If you can’t tell, we’ve been a little bit obsessed with vegan shrimp recently. Can you blame us? Its texture is spot on, it’s as versatile as regular shrimp, and unlike regular shrimp, you don’t have to de-vain it (you know, the act of removing its poop from its intestinal track).
While we’ve been throwing vegan shrimp into tacos, stir-fry’s, and fried rice, we’d be amiss if we didn’t make everybody’s (and by everybody I mean myself) favorite shrimp application: Coconut Shrimp. You know, tender shrimp on the inside, crispy golden coconut exterior, and some sort of sauce to round it all out. The process of making it is simple: dip into a starch mixture, dip into aquafaba, dip into coconut shreds, and fry until golden brown. That’s. It.
As far as our sauce of choice, I’ll have to divert your attention to a small backstory. Kim and I used to work together at a sushi restaurant in Brandon, Florida in between our travels to make money for our next trip. Like most sushi restaurants, their focus was on fish, but because we were nagging little buggers, we always convinced the sushi chefs to change up the rolls so that we could partake in the fun as well. My personal favorite roll had coconut shrimp, tempura chips, asparagus, and cucumber on the inside with thinly sliced mango and avocado on top, and then – the best part – this thick & sweet coconut pineapple sauce drizzled on top. Naturally, we convinced the sushi chefs to replace the shrimp with tempura sweet potato, but the reason we kept on coming back was for that sauce tho. Something about that crispy sweet potato and tempura chips paired with sticky, sweet coconut sauce was like chillin on a beach in Hawaii, living my best life (even though I’ve never actually been to Hawaii… sorry for stereotyping guys).
All of that just to say we had to recreate that special sauce for our own coconut shrimp and it couldn’t have been any simpler to make, as it’s made up of only two ingredients: sweetened condensed coconut milk and pineapple juice. Sweetened condensed coconut milk comprises the sweetness, viscosity, and stickiness we want while pineapple juice brings acidity, loosens things up, and adds a tropical flare. A tiny dip in this sauce blows the tastebuds away with big effects; needless to say, a little goes a long way.
Before we dive fully into the recipe, let’s touch on some of the special ingredients:
- Vegan Shrimp – Not gonna lie, this one may be hard for many of you to find – from the bottom of my heart, I am truly sorry. Before you give up hope, check the vegetarian section of a local oriental market, as that’s where you’ll most likely find it. The biggest purveyor of vegan shrimp is located in Southern California, so if you live anywhere in the LA / San Diego region, it should fairly easy to find it. If you’ve scoured your local oriental markets with no results, check out a local Whole Foods or specialty health food store, as there’s a chance they might have some.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk – it’s just like sweetened condensed milk… only it’s made with coconut milk (self explanatory, I know). It’s thick, stringy, and very very sweet. Thankfully, it’s WAY easier to find than vegan shrimp – check out the baking section at Whole Foods, Sprouts, or other ‘Health’ stores, the coconut milk section at an oriental market, or simply order it online! If you’re not huge on all the sugar they contain (which is hella), we have a homemade recipe on the blog that uses Swerve in place of cane sugar – the only problem is it’s prone to becoming grainy, so be sure to blend it prior to using.
- Aquafaba – if you’re familiar with vegan cuisine, you’ve already heard of aquafaba, which is the brine from a can of light-colored beans (usually chickpeas). It’s used in place of egg whites, and that’s exactly it’s purpose here too. Because it’s high in protein just like egg whites, it helps the coconut adhere to the shrimp as well as create a golden brown, crispy exterior.
- Refined Oil – not a specialty ingredient, but the type of oil you use here is important. Actually, what’s more important, is the type of oil you don’t use. You don’t want to use: unrefined oils like unrefined sesame, olive, coconut, or avocado oil. Alternatively, it’s perfectly fine to fry in their refined versions, as well as grapeseed, corn, vegetable, peanut, or soybean oil. The most important thing is that you use an oil with a smoke point of 400° F, as that’ll prevent the oil from going rancid. While it may be seen as a “health” oil, refined coconut oil is perhaps the overall best deep-frying oil, as it lasts longer than others, has relatively no flavor, and is actually one of the cheapest oils when you buy it in bulk (check megamarts like Target or Oriental markets for 1/2 gallon or 1 gallon sizes). Because saturated fats contain less carbon bonds than polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats, they break down over a longer period of time, as there’s less compounds to be broken down.
Alright, it’s almost time to dive in… right after one more bulleted list! This coconut shrimp is:
- Crispy, indulgent, tropical, savory, and sweet
- A perfect appetizer or mind-blowing party favor
- Easy and takes under 30 minutes!
- Vegan & gluten-free
Taste a bit of paradise,
Crispy Coconut Shrimp w/ Sweet Piña Colada Sauce (vegan & gluten-free)
Tropical paradise in every. indulgent. bite.
- 8 oz vegan shrimp, thawed at room temp for 30 minutes or in the fridge for one hour
- 1/4 c (40 g) tapioca or corn starch
- 3/16 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 c aquafaba
- 1/2 c shredded coconut
- 1/2 gallon refined oil, for frying
Piña Colada Sauce
- 3 tbsps sweetened condensed coconut milk
- 2 tbsps pineapple juice
- Add oil to a large & heavy dutch oven fitted with a candy thermometer or to an electric deep fryer. Turn heat to high and bring to 350° F.
- Whisk together sweetened condensed coconut milk and pineapple juice until smooth, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for later.
- In a large bowl, whisk together tapioca starch, salt, and cayenne together. Add aquafaba to a medium bowl. To another large bowl, add coconut shreds.
- Once oil’s around 340° F, place about 6 pieces of shrimp into the starch mixture and toss it around to evenly coat. Shake off excess starch then add them to the aquafaba. Move around to coat them in aquafaba, shake off excess, then add them to coconut shreds. Press shrimp into coconut shreds to ensure they have a good layer of coconut.
- When oil’s at 350° F, place 6 prepped shrimp into the fryer and fry until coconut’s golden brown; about 45 seconds per batch. Use a spider strainer to transfer them to a prepped draining rig, which is an upside down cooling rack on top of a flipped over cookie sheet with a layer of paper towels in between.
- Note: if the oil temperature continues to rise, you may want to turn the temperature down or off temporarily. If it declines too much, keep the heat on high and let it come back up to temperature.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 until they’re all fried. If your serving guests, serve them right after each batch comes out the fryer, as fresher’s better with fried food. Enjoy with Piña Colada sauce; a little dip goes a long way!
- Definitely best while fresh, but you can store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container up to 3 days. Reheat in a 400° F oven on a cookie sheet lines with aluminum foil until it’s just reheated; about 6 minutes.