Crispy Coconut Shrimp (Air Fryer + Fried)
Crunchy, crispy coconut shrimp that are just so delicious! Crunchy and slightly sweet coconut flakes on the outside, tender, juicy shrimp on the inside. And they are just irresistible with that dipping sauce! Make coconut shrimp in the air fryer or deep fry them!
Coconut shrimp was one of the first meals I had when we were on Maui a few years back. To tell you the truth, before then, I didn’t understand what the fuss was about.
And though it’s been a few years, I still can remember how deliciously succulent the shrimp were and how crunchy and sweet the coconut coating was on the outside! One bite of these crunchy coconut-crusted shrimp and I’ve transported back to island life all over again—a tropical vacation all in one bite.
Not even kidding when I say I dream about these fried coconut-crusted shrimp!
Since we’ve come back, I’ve been working my way through all the delicacies that Maui has to offer. It started with the garlic noodles, that the Hawaiian shrimp scampi, and now I’m circling back to the coconut shrimp that we had as our first dinner in Hawaii.
If you’ve ever had coconut shrimp at a restaurant, you know they aren’t the cheapest appetizers on the menu. Even the frozen stuff you get at the grocery store comes with a pretty hefty price tag. You could easily make a huge batch of homemade Hawaiian coconut shrimp for about the same price you’d pay at a restaurant. But you get way more!
Plus, I’ll give you tips along the way so you can easily prep these ahead of time for A New Year’s Eve party, a game night, the big game, and pretty much any other occasion where you want to get a few people together!
What do you need to make coconut shrimp?
- Peeled and deveined shrimp: though almost anything from medium to extra-jumbo shrimp would work for this recipe, it’s important to remember that the cooking time will vary quite a bit from medium to jumbo shrimp! For this recipe, I used jumbo shrimp (21-25/ lb.), but you could also use extra-large (26-30/lb.), and the cooking time should only vary by 30 seconds or so.
- Sweetened shredded coconut flakes: This ingredient is usually available in most grocery stores. I found it in the baking aisle next to the chocolate chips. Keep in mind that this recipe calls for sweetened shredded coconut.
- Panko bread crumbs: We use a combination of shredded coconut and Panko crumbs to coat the shrimp, which gives it a lovely sort of crunchy and sweet texture.
- All-purpose flour: we dredge the shrimp in flour first.
- Garlic powder + salt: we use these two ingredients to give the flour mixture some much-needed flavor
- Eggs: dredging the shrimp in eggs in step number two before we add them to the final coconut/panko mixture.
How do you prepare coconut shrimp?
- Before we get into how we deep fry (or air fry) coconut shrimp, let’s talk about the steps we need to take. The first thing we need to do before we take the shrimp through the dredging process is to remove the shells and clean out the lining of the shrimp. If you purchase the shrimp already cleaned and deveined, you can skip this step! Otherwise, just pull and twist the shells off (leaving the tails on) and run a knife along the back of the shrimp to make a slit, clean out the vein under running water and repeat with the remaining shrimp.
- Then, we’ll set up a dredging station. Flour goes first in a bowl, whisk it with the garlic powder and salt. Then, we’ll whisk the eggs, and they’ll go next. And finally, we’ll combine the Panko bread crumbs and the sweetened coconut flakes for the last and final stop on the dredging train.
- Once the shrimp and gone from the flour >> eggs >> coconut bread crumbs. We’ll place them on a baking sheet and continue until all the shrimp are evenly coated.
How to make coconut shrimp in the air fryer:
The good news is that you can make coconut shrimp in the air fryer! We tested the recipe both ways and found the air fryer ones to be less greasy and totally delicious! I recently purchased this one, and I can’t believe I waited this long to hop on the air fryer train!
- Preheat the air fryer according to your manufacturer’s directions.
- Place the shrimp on a clean surface and spray the shrimp with coconut cooking spray (or any kind you like) place the sprayed side down in the air fryer and spray the other side with cooking spray before cooking the shrimp in the air fryer at cooking them at 375ºF for 6-8 minutes. Be sure to flip the shrimp about halfway through so that they crisp up evenly on both sides.
How to make traditional fried coconut shrimp:
- Add 1-3 inches of oil to your pot over medium-high heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add one shrimp and make sure the shrimp starts cooking and bubbling in the oil right away. Then, add about 4-5 more pieces, depending on the size of your skillet. Cook the shrimp for roughly 2 minutes per side (4 minutes total) or until the outside is golden brown and the shrimp curl up into a ‘c’ shape.
- Drain on a paper towel.
How to make the most killer shrimp dipping sauce:
This sauce is sweet, creamy, and a little tangy. The sauce I like to serve with crispy fried shrimp is almost like dynamite sauce. It’s not spicy at all, but it is totally addicting. Can you tell I’m a firm believer in that half of the magic of coconut shrimp is the dipping sauce?
For this recipe you’ll need:
- sweet chili sauce – I picked up the sweet chili sauce from the international aisle of my grocery store where they keep all the Asian items.
- a couple of teaspoons of mayo – The mayo is just regular mayo from the condiment aisle
- a generous squeeze of lime juice – fresh lime juice tends to work best for this recipe
Just whisk it all in a bowl, and you’re ready to serve. Fair warning: if you’re big on sauce in general, you’ll automatically want to double the recipe.
Tips for making coconut shrimp:
- The number one, easiest way to fry coconut shrimp is to freeze the shrimp for about 30 minutes on a baking sheet before frying. This really helps the coconut to adhere to the shrimp and keeps most of it from separating when you’re frying them! Of course, this is optional, but I find it makes it a lot easier.
- Though you can undoubtedly deep fry coconut shrimp in a deep fryer, I prefer to fry them in a skillet without 1-1 ½ inches of oil. I find that it’s much easier to keep the shrimp in a single layer and flip them as needed when you can see all of them in a single layer, however it is entirely up to you how you fry them!
- You can make and freeze these coconut shrimp ahead of time. Just like I suggested to freeze them for 30 minutes before frying, you can also freeze them for 2-3 hours, transfer the shrimp to a zip-top bag or a plastic container and keep them frozen until the day you’re ready to serve. Making this ideal for New Year’s appetizers or a dinner party!
- If you’re looking for a way to reheat the leftover coconut shrimp, I like to do so in an air fryer on the ‘reheat’ setting or in a traditional oven (at 400ºF) for about 8-10 minutes.
- 1 ¼ pound jumbo raw shrimp (peeled + deveined)
- 1 cup EACH: shredded sweetened coconut AND Panko crumbs
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- ½ teaspoon EACH: garlic powder AND salt
sweet and tangy sauce:
- 1/3 cup sweet chili sauce
- 2 teaspoons mayo
- ~ 1/2 lime, squeezed (more or less to taste)
- PREP: Rinse the shrimp under cold running water, then, pat them dry on paper towels. Set up a dredging station. The first bowl should contain the flour, garlic powder, and ½ teaspoon of salt (whisk to combine.) In the second bowl, add the two eggs and whisk to combine. The third bowl will contain the shredded coconut and the Panko breadcrumbs, toss or stir to combine.
- DREDGE: Grab the shrimp by the tail, dredge it in the flour, shake off any excess. Then, dip it in the egg mixture, and finally in the coconut mixture. Use your hands to press down so the crumbs adhere to the shrimp. Place the coated shrimp on a clean baking sheet. Continue with the remaining shrimp. At this point, you can freeze the shrimp for 30 minutes to make it easier to fry them or refrigerate until ready to fry. You can also fry or air fry them immediately.
- COOK: FRY: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a generous 1-1 ½ inches of oil tot he skillet and let it heat to about 350ºF. Alternately, you could do this in a deep fryer set to 350ºF. When heated, add a shrimp. Make sure the oil around the shrimp starts bubbling right away. Then, add 4-5 additional shrimp, make sure you do not overcrowd the pan. Cook for roughly 2 minutes per side (4-5 minutes total) or until the outside is golden brown and the shrimp curl up into a ‘c’ shape. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
AIR FRYER: Preheat the air fryer according to manufacturers’ directions at 375ºF. Place the shrimp on a clean surface and spray the shrimp with coconut cooking spray (or any kind you like) place the sprayed side down in the air fryer and spray the other side with cooking spray. Cook the shrimp at 375ºF for 6-8 minutes or until they cook all the way through, be sure to flip the shrimp around the halfway mark.
- SAUCE: Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and whisk. You want to make sure to work the lumps out of the sauce completely. Taste and adjust with additional lime juice as desired. Serve with the shrimp!
- If you’re looking for a way to reheat the leftover coconut shrimp, I like to do so in an air fryer on the ‘reheat’ setting or in a traditional oven (at 400ºF) for about 6-10 minutes.