How to Brine Shrimp

Whether you’re making shrimp cocktail, ceviche, or shrimp scampi, a quick brine of salt, sugar, and water will elevate the flavor and make your shrimp irrestibly tender and juicy. Many people skip the step just because they aren’t sure how to do it — that’s where this how to brine shrimp recipe comes into play.

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You can start with fresh shrimp or thawed frozen shrimp — either will work. Then you just quickly stir up the easy solution, add the shrimp, and let them sit for a short bit of time before you use your favorite recipe to prepare them.

There are other variations out there for brining shrimp, but this is my preferred method because it’s so quick and easy and has so few ingredients. However, if you want to impart different flavors, you can add ingredients like bay leaves, spices, and herbs.

The next time you go to make shrimp, put aside a few extra minutes to brine them. You won’t regret it!

how to brine shrimp in a pan

Why Brine?

Quite simply, brining shrimp helps to ensure that they are plump and have a firm texture — it also helps to keep them juicy when you cook them. The salt water affects the structure of the protein in the shrimp, allowing them to become tender.

The sugar, on the other hand, affects the taste and appearance of the shrimp, rather than the texture. Thanks to the sugar, they are slightly sweeter and become more brown when cooked.

Brining is hands-down the best way to ensure that you wind up with succulent shrimp on your plate no matter how you cook them.

close up of brined shrimp in a pan

Best Shrimp Brine Recipe

You only need a few basic ingredients from the grocery store to both brine and cook the shrimp.

To Brine:

  • Cold water – Be sure to use cold water so that the shrimp remain at a safe temperature while brining.
  • Coarse kosher salt – While you can use any type of salt you prefer this variety works well and dissolves fairly quickly. Sea salt is another good option.
  • Sugar – Granulated sugar is the easiest to use for this recipe.
  • Large shrimp – One of the first things to do is devein and peel your raw shrimp. Peeled shrimp will brine more quickly.

To Cook:

  • Unsalted butter – Since the shrimp will retain some salt flavor from the brine, it’s ideal to use unsalted butter. You can add more salt once you’ve taste-tested.
  • Garlic – Mince the garlic cloves finely so that there are no large chunks.
  • Lemon – For plenty of bright lemon flavor you’ll want to use both the juice and the zest.
  • Flat leaf parsley – Chop the parsley finely for the best presentation.
overhead shot of how to brine shrimp

How To Brine Your Shrimp

The hands-prep time for both brining and cooking is minimal.

  1. Pour water, salt and sugar into a large bowl and stir until the salt is entirely dissolved.
  2. Place the deveined shrimp in the bowl with the brining solution. Make sure that there’s enough brine solution so that the water level is above them all so that they brine evenly.
  3. Allow the shrimp to brine for the recommended amount of time.
  4. When ready to cook, remove the shrimp from the salt solution and gently dry them using paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.
  5. Melt the butter and garlic in a large pan.
  6. Add the shrimp to the pan and toss gently until they are pink and no longer translucent. As the shrimp cooks, the tail should curl.
  7. Transfer to a plate, garnish, and serve.

Other Easy How-Tos For Brining Protein

How To Brine a Turkey

How To Brine Pork Chops

Dry Brine Turkey

How To Brine a Chicken

overhead shot of shrimp and rice on a plate

Common Questions About Brining Shrimp

How long: Peeled shrimp only need about 20-30 minutes of brining time while unpeeled shrimp require 40 minutes to an hour. Try not to brine for longer than an hour though to avoid interfering with the shrimp’s delicate flavor and texture

Room temperature or in the refrigerator: Keeping proteins in the refrigerator while brining is usually necessary for food safety reasons because many meats require a longer brine time. However, since shrimp take less than an hour to brine, you can leave the bowl on the counter if you need to, provided that the room temperature is not too warm. 

Table salt: You can use any salt that you like in order to brine. That said, like any recipe, if you use high quality ingredients you’ll get the best results.

collage of how to brine shrimp for pinterest

Easy Shrimp Recipes

angled shot of shrimp rangoon on plate

Shrimp Rangoon

Succulent shrimp mixed with cream cheese and wrapped in a crispy wonton wrapper, Shrimp Rangoon is sure to be your new favorite appetizer.
See The Recipe!
cajun shrimp alfredo in a white serving bowl with seasoning and shredded cheese

Cajun Shrimp Pasta Recipe

This Cajun Shrimp Alfredo features shrimp and andouille sausage, and comes together in 30 minutes or less. The perfect spicy comfort food.
See The Recipe!
angled shot of shrimp scampi in a bowl

Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi is a traditional Italian dish made with a garlic butter sauce and shrimp with al dente pasta and fresh lemon juice.
See The Recipe!
how to brine shrimp with text overlay for pinterest
how to brine shrimp in a pan

How to Brine Shrimp

4.53 from 19 votes
The next time you're planning to prepare shrimp, set aside the few extra minutes it takes to brine them to get juicy and tender shrimp!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Brining Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients

To Brine:

To Cook:

Instructions

  • Combine the water, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve the salt.
  • Add the shrimp, stirring lightly to mix. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the shrimp from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the butter and garlic. When butter had melted, add the dried shrimp.
  • Toss until shrimp tails are curled, they turn pink and opaque. Turn off heat (or remove from the heat).
  • Zest the lemon and squeeze fresh lemon juice into the shrimp. Stir in the parsley.
  • Serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 224 kcal, Carbohydrates: 6 g, Protein: 1 g, Fat: 23 g, Saturated Fat: 15 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6 g, Trans Fat: 1 g, Cholesterol: 61 mg, Sodium: 1748 mg, Potassium: 48 mg, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 4 g, Vitamin A: 719 IU, Vitamin C: 15 mg, Calcium: 16 mg, Iron: 0.2 mg
Author: Jessica Formicola
Calories: 224
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to brine shrimp
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal and more!

Read More About Jessica

4.53 from 19 votes (13 ratings without comment)

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Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    This is my new go-to anytime I cook shrimp. Used it last week for a pasta with a cherry tomato sauce, and tonight it’s going on top of an Alfredo. Thank you!

  2. 5 stars
    I didn’t realize how easy it was to brine shrimp! Next time I make a shrimp dish I’m absolutely going to try this first to see the difference. Can’t wait to try it out!

  3. 5 stars
    Thanks for this super helpful guide to brining shrimp!! I can’t wait to use this the next time we make shrimp at home!