Spicy Shrimp Tacos

These spicy shrimp tacos are a healthy yet satisfying symphony of spicy, tangy, crunchy and creamy flavors on your table in just over 30 minutes!  

cminutes for a super quick and easy lunch or dinner that tastes wonderfully gourmet.  Pair these easy spicy shrimp tacos with cilantro lime rice, elote (Mexican corn on the cob) or corn salad and you have the perfect menu for taco Tuesday or any day!

If you love quick-and-easy shrimp recipes, then you’ll also love these favorites: Shrimp Tacos with Mango Salsa, Roasted Lemon Garlic Butter ShrimpJerk ShrimpLemon Butter Grilled ShrimpLemon Garlic ShrimpSheet Pan Shrimp BoilKung Pao Shrimp and Shrimp Fajitas.

up close of spicy shrimp tacos with slaw being picked up

PIN THIS RECIPE TO SAVE FOR LATER

easy SHRIMP taco RECIPE

With Cinco de Mayo upon us, I wanted to share this easy spicy shrimp recipe that’s unintentionally healthy, intentionally sensational, and ridiculously easy!  I guarantee they will become a new favorite for lunch, dinner, and entertaining (post pandemic) because the mesmerizing layers of flavor and texture are out of this world!

The shrimp is seasoned to perfection with hints of chili powder, ground cumin, onion, garlic, smoked paprika, ground coriander, cayenne pepper and lime juice whisked together in a 15 minute marinade that does all the work. The succulent morsels drink up the flavor and emerge hot, juicy and stand-alone-scrumptious after a quick sizzle in your skillet.

Now, let’s talk slaw. This isn’t just any shrimp taco slaw, this is pineapple cucumber slaw and it’s every bit as dreamy as it sounds. I adapted the recipe from my blackened fish tacos because I knew its fresh, crunchy, juicy, sweet and tangy splendor would pair perfectly with the spicy shrimp.  Finally, top the spicy shrimp tacos with silky avocado crema and you will be wishing every night was taco night! 

This spicy shrimp taco recipe is also extremely flexible – make them how you want!  While I am partial to the pineapple cucumber slaw and avocado crema, you could also top them with simple green cabbage and guacamole with a fresh squeeze of lime juice.  You can also top the easy shrimp tacos with your favorite salsas from mango salsa, to pineapple salsa to avocado corn salsa.  As long as you top the shrimp taco with something crunchy and something creamy, you’ll have a winning combo because the spicy shrimp is so sublime!

WHAT SIZE SHRIMP SHOULD I BUY?

Use jumbo or extra jumbo shrimp, 16-21 count (which means there are 16-21 shrimp in a pound) for these spicy shrimp tacos. Jumbo shrimp stay super juicy and boast a more appealing texture.  This easy shrimp taco recipe can still be made with smaller shrimp, but you will need to cook the shrimp in more than two batches and pay special attention not to overcook the shrimp.

top view of spicy shrimp tacos with slaw on a white platter

TIPS FOR BUYING SHRIMP

This shrimp taco recipe is made with just a few ingredients, the star, of course, being the shrimp!  Here’s what to look for:

  • Purchase wild caught shrimp.   Look for wild caught shrimp versed farm-raised for the best flavor and texture.
  • Purchase raw, deveined shrimp.  Look for shrimp that is raw (not precooked), peeled and deveined.  Buying prepared shrimp saves you TONS of time and makes your job a snap because all you have to do is thaw the shrimp. 
  • Frozen shrimp is awesome!  Frozen shrimp is frozen shortly after it’s caught which means it’s frozen at peak freshness.  So, unless you live coastal (and even then), it is even more fresh than the seafood counter by the time it’s purchased and you actually use it.  Frozen shrimp is also more economical than fresh which means you can keep it stocked and read to use any time. 

HOW TO PREP SHRIMP

If you are new to cooking shrimp, here is some helpful information to prepare and cook shrimp perfectly every time, whether for this shrimp taco recipe or any of my other fabulous easy shrimp recipes:

CAN I MAKE THIS SHRIMP taco RECIPE WITH FROZEN SHRIMP?

Yes!  I use frozen shrimp all the time just like I did in this shrimp taco recipe.  Just make sure you thaw the shrimp completely and pat it dry before using.

HOW TO THAW FROZEN SHRIMP

There are two options for thawing your frozen shrimp:

  • Easy Thaw Method: The most hands-off method is to transfer your bag of shrimp to the refrigerator and let it thaw overnight.
  • Quick Thaw: Method: Is super convenient, and honestly what I use the most. To quickly thaw your shrimp, transfer the shrimp to a freezer size bag and tightly seal. Add the bag to a large bowl and submerge with cold tap water; place a heavy bowl (you can fill it with cans) over the shrimp so it doesn’t float and stays completely submerged. Let the shrimp sit for 10-20 minutes.   After 10 minutes, replace the water with new cold tap water and submerge the shrimp again.  Let shrimp sit an additional 10- 20 minutes.  If the shrimp isn’t completely thawed, then repeat. 

WHAT’S THE EASIEST WAY TO PEEL AND DEVEIN SHRIMP?

I like to purchase shrimp that is already peeled and deveined so all the work is done for me!   If you purchase shrimp that is not deveined, it will still have the dark, sandy intestinal tract running along the back of the shrimp just beneath the surface.  Sometimes it will be very dark and sometimes it will be harder to spot depending on when the shrimp ate last.

While eating the shrimp with the veins won’t harm you, it can add grittiness and distract from the clean shrimp taste so I highly recommended removing it.  To devein shrimp:

  1. First, locate the vein in the shrimp running along its back.
  2. Make a shallow cut and use the tip of the knife to lift it out.
  3. The veins and shells can then be thrown away.
  4. Rinse the shrimp and lay on a paper towel to dry.
DO I HAVE TO DEVEIN BOTH SIDES OF THE SHRIMP?

You may have noticed a second dark tract running along the shrimp’s belly even if you have purchased “deveined” shrimp. This tract is NOT another digestive tract but the nerve cord and does not need to be removed. 

showing how to make shrimp taco recipe by drizzling with avocado crema

how do you season spicy SHRIMP tacos?

In addition to shrimp, you will need the following to make this spicy shrimp taco recipe:

  • Olive oil:  Use quality extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.  You may also use another favorite cooking oil.
  • Lime juice:  Please use fresh lime juice for this recipe!  I like to freeze extra lime and lemon juice by the 1 tablespoon ice cubes so it’s always handy.  
  • Seasonings:  The shrimp needs to be stand alone delicious with a robust flavor profile before being tossed with the lime juice. This recipe uses chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, onion powder, cayenne pepper, ground coriander, salt and pepper to season the shrimp. If you don’t have coriander stocked, it’s okay to skip it.  They cayenne pepper is what brings the heat.  This recipe calls for ½ teaspoon but if you would like more mild shrimp tacos, use ¼ teaspoon.
  • INTERNATIONAL WARNINNG:  American chili powder is a blend of chilies, cumin, garlic powder, and herbs with a ratio of one-part cayenne to seven parts the other spices.  Chili powders sold in other parts of the world, however, are 100% chile pepper and 8X hotter than chili powder! So, please use American-style chili powder to make this recipe or your mouth will be on FIRE!

shrimp TACOs with SLAW

These spicy shrimp tacos would not be complete without the refreshing, sweet, tangy crunch of the pineapple cucumber slaw against the spicy shrimp.  It is so good you will want to eat it plain with fork! 

The slaw is a quick tossing together of fresh pineapple, green cabbage, cucumber, red onion, cilantro and lime juice – so refreshingly delicious and so ready to be piled on your spicy shrimp tacos!

As with all slaw measurements, the ingredients are simply suggestions.  I do realize the slaw requires a few extra ingredients (but so worth it!), then just cabbage slaw, so feel free to skip or substitute any of the ingredients (I’ve provided extra topping ideas below). You can use all cabbage, swap the pineapple for mangos, green cabbage for red cabbage, cucumbers for bell peppers, etc.

showing how to make slaw for shrimp tacos

MY FAVORTE shrimp TACO SAUCE

Lastly, I could have topped these spicy shrimp tacos with chopped avocados, guacamole, cilantro crema, etc., but I went with my favorite avocado crema because it doesn’t get any better!  It’s super silky and creamy, infused with lime, cumin, garlic and cilantro. 

The crema is super simple to make in your blender with just a few ingredients and doesn’t require any chopping. It’s especially perfect when you’re already making a slaw or salsa with red onion, cilantro, etc. and don’t need all the extra bells and whistles. The crema’s cool refreshing creaminess cuts through and compliments the robust, spicy flavors of the shrimp tacos.

showing how to make easy shrimp tacos by mixing avocado crema in a white bowl.

More topping ideas

This spicy shrimp taco recipe is delicious as written or it is easy to customize the slaw and the avocado crema.  No matter what combination you use, I suggest something sweet to contrast the smoky, spicy shrimp, something crunchy and something creamy.

  • Red cabbage:  Swap the green cabbage for red cabbage or the entire slaw for cabbage tossed with salt, pepper and lime juice.
  • Salsas: So many to choose from!  Store bought salsa is always an easy topping or get fancy with my homemade restaurant salsa salsa verdeblack bean corn salsaavocado salsa, charred corn salsa, mango salsa, or pineapple salsa or strawberry salsa.
  • Sour Cream:  Adds delightful tangy creaminess.   If you are trying to save some calories, you may the substitute the sour cream with plain Greek yogurt.  Although not authentic, it gets the job done and you don’t have to feel guilty about piling it on.
  • Guacamole:  Use your favorite recipe or my homemade guacamole recipe (amazing!) or you can even use store bought.
  • Avocados: Chopped or sliced avocados are the easiest avocado option and add a wonderful creaminess.
  • Pico de gallo:  Is fresh tomato salsa that adds a vibrant, punchy freshness.  You can use my homemade pico de then gallo recipe or store bought. You can make the pico de gallo ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Lime: Use lime wedges to add freshly squeezed lime juice if additional tanginess is desired.
  • Cilantro:  If you skip the pico de gallo, you can load on fresh cilantro and tomatoes instead.
  • Jalapenos: You can also amp up the heat with chopped or sliced jalapenos or hot sauce.   
  • Pickle onions:  I love pickled onions on tacos! Tangy, punchy fantastic.

WHAT ARE THE BEST TORTILLAS FOR shrimp TACOS?

I love shrimp tacos with corn tortillas which I highly recommend for this recipe.  You can’t beat the toasted corn flavor by lightly charring or toasting the tortillas. The following recommendations are not affiliates, just my affections:

CORN TORTILLAS

I love La Tortilla Factory Corn Tortillas. They are thicker, homemade tortillas that never break or tear even when charred and piled with toppings.  I find mine at Sprouts.  They come in 8 per package. They are definitely more expensive BUT less than dining out!

Be aware that this brand of corn tortillas is not gluten free as it does contain corn AND wheat.

FLOUR TORTILLAS

I am less picky when it comes to flour tortillas because most brand won’t crumble, unlike corn tortillas.  I like Guerro brand tortillas which is probably the easiest brand to find at your local grocery store. If you go flour, be aware, you’re missing out on some serious flavor

HOW TO MAKE SHRIMP tacos reCipe

Now that we’ve covered all of the basics – let’s get to the main event – how to make easy shrimp tacos!

STEP 1:MARINATE the SHRIMP

  • We are going to make a thick marinade, so essentially a wet rub by whisking olive oil, lime juice, chili powder, ground cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, ground coriander, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper together in a bowl. 
  • Add shrimp and marinate at room temperature for 15-30 minutes or up to 60 minutes in the fridge.
  • While the shrimp is marinating, make the avocado crema and the slaw.
a collage showing how to make spicy easy shrimp tacos by whisking spice together in a bowl then adding shrimp and stirring to evenly coat in marinade

STEP 2:  Make avocado crema

  • Add avocado, sour cream or Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, ground cumin, and garlic powder to your blender.
  • Blend until smooth then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

STEP 3: make slaw

  • Add chopped pineapple, thinly sliced green cabbage, chopped red onions, cilantro, chopped, jalapeno, lime juice, salt and pepper to a large bowl. 
  • Stir to combine then refrigerate until ready to serve.
showing how to make shrimp taco recipe by making slaw by adding pineapple, cabbage, cucumbers, red onions and cilantro to a white bowl

STEP 4: cook shrimp

  • Melt one tablespoon butter with one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add half the shrimp and cook for approximately 2-3 minutes per side, or just until opaque and cooked through. Transfer shrimp to a plate and repeat with remaining shrimp.
  • Cook shrimp in batches so your shrimp can comfortably fit in a single layer. 
showing how to make easy shrimp taco recipe by cooking shrimp in a skillet in a single layer

step 5:  HOW TO WARM TORTILLAS:

I HIGHLY recommend warming your tortillas for the BEST shrimp tacos. Not only do warm tortillas become softer and the ideal non-jarring, melt-in-your mouth temperature, but the flavors are accentuated when warmed.  If you attempt to use room temperature or cold tortillas, you’ll find their temperature isn’t nearly as appetizing and they aren’t as pliable and soft.  Lower quality corn tortillas are also likely to break if not warmed.

You can easily warm your tortillas for these spicy shrimp tacos in SECONDS using any of my below methods: open flame, skillet, microwave or oven, with the microwave being the quickest.

Once your tortillas are warmed (with any method), keep them warm and pliable by stacking on a plate and covering with a slightly dampened, paper towel or clean towel. 

  • Open Flame (gas stove or grill): This method is how I achieve the smoky char you see on the tortillas and is best with FRESH/homemade tortillas as previously discussed.    I simply add the tortillas directly to the burner of my gas stove then flip with tongs once they are charred on one side.  You can also accomplish this on the grill as well.  If you are using lower quality corn tortillas, you will want to take special care not to over-char or they will become brittle and break.  You still want the tortillas soft and pliable. 
  • Skillet: Heat a skillet (or griddle if you have one) to medium high heat (do not grease).  Working with one tortilla at a time (more for a griddle), heat each side of the tortilla for approximately 20-30 seconds until warm and soft.  You are not looking for char marks with this method.
  • Microwave:  Working with about 5 tortillas at a time, stack tortillas on a microwave safe plate and cover with a damp paper towel.  Microwave for 20 seconds on high, then repeat at 10 second intervals if needed until warmed through.
  • Oven:  Create separate stacks of about 5 tortillas each, then wrap each stack in foil.   Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until heated through (you can bake all stacks at once).
showing how to make shrimp taco recipe by warming charring corn tortillas

STEP 6: assemble

  • There really is no right or wrong way to assemble these easy shrimp tacos, but I like to add the slaw to the bottom of the tortilla so it’s more cocooned and doesn’t create an avalanche.
  • Next, add the shrimp followed by the avocado crema. 
  • After you bite into you shrimp taco, you can adjust to taste by adding additional lime juice or hot sauce to taste.
showing how to make spicy shrimp taco recipe by adding slaw and shrimp to a tortilla

HOW TO COOK SHRIMP tacos ON THE GRILL

You can also make these easy shrimp tacos on the grill by threading the shrimp onto skewers.  Here’s how:

  • Soak wooden skewers.  Wooden skewers should be submerged in water for at least 30 minutes prior to grilling. I prefer metal skewers because you don’t have to plan ahead, they never catch on fire and are reusable.
  • Generously CLEAN grill before adding shrimp skewers.  Heat your grill to 400 degrees F with the lid closed.  Once it’s fully heated, clean it thoroughly with a wire grill brush.  A clean grill ensures direct contact with the heat to create a beautiful sear and helps prevent sticking. 
  • Grease your grill with vegetable oil.  Make a wad of paper towels, drench them in oil, then use tongs to rub it along the grill grates.
  • Make shrimp skewers. Thread the shrimp onto skewers by piercing just above the tail and again through the head so one shrimp is skewered in two places.  This prevents the shrimp from turning on the skewer so it’s easier to handle and so it cooks evenly.
  • Grill shrimp.  Evenly space skewers on the clean grill and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until the shrimp are golden – no more!  Remove grilled shrimp to a plate and toss with 2 tablespoons lime juice.

HOW TO COOK SHRIMP tacos IN THE OVEN

  • Marinate shrimp according to recipe directions.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  • Line shrimp in a single layer so it isn’t touching.
  • Roast for 8 to 10 minutes or just until opaque.
  • Remove from the oven and stir in 2 tablespoons lime juice.

HOW TO COOK SHRIMP PERFECTLY

Shrimp is very simple to cook – and literally takes minutes! The key to success is to not overcook your shrimp. Here are a few tricks:

COOK SHRIMP WITH TAIL ON

Cook your shrimp with the tails on because the tail shells contain flavor that seeps out and we get more robust shrimp flavor, much like cooking meat on the bone.  Once your shrimp is cooked and resting you can remove the tails.

DON’T OVERCOOK SHRIMP

There are two indicators of cooked shrimp -the color and shape. Here’s what to look for:

  • Color:  Raw shrimp starts off translucent gray and as it cooks, it turns pink and opaque with some pink and bright red accents.  You will want to remove the shrimp from the skillet as soon as it is fully opaque without any gray left.  Look at the crevice in the back of the shrimp where the vein was removed.  When the base of this crevice becomes opaque, the shrimp is done. If your shrimp isn’t charred but is still opaque, it is done – don’t be tempted to cook it a second longer!  To achieve more charred shrimp next time, heat your skillet or grill to a higher heat. 
  • Shape:  You can also check the shape of your shrimp but this is not as good of an indicator as color.  As shrimp cook, their muscle contract which cause them to curl.  As soon as the shrimp begin to curl, they are usually done cooking.  Some claim that perfectly cooked shrimp have “C” shape while over cooked shrimp have an “O” shape.  I think you’ll find that almost all shrimp, still have an “O” shape without being overcooked.

HOW LONG CAN YOU MARINATE SHRIMP?

Shrimp is such an easy protein to work with because it doesn’t need long to marinate at all!  I typically marinate the shrimp for 15 minutes while I prep the slaw and crema.  Shrimp should not be marinated longer than 60 minutes because the seasonings will draw moisture out of the shrimp and make it dry and the acid (lime juice in this case, can also be lemon or vinegar in other recipes) can break down the delicate meat and make it mushy. Larger shrimp is more forgiving, but I still wouldn’t push it.

TIPS FOR EASY SHRIMP taco RECIPE

This easy shrimp taco recipe is pretty straightforward, but there are a few helpful hints to guarantee the juiciest spicy shrimp every time:

  • Quality tortillas.  Try and purchase QUALITY corn tortillas – you can taste the difference! I’ve discussed this in greater detail above.
  • Purchase prepared shrimp.  Use shrimp that is already shelled and deveined which saves you TONS of prep time.
  • Use jumbo shrimp.  Using large shrimp is an insurance policy for juicy shrimp.  It is more forgiving when overcooked than smaller shrimp.
  • Thaw shrimp. It might sound obvious, but it isn’t to some 😉.  Make sure you thaw the shrimp before marinating.  Also, gently thaw the shrimp using my above detailed methods – never the microwave!  
  • Don’t overmarinate shrimp.  Don’t marinate the shrimp longer than 60 minutes or it won’t be as juicy.
  • Wait until the skillet is hot.  Don’t let “hot” be confused with high heat – we are using medium-high heat. Wait until your skillet is very hot before adding the shrimp to achieve the coveted golden sear.  
  • Use a large skillet.  Use a large enough skillet so the shrimp can be spread into an even layer to sear and not just steam. 
  • Cook shrimp in two batches. Even with a large skillet, you will need to cook the shrimp in two batches so the shrimp don’t overlap.
  • Don’t over-cook shrimp.  Cook shrimp just until opaque for the juiciest shrimp.  As soon as the shrimp turn pinkish white and start to curl, they’re done-don’t be tempted to cook them a second longer! This only takes a few minutes so have a plate ready to transfer the shrimp to so they stop cooking.
  • Cook shrimp with tails on.  I recommend cooking your shrimp with the tails on because the tail shells contain flavor that seeps out and we get more robust shrimp flavor. Once your shrimp is cooked and resting you can remove the tails if you desire.
  • Scale recipe.  If you’re cooking just for two or for small eaters, this shrimp taco recipe is easy to cut in half. The cooking instructions remain the same.
  • Adjust to taste.  As with all recipes, make it your own!  Play with the wet rub seasonings, the slaw and the crema.
showing how to serve easy spicy shrimp taco recipe by lining tacos on a white platter

Shrimp taco recipe variations

This shrimp taco recipe is delicious as written or feel free to play around with additional toppings or swapping the toppings.

  • Make it less spicy.  Reduce the cayenne pepper in the recipe to ¼ teaspoon.
  • Swap slaw.  You can swap the green cabbage for red cabbage or use all cabbage, or combine red or green cabbage with your favorite fruit salsa recipe such as pineapple mango salsa, mango salsa or pineapple salsa.  Corn salsa would also be tasty.
  • Add Veggies. You can add veggies or swap the slaw for veggies such as cucumbers, bell peppers or corn.
  • Swap crema.  You can also use my sensational Tomatillo Avocado Ranch or Cilantro Lime Dressing – yum!
  • Add avocados.  You can swap the avocado crema for simple sliced avocados or guacamole.

CAN I MAKE THIS RECIPE AHEAD OF TIME?

This shrimp taco recipe is best served fresh, hot from the skillet. Still, extra-large shrimp are more forgiving than smaller shrimp so they reheat nicely but you may need to amp up the flavor with additional lime juice and cayenne pepper to taste.  For best results, I suggest prepping the ingredients according to the directions below and then cooking when ready to serve.

WHAT CAN I PREP AHEAD?

This shrimp taco recipe can be mostly prepped ahead so when it comes time to cook, it’s just a quick marinade to dinner.

  • Marinade: Whisk all the marinade ingredients together, cover and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator WITHOUT THE SHRIMP for up to 2 days.
  • Slaw: Chop the slaw ingredient but keep them in separate airtight containers up to 24 hours ahead of time.  You can combine them up to 60 minutes before making, but not too much earlier because we want the cabbage to stay nice and crunchy.
  • Avocado crema:  Can be made and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days IF you transfer the crema to an airtight container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the crema before adding the lid.  This will delay oxidization/browning that occurs when the surface of the dip/avocado come in contact with air. 

HOW TO STORE

  • How to store:  Cooked shrimp should be stored separately in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  When properly stored, it is good for three to four days. Store the slaw and avocado crema in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator.  Make sure to push plastic wrap directly on the surface of the avocado crema to prevent oxidation.
  • How to freeze:  You can freeze the shrimp but both the slaw and the crema do not freeze well.  After you have cooked the shrimp, let it cool completely then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze for 2 to 3 months.

how to REHEAT shrimp TACOS

  • How to reheat in a skillet:  Heat a drizzle of oil in a skillet over medium heat, add some butter if desired for extra richness.  Add shrimp and cook just until warmed through.
  • How to reheat in the microwave:  Transfer shrimp to a microwave safe plate. Microwave for 30 seconds then at 15 second intervals as needed. Take care not to over-cook or the shrimp will become rubbery.  The key is to warm the shrimp and not cook the shrimp any further.

WHAT sides TO SERVE WITH shrimp TACOS?

I love my spicy shrimp tacos with Cilantro Lime Rice,  Elote (Grilled Mexican Street Corn), a big bowl of tortilla chips and salsa, followed by Churros or Tres Leches Cake.  Here are some more favorites to serve with shrimp tacos:

IS SHRIMP HEALTHY?

Shrimp is low in calories, contains zero carbs and provides a high amount of protein and healthy fats.  It is also an excellent source of iodine, an important mineral required for proper thyroid function and brain health as well as selenium, a mineral that may help reduce inflammation and promote heart health. 

Shrimp is also a good source of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids as well as the antioxidant astaxanthin, all of which promote heart health.   It is also high in other nutrients, for example, four ounces of shrimp contains over 75% of the daily value for vitamin B12, over 50% for phosphorous, and over 30% for choline and copper, as well as phosphorus, niacin, zinc, and magnesium.

up close of showing how to make shrimp taco recipe by drizzling with avocado crema
up close of showing how to make shrimp taco recipe by drizzling with avocado crema

Spicy Shrimp Tacos

This spicy shrimp taco recipe rivals any restaurant, is astonishingly easy AND you can customize the spicy level!  They are exploding with fiesta flavor topped with sweet, crunchy pineapple cucumber slaw and addictive, silky avocado crema. You can prep the toppings ahead of time or while your shrimp marinates for 15 minutes for a super quick and easy lunch or dinner that tastes wonderfully gourmet.  Pair these easy spicy shrimp tacos with cilantro lime rice, elote (Mexican corn on the cob) or corn salad and you have the perfect menu for taco Tuesday or any day!
Servings: 8 -10 tacos
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds extra-large shrimp peeled with tails left on and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 -10 corn or small flour tortillas

15 MINUTE WET RUB MARINADE

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tsp EACH chili powder, ground cumin, onion powder, garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, ground coriander, salt, pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

PINEAPPLE CUCUMBER SLAW

  • 2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
  • 2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
  • 3/4 English cucumber, chopped (or 1 medium, peeled slicing cucumber)
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

AVOCADO CREMA

Instructions

  • Marinate Shrimp: Add a marinade ingredients to a freezer bag or medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add shrimp and marinate at room temperature for 15-30 minutes or in the refrigerator for up to 60 minutes (no more!).
  • Avocado Crema: Meanwhile, make the Avocado Crema according to recipe directions. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve.
  • Pineapple Cucumber Slaw: Add all of the Pineapple Cucumber Slaw ingredients to a large bowl. Toss to combine then season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Cook Shrimp: Melt one tablespoon butter with one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the shrimp and cook approximately 2-3 minutes per side, or just until opaque and cooked through. Toss with 1 tablespoon lime juice then repeat with remaining shrimp.
  • Assemble: Grill tortillas on stovetop over the flame until lightly charred or warm in the microwave by stacking 5 tortillas at a time, covering with a damp paper towel and microwaving for 20 seconds on high, repeat at 10 second intervals if needed until warmed through. Spoon pineapple cucumber slaw generously over warm tortillas, then top with shrimp and drizzle with avocado crema. Serve tacos with lime wedges on the side and hot sauce to taste.

Notes

Slaw: You can swap the green cabbage for red cabbage or use all cabbage, or combine red or green cabbage with your favorite fruit salsa recipe such as pineapple mango salsa, mango salsa or pineapple salsa.  Corn salsa would also be tasty.

PREP AHEAD

This shrimp taco recipe can be mostly prepped ahead so when it comes time to cook, it’s just a quick marinade to dinner.
  • Marinade: Whisk all the marinade ingredients together, cover and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator WITHOUT THE SHRIMP for up to 2 days.
  • Slaw: Chop the slaw ingredient but keep them in separate airtight containers up to 24 hours ahead of time.  You can combine them up to 60 minutes before making, but not too much earlier because we want the cabbage to stay nice and crunchy.
  • Avocado crema:  Can be made and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days IF you transfer the crema to an airtight container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the crema before adding the lid.  This will delay oxidization/browning that occurs when the surface of the dip/avocado come in contact with air. 

HOW TO STORE

  • How to store:  Cooked shrimp should be stored separately in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  When properly stored, it is good for three to four days. Store the slaw and avocado crema in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator.  Make sure to push plastic wrap directly on the surface of the avocado crema to prevent oxidation.
  • How to freeze:  You can freeze the shrimp but both the slaw and the crema do not freeze well.  After you have cooked the shrimp, let it cool completely then transfer it to an airtight container or plastic freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze for 2 to 3 months.

how to REHEAT 

  • How to reheat in a skillet:  Heat a drizzle of oil in a skillet over medium heat, add some butter if desired for extra richness.  Add shrimp and cook just until warmed through.
  • How to reheat in the microwave:  Transfer shrimp to a microwave safe plate. Microwave for 30 seconds then at 15 second intervals as needed. Take care not to over-cook or the shrimp will become rubbery.  The key is to warm the shrimp and not cook the shrimp any further.v

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6 Comments

  1. Ramya says

    will be making this and avocado crema soon can i use mushrooms and vegan butter for this and coconut cream and vegan mayo for your crema as am a vegan i never had mexican food and tacos before perfect for my after office meals will dm you if i make this and let you know how it goes Thanks Ramya

    • Jen says

      If you’ve never had Mexican food before, you are in for a treat! I’m happy you can make it with vegan substitutions!

  2. Barb says

    Love your shrimp taco recipe(s)! Question: How would you adjust your recipe(s) if your are using pre-cooked tail on shrimp to get the same great flavor? Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Hi Barb, I haven’t personally tried it, but I think you could still mix the cooked shrimp with the wet rub and it would taste great. My only concern is it might be a little stronger, so maybe don’t mix the shrimp with all of the marinade to begin with and add the rest if it needs it. I hope that helps!

  3. Carolyn says

    Hi Jen! How much cucumber would you add to the slaw? I did not see it listed in the recipe.

    • Jen says

      Thanks for catching that! I would use 3/4 English cucumber, chopped or 1 medium, peeled slicing cucumber, chopped.