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 paprika mayonnaise on the side.

Adapted from Ross Dobson | Grillhouse: Gastropub at Home | Lyons Press, 2011

In this crowd-pleasing finger food for a crowd from King of the grill, Ross Dobson, shrimp are sizzled in oil with paprika and cayenne and cumin and then served blazing hot with a dip that’s soothingly chill.–Renee Schettler

Spiced Shrimp with Paprika Mayonnaise

A basket of spiced shrimp with paprika mayonnaise on the side.
This spiced shrimp with paprika mayonnaise is a crowd-pleasing combination of cayenne-spiced shrimp and a cooling lemon and paprika dip.

Prep 35 minutes
Cook 10 minutes
Total 35 minutes
4 servings
550 kcal
5 / 2 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Grillhouse: Gastropub at Home cookbook

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  • 1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • 6 cups mild vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 pound 2 ounces small raw shrimp* peeled or unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup potato or rice flour or substitute all-purpose flour
  • Paprika mayonnaise to serve
  • Lemon wedges to serve


  • 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 move 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.
Print RecipeBuy the Grillhouse: Gastropub at Home cookbook

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*Is it better to cook shrimp with their shells on or off?

You, dear reader, have a choice to make. There are clear advantages to cooking both peeled and unpeeled shrimp, so it all depends on your desired result. To put it simply, peeled shrimp are easier to eat, especially when served with a sauce. But if you don’t mind getting messy, cooking shrimp in their shells generally retains more flavor. It’s also easier to keep them exquisitely juicy, especially when exposed to intense dry heat–like grilling or wok cooking. And if looks matter, shrimp with their shells on retain their shape during cooking. Besides, what’s a little crunchiness between friends?

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 550kcal (28%)Carbohydrates: 18g (6%)Protein: 28g (56%)Fat: 40g (62%)Saturated Fat: 11g (69%)Trans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 333mg (111%)Sodium: 1832mg (80%)Potassium: 348mg (10%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 2g (2%)Vitamin A: 457IU (9%)Vitamin C: 7mg (8%)Calcium: 208mg (21%)Iron: 4mg (22%)

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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.

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!

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°F, 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.

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.

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.

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 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.


#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.


  1. What about the deveining?? The thought of eating the shell doesn’t bother me except that the veins are under the shell. It sounds like if the veins bother a person, shell and devein them. If not, then eat the shells. Easy as that?

    1. You’re absolutely right, Ann. If the vein doesn’t bother you, go ahead and eat it. It’s even possible to devein the shrimp and leave the shell intact but it’s time-consuming work. You can eat the shell, although most people prefer to peel it, either before or after cooking. Cooking with the shell on does retain more flavor, but makes for a messier experience.

  2. 5 stars
    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. 😉

    1. Love that, ruthie. Looooooove that. Thank you for sharing your tale with us, and for telling it so eloquently.

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