Crispy Coconut Shrimp with Sweet Red Chili Sauce

Tested & Perfected Recipes

These restaurant-style coconut shrimp are remarkably easy to make: you can do all of the prep ahead and the sauce comes straight out of a bottle.

coconut shrimp

I’ve had Coconut Shrimp at many restaurants, but this homemade version beats them all. It’s remarkably easy to make and you can do all of the preparation in advance, so all that’s left to do at dinnertime is quickly fry the shrimp. And the sauce comes straight out of a bottle! If you were eating out, you’d probably share this dish as an appetizer. You could do the same at home — it also makes fabulous finger food for a party — but I usually serve it as a light dinner with my Asian-style slaw.

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Crispy Coconut Shrimp with Sweet Red Chili Sauce

These restaurant-style coconut shrimp are remarkably easy to make: you can do all of the prep ahead and the sauce comes straight out of a bottle.

Servings: 4 - 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds raw extra large shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and deveined with tails left intact
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 2 cups unsweetened medium shredded coconut (available at Whole Foods or natural food markets - see note below)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Thai Sweet Red Chili Sauce (available in Asian section of most supermarkets)

Instructions

  1. Place the cornstarch, salt and cayenne pepper in a large zip-lock bag and mix well. Add the shrimp to the bag, seal shut and shake to coat evenly. Set aside.
  2. Using a fork, beat the egg whites in a small bowl until frothy. Place the coconut and sugar in a large shallow bowl or pie dish and mix well.
  3. Holding each shrimp by the tail, shake off excess cornstarch, dip into the egg whites (let the excess drip off), then dredge in the coconut mixture, turning to coat evenly (if the sugar drops to the bottom of the dish a bit, move the shrimp around so it gets coated with both the sugar and coconut.) Place the shrimp on foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook. This can be done several hours ahead of time.
  4. Pour enough oil into a large nonstick pan to reach a depth of ½-inch; heat over high heat until hot. To test if the oil is hot enough, use tongs to hold one shrimp by the tail and submerge it in oil; if it sizzles and crackles, it’s ready. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, add the shrimp to the hot oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown. It should take between 40-60 seconds per side; if the shrimp are browning too quickly, turn the heat down a bit. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the shrimp to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Arrange the shrimp on a platter and serve with the Sweet Red Chili Sauce.
  5. Note: I like to use unsweetened shredded coconut and add sugar to it, as opposed to sweetened flaked coconut, because it's healthier, much easier to work with, and adds great texture to the dish.
  6. Note: Nutritional information was calculated assuming that approximately 1/4 cup of the oil is absorbed into the shrimp when frying.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

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  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 447
  • Fat: 29 g
  • Saturated fat: 17 g
  • Carbohydrates: 23 g
  • Sugar: 8 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 24 g
  • Sodium: 1140 mg
  • Cholesterol: 191 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Reviews & Comments

  • I have made this recipe several times while entertaining and it’s always a hit! Definitely better than what you get at the grocery store or restaurant.

    Q: Do you think these could be prepped a week before hand, frozen and then cooked from frozen? I am hosting a large backyard party and trying to cook ahead as much as possible.

    • — Kristine M. on June 1, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Kristine, So glad you enjoy these! While I’ve never done it so I can’t say for sure, I don’t think you’d get the best result by freezing before cooking – sorry!

      • — Jenn on June 1, 2019
      • Reply
  • I served this dish at my best friend’s baby shower for her beautiful grand-daughter. In fact, this was not the only dish I served from “Once Upon a Chef” but this is the one I will review at this time. I have made coconut shrimp before but I particularly liked this recipe because it suggested to use unsweetened coconut which I think made all the difference in the taste. Lots of flavor with the Thai Sweet Chili Red sauce so sugared coconut is not really needed. Additionally, very helpful to know that you should allow extra time for the shrimp to set in the fridge after you coat it. It was a HUGE hit and one I will definitely make again. Thank you Jenn!

    • — Carole Smith on April 13, 2019
    • Reply
  • I made mine in the oven on broil setting. I put them on a cooling rack set over a cookie sheet. Of course, not quite as golden as frying them but turned out good nonetheless. Thanks!
    -Hey Mom, what’s for supper?

    • — Holly Walters on March 25, 2019
    • Reply
  • 5 star! This is a fantastic recipe, the shrimp are perfectly crispy and had great flavor. I wanted to ask if you had ever tried making it with whole eggs versus egg whites? Would it make the breading too soggy?

    • — Jon on November 24, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Jon, glad you liked these! I think you’d be okay using full eggs here. 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 27, 2018
      • Reply
  • Hi, I’ve been asked to bring appetizers for Thanksgiving so was thinking of your brie appetizer and this one; however, I wonder if the shrimp only tastes good right after frying or if they hold up ok up to an hour after? I have a 20 min drive to my sister’s house and my plate may sit there for 30 minutes as people eat different appetizers. My sister’s kitchen will be off limits so can’t use her oven or stovetop to heat up. If not, will have to stick to a dip style appetizer.

    • — Nancy on November 14, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Nancy, Your instincts are right on this one — it’s best served right after cooking. I’d do something easy that travels well and can be served at room temp, like my cottage cheese spread or rosemary nuts. Happy Thanksgiving!

      • — Jenn on November 15, 2018
      • Reply
  • Would this recipe work in an airfryer, or do you think the coconut would blow off of the shrimp?

    • — Barbara Heatherington on October 1, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Barbara, I don’t have any experience with an air fryer, so I wouldn’t be able to say with any authority – I’m sorry!

      • — Jenn on October 2, 2018
      • Reply
    • Barbara, I decided not to make these in the air fryer because my basket does not hold much. But, I think that the coconut would have stayed on in the air fryer.

      • — HOLLY WALTERS on March 25, 2019
      • Reply
  • Instead of Cornstarch can I use flour?

    • — Bina on August 16, 2018
    • Reply
    • Sure, Bina – that should be fine.

      • — Jenn on August 16, 2018
      • Reply
  • Another perfect recipe from Jenn! Thank you so much for sharing it. I paired the shrimp with cilantro pineapple basmati rice. A hit! Out of curiosity, could you bread and freeze these, then fry?

    • — Sarah P. on July 21, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Sarah, glad you enjoyed these! While I’ve never done it and can’t say for sure, I don’t think you’d get the best result by breading and freezing before cooking – sorry!

      • — Jenn on July 22, 2018
      • Reply
  • This was so good! I didn’t have cayenne pepper so put hot sauce in egg yolk. Also didn’t have unsweetened coconut so omitted sugar. Use coconut oil.

    • — Chrisitne Belter on July 8, 2018
    • Reply
  • I’ve loved every single recipe of yours that I’ve tried. Thank you so much for sharing them! Do you think these could be baked?
    Thanks, Kim

    • — kim on March 15, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Kim, so glad you like the recipes! I haven’t baked them, but I think you could. I’d love to hear how they turn out!

      • — Jenn on March 15, 2018
      • Reply
  • Made these last night and they were a hit!! The slight kick from the cayenne pepper and the sweetness from the coconut was a wonderful combination. I used the sweet coconut mixed with panko and found the crunch to be superb. I will make these often.

    • — J Sheppard on March 4, 2018
    • Reply
  • Great Crispy Coconut Shrimp. It was amazing.
    Suzanne

  • I love coconut shrimp and have tried many recipes but this one is by far the best. I just used Asian general taos sauce for dipping. Will make this again and again.

  • Everyone loved these!

  • Fantastic! I was preparing to do a skewer version and was distracted by this recipe…so glad I had all the ingredients lurking nearby. It was intoxicatingly delish.

  • Can these be made ahead and reheated?

    • Hi Alexa, While these are best right out of the pan, I think you could get away with it. I would suggest undercooking them a bit initially though, so they don’t get overcooked/tough when you reheat them.

  • I rarely cook shrimp for dinner. Well, that’s going to change now that I’ve tried this recipe. This will be part of my rotating meals. Peeling the shrimp was the most time consuming, but I’ve since found raw, frozen, deveined, peeled, tail-on, sweet shrimp at Costco. Yay!

    I’m still figuring out how hot to get the oil in the pan before frying. My first batch came out to light, then the second was too dark and the third was perfect. Any additional frying tips would be helpful!

  • I made these tonight and they are delicious. My husband loved them. This recipe is definitely a keeper. Thank you.

  • Hi

    I’ve had coconut shrimp at many restaurants, and it is too sweet for me. You had me with unsweetened coconut but then you added sugar to it. Is your reciepe sweet.

    • Hi J, The shrimp are a touch sweet but not nearly as sweet as they would be if made with sweetened flaked coconut. You can always cut back on the added sugar if you like. Please let me know how they turn out.

    • I left out the sugar and added some stevia. They were delicious.

  • These shrimp are amazing. My whole family loved them. Followed recipe exactly, no changes necessary. It was a bit tedious to bread & fry up 2 lbs of shrimp but well worth the end result. Thanks again!

  • Oh my goodness these were so good! I didn’t have any unsweetened coconut so I used sweetened coconut but left out the sugar, and they were so good. I also cooked them in my deep fryer. Although I’m glad the oil needed to be changed. The shrimp was rather messy to cook even though the coating stayed on the shrimp.

    Mine had a lot more coating then your pictures do, maybe the sweetened coconut was fluffier?

  • What could be better? I like the unsweetened coconut…I always think these are too sweet at restaurants

    • — Charlene Wheeler
    • Reply
  • So simple to make yet always delicious

  • Tried this recipe tonight and it was delicious! I can’t wait to make them for a party this Saturday! Thank you so much!

  • What a treat! Bunco ladies begged me to make again!

  • These were delicious! They took forever to make, but definitely worth it. Can’t wait to make them again.

  • Great recipe for shrimp. Easy to make and better than the typical coconut shrimp that you would get in a restaurant. YUM!

  • Despite not being able to find unsweetened coconut at my local Jewel, these turned out beautiful and delicious! I have had problems with fried batter falling apart in the oil before, but these held together perfectly! Crowd pleaser!

  • Oh my gosh! Delicious and really very easy and fun to make.

  • This has become my favorite app. My family used to say they didn’t like coconut. Not any more.

  • Made these yesterday and share with neighbors – got a call from them wanting to know when we are making them again! They taste terrific and are easy to make! I served with the Sweet Chili Sauce and I also made an Aioli sauce too. A repeat performance will be necessary soon. Love your website and recipes….keep them coming!

    • Thank you, Pat!

  • My family absolutely loves your crispy coconut shrimp. This is so easy to prepare and I love that I can make ahead of time and pull out of the frig when I am ready to cook. I have to hit the local natural foods market for the unsweetened cocunut which is not always the most convenient so I did try making once with the sweetened coconut found in most grocery stores. Unfortunately this did not turn out too well so I have been sure to use the unsweetened ever since.

  • I’ve tried several different recipes for coconut shrimp. This one looks the best so far.

  • Great recipe. My wife and daughter claim they don’t like coconut. Got them to try one. They loved them.

  • My husband and I order this often when we are out at a restaurant, this recipe was as good as the best we’ve tried out 🙂 Restaurant quality at home!

  • Unsweetened coconut?!

    I thought I hated coconut shrimp. This recipe has the men in my house (hubby and grown sons) bowing down to me in adoration. I love ’em when they’re on their knees 🙂

  • This first time I made this my husband went crazy and stuffed himself! This is one of our favorites and we’ve even cooked them in the oven and they turned out just as delicious. Thank you!

  • These look great!!!!!

  • All of your recipes look so delicious!! I’m excited to try this shrimp recipe. Thank you for sharing.

  • Yay! Gluten Fee coconut shrimp!!!

  • I might have made my egg whites frothier than what was necessary. The sauce would also be nicer when you put more chili in it.

  • OMG! This recipe is unreal!! So easy to make and SO DELICIOUS!! It will be part of my New Year’s Eve menu!!

  • mmm… love this stuff!! I made a baked version too. Check it out!

    http://www.freespiritfood.com/2011/03/healthier-coconut-shrimp/

  • Wow this looks sooo good! Will be making soon!

  • Wow, these Crispy Coconut Shrimps look divine! Love your photography and I couldn’t wait to try your recipe! Thanks for sharing.

  • You can make the dipping sauce yourself.

    2 oz caster sugar
    2 fl oz rice vinegar
    2 tbs water
    2 fresh red chillies, seeded and finely chopped.

    Place sugar, vinegar and water in a pot. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then boil rapidly until it forms a light syrup. Stir in the chillies and leave to cool.

  • Thank you for your comment, Teri. I think the discrepancy might have to do with the fact that you purchased your shrimp already peeled, so the weight was off. I’ve made a note to the recipe to clarify. If you’re buying shrimp already peeled and deveined, you only need 1 pound 10 ounces instead of 2 pounds. I’ve also added an additional 1/4 cup coconut to the recipe — better to have too much than too little. As always, thanks for the feedback and so glad you enjoyed it!

  • These were incredible! I only made one pound, but made the mixture for two pounds. This was a good thing because somehow I used the whole mixture on one pound. No worries they were YUMMY!!!!

    The directions were simple and easy to follow. I might have made my egg whites frothier than what was necessary. I also used a regular chili sauce which was a nice compliment to the sweetness. The Tropical Pepper Co. makes a mango coconut sauce that went well with it. I bought this in Shop n Bag in the Ketchup section.

    We had the shrimp as a main course with just a tossed salad. I’m already thinking of the events and occasions that I can serve these again. Delicious!

  • This is one of my most favorite things in the world! Thanks for the great looking recipe! I’d love for you to submit this to the M&T Spotlight at http://www.makeandtakes.com/spotlight

    • These look great! Will try these tonight for sure

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