How to Cook Shrimp from Frozen
No need to defrost shrimp before cooking. Learn how to cook shrimp from frozen, taking them straight from the freezer to the pot. It makes dinners a breeze and they taste so good!
Remember back when I told you that you don’t have to defrost fish or chicken breasts before you cook them? Well, you don’t have to defrost shrimp before cooking them either!
To be honest, I don’t love cooking chicken from frozen. I do that more in a pinch when I forget to take it out. It doesn’t turn out quite as good as when defrosted first. The fish turns out really good, especially thicker pieces. But, the shrimp!?!? They’re amazing cooked from frozen! They turn out even better when not defrosted first. Seriously.
What Kind of Shrimp Should I Use?
So, don’t buy the “previously frozen” shrimp at the grocery store. They often cost more and you need to use them up right away. Instead, get a bag of frozen shrimp. Then put them into your freezer and you’ve got the makings of a quick meal on hand and ready to go.
What kind of shrimp work best? Medium to large shrimp. And make sure they’re already deveined. It will say deveined on the bag. The reason you want them deveined is that you won’t be able to take the veins out yourself while they’re frozen and it will be hard, if not impossible to do after they’re cooked as well. So deveined shrimp are required. Other than that, I prefer them to be peeled but with the tail on, or easy peel. Either way, you can cook them from frozen and then serve. People can easily take the peels off after they’re cooked.
Note that the shrimp also need to be frozen separately, not in a big clump. If you shake the bag, you should hear a bunch of frozen shrimp all moving around separately in there. If 2-3 are frozen together here and there, that’s fine. But no bigger clumps than that. If the shrimp are bought frozen from the store, they are usually frozen separately. If they’ve clumped up in the bag a bit, try banging the bag lightly on the counter. This could dislodge them.
How Do You Cook Shrimp from Frozen?
Today I’ll show you my favorite way to cook shrimp from frozen…poaching. Tomorrow I’ll be roasting them (from frozen) on a pan with some asparagus for a one-pan dinner that’s ready in 10 minutes.
Poaching is truly my favorite way to cook shrimp, especially for shrimp cocktail, but for almost any preparation. It’s such a gentle cooking method and it leaves the shrimp plump, juicy, and tender – never tough.
The crazy thing is that to poach the shrimp from frozen, you do everything EXACTLY the same as for poaching thawed shrimp. You just leave them in the water for an extra minute. One minute. That’s all.
So here’s what you do.
Get a medium or large saucepan. This depends on the number of shrimp you’re cooking. 12-15 large shrimp cook well in a 3 quart pot. You’ll need a bigger pot if you’re doing more than that. Fill the pot about 3/4 full of water.
Add salt. I use about 1/2 teaspoon for the 3 quart pot.
Then you can add other aromatic ingredients if you’d like. Half of a lemon is a great addition. Squeeze the juice into the pot before adding the halved lemon.
Peppercorns and parsley are two other things you can add. These aren’t as important as the salt but are nice additions.
Bring the pot to a rapid boil over high heat. (Cover the pot to make it boil sooner).
Remove from the heat and let it stop boiling.
Add the frozen shrimp.
Cover the pot. And let sit off of the heat for 5-6 minutes, until shrimp are opaque and pink. Yes, this is correct. The pot is not supposed to be on the heat at all anymore. The shrimp are poaching in the leftover heat of the water. If you keep boiling them, the shrimp will not be good at all!
If you’re planning to serve the shrimp cold (like for shrimp cocktail) or use them later, prepare an ice bath: In a large bowl, put two cups of ice cubes and fill halfway with cold water.
If you want cold shrimp, once they’re cooked, drain off the hot liquid and transfer shrimp (but not the aromatics) to the ice bath. Let them sit in there for a few minutes to fully cool off before draining.
If you want the shrimp to be served warm instead, drain off the hot liquid and serve immediately. You can add them to a pasta sauce or squeeze some lemon over them and serve them as is.
Note that if they had the peels on, you can serve them with the peel or take the peels off before serving.
Here’s the instructions for how to cook shrimp from frozen in handy printable form:
This is the best way to cook frozen shrimp. They end up so tender and juicy.
- 12 large frozen shrimp (21–25 count per pound, deveined and peeled or deveined and easy peel)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 of a lemon, optional
- 8–10 peppercorns (optional)
- a handful of fresh parsley (optional)
- Fill a 3 quart saucepan 3/4 full of water.
- Add salt. If using, squeeze the juice of the lemon into the pot and add the peel and flesh once squeezed. Add the peppercorns and parsley if using.
- Bring the pot to a rapid boil over high heat.
- Remove from the heat and let it stop boiling.
- Add the frozen shrimp. Stir. Put the lid on the saucepan. Cover the pot. Let sit off of the heat for 5-6 minutes, until shrimp are opaque and pink.
- If serving cold, prepare an ice bath: In a large bowl put two cups of ice cubes and fill halfway with cold water.
- When shrimp are cooked, drain off the hot liquid and serve immediately or transfer shrimp (but not the aromatics) to the ice bath. Let them sit in there for a few minutes to fully cool off before draining.
- Serve as is or peel them first.
This post originally appeared in January 2018 and was revised and republished in September 2020.