Popcorn Shrimp With Sweet Chile Dipping Sauce

Homemade Popcorn Shrimp With Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce

The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Yield: 1 pound
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
1270 Calories
114g Fat
45g Carbs
20g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 1270
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 114g 146%
Saturated Fat 9g 47%
Cholesterol 159mg 53%
Sodium 1059mg 46%
Total Carbohydrate 45g 16%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 20g
Vitamin C 1mg 7%
Calcium 161mg 12%
Iron 3mg 18%
Potassium 282mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

These bite-sized breaded and fried shrimp are an excellent appetizer or side and as much fun to cook as they are to eat. The name "popcorn shrimp" comes from the size and texture of the fried shrimp, which are similar to popped corn kernels and so delicious you'll want to eat them by the handful. The dish likely originates from Cajun popcorn, a classic Cajun preparation, but a famous seafood chain restaurant also claims to be the inventor. Likely it's the Cajun dish's influence that gave birth to this beloved dish on restaurant menus.

Our flavorful version includes giving the shrimp a three-dip breading for a distinct crunchy bite. No matter if you deep-fry or air fry them, the result is always fantastic. And they're ready in as little as 30 minutes. This recipe accompanies the little bites with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce made with Thai sweet chile sauce and Sriracha, but cocktail sauce, ranch dressing, blue cheese dressing, and garlic Parmesan sauce are all also excellent choices.

Small tailless shrimp are best for this recipe. Look for bags of 51/60 count shrimp or smaller, or cut larger shrimp into two or three pieces. Because deveining and peeling such small shrimp can be tedious work, buy raw shrimp that are already prepared and ready to cook. If using frozen shrimp, make sure the shrimp are completely thawed before you start cooking. Our method gives the instructions and pictures for deep-frying, but also the steps for the air frier method.

Ingredients

For the Dipping Sauce:

For the Popcorn Shrimp:

  • 1 pound small raw shrimp, deveined, peeled, and tails removed

  • 3 cups canola oil, for frying

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 eggs

  • 1/4 cup milk

  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley

  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, the popcorn shrimp is broken down into categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Make the Dipping Sauce

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for popcorn shrimp with sweet chile dipping sauce

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  2. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, Thai sweet chile sauce, and Sriracha.

    Mixing Thai sweet chile dipping sauce for popcorn shrimp

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

  3. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate while making the popcorn shrimp.

    Thai sweet chile dipping sauce for popcorn shrimp

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

Make the Popcorn Shrimp

  1. On a baking sheet or large plate lined with paper towels, lay the shrimp out in a single layer. Pat dry with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible.

    Patting shrimp dry for popcorn shrimp

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  2. Heat the oil to 350 F in a Dutch oven or deep, heavy skillet. The amount of oil you need will depend on the size of the pan; pour enough for a depth of about 2 inches.

    Deep-frying oil setup in a Dutch oven

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

  3. Place the flour in a small bowl. Reserve.

    Flour for popcorn shrimp batter

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  4. Combine the eggs and milk in a medium-sized bowl and whisk thoroughly. Reserve.

    Whisked egg and milk for popcorn shrimp batter

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  5. In a third bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, basil, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and salt. Stir well. Reserve.

    Seasoned breadcrumbs for popcorn shrimp

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  6. Line up the 3 bowls: flour, egg, and seasoned breadcrumbs. Working in batches, evenly coat the shrimp in the flour, then dip in the egg, and toss thoroughly in the breadcrumbs until evenly coated. Set the breaded shrimp on a plate and repeat the process with the remaining shrimp.

    Breading popcorn shrimp

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

  7. Fry the breaded shrimp in the hot oil for about 3 to 4 minutes, until the breading is a golden brown color. Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the shrimp and try to maintain a steady 350 F oil temperature. Remove the cooked shrimp to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain.

    Deep-frying popcorn shrimp

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

  8. Serve with the dipping sauce and enjoy.

    Popcorn shrimp with sweet chile sauce dip

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

How Do I Cook Popcorn Shrimp in an Air Fryer?

Delicious, but without the calories from the oil, cooking popcorn shrimp in an air fryer is very easy:

  • Bread the shrimp according to the recipe and preheat the air fryer to 360 F. If breaded food tends to stick to your air fryer basket, spray it with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Add the shrimp to the basket in a single layer—depending on the air fryer's size, you may need two to four batches.
  • Spray the shrimp lightly with cooking spray.
  • Cook for 4 minutes, flip the shrimp, spray again, and cook for an additional 4 minutes, or until the shrimp are golden brown in color.

For the Best, Crunchiest Shrimp Popcorn

  • Use a candy or deep-fry thermometer to monitor the oil temperature. If it gets too hot, the breading will cook before the shrimp; too cool and the breading will not be crispy.
  • When choosing a substitute for canola oil, make sure it has a high smoke point that can withstand the high temperature required for deep-frying. Peanut and vegetable oils are good alternatives.
  • If you're making bigger batches, keep the already fried popcorn shrimp warm in a 200 F oven.
  • Popcorn shrimp is best eaten fresh. It doesn't keep well, and the breading will be soggy the next day. Reheating can overcook the shrimp and make them rubbery.

Flavorful Substitutions

  • Use 3 cups of panko breadcrumbs instead of plain breadcrumbs and flour. This will make the crust extra crispy.
  • Mix the seasonings into 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour for a flakier breading texture similar to fried chicken.
  • Skip the individual herbs and spices and use 2 tablespoons of prepared Italian seasoning.
  • Season the breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning for spicy popcorn shrimp.