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The Easiest Shrimp Tempura Recipe Ever

Everybody needs a trusty shrimp tempura recipe. One that gets you that delicious, delicate crisp on the outside while retaining that tender, juiciness on the inside.

Not just because you can snack on these crispy and succulent shrimp sticks until the cows come home. But because prawn tempura is the cherry on top of so many delicious recipes.

And once you’ve mastered this easy shrimp tempura recipe, you can do eat them all!

Shrimp Tempura Ingredients

  • 20 prawns (black tiger or nobashi shrimp)
  • 1 cup ice cold water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch or flour to coat pre-frying
  • 750mL – 1000mL neutral oil for frying

Tips for the Perfect Shrimp Tempura

Prawn tempura can feel like an intimidating dish to make if you’ve never done it before. But it’s actually a pretty easy process. Just remember to be realistic in your expectations. At home prawn tempura is great – but it’s not going to look or taste exactly like it does at the top tempura restaurants.

That being said, the homemade version is still incredibly good. Here are some tips to make it as close to restaurant-quality as possible.

Cold is best

This applies to everything. Keep the egg in the fridge until you’re ready to mix. Ditto for the flour.

And if you have ice, put it in the water to make it ice cold before you pour out cups to use. No ice? Put a bottle of water in the freezer for awhile. If you’re short on time, you can use the coldest water from your tap.

Making sure the batter ingredients are cold is the key to a light, fluffy batter.

Set Up a Tempura Station

The prawn tempura process moves quickly once you get going. So I like to set up a tempura station so simplicity’s sake. Like so…

It makes moving through the process much easier. Keep paper towels handy.

Make Batter Right Before Frying

Try to prepare the tempura batter right before you start frying. It’ll be coldest, lightest, and freshest this way.

Don’t Overmix

When you’re mixing the flour into the cold water and egg, stir it around with your chopsticks until just blended. Don’t over stir because it’ll get thicker and more glutinous – that’s the last thing you want. It’s fine to leave some lumps and powdery crumbs in the batter.

The Oil Must Be Hot

The ideal frying temperature is between 350 and 375°F. Don’t add any prawns until your oil has reached 350°F. If the oil is not hot enough, the tempura prawns will absorb more oil than you want and result in a greasy, oily batter.

If you don’t have a thermometer to check, stick the end of a wooden spoon or even a wooden chopstick into the oil. When that causes little bubbles to form around the wood and start to float up – your oil is good to go.

How to Make Shrimp Tempura

There are several steps to the process but don’t be intimidated. It all comes together quickly and it’s a speedy process – it’ll only take you around 15 to 20 minutes from start to finish.

Here’s what to do…

Prepare the Shrimp

The first thing to do is to prepare the shrimp, if you need to. I buy a 20-pack of nobashi prawns that are already peeled and stretched. If you can find similar, I highly recommend it as it cuts down massively on prep time.

If your prawns aren’t already prepped, peel them but leave the tail intact. Straighten the shrimp and place on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up any moisture. Put a paper towel or two on top to further soak up moisture.

Heat the Oil

Add 750mL to 1000mL of oil to a wok. How much you use depends on the size and depth of your wok. Just make to use enough oil to completely cover the prawns you’ll be adding.

*To make 20 prawn tempuras, I typically use 1 L of vegetable oil.

Heat the oil until it reaches 350ºF (180ºC). You can either check with a thermometer or stick the end of a wooden spoon or a wooden chopstick into the oil. If that produces little bubbles around the wood that float up – your oil is good to go.

Note that the perfect frying temperature is between 350 and 375°F. Once the prawns are added, it will drop the temperature so it’s important that you don’t reduce the heat. Keep it steady.

Prepare the batter

Mix the chilled egg into the icy cold water. Whisk until mixed.

Add the flour and stir in until just blended. It’s better to use the chopsticks than a whisk since you don’t want to over-mix it.

Place in fridge until right before you use it.

Frying Time

Start by picking up each prawn by the tail. Each one gets:

  • Lightly dusted in the cornstarch (you can also use flour if you don’t have cornstarch)
  • Dipped in the batter (gently shake the excess off)
  • Placed in the hot oil

Chopsticks are fine to use but I prefer to use tongs.

You don’t want to add them all into the wok at the same time because the temperature will drop and you’ll end up with oily – read: less crispy – tempura. I usually do 4 to 6 at a time.

Fry until the prawns are a golden brown, around 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately scoop out with prongs or a wire strainer. Place on a wire rack or a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil.

shrimp tempura recipe

And voila! You have a delicious plate of shrimp tempura. Now the only question is what you eat it with…

What to Serve with Shrimp Tempura?

Here’s the thing about prawn tempura: it plays really nicely with other dishes. Sauces, curries, soups, and stir fries – it doesn’t discriminate. So when you find yourself blessed with a plate of prawn tempura, you have a serious list of options for what to eat it with.

So what goes with shrimp tempura? Well, lots of yummy things. Let’s count the best ways to eat all that delicious prawn tempura…

Shrimp Tempura Sauce

One of the simplest – and quickest – ways to serve shrimp tempura is on its own with a dipping sauce. Just adding a sauce makes for an instant appetizer.

So what’s the best shrimp tempura sauce to use?

  • Sweet chili sauce. Get it out of a bottle or make your own. Either way, you can’t go wrong. Sweet chili sauce and prawn tempura is a match made in culinary heaven. I especially love Thai sweet chili sauce with tempura shrimp.
  • Tentsuyu. Tentsuyu is the classic tempura dipping sauce that’s served alongside tempura in restaurants. It’s a mixture of dashi, soy sauce and mirin and has a mild yet delicious savory, sweet, umami flavor that perfectly complements the prawn tempura.
  • Cocktail sauce. Love shrimp cocktail? Try prawn tempura with a tangy, zesty cocktail sauce. This recipe is quick and easy.
  • Honey mustard sauce. It sounds strange, but the sweet and slight spice of honey mustard sauce brings an American flavor to prawn tempura that is so wrong but yet so right.

Soup and Salad

Another appetizer option or even a late-afternoon snack – you can serve prawn tempura with a soup and a salad. Add in some rice and it could even become a meal.

Miso soup is the gold standard, of course, for the best soup to have with tempura prawns.

But with salad – you’ve got options. Make your usual fresh salad and top it off with an easy Japanese salad dressing (try rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil with a pinch of salt, pepper, sugar, and garlic).

You can even pair it with cole slaw (add a drizzle of rice wine vinegar and sesame oil to give it a more Asian flavor).

My favorite salad to pair it with, though, is a refreshing cucumber salad. Simply slice or dice or cucumber and drizzle in a dressing made of vinegar, honey, and salt.

Sushi Rolls!

Prawn tempura is great on its own, but laid inside a sushi roll? Well, that is just the best. Which is why my favorite thing to do with prawn tempura is use them to make sushi rolls.

mango salmon roll

They’re a star ingredient in these mango salmon rolls, for example.

Rice and Veggies

An easy way to serve shrimp tempura is atop a steaming bowl of rice with some vegetables on the side. They can be steamed veggies, fried or even a fresh salad. It doesn’t matter – prawn tempura plays amazingly with them all. It all comes down to what you’re in the mood for.

The best thing is that you don’t even need to make a complicated tempura udon in order to add the prawn tempura on top. I sometimes whip up this easy udon noodle soup using just what I have in my pantry and leftover veggies.

Japanese Curry

Japanese curry, with its thick consistency and sweet, savory, umami flavors, makes the ideal dish to eat with prawn tempura.

Plus, it’s so easy to cook – and store for days in the fridge. Just place the prawn tempura on top and you just made yourself an elevated curry and rice.

Bowl of Udon

What tops off a delicious bowl of udon better than some tempura prawns? Literally nothing.

Soba Noodles

A couple tempura prawns are the ideal toppings to perfect a bowl of soba noodles. Warm or cold, the shrimp tempura adds a little bit of crunch and sweet umami to an already delicious dish.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

What do you like to put inside fresh Vietnamese spring rolls? Rice vermicellli, shrimp, carrots, lettuce, cucumber, bell pepper, mint, basil, red cabbage, avocado – are all the usual suspects.

Next time, swap out regular shrimp for shrimp tempura.

Cold Sesame Noodles

Sesame noodles are already bursting with flavor. But topped with prawn tempura? They are insanely good.

In a Wrap or Taco

You’ve probably had crispy fried shrimp tacos before. They’re just as good – if not better – if you swap out the crispy fried shrimp for the more lightly-fried, delicately-flavored prawn tempura.

What to Do with Prawn Tempura Leftover?

Got leftovers? Store them in an airtight container and they’ll keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. You can even store them in the freezer for up to one month.

But be warned – they will be soggy. So reheat them in the oven until they crisp off again.

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