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Unlock the secrets of how to boil shrimp! Dive into our guide for succulent, stress-free shrimp every time, boiled to tender, juicy perfection.

How to boil shrimp
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Why boil shrimp when you can cook it on the stove in a flash? Turns out, boiled shrimp is effortless and satisfying, with sweet, briny flesh and a tender, delicate texture. The most popular way to use boiled shrimp is for shrimp cocktail, but you could boil it for any type of preparation. The advantage of boiling? The shrimp keeps well at room temperature, making it perfect to sit out on a platter while entertaining. Wondering how to boil shrimp? Here’s our simple method for ensuring plump, juicy flesh.

How to long to boil shrimp

How long do you boil shrimp? The cook time is about 2 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. The timing varies based on the size of the shrimp and whether it is shell on or off. Most sizes of shelled shrimp cook in about 2 minutes, and shell on takes 1 minute or so longer.

Boiling shrimp with the shell on helps to lock in moisture. If using shell on shrimp, you’ll need to remove the shells after cooking them. The overall time it takes for the entire process is about 15 to 20 minutes.

Tips for how to boil shrimp

The ingredients you’ll need to boil shrimp are 1 pound of large shrimp, kosher salt, and a lemon. You’ll bring a large pot of salted water to a boil with some fresh lemon juice.

Once boiling, add the shrimp and boil until they’re pink and cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp to an ice bath, which is a bowl of water and ice. This will stop the cooking immediately, leaving the shrimp perfectly tender.

If you cooked the shrimp with the shell on, remove it. But if you’re serving for shrimp cocktail, you may want to leave the tails on for a nice presentation. You can flavor the shrimp with a bit more kosher salt and lemon to taste: then it’s ready to go!

How to boil shrimp

What are the calories in boiled shrimp?

Shrimp are a low calorie food. Here are the calories in boiled shrimp:

What shrimp to use for boiling?

It all depends on how you’re planning to use it. If you’re going to make shrimp cocktail, use large shrimp with the tail on for the most stunning presentation. The shrimp pictured here are the size 16 to 20 count (which indicates how many shrimp there are per pound). However, we also like using medium shrimp, which are more bite sized.

We’d recommend boiling shrimp with the shell on for the best flavor, but tail on shrimp also works. It’s helpful to buy shrimp that has already been deveined. (If your shrimp are not deveined, here’s How to Devein Shrimp.)

How to boil shrimp

Boiling frozen shrimp

What about boiling fresh vs frozen shrimp? Either fresh or frozen works for this recipe. The shelf-life of fresh shrimp is only a few days, but frozen shrimp lasts for several weeks. Also, a myth about fish is that “fresh is best.” If a fish is frozen right when it was caught and stays frozen until it gets to your kitchen, it will be higher quality than a raw fish that has taken a week to get to your plate.

If you use frozen shrimp for this recipe, what’s the best way to thaw it? Here are a few of the best options:

  • Place the frozen shrimp in the refrigerator to thaw overnight.
  • Alternatively, on the day of serving, place the frozen shrimp into a bowl with cold water. Let a small trickle of cold water run into the bowl to keep the water moving. The shrimp should defrost in about 15 minutes.

Buying sustainable shrimp

Are you looking at buying sustainable shrimp? Here are a few pointers for buying sustainable seafood:

  • Look for wild-caught fish if possible. If you live in the US, look for US caught if you can. 90% of the seafood we eat in the US is imported. Imported seafood runs the risk of being overfished, caught under unfair labor practices, or farmed in environmentally harmful ways.
  • How your fish is caught matters. Look for hook and line as one example of a sustainable gear type. Bottom trawling is considered the most destructive and least sustainable method.
Best shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail sauce recipe

If you’re looking for shrimp cocktail, we’ve got a killer cocktail sauce! Shrimp cocktail is a great option as an appetizer recipe, perfect for celebrations like the holidays or New Year’s Eve. Try this delicious Homemade Shrimp Cocktail Sauce recipe.

Want a shrimp boil instead?

Well, that’s a different thing altogether! The cooking method is the same, but a classic shrimp boil uses potatoes, corn and shrimp together in the same pot with spices (usually Old Bay). Here’s a recipe for a shrimp boil recipe you can use for entertaining, and a sheet pan version for weeknight dinners. You can also make steamed shrimp, seasoned with Old Bay.

This boiled shrimp recipe is…

Pescatarian, gluten-free and dairy-free.

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How to Boil Shrimp

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5 from 3 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 1 pound 1x


Wondering how to boil shrimp? Boiling up a batch is perfect for shrimp cocktail and comes out tender and juicy every time.


  • 1 pound large 16 to 20 count shrimp (we prefer tail-on and deveined)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  1. Thaw the shrimp (place it in the refrigerator over night, or day of place it in a strainer and allow a steady stream of cold water to defrost it for about 15 minutes).
  2. Bring 12 cups of water to boil with the kosher salt and lemon juice from the ½ lemon.
  3. Prepare a bowl of ice water.
  4. Add the shrimp and cook about 2 minutes (more or less time depending on size of shrimp), until bright pink and cooked through. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and place it directly into the ice water bath to stop the cooking.
  5. Remove the shells from the shrimp, leaving the shell of the tail on. Discard the shells.
  6. Pat the shrimp dry, and sprinkle it with additional kosher salt and few squirts from lemon wedges. (If serving as shrimp cocktail, go to our Shrimp Cocktail recipe for the sauce.)
  • Category: Seafood
  • Method: Boiled
  • Cuisine: American

Looking for more shrimp recipes?

Outside of boiling, here are some of our favorite ways to prepare it:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Jane Cottrell says:

    I’m not a dab hand in a kitchen and have wrecked more than my share of shrimp. No more! Just follow this recipe and you’re golden.

  2. Janio U. Anderson says:

    Great information, thank.

  3. Marilyn Stern says:

    Does cooking time change if you leave the shell on?
    How can you see the pink color while cooking with shell on?
    If you can’t see the color, how do you know when the shrimp is “cooked through?”

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Hi! The cook time will be about the same, and you will be able to see the color in the shell.

  4. Kelly Johnson says:

    When I started learning how to boil raw shrimp I tried the instructions on the crab boil box. They said to cook the shrimp for one minute AFTER the water came back to a boil then to leave them in the water for 20 minutes after they boiled. That didn’t sound right to me and they turned out rubbery. I tried your two minute method and they were absolutely perfect! Thank you for saving my Shrimp Orleans!

  5. Mark Schubring says:

    Easy and tasted great!

  6. Martina says:

    I want to leave the shells on when boiling but how do you devein them then??

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      We generally leave the tail on, but remove the remaining shell to devein.

  7. Joe Blake says:

    I want to make shrimp GUMBO, possibly using ZATARAIN’S Gumbo Mix. This will be my first time attempting to make this.
    If you know of a better way to make shrimp Gumbo I will welcome the information.
    Thank you.