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This spicy shrimp taco recipe is everything you’ve ever wanted in a taco. Marinated shrimp topped with a homemade avocado crema recipe and delicious cabbage slaw… are you drooling yet? These are the best shrimp tacos you’ll ever eat, and a must-make every taco Tuesday!
What are spicy shrimp tacos?
Large deveined shrimp are marinated in a smoky and spicy marinade. Then, they are placed on a bed of purple cabbage slaw inside flour or corn tortillas. It is all topped with spicy avocado crema.
These are tacos you might find at a popular food truck, but you can make them right in your kitchen!
Why this shrimp taco recipe works
- Shrimp is a great protein to use in tacos. Shrimp marinate quickly to take on and enhance the flavor of the shrimp.
- Shrimp also cooks very fast. They only take about 4-6 minutes minutes to cook, depending on size. You know shrimp are done when they form a “c”, for “cooked.”
- The avocado crema doubles as a sauce on top and a sauce to toss the shredded cabbage in.
- The avocado crema is easy to assemble and so versatile to use as a dip, a sauce, or spread!
What type of tortillas to use for shrimp tacos
The best kind of tortillas to use for these spicy shrimp tacos is completely up to you!
Flour tortillas are easier to use because you don’t have to bake them first. they also hold a bit more if you stuff them too much.
If you use corn tortillas, you will need to warm them up before assembling the tacos so they are easier to handle. This is also the best option for those with a gluten allergy!
No matter which kind of tortillas you use, I suggest making sure they are small. Don’t accidentally use burrito tortillas!
What is avocado crema?
Crema is a Mexican condiment that is a creamy sauce similar to sour cream consistency with a slightly tangy flavor. For this avocado crema recipe, I used greek yogurt, but you can substitute sour cream as well!
Shrimp marinade ingredients
Besides shrimp, these are the seasonings you need to make the marinade:
- Dark chili powder
- Smoked paprika
- Ground cumin
- Dried oregano
- Minced garlic (or garlic powder)
- Red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt
- Lime juice
- Avocado oil
If you use any kind of citrus to marinate shrimp, you only need to marinate the shrimp for 30 minutes or less.
If you leave the shrimp marinating over 30 minutes, the protein begins to break down, and it will begin ‘cooking’ the shrimp the same way it cooks in ceviche. This will affect the texture of the shrimp for this recipe!
How to prepare raw shrimp
For this spicy shrimp tacos recipe, I purchase raw peeled shrimp from the seafood counter. You can purchase shell-on shrimp, but they will take longer to prep for your spicy shrimp tacos.
To clean the shrimp:
- Remove the shrimp tail by pinching the shell all the way to the back. This will allow the tail to free itself from the shrimp, and you won’t lose any delicious shrimp meat.
- Using a small paring knife, make sure the shrimp is deveined along the back of the shrimp.
Marinating the shrimp
Whisk the shrimp marinade ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl.
Add the prepped shrimp to the marinade, and stir with a spoon or spatula until all shrimp are fully coated in the spicy marinade.
Cover and refrigerate for a max of 30 minutes.
How to make avocado crema
Whenever you make this avocado crema, make sure to use the freshest ingredients for the best flavor!
Here are the ingredients you’ll need:
- Greek yogurt
- Garlic cloves
- Lime juice
- Avocado oil
- Kosher salt
Puree all of the ingredients in a food processor. Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.
This is really easy and mixes everything together perfectly!
For the base, a ripe avocado adds healthy fats and the perfect rich texture. Plain Greek yogurt adds a tangy taste and more protein.
To make it spicy, add a few jalapeno slices and squeeze some fresh lime juice on top. The fresh garlic makes the crema even bolder!
Adding cilantro to crema
When using cilantro, you can actually use the stems as well! The cilantro stems have the same taste as the leaves and are perfect to use especially when blending and making a sauce.
Even when chopped, cilantro stems give a great crunch to a dish as well.
Taste test the crema and adjust as needed
After the crema is processed, taste and adjust the seasoning and consistency as necessary. If it’s too thick, thin it with 1 tbsp of water at a time, then blend and test again.
Note: You can always add more water, but you cannot take it away if it becomes too watery.
How to make cabbage slaw
Now for a quick cabbage slaw to top your spicy shrimp tacos!
Using a purple cabbage and a green cabbage, I sliced them on my mandoline (here is my be careful note, always use the guard or a protective cutting glove when using).
Tip: If you do not have a mandoline, a knife will do the trick. Just try to be consistent with your size of cuts.
Add a few spoons of avocado crema and toss with tongs to coat. The rest of the sauce will be used to top the tacos!
Cooking spicy shrimp in a skillet
To cook the shrimp, you can either grill them or cook them on a cast-iron skillet. I have done them both ways!
Tip: If you are going to grill them, skewer them on either soaked bamboo sticks or metal skewers.
Shrimp cooks fast!
If you are cooking them on the stovetop (depending on the size of the shrimp), they will cook in about 4-6 minutes, flipping halfway through. A great way to know if shrimp are cooked is if they make a “c” shape. (Easy to remember because “c” is for cooked!)
Assembling shrimp tacos
- Warm corn or flour tortillas according to package instructions.
- Spread a layer of the shredded cabbage tossed in avocado crema.
- Add a few pieces of shrimp on top of the bed of cabbage.
- Using a food storage bag, pour the avocado crema inside. Seal the bag, and push all the crema to one bottom corner. Using scissors, cut the corner of the bag to use as a piping bag.
- Squeeze avocado crema over the top of the shrimp.
- Serve with lime wedges!
How to eat spicy shrimp tacos
Serve these spicy shrimp tacos with your favorite Mexican side dishes!
These tacos will taste delicious with some southwestern stuffed poblano peppers too. Add your favorite Mexican rice and chips and salsa, and you are ready for an epic taco Tuesday!
The flavors of the spicy grilled shrimp paired with the creamy avocado crema are a match made for Cinco De Mayo or any day of the week.
Love Mexican? Check out these other recipes:
- Carne Asada Tacos
- Chicken Tinga Tacos
- Shredded Chicken Fajitas
- Chicken Enchiladas
- Vegetarian Verde Enchiladas
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- 1 lb shrimp (uncooked, peeled, deveined, tails removed (see note on shrimp prep))
- 1 tsp [dark chili powder]
- 1 tsp [smoked paprika]
- 1/2 tsp [ground cumin]
- 1/2 tsp [dried oregano]
- 1 tsp garlic (minced (or 1/2 tsp [garlic powder]))
- 1/2 tsp [red pepper flakes]
- 1/2 tsp [kosher salt]
- Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tsp)
- 3 tbsp [avocado oil]
- 1 medium avocado (seed removed and flesh scooped out)
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- 1 jalapeño (seeds removed)
- 3 cloves garlic (peeled)
- 2 limes (juiced (3 tbsp))
- 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
- 3 tbsp [avocado oil]
- 3 tbsp water
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup shredded green cabbage
- 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
- 8-10 small flour or corn tortillas (lightly toasted)
- Fresh Cilantro
- Lime Wedges
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- In a small bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients: 3 tbsp avocado oil, lime juice, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes, and kosher salt. Add in prepped shrimp, stir to coat all the shrimp with marinade. Place in refrigerator and marinate for max 30 minutes.
- While the shrimp is marinating, in a food processor add the avocado crema ingredients: avocado, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, lime juice, yogurt, olive oil, water and kosher salt. Pulse until all the ingredients are smooth. If the consistency is too thick, add another tbsp of water. Set aside.
- Using a mandoline or knife, shred the cabbages. Place in a small bowl, add a few spoons of the avocado crema and toss to combine. Save the rest of the crema to drizzle over the tacos at the end.
- You can either cook the shrimp in a cast iron skillet or grill them. Over medium/high heat place the shrimp into the skillet. Ensure they are all laid flat into the pan and not on top of each other, this will allow for even cooking. Depending on the size of the shrimp, they will cook in about 4-6 minutes. Flip halfway through to get a nice char/color on each side. If grilling, skewer them so they do not fall through the grates (see note on cooking shrimp).
- Assemble the tacos: Place the tortilla down, add a few spoons of the cabbage slaw, add a few shrimp, drizzle avocado crema over the top (see note on crema drizzle), garnish with fresh cilantro, serve with lime wedges!
Prepping the shrimp:
- If your shrimp are whole, remove the head first, then the legs, and then proceed to peel off the outer shell
- Make sure the shrimp are deveined: you can ask them to do it at the seafood counter or if doing yourself, cut a shallow slit in back of shrimp where the dark line is and lift it out with a pairing knife
- When removing the tail, pinch all the way at the back so you do not break off any of the tail meat
Marinating the shrimp:
- Due to the citrus in the marinade, do not marinate the shrimp for more than 30 minutes. The citrus will begin to break down the proteins in the shrimp affecting the texture and causing it to 'cook' similar to ceviche.
Is my shrimp cooked?
- Shrimp cook fast, there are a few things to look for to know that your shrimp is cooked.
- Shrimp will turn from translucent to opaque when cooked through
- They will also form a "c" shape, easy to remember because "c" stands for cooked!
Avocado crema drizzle:
- You can spoon the crema over the tacos, or you can make a pipping bag to squeeze over the shrimp for presentation. In a ziplock bag, add the avocado crema, seal the bag, push all the crema to one corner, using scissors, cut the corner of the bag, then you can squeeze the crema out to top the shrimp.