Crispy Salt-and-Pepper Shrimp

crispy salt-and-pepper shrimp
Photo: Chris Simpson
Total Time:
15 mins

If you love Szechuan food, this quick shrimp dish is for you. Toasting salt and peppercorns in a dry pan wakes up their flavors, and shallow-frying the spice-and-cornstarch-coated shrimp turns the shells so light and crispy, you can eat these beauties whole. Note: Cutting slits in the shells for deveining brings an added bonus: The ginger-and-allium-infused oil seeps into the dish for extra kapow.


  • 1 teaspoon white peppercorns

  • 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns

  • 2 teaspoons coarse pink or sea salt

  • 2 pounds jumbo head-on, shell-on shrimp, deveined and patted dry

  • cup cornstarch

  • ½ cup vegetable oil

  • ¼ cup julienned fresh ginger (from a peeled 1 ½-inch piece)

  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (2 tablespoons)

  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces


  1. Toast both types of peppercorns and salt in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and coarsely grind. Toss shrimp with spice mixture to evenly coat, then thoroughly coat in cornstarch.

  2. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high. When it shimmers, add ginger, garlic, and scallions. Cook, stirring frequently, just until fragrant and beginning to turn golden in places, about 2 minutes.

  3. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving oil in skillet. Add shrimp to skillet in a single layer (you may need to work in two batches); cook, flipping once, until they turn opaque and shells become crisp and golden brown in places, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer to bowl with ginger mixture, tossing to evenly coat; serve immediately.

Cook's Notes

Shrimp heads are flavorful and juicy. To best enjoy them, twist and pull them off, then gently squeeze from the top of the head while sucking on the other end. If making this recipe with headless shrimp, use only 1 1/2 pounds. To devein shell-on shrimp, use kitchen shears to snip along the vein line, beginning at the head end, and remove the vein.

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