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Southern Cornmeal Fried Shrimp

Southern cornmeal fried shrimp is an easy recipe that can be served as an appetizer or main course. Shrimp are battered in a seasoned cornmeal and then quickly fried to perfection.   

close up of fried shrimp on a white plate with lemon wedges & cocktail sauce in a bowl

There are many way to make fried shrimp; it’s one of those recipes that you can really make your own. This version is inspired by the traditional Southern way of frying shrimp. That means the batter is majority cornmeal, the seasonings are simple, and there’s no milk or buttermilk involved, just egg and water.

Ingredients For Cornmeal Fried Shrimp

  1. Shrimp: Shrimp peeled & deveined. Tails on or off, that’s up to you.
  2. Cornmeal/Flour: Cornmeal & flour or all cornmeal are the main ingredients for the batter.
  3. Egg wash: One egg & water are the only ingredients needed for the egg wash.
  4. Seasonings: Keep it simple with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  5. Oil: Oil with a high smoke point for frying. This is a good recipe to add a tablespoon or two of leftover bacon grease to. 

How To Make Southern Fried Shrimp

Making Southern fried shrimp is not only easy but it comes together too. 

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the egg and water. 
  2. In a large bowl, add the cornmeal, flour, salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Mix until well blended. 
  3. Dip shrimp into the egg mixture and then dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Be sure to coat the each shrimp evenly all over with the cornmeal. 
  4. Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a deep pan until the temperature reaches 350 degrees.
  5. Add the shrimp and cook 2-3 minutes or until crispy until your liking. Do not overlap the srhimp. You may need to cook this in batches. Remove the shrimp from the oil and place on paper towel lined plate. Repeat until all the shrimp are fried.
cornmeal batter

What Type Of Shrimp To Use

As long as your shrimp is shelled & deveined, you can use your preferred type of shrimp or prawns. Should you leave the tail on? That’s up to you. I happened to find jumbo shrimp on sale so that is what I used. Do not use frozen shrimp. If your shrimp is frozen, thaw the shrimp overnight in the refrigerator OR run the shrimp under cold water in a colander until thawed. 

ready for frying

Cornmeal Batter 

When making Southern fried shrimp, it’s important to use cornmeal in the batter. Cornmeal ground dried corn. It’s a popular ingredient used in cuisines all over the world. In Southern cooking, cornmeal is a main ingredient in recipes such as cornbread.

This recipe for cornmeal fried shrimp also calls for white flour. This is optional. Omit the flour and use all cornmeal for this fried shrimp to be gluten-free.   

close up of fried shrimp on a white plate

What Type Of Oil To Use

To fry shrimp, you will need an oil with a high smoke point like grapeseed oil, canola, peanut, or vegetable oil. How much oil you use is up to you. You may find that you want to lightly fry the shrimp in a little bit of oil or you may want a deeper fry. I suggest using approximately 2-inch of oil. Heat the oil to 350 degrees before adding the prepared shrimp. 

Season The Cornmeal Batter

Don’t forget the seasonings! The seasonings in the batter are an important part of the recipe but also very simple: salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Feel free to play around with the seasonings. Add heat to this by mixing in spices like cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Substitute another seasoning like Old Bay or Creole/Cajun seasoning.  

How To Serve Fried Shrimp

Fried shrimp can be served as an appetizer or main course. Served as an appetizer, this recipe as-is is enough for 4 people. As a main course, it’s best split between 2-3 people. Accompaniment suggestions include cocktail sauce, tarter sauce, and lemon wedges. 

Tips For Fried Shrimp

  • Don’t overcrowd the pan. Depending on the size of the pan you are using, you may need to fry your shrimp in batches. 
  • Make sure the oil is the right temperature before frying. If you’re cooking the shrimp in batches, let the oil return to 350 degrees before adding the next batch of shrimp. 
fried shrimp on a white plate with lemon wedges & cocktail sauce in a bowl

Other Shrimp Recipes You May Enjoy

Cajun Corn Shrimp Soup

Shrimp Po’ Boy

Black Folks Shrimp & Grits

Cajun Shrimp Alfredo

Jamaican Curry Shrimp

This cornmeal fried shrimp recipe served 4 as a appetizer or 2 people as a main course.

close up of fried shrimp on a white plate with lemon wedges & cocktail sauce in a bowl
Print Pin
5 from 2 votes

Southern Cornmeal Fried Shrimp

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings 4
Author Shannon Epstein

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • OIL
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons water

Instructions

  • In a small bowl, mix together the egg and water. 
  • In a large bowl, add the cornmeal, flour, salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Mix until well blended. 
  • Dip shrimp into the egg mixture and then dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Be sure to coat the each shrimp evenly all over with the cornmeal. 
  • Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a deep pan until the temperature reaches 350 degrees.
  • Add the shrimp and cook 2-3 minutes or until crispy until your liking. Do not overlap the shrimp. You may need to cook this in batches.
  • Remove the shrimp from the oil and place on paper towel lined plate. Repeat until all the shrimp are fried.

Notes

This serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main course.
Recipe Rating




Carl Smith

Sunday 15th of May 2022

Looks dam good'************

Shannon Epstein

Sunday 15th of May 2022

Thank you! I hope you give it a try...