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

How to boil shrimp

Why would you boil shrimp, when you can cook it on the stove in a flash? Turns out, boiled shrimp is a thing. And it’s really good. The most popular way to use boiled shrimp is for shrimp cocktail, but you could boil it for any type of preparation. (Of course you can also do a shrimp boil, but that’s a whole different recipe.) The advantage of boiling? It keeps well at room temperature, making it perfect to sit out on a platter of shrimp cocktail while entertaining. Wondering how to boil shrimp? Here’s our simple method.

How to boil shrimp

How to boil shrimp

First things first: how long do you boil shrimp? The cook time is just 2 minutes, until they are pink and cooked through! It’s about the same amount of time that it takes to cook on the stove. However, you’ll have to factor in the time to boil a large pot of water. And if you’re using shrimp with the shell on (which we recommend), 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.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to boil shrimp:

  • 1 pound of large shrimp (see more on specifics in the section below)
  • Kosher salt
  • 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 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, we like to leave the tails on. You can flavor the shrimp with a bit more kosher salt and lemon to taste: then it’s ready to go!

Shrimp cocktail

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.

We’d recommend boiling shrimp with the shell on for the best flavor. It’s also 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.” As soon as an animal dies it begins to decompose; freezing suspends this process. If a fish is frozen 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. Or,
  • 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

Want a shrimp cocktail sauce?

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

Want a shrimp boil recipe?

Well, that’s a different thing altogether! The cooking method is the same, but a shrimp boil uses potatoes, corn and shrimp together in the same pot with spices (usually Old Bay). We’re working on a recipe for a shrimp boil recipe you can use for entertaining, and a sheet pan version for weeknight dinners. Stay tuned!

This boiled shrimp recipe is…

Pescatarian, gluten-free and dairy-free.

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How to Boil Shrimp

  • 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

Keywords: How to boil shrimp, Boiled shrimp recipe

Looking for more shrimp recipes?

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

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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?”