When it comes to the best frozen fried shrimp, I consider myself a bit of an expert. See, I grew up in Northeast Florida, where you can head to the docks and get shrimp that was battered and fried just moments after it came off a trawler. (Oh, how I miss you, Singleton’s!) Frozen fried shrimp from the grocery store is unlikely to approximate the crustaceans you’d eat at a picnic table outside a shrimp shack in the dense Florida humidity, but it shouldn’t be bad either.
Sadly, a lot of frozen fried shrimp is pretty bad. The shrimp is small. It’s covered in too much breading (and when there’s too much breading, it all turns to soggy mush). It has none of that signature shellfish snappiness whatsoever. We tried a lot of mediocre shrimp to find four fried shrimp brands that are worth the freezer space.
- SeaPak Popcorn Shrimp
Popcorn shrimp is a childhood classic, and SeaPak makes the best frozen popcorn shrimp we tried. These tasty little morsels are pleasantly salty, wonderfully crip out of the oven, and the shrimp itself is super tender, even if it doesn’t bring big seafood flavor. That’s allowed with popcorn shrimp. Throw some of these lil’ guys on a cookie sheet with good oven fries (we recommend Lamb-Weston), grab some cocktail sauce or malt vinegar, and that’s dinner, baby.
Credit: Merc / Instacart
- Whole Catch Black Peppercorn
When I worked at Applebee’s in college, we served a shrimp caesar salad topped with black peppercorn breaded shrimp, and I could never resist stealing one off the plate before I served it (don’t worry, there were A LOT on the plate, but, also, this is why I’m no longer in the service industry). I expected these peppercorn shrimp from Whole Foods to be like the ones I pilfered from hungry Applebee’s diners, but, good news, they’re even better. They’re coated in a crispy, flavorful batter that reminded Sporked editor-in-chief Justine Sterling of chicken nuggets. They’re so black peppery, it almost reads as heat. The shrimp themselves are much higher quality than a lot of frozen shrimp—they actually have bite rather than being mushy or chewy. Follow in the footsteps of a mediocre chain restaurant and toss a handful of these on top of a caesar salad.
Credit: Merc / Amazon
- Whole Catch Crunchy Coconut Butterfly Shrimp
So many of the coconut shrimp we tasted were just. too. sweet. Coconut shrimp should taste like mild, nutty, fresh coconut flakes, not like a damn piña colada. These shrimp from Whole Foods are by far the best frozen fried shrimp you can buy if you’re looking for something a little tropical but not cloying. They’re big and the coconut coating doesn’t overpower the flavor of the shrimp. With a ramekin of sweet chili dipping sauce on the side, these make a restaurant-quality app. I even put in my notes that if I got these at a restaurant, I’d be into it! If I ever have the space to host a proper party, I’m serving these.
- Kirkland Breaded Panko Shrimp
Kirkland’s panko-breaded shrimp are the best frozen fried shrimp we tried, by a longshot. They’re at least twice as big as the other shrimp we taste tested. The breading is crispy rather than soggy. The oil they’re fried in is super fresh tasting. These are probably intended for parties (the box is gigantic), but I say make space in the freezer and keep a box on hand for everyday dining. Seriously, the next time you make an Asian rice bowl with veggies and a squiggle of yum-yum sauce, these will make the perfect protein.
Best of the Best
Other products we tried: SeaPak Budweiser Beer Battered Shrimp, Gorton’s Beer Battered Shrimp, Gorton’s Butterfly Shrimp, Amazon Coconut Shrimp, Kroger Popcorn Shrimp, Kroger Coconut Shrimp, Kroger Butterfly Shrimp, Great Value Butterfly Shrimp