This easy fried shrimp recipe gives you shrimp with a light, but crispy coating. Using cornmeal or cracker meal makes it a southern favorite.
What's different about "southern style" fried shrimp?
To begin with, the breading or coating is thin and light. You won't find a thick "tempura" style batter on fried shrimp anywhere in the south.
And then there are the ingredients used to coat the shrimp. Our favorite is cracker meal, but corn meal is good too, and both are commonly used anywhere in the region.
Many times you'll find a little Cajun or Creole type seasoning added as well. Our favorite is Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning and we usually add it for a bit of extra flavor.
If you love learning about southern food culture you'll want to read Southern Food: Then & Now.
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Ingredient and substitution notes
- Cracker Meal - Exactly what is cracker meal? It's simply crackers that have been crushed to make a meal. It's most commonly used for breading seafood, but can be used on chicken or pork, or as a topping for casseroles. We use this cracker meal made by McCormicks, but Ritz makes one also, and it's as good as you might imagine. You can also make your own. Just give your crackers a spin in the blender or food processor, being sure not to let them get too fine.
- Corn Meal - You can use corn meal instead of cracker meal, or you can mix the two in any proportions that you like.
- Milk or Buttermilk - If you can use something richer like buttermilk or whole milk it makes a good wash when mixed with the egg.
- Shrimp - Large or extra large are the preferred size for frying. You'll start with shrimp that have been shelled and deveined. We usually leave the tails on to give a little "handle" for dipping.
- Seasoning - You can use just salt and pepper, Cajun seasoning or Old Bay.
- Oil - Any vegetable oil is fine as long as it has a higher smoke point. Our go to is canola oil, but peanut oil is a good choice too. Do not use olive oil for frying your shrimp.
This recipe is customizable
We know y'all love making a recipe your own, and this is the perfect opportunity to do that.
We made ours with cracker meal, but you can use corn meal or a combination of the two. A bit of flour could be added to either as well. Our fried oyster recipe uses all cornmeal, and it's also a traditional southern coastal seafood dish that you'll love.
As mentioned before you can adjust the seasonings to your taste. Maybe you have your own combination that you love - just add a spoonful of it to the cracker meal or cornmeal.
Leave the shrimp tails on or remove them when cleaning and deveining the shrimp. We recommend this method for deveining shrimp for super quick and easy results.
- Season the shrimp with one half of the seasoning and set aside for about 10 minutes.
- Combine cracker meal and corn meal if using both and add the remaining seasoning.
- Combine the egg and milk.
- Dip each shrimp in the egg mixture, allow to drain a few seconds and then dredge in the meal mixture.
- Cook in hot oil for about 2-3 minutes and then drain on paper towels before serving.
- Letting the seasoned shrimp sit a few minutes gives them time to absorb the flavor of the seasoning.
- Dip in an egg/milk mixture to assure your meal (cracker or corn) will stick to the shrimp, but let the excess egg drip off first. Otherwise you will have a thick coating.
- Make sure your oil is hot (about 350 degrees) before adding the shrimp and then add them slowly so they don't stick together. This also gives the temperature of the oil time to recover.
- To cut down on the mess cook your shrimp in a dutch oven or other pan with deep sides. Better yet, cook outside in a deep fryer. This is similar to ours.
The traditional southern favorite is simple, classic cocktail sauce. This post is all about hosting an oyster roast, but we included an easy recipe for cocktail sauce. Many people love to eat shrimp with tartar sauce, but our preferred creamy option is Remoulade Sauce.
Air Fryer Breaded Shrimp is a great alternative to this traditional recipe if you're watching your fat intake. Be sure to check it out.
It's best to thaw your shrimp and then proceed to batter and fry. Of course, there are options available in the freezer section of your grocery that are already battered. In that case you follow the directions on the package.
For a fun look at this recipe, be sure to check out the web story.
Southern Fried Shrimp Recipe
- Season shrimp with ½ of your seasoning of choice and set aside for about 10 minutes.
- Combine cracker meal or cornmeal and remaining seasoning.
- Combine egg and milk.
- Dip each shrimp in milk mixture and allow to drain for a few seconds before coating in meal. Repeat with all shrimp.
- Cook in hot oil heated over medium to medium-high heat or at 350-375 of deep fryer about 2-3 minutes or just until lightly browned.
- Drain on absorbent paper before serving.
- Cornmeal or cracker meal may be used for breading, as well as a combination of the two. Flour may also be added.
- Seasoning of your choice may be used.
- Add shrimp to hot oil gradually to allow time for temperature of oil to remain consistently hot.