Recipe Overview

Why you’ll love it: The short prep and cooking time makes firecracker shrimp ideal for busy weeknights. A sweet-and-spicy sauce makes the shrimp totally irresistible. You can save money by avoiding take-out meals!

How long it takes: 21 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: skillet, small mixing bowls
Servings: 3 to 4 servings

Firecracker shrimp served on a bed of rice and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
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Firecracker shrimp is one of those vaguely Asian-inspired dishes you find on a lot of restaurant menus but not at many actual Asian restaurants (sorry, Panda Express doesn’t count.) This, of course, means there’s no “authentic” version which is probably why there are dozens and dozens of variations on the recipe. 

So this is my version of firecracker shrimp: succulent shrimp quickly pan-fried and tossed with a sticky, sweet, spicy, and tangy sauce. All the flavors are balanced perfectly to create a dish that’s guaranteed to be a hit. Serve it over steamed rice to make it a meal, or on toothpicks for an appetizer!

Reasons to Love Firecracker Shrimp

Quick and easy. Shrimp is always a good idea for a weeknight dinner because it cooks up lightning fast. It also feels a little bit special—it’s not the same old baked chicken breast you make week after week! (You’ll also love my kung pao shrimp, creamy coconut shrimp, and spicy garlic shrimp.)

Big flavors. The sauce for this firecracker shrimp is sweet, spicy, tangy, and savory all at once. Firecracker shrimp explodes with flavor! (Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun.)

Customizable heat level. You can adjust the amount of sriracha in the sauce to make it as mild or as spicy as you like. If you’re cooking for picky eaters, just add a little squirt when you’re cooking and add more sriracha to taste on the portions for more adventurous palates.

Versatile. This recipe can be served as an appetizer, a main course, or added to salads, meal bowls, or tacos. 

Ingredient Notes

  • Large Shrimp: You can use either fresh or thawed frozen shrimp for this recipe. You’ll need about one pound of peeled and deveined shrimp. I prefer tails-off.
  • Cornstarch: Cornstarch has a dual role in this recipe. It’s added to the seasoning mix for the shrimp. A light coating of cornstarch helps meat retain moisture and crisp up. Cornstarch is also used as a thickening agent in the sauce.
  • Seasoning: Simple pantry seasonings (garlic powder, salt, pepper) flavor the shrimp but the sauce is the main flavor agent.
  • Olive Oil: Choose an oil that has a fairly high smoke point for flash-frying the shrimp.
  • Sweet Chili Sauce: This bottled sauce is the base component of firecracker shrimp and can be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores. It’s sweet, spicy, and addicting.
  • Sriracha Sauce: Another popular bottled sauce, sriracha is spicy and a bit garlicky. It adds the “firecracker” aspect to the shrimp. Add as much as you like!
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: A splash of vinegar gives the sauce a tangy profile. If you prefer, rice wine vinegar is a good choice, too.
  • Honey: Sticky sweet honey helps balance the tanginess and heat.
  • Garlic: I like to use freshly minced or pressed garlic. You can add more if you’d like your shrimp more garlicky.
  • Soy Sauce: Choose low sodium soy sauce, if you prefer, or substitute tamari for a gluten-free option.
  • Lime Juice: A squeeze of fresh lime really perks up the flavor.
  • Optional Garnishes: Choose any one (or all) of the following: fresh cilantro, sesame seeds, and green onions.

Cooking Tip

You can use bigger or smaller shrimp if you’d like but note that the cooking time will be different. Look for the shrimp to curl into a C-shape rather than watching the clock when you fry it. 

How to make Firecracker Shrimp

Prep shrimp. Thaw the shrimp if you’re using frozen shrimp. Put the shrimp in a colander and run cold water over it until it’s thawed. With paper towels, pat the shrimp dry as much as possible. This is important because added moisture causes the shrimp to steam instead of getting a good sear.

Make sauce. Whisk together all of the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl. Set the sauce aside for now.

Season shrimp. In a bowl or large zip-top bag, toss the shrimp with the cornstarch, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper until it’s evenly coated.

Cook shrimp. Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, cook the shrimp in a single layer for a minute or two on each side, or until they turn pink and curl into a C shape. They’ll cook a bit more when you add the sauce.

Cook sauce. Whisk the sauce again to make sure the cornstarch hasn’t settled to the bottom, and pour the sauce into the pan with the shrimp. Simmer over medium low heat until the sauce turns clear, thickens a bit, and coats the shrimp. This will take just a couple of minutes, max.

Serve. Garnish with chopped cilantro, sesame seeds, and/or sliced green onions, if desired, and serve the firecracker shrimp over rice or with toothpicks.

Shrimp on a black serving spoon, being scooped from pan.

Helpful Tips

  • Pat the shrimp dry. Removing excess moisture from your shrimp will help the seasoning stick. It also helps you get a good sear on the shrimp.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan. Cooking the shrimp in a crowded pan can result in steaming rather than frying. We don’t want that! Work in batches if needed to ensure each shrimp gets that perfect sear.
  • Prep before you start. You really do need to have the sauce mixed and ready to go because shrimp cooks quickly. If you have to make the sauce while the shrimp is already cooking, it’s very likely that your shrimp will be overcooked.  This also goes for sides. Make sure your side dishes are almost ready to serve before you start cooking the shrimp.

Serving Ideas

Shrimp in a spicy red-orange sauce, served on top of rice.

Storing & Reheating Leftovers

Refrigerate: Store leftover firecracker shrimp in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can freeze cooked shrimp for up to a month but it’s not ideal so I don’t recommend it.

Reheat: Add a splash of water, chicken broth, or extra sauce to a skillet set over medium heat and cook until heated through, about 3 to 5 minutes. The microwave also works but it’s not the best method, so avoid it if you can!

More Shrimp Recipes

Recipe

Firecracker Shrimp

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 6 minutes
Total: 21 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
The flavor is poppin’ with this easy firecracker shrimp recipe! A sweet-and-spicy sauce makes the shrimp totally irresistible.
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Ingredients 

For the Shrimp

For the Sauce

  • ½ cup sweet chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (I use low sodium soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice

For Serving

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (optional, for garnish)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional, for garnish)
  • 3 green onions, sliced (optional, for garnish)

Instructions 

  • If shrimp is frozen, thaw completely as directed on package. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and set aside.
    16 oz. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • In a small bowl, whisk together sauce ingredients: sweet chili sauce, Sriracha sauce, honey, apple cider vinegar, garlic, cornstarch, soy sauce, and lime juice. Set aside.
    ½ cup sweet chili sauce, 2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce, or to taste, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1 clove garlic, minced, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • In a bowl or large zip-top bag, combine cornstarch, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Add shrimp and toss to coat shrimp well.
    2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add shrimp in a single layer. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until shrimp curl up into a “C” shape, and are cooked through. If your pan isn’t large enough to arrange the shrimp in a single layer, you may need to cook them in batches.
    2 tablespoons olive oil
  • When shrimp are cooked, give the sauce ingredients another whisk and add to the pan with shrimp. Simmer over medium low heat until thickened slightly, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Garnish the firecracker shrimp with chopped cilantro, sesame seeds, and/or sliced green onions, if desired.
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, 3 green onions, sliced
  • Serve the firecracker shrimp immediately as a main dish with steamed rice, or as an appetizer.

Notes

  • Shrimp: Choose whichever shrimp size you prefer; adjust cooking time accordingly. Small shrimp cook more quickly than large shrimp. We prefer tail off but if you like the tail on shrimp better, that’s fine.
  • Nutrition: Nutrition information includes garnishes (cilantro, sesame seeds, and green onions). It does not include steamed rice.
  • Spice level: Increase the spicy heat of your firecracker shrimp by adding more Sriracha. If you prefer, add ¼  teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 4oz. shrimp with sauce, Calories: 294kcal, Carbohydrates: 31g, Protein: 24g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 0.01g, Cholesterol: 183mg, Sodium: 965mg, Potassium: 373mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 24g, Vitamin A: 109IU, Vitamin C: 7mg, Calcium: 104mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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2 Comments

  1. Tialyn says:

    5 stars
    This was a fabulous recipe! Thanks for always having the BEST recipes!

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Ahhh thank you so much – and you’re welcome!