagine the most gigantic, moist shrimp you’ve ever seen, tails still on, enrobed in a crisp, golden brown coconut coating, and you’ll get the picture of this festive but fast dinner or amazing appetizer. It’s one of the many memorable dishes I tasted in Campeche, a state in Yucatán with a long coastline along the Gulf of Mexico. Though Campeche is not as well known as other parts of the Yucatán Peninsula, it boasts stupendous seafood and many charming towns and villages.

For the coating, some cooks use sweetened shredded coconut, others use unsweetened. I choose both because I love the chewy texture and moist sweetness of the sweetened coconut, but I also like the fragrance and drier crunch of unsweetened. I combine them with bread crumbs.—Pati Jinich

Coconut Shrimp FAQs

What can I substitute for habanero peppers?

It depends on why you’re substituting them. If you just can’t find them, you can use Scotch bonnets because they’re both quite hot. If you want a lesser level of heat, jalapeños and serranos both have a mild flavor and less heat.

What is a good substitute for piloncillo?

Piloncillo is made by boiling down cane juice into a thick, crystalline syrup. It’s then left to harden. It has an earthiness to it with hints of both bitterness and sweetness. Similar to brown sugar, there are two types of piloncillo available: blanco (light) and oscuro (dark). For this recipe, if you’re going to substitute brown sugar, we recommend using dark brown so you get that deep molasses flavor.

Can I make these shrimp of time?

Actually, no. This recipe is best when eaten as soon as it’s ready. Letting it sit, like on a buffet, or trying to reheat the shrimp isn’t going to do it any favors. The shrimp and coconut will lose the crispy, crunchiness that makes them so good. Make ’em and eat ’em right away.

Coconut Shrimp

Coconut shrimp on a big sheet of paper towel with a glass bowl of mango habanero salsa.

For this superb entrée, buy the biggest shrimp you can get. Take care not to overcook them, so they remain plump and juicy inside the crunchy coconut coating. They’re perfect with a fruity, fierce mango-habanero salsa.

Pati Jinich

Prep 30 mins

Cook 30 mins

Total 1 hr

For the mango habanero salsa

Make the mango habanero salsa

  • In a blender, combine the mangoes, onion, vinegar, water, brown sugar, allspice, and salt and purée until smooth.
  • Add one habanero, blend, and taste to see if you want to add more heat. If it isn’t too hot for you, add the second one—or part of it—and blend until smooth. Keep in mind that cooking the salsa tames the heat a bit, and it will calm down a little more as it sits.

  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the mango mixture, cover partially (the salsa will splatter a lot), and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching, until the salsa resembles a thick pudding and coats the back of a wooden spoon quite heavily, about 15 minutes.

  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool before serving. The salsa will keep, tightly covered, for 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator.

Make the coconut shrimp

  • In a baking dish or wide bowl, mix the unsweetened and sweetened coconut, bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and pepper.

  • Put the flour on a large plate or in a wide bowl. In a shallow bowl, combine the eggs and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and beat well with a whisk or fork.
  • In a large deep skillet over medium heat, warm 1 inch (25 mm) of oil to 350°F (180°C), at least 5 minutes. Set a cooling rack on a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels.
  • While the oil is heating, dredge each shrimp in the flour so it is completely coated, tapping or shaking off the excess flour, dip into the beaten eggs, turning to coat, and then place on the coconut mixture and press down while patting and pressing the coconut onto the shrimp with your hands so it is completely coated. Gently set on a plate or cutting board.

  • When you’ve finished coating the shrimp, check the oil temperature and if it’s not yet at 350°F (180°C), increase the heat to medium-high. If you don’t have a thermometer, dip the tail of a shrimp into it; it should actively bubble.

  • Fry the shrimp in several batches, taking care not to overcrowd the skillet, until they are golden brown and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Use rubber-tipped tongs or a slotted spoon or spatula to turn them. Be careful not to overcook. Move to the cooling rack to drain, and repeat with the remaining shrimp.
  • Serve the shrimp with the salsa for dipping.

Serving: 1servingCalories: 1032kcal (52%)Carbohydrates: 130g (43%)Protein: 49g (98%)Fat: 37g (57%)Saturated Fat: 21g (131%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 472mg (157%)Sodium: 2796mg (122%)Potassium: 1279mg (37%)Fiber: 14g (58%)Sugar: 73g (81%)Vitamin A: 4469IU (89%)Vitamin C: 143mg (173%)Calcium: 275mg (28%)Iron: 6mg (33%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Originally published November 4, 2021

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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