Spiced Shrimp with Paprika Mayonnaise

This spiced shrimp with paprika mayonnaise is a crowd-pleasing combination of cayenne-spiced shrimp and a cooling lemon and paprika dip.

A basket of spiced shrimp with a bowl of paprika mayonnaise beside the shrimp, a halved lemon, and a cup of toothpicks.

In this crowd-pleasing finger food for a crowd, shrimp are sizzled in oil with paprika and cayenne and cumin and then served hot, hot, hot with a dip that’s sigh-inducingly cold.–Renee Schettler Rossi

LC To Peel Or Not To Peel? Note

You, dear reader, have a choice to make. You can choose to follow this recipe to the letter, leaving the shells on the shrimp prior to cooking them and, yes, gambling that some guests may be somewhat appalled to find a slight crunch accompanying their spiced shrimp hors d’oeuvre. Or you can rebel and instead invest a little time in peeling the shrimp prior to frying and spicing them, although you risk forgoing the insanely easy-to-achieve juiciness that the shrimp acquire when fried with their God-given protective coating intact. Which will it be?

Spiced Shrimp with Paprika Mayonnaise

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 35 M
  • 35 M
  • Serves 2 to 4
5/5 - 1 reviews
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  • For the paprika mayonnaise
  • For the spiced shrimp


Make the paprika mayonnaise

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until needed or for up to 24 hours.

Prepare the spiced shrimp

Place the paprika, cayenne, cumin, and sea salt in a skillet over medium heat. Shake the pan over the heat until the spices are aromatic and nearly but not quite smoking and not remotely burnt, 2 to 3 minutes. Tip the spices onto a plate and let them cool.

Place the oil in a wok or wide saucepan over high heat. The oil is ready when you sprinkle a pinch of the flour into the oil and it sizzles on contact.

Have a bundle of paper towels ready to drain the cooked shrimp. Place about 1/3 of the shrimp in a colander or strainer, sprinkle with 1/3 of the flour, and shake so the shrimp are coated with flour but any excess has fallen off. Carefully add the shrimp to the oil and cook until the coating is starting to turn golden and the shrimp beneath are pink and cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Pile all the cooked shrimp in a large dish, sprinkle with the spice mixture, and toss to coat. Serve immediately with the paprika mayonnaise and lemon wedges on the side. And don’t neglect to set out napkins—lots and lots of napkins.

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Recipe Testers Reviews

While this recipe may serve 4 sensible adults, trust me, you’re gonna be eating these with abandon, so just double the recipe. It’s that good. And simple and quick to make. The light dusting of flour (all-purpose works just fine, too) makes a thin crunchy crust that helps scoop up the smooth, smoky dip. A surefire winner at your next backyard get-together.

Bet ya can’t eat just 1. We couldn’t stop at 8 apiece, although we had to because we had only cooked 16 prawns altogether. We didn’t make the whole recipe, because we wanted to have this as an appie, and it sounded like something that we’d want to eat when first cooked, which I think is best. I don’t know how the leftovers would reheat, but that, of course, was a moot point. We probably could’ve made the whole 18 ounces of prawns, and the 2 of us would’ve eaten them all in one sitting. I did peel and devein the prawns before cooking them, as I’m not a big fan of peeling shrimp while eating them and I just don’t like to eat the shells. We fried half of the prawns coated with all-purpose flour, and half without. The prawns that weren’t coated in flour actually seemed to get a little crisper than those coated in flour, although both were excellent. With the oil at about 350°, the prawns were done after only 1 minute of frying. Sprinkling the spice mixture on gave the prawns not only great flavor, but also wonderful texture. (I had pounded some sea salt crystals to use as well, but still left them a decent size.) The paprika mayonnaise was delicious, yet not entirely necessary. That didn’t keep me from using it, however. A footnote: this recipe really showcases a wonderful spice, smoked paprika.

What a fantastic and messy way to enjoy prawns with a spicy mayonnaise! We couldn’t stop eating them. I just put the roll of paper towel right on the table. I used all-purpose flour for dredging the shrimp. I thought it was odd to flour the unpeeled shrimp, but it made the shrimp so moist. They were easy to peel afterward. The Paprika Mayonnaise was the perfect blend of lemon, garlic, and smokiness from the smoked paprika (love that stuff!). The mayonnaise would be wonderful on any sandwich or with grilled chicken or fish, too. This recipe will be a “go-to” for guests that don’t mind getting dirty when they eat!

So let me start by saying that I’m a snob when it comes to anything from the ocean, and not many recipes make me go WOW… but this one certainly did. The whole process is very easy and the taste is simply outstanding. Even though we all liked the paprika mayo dip, truthfully, the shrimp are amazing on their own. The recipe has the right blend of spices to enhance the shrimp yet aren’t so overpowering that you suddenly don’t taste the shrimp. You can easily have everything ready ahead of time and then at the last minute fry the shrimp. I ended up using rice flour as I didn’t have potato flour on hand.

The paprika mayo is the real star, although I do like adding spices to the shrimp after the frying process. I used rice flour instead of potato flour because I had it handy. I really think that a heavier flour such as a wheat flour may feel more like breading than a way to create a nice crunch when you bite into the shrimp. I learned the raw-shrimp-straight-into-the-oil method a few years ago from a Vietnamese chef friend and I was curious how adding flour would change the texture, and was pleased that it really doesn’t. More than anything, the light coating gives the spices something to stick to and combines nicely with the mayo.
I didn’t need to use 6 cups of oil; I used about 4 cups, which was plenty for cooking 1/3 of the shrimp at a time.


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  1. Having spent many years living in Baltimore, I am a veteran of those spiced shrimp and the question to peel or not? Most parties I’ve been to, people start out very neatly and politely peeling their shrimp. Then things get a little crazy–the pace picks up as the pile of shrimp shrinks. Pretty soon, you’re lucky if someone doesn’t take a bite of your hand as you go for the next-to-last shrimp. Then the host comes out with a new bowl of shrimp. Looks around the table and asks, “where are the shells?” Sheepish looks all around. Host rolls his eyes, puts down the new bowl and, no fool he, beats a hasty retreat. I’ve had the same thing happen here in California at parties I’ve done. The shrimp taste so good. Why peel off that extra flavor. Roughage. It’s good for you. ;)

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