Easy Cajun Blackened Shrimp

Delicious blackened shrimp coated in Cajun blackening seasoning. This easy shrimp recipe is ready in 15 minutes! Great for tacos, bowls, salads, po-boys, and pasta.
Up close plate of blackened shrimp with parsley and lemon.

The best blackened shrimp with a Cajun kick! Plump and juicy shrimp are coated in cajun spices and cooked to perfection. They are great for adding to salads, pasta, rice bowls, lettuce wraps, or tacos. It’s an easy recipe that is ready to eat in under 15 minutes

Up close platter of blackened shrimp with lemon and parsley.

The best blackened shrimp recipe

Growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana, fresh shrimp were plentiful and we ate them often! Shrimp and seafood in general are a huge part of Cajun cuisine.

Fried shrimp are always a favorite, but take a little extra work. If you want a super quick weeknight dinner, these blackened shrimp are easy to make and are ready in less than 15 minutes! 

Toss them in homemade blackening seasoning and sear them in a hot cast iron and you’re ready to eat! If you love the blackened flavor, try Blackened Chicken Breasts, Blackened Chicken Wings, Blackened Corn, or this Cajun Salmon Alfredo with delicious blackened salmon!

For more shrimp dish ideas, try Cajun Shrimp Cocktail or Chimichurri Shrimp Tacos

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Super fast. Shrimp cooks quickly, so this whole recipe is ready in 15 minutes!
  • Bold flavors. Blackened cajun spices, garlic, lemon, and shrimp make a delicious combination of flavors. 
  • Adjustable heat. You can make these delicious shrimp as spicy (or mild) as you want by adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper. 
  • Versatile. You can use these shrimp as a stand alone main course, for pasta, salads, po-boys, shrimp tacos, burrito bowls, and more!

What are blackened shrimp?

Blackening refers to a technique of cooking food at a high heat using a special seasoning mix. Blackened food originates from Chef Paul Prudhomme who helped make Cajun cuisine popular. 

Blackened shrimp are coated in Cajun spices and cooked quickly in a cast iron skillet over high heat to get the distinct “blackened” look.

The blackening seasoning is a spice blend of cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried thyme, and dried basil. To read all about blackening seasoning, its uses, its origins, and a recipe to make your own, check out Cajun Blackening Seasoning.

Blackened shrimp are great for eating on their own, serving in pastas, salads, wraps, quesadillas, shrimp tacos, and more!

Ingredients & Substitutions

Ingredients needed to make blackened shrimp.

See the recipe card below for the complete list of ingredients and measurements.

  • Blackening seasoning – This special Cajun seasoning blend is needed for blackening food. It’s great for chicken, fish, shrimp, and more. It has heat from cayenne pepper with other dried herbs and spices. If you want to add more heat, add an extra ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper. You can substitute smoked paprika for regular paprika, but I like using both for a smoky flavor. See Cajun Blackening Seasoning for the full batch recipe. 
  • Shrimp – Frozen or fresh shrimp work well for this recipe. Save time by buying the easy peel frozen shrimp that are already deveined and shells cut. See the shrimp size table below to figure out which size shrimp you should buy. 
  • Fats – Sear the shrimp in a high heat oil like avocado oil, then finish them off in melted butter for the best flavor. You can use butter or olive oil to cook them in, but it may become smoky. You can also use clarified butter in place of avocado oil. 
  • Produce – Garlic is added at the end of cooking the shrimp so it doesn’t burn. Lemon and parsley are optional toppings, but add a nice acidity and brightness to the shrimp.

Make a big batch of homemade blackening seasoning so you have some on hand for blackening chicken, fish, pork, shrimp, beef, or vegetables!

What size shrimp to buy?

When buying shrimp, you will see a number listed. 

The number on shrimp indicates the number of shrimp per pound. Larger shrimp will have lower numbers, and smaller shrimp will have higher numbers.

The letter U in front of the number means there are under that number of shrimp per pound. These will be some of the largest shrimp. 

For example, 21-25 shrimp will have 21-25 shrimp per pound. U-15 shrimp will have under 15 shrimp per pound.

A table listing the sizes of shrimp and what dishes that size is best for.

*It’s important to note that the size names are not standard across all shrimp sellers, so sometimes Jumbo may be listed as 16-20 on some brands and 21-25 on others. This also might depend if the shrimp are peeled or shell on. 

How to peel and devein shrimp?

If you find shrimp with the shells still on, don’t be intimidated! It’s easy to peel them.

STEP ONE: HEAD

Remove the head if its still intact by pinching and pulling.

Peeling shrimp with gloves on.

STEP TWO: LEGS

Pinch the legs with your thumb and pointer and peel to one side. They should easily peel back.

Removing the tail from shrimp.

STEP THREE: SHELL

Pulling back the legs will pull off the rest of the shell segments. You can choose to leave the tail segment on or off.

Time saving tip for peeling shrimp: Peel them all first, then make cuts and devein them all after. This makes the process go quicker!

Cutting a slit up the back of shrimp.

STEP FOUR: CUT

Make an incision about ¼ inch deep along the back of the shrimp to reveal the vein.

Removing the vein from a shrimp.

STEP FIVE: DEVEIN

Gently pull the vein out and discard. It may be dark brown, beige, to orange.

STEP SIX: RINSE

Run the shrimp under cold water to rinse. Now you are ready to use them in your recipe!

A note about deveining shrimp: Deveining is optional, but I prefer to do it, especially for larger shrimp. The “vein” is actually the digestive tract. Sometimes it contains gritty sand, so it is better to remove it and rinse the shrimp after!

Equipment needed

How to blacken shrimp

A spoon mixing blackening seasoning blend in a small bowl.

STEP ONE: MIX

Mix together ingredients for blackening seasoning and set aside. 

A plate of shrimp seasoned with blackening seasoning.

STEP TWO: PREP

Peel, devein, and pat shrimp dry. Coat them evenly with blackened seasoning. 

Blackened shrimp being seared in a cast iron skillet

STEP THREE: SEAR

Sear shrimp in avocado oil until just opaque, about 1-2 minutes each side. 

STEP FOUR: FINISH

Add butter and garlic to the pan and stir to coat the shrimp. Remove from heat. 

Serve with a sprinkle of parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serve immediately on tacos, pasta, wraps, salads, sandwiches, enchiladas, or rice bowls.

Other cooking methods:

  • On the grill. Grill the shrimp for 1-2 minutes on each side. Put them on heat safe skewers to make it easier to flip and handle. 
  • Oven baked. Keep in mind this method won’t produce the best blackened effect! Bake shrimp at 400°F (205°C) on a baking sheet for about 8 minutes. 

PRO TIP: You can blacken almost anything! Try Blackened Chicken Wings, Blackened Chicken Breasts, Blackened Chicken Thighs, Blackened Tuna, Blackened Grouper, or Blackened Salmon.

Expert Tips

  • Make it easy. Buy frozen easy-peel shrimp to make peeling a breeze! They should already be deveined with a slice up the back. You just have to defrost and gently peel off the shell. 
  • Dry = better sear = better flavor. Patting the shrimp dry with paper towels is an important step! This ensures the shrimp get that flavorful blackened crust. 
  • Preheat your pan! Using a well heated skillet is essential to getting a blackened sear on these shrimp. 
  • The right tools. Using tongs makes flipping over the shrimp much easier. 
  • Work in batches. If you have more shrimp than can fit in the pan, work in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. This will help all shrimp get blackened. 
  • Don’t overcook. Shrimp will cook up quickly, and continue cooking even after you remove them from the heat. Remove cooked shrimp from the hot pan to a serving plate promptly so they don’t overcook.
Blackened shrimp next to a bottle of blackening seasoning.

Storage & make ahead

How to store leftovers: Store leftover blackened shrimp in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. 

How to freeze: Do not freeze this recipe once cooked. 

How to reheat: For best results, reheat shrimp in a skillet. Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat and reheat shrimp for a minute on each side. Serve immediately. Be careful not to overcook. 

Make ahead: You can peel and devein shrimp the night before and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Prepare the blackened seasoning a few days in advance to save time.

What to serve with blackened shrimp

These blackened shrimp are good for so many dishes! Here are a few of my favorite ways to serve them:

A plate of blackened shrimp topped with lemon and parsley

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to cook raw shrimp?

Shrimp cook quickly! Depending on the size, raw shrimp will cook in a hot skillet in 1-2 minutes per side. 

Are blackened shrimp spicy?

Yes, most blackened shrimp recipes have heat from cayenne pepper and are moderately spicy. You can adjust the spice level by adding more or less cayenne pepper when you make your own Blackening Seasoning.

Should you leave the tails on shrimp?

The way you are serving shrimp dictates if you should leave the tails on or not. For dishes like shrimp cocktail or fried shrimp where you are using your hands to eat, the tail is helpful to act like a dipping handle. Most restaurants leave the tail on for pasta dishes, but I prefer to leave them off. Leaving them on in pasta means your guests have to remove them themselves. 

How to defrost frozen shrimp?

The best way to defrost frozen shrimp is to submerge them in a bowl of cold water. Within 30 minutes, they should be almost completely thawed. 

More blackened recipes

More Cajun seafood recipes

This post was updated in 2023 with an improved recipe, new photos, and more helpful information!

Lauren sitting on the kitchen counter.

Meet Lauren

I’m the blogger, recipe developer, food photographer, and otherwise food obsessed gal behind Lauren From Scratch. I was born and raised in New Orleans and lived in South Louisiana most of my life. Growing up around Cajun country has instilled a love of food that runs deep in my bones. I am passionate about food and teaching you how to make mouth-watering Louisiana inspired dishes in your own kitchen!


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Up close plate of blackened shrimp with parsley and lemon.

Easy Blackened Shrimp Recipe

Delicious blackened shrimp coated in Cajun blackening seasoning. This easy shrimp recipe is ready in 15 minutes! Great for tacos, bowls, salads, po-boys, and pasta.
4.95 from 37 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Cajun, Southern
Servings 4 servings
Calories 173 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

Blackening Seasoning

Shrimp

  • 2 pounds shrimp at least 31-35 size, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil or other high heat oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter softened, optional
  • 1 clove garlic minced, optional
  • 1 lemon for serving optional
  • 1 fresh parsley finely chopped for serving optional

Instructions
 

  • MIX: Mix together ingredients for blackening seasoning in a small bowl until well combined and set aside.
  • PREP: Peel and devein shrimp. Pat them dry with a paper towel. Coat shrimp evenly with blackened seasoning mix. Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  • SEAR: Add avocado oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add seasoned shrimp in a single layer. Work in batches if needed to not overcrowd the pan. Cook shrimp for about 1-2 minutes on each side, until shrimp are just opaque.
  • FINISH: In the last minute of cooking, add butter and garlic to the pan if using. Stir to coat and cook for about 1 minute, then remove shrimp from heat. If you had more than one batch, add all the shrimp back to the pan and toss in butter and garlic.
  • SERVE: Sprinkle with parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Serve immediately on tacos, pasta, wraps, salads, sandwiches, enchiladas, or rice bowls.

Notes

  • Most size shrimp will work for this recipe. I like to use at least 31-35 size or larger (smaller number).
  • Make the blackening seasoning more or less spicy by adding more or less cayenne pepper. It is helpful to add shrimp in a clockwise direction around the pan, then flip in the same pattern so they cook evenly.
  • Cooking time will depend on the size of your shrimp. Shrimp cook quickly, and continue to cook once you remove them from heat. Remove them from the hot pan when they are cooked.
  • Silicone tongs help to flip the shrimp faster so they don’t overcook.
  • If your shrimp aren’t blackening enough, turn the heat to high. 
  • How to store leftovers: Store leftover blackened shrimp in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
  • How to freeze: Do not freeze this recipe once cooked.
  • How to reheat: For best results, reheat shrimp in a skillet. Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat and reheat shrimp for a minute on each side. Serve immediately. Be careful not to overcook.
  • Make ahead: You can peel and devein shrimp the night before and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Prepare the blackened seasoning a few days in advance to save time.
  • Other cooking methods:
    • On the grill. Grill the shrimp for 1-2 minutes on each side. Put them on heat safe skewers to make it easier to flip and handle. Heat butter and garlic in a saucepan and cook for 1-2 minutes, then toss grilled shrimp in garlic butter. 
    • Oven baked. Keep in mind this method won’t produce the best blackened effect! Bake shrimp at 400°F (205°C) on a baking sheet for about 8 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 173kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 24gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 301mgSodium: 1223mgPotassium: 139mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 227IUVitamin C: 21mgCalcium: 180mgIron: 3mg
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8 Comments

  1. The shrimp came out great! I couldn’t get my grill side burner to light so I just put the cast iron pan right in the grill to heat up and cook. It worked great and there was some smoke. I used the blackening seasoning recipe as well and served with Cajun Alfredo pasta. It was a great meal!

  2. Great recipe! Easy to make and delicious. I will make this many times over, as a snack, a side dish, and to use as an ingredient in other dishes.

4.95 from 37 votes (35 ratings without comment)

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