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Creamy Coconut Shrimp

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The traditional Chinese buffet entrée inspired this creamy Chinese coconut shrimp recipe. It is packed with nutty and sweet flavors with hints of citrus that pair well with one another.

The indulgent, silky smooth sauce is a perfect pairing with shrimp and prawns. Serve the dish over rice, quinoa, or even creamy mashed potatoes to soak up all the sauce.  

This creamy coconut shrimp isn’t an authentic Chinese recipe but more of a fusion of Southeast Asian cuisines. If you like this recipe, try our pork yakisoba or Thai spicy shrimp rice bowl

Creamy Chinese coconut shrimp in a skillet.

You can use larger prawns in this recipe, but small shrimp work just as well. There is a slight difference between the two crustaceans but does it really matter? Use whichever one is available to you. The cooking time will vary only slightly. 

What We Love About This Recipe: 

This recipe is so fun to make! We love it for so many reasons:

  • It is a simple and quick meal to prepare, but don’t equate simple with bland. This dish is full of flavor. 
  • That sauce! We can’t get enough of the creamy white sauce. It is like liquid gold and makes a great dipping sauce for crusty bread
  • It makes for a tasty appetizer or filling entree. 
  • Satisfies your Chinese food cravings without leaving your home. And it is much healthier to make this dish from scratch than it is to eat take-out food. This homemade version could easily become a favorite dish. 

Ingredients Needed For Creamy Coconut Shrimp:

This recipe requires just a few basic components, many of which can be found at your local grocery or specialty food store. The ingredients you will need to make this rich, creamy coconut shrimp recipe are:

  • Shrimp. You can use frozen or fresh shrimp. See our tips below for selecting and cooking tender shrimp. 
  • Coconut oil. You could use olive oil or any other cooking oil, but coconut oil gives this recipe the best flavor. 
  • Salt. Please don’t skip the salt. A small amount will go a long way to enhance all the flavors. 
  • Garlic and ginger. Use fresh garlic and ginger for a more bold flavor. Ginger and garlic powder do not offer the same impact to the dish. 
  • Coconut milk. The canned variety.
  • Fish sauce. You could substitute soy sauce, but the fish sauce will give the recipe a more complex, umami flavor. 
  • Lime juice and fresh lime zest. Lime compliments the coconut sauce but don’t use too much, or it will overwhelm the recipe. 
  • Sugar. A small amount of sugar enhances the sweetness of the coconut. 
  • Cornstarch (optional). Use the corn starch if you want the sauce thicker. 
  • Scallions (aka green onions). Serve with sliced scallions and maybe even a lime wedge and a sprinkling of shredded coconut flakes. 
Ingredients used to make creamy coconut shrimp.

How to Make Chinese Coconut Shrimp: 

This easy to make dish only takes a few steps. Make sure you scroll to the printable recipe card below for all the details and recipe notes. 

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and cook for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Cook them in batches so you don’t overcrowd the skillet (and use a large skillet). Set the shrimp aside. 
  2. Add the garlic and ginger to the skillet and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  3. As soon as the garlic and ginger are fragrant, add the coconut milk, fish sauce, lime zest juice, and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook for 6 to 7 minutes until slightly reduced and thickened. 
  4. If you want the sauce thicker make a cornstarch slurry with water and cornstarch then stir it into the sauce. It will thicken up in just a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the shrimp to the sauce and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to heat the shrimp. 
  6. Remove from heat and top with chopped scallions. 

Chef’s Tips & Tricks for Recipe Success:

  • Use canned coconut milk instead of the carton varieties. The coconut milk you see in cartons is very thin and made for drinking. Canned coconut milk is thick, rich, and creamy. 
  • Full fat coconut milk will give you a thicker, more decadent sauce than that of reduced-fat. If you choose to use reduced-fat coconut milk, you may want to thicken the sauce with the optional corn starch. 
  • We don’t recommend using coconut cream (although you can) but make sure you do not mistake cream of coconut for coconut cream. The cans that say cream of coconut consist of a sweet, thick syrup that is meant for mixed drinks. 
  • This recipe also tastes great with a bit of spice. You could add sweet chili sauce, cayenne pepper or sriracha directly to the creamy coconut milk sauce. 
  • Serve this creamy coconut shrimp over rice, quinoa, or cauliflower rice for a more elevated entree and a complete meal. 
  • Do not overcook the shrimp or they will get tough and rubbery. You can tell when shrimp are completely cooked when they change from a translucent color to white. You will also see some light pink streaks on the shrimp. It only takes a couple of minutes to cook them. 
Six process photos showing how to make creamy coconut shrimp.

How to Peel Shrimp:

The shell of shrimp and prawns will practically slip off. If you purchase the little crustaceans with heads, then snap the head off by giving it a pinch and twist. 

Once the head is removed, slip your thumb under the thin shell and gently peel it off. If you want to remove the tail, give it a pinch and a gentle tug. How easy is that?

How to Devein Shrimp:

When you purchase shrimp or prawns, you will typically see a thin black string down the shrimp’s back. It is not really a vein, as the name implies. It is actually the digestive tract. Now, let that sink in for a minute and you will understand why you want to devein shrimp and prawns. 

But don’t worry. It is easy to devein shrimp. Use a sharp paring knife to make a shallow cut down the back of the shrimp. Spread the cut open, when you see a dark string, grab it and pull it out. 

That’s all there is to it. It takes a bit of time but it isn’t difficult. Take a tip from me and delegate this job to your spouse or a teenager 😉

If you want to avoid the extra task of peeling and cleaning, you can purchase shrimp that is already peeled and deveined. 

Creamy coconut shrimp on a serving of rice with some snow peas.

Helpful Tools

Some of the following links are affiliates. If you click on these links and purchase something, we may receive a small commission. You don’t pay any extra but it will help us keep the lights on. 

  • We love this garlic press. It is easy to clean and comes with a silicone garlic peeler. Just roll the garlic cloves around in the garlic peeler and the peel comes right off.
  • A microplane is one of our favorite kitchen gadgets. Use it to finely zest the lime and the ginger. By the way, if you freeze your fresh ginger root it will last longer and it is easier to zest when it is frozen.

SOME OTHER RECIPES WE ARE SURE YOU WILL LOVE:

This firecracker shrimp is a quick and easy appetizer but you can serve it along with some rice and make it a main meal.

Take a culinary trip to Spain with this Spanish chorizo and shrimp pasta. It is full of flavor and quite easy to make. One of our favorites.

This creamy garlic butter shrimp pasta is delicious comfort food. Sometimes that’s all you want after a long day at work.

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Did you make this recipe? We would love to hear from you. Drop us a comment below. 

Creamy Chinese coconut shrimp in a skillet.

Creamy Coconut Shrimp

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 22 minutes

This creamy coconut shrimp recipe was inspired by a popular Chinese buffet entrée. The rich, creamy coconut sauce has a slightly nutty and sweet flavor with hints of citrus. Serve it with your favorite starchy side dish to soak up all the sauce.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds medium to large shrimp
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 to 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
  • 1 (15 ounce) can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice from 1 lime (about 2-3 tablespoons)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3 to 4 scallions, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel and devein the shrimp.
  2. Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and cook for 1 minute on each side. Cook them in batches so you don’t overcrowd the skillet. Set the shrimp aside. 
  3. Add the garlic and ginger to the skillet and cook for 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, lime zest juice, and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook for 6 to 7 minutes until slightly reduced and thickened. 
  4. If you want the sauce thicker, combine the cornstarch and water in a small dish then stir it into the sauce. Simmer for 2 minutes until thick. 
  5. Add the shrimp to the sauce and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to heat the shrimp. 
  6. Remove from heat and top with chopped scallions. 

Notes

  • Don’t overcook the shrimp or they will get tough and rubbery. You can tell that they are completely cooked when it changes from a translucent color to white. You will also see some pinkish streaks on the shrimp. It only takes a couple of minutes to cook them. 
  • If you use frozen shrimp, make sure to thaw them completely and drain the excess liquid. 
  • Make sure to use canned coconut milk and not the stuff in cartons. Full fat coconut milk will give you a thicker, richer sauce than reduced fat.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 227Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 864mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 1gSugar: 7gProtein: 3g

Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third-party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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Better than Chinese Takeout:

Next time you get a craving for Chinese food, make this easy recipe and try some of the variations we suggested above to add a bit of spice to the dish. The recipe reminds me of the Chinese coconut shrimp that I have seen at restaurants.

Frequently Asked Questions: 

What size of shrimp should I use for this recipe? 

We prefer using medium to large shrimp but this recipe works well with small shrimp as well. If you use smaller shrimp, then just adjust the cooking time. Smaller shrimp only need to cook for 1 to 2 minutes on each side.

Can I use frozen shrimp? 

Yes! If you use frozen shrimp, make sure to thaw them completely and drain the excess liquid before cooking. 

How can I thicken my sauce? 

Add cornstarch to create a thicker sauce. This method is incredibly easy and keeps the entree gluten-free. 

Combine the cornstarch and water in a small dish, then stir it into the sauce. Simmer for 2 minutes until it thickens. . 

How do I store the creamy coconut shrimp?

This dish tastes best when served fresh but can last in the refrigerator for up to three days. To reheat, pour a drop of cooking oil into a pan. Toss in and stir your ingredients together until warm. I do not recommend reheating this dish with a microwave as it may cause the shrimp to lose its flavor. 

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angiesrecipes

Wednesday 31st of March 2021

Those shrimp are so succulent and so flavourful! That creamy coconut sauce is for sure great for other seafood or chicken too. angiesrecipes http://angiesrecipes.blogspot.com

Dahn Boquist

Wednesday 31st of March 2021

Oh yes, it is Angie. It's a versatile sauce ;)

John / Kitchen Riffs

Wednesday 31st of March 2021

I almost always have shrimp on hand in my freezer. It's perfect for a quick, flavorful dinner -- like this one! You've packed a ton -- a TON!! -- of flavor into this recipe. Looks really good -- thanks.

Dahn Boquist

Wednesday 31st of March 2021

Thanks John, it really is a quick and flavorful dinner.

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