Jerk Shrimp Recipe
Ready in a flash, this easy jerk shrimp is a little sweet, a little tangy, and can have a little or a lot of kick depending on the seasoning blend that you use. The marinade doubles as a sauce for extra taste without extra effort. Jerk shrimp are a great protein to serve with pasta or in tacos, salads, or rice bowls.
Jerk Shrimp in a Flash
Sweet, savory, and totally irresistible, jerk seasoning is a match made in heaven for flavoring shrimp. The resulting jerk shrimp are easy to make and delicious as a light protein to enjoy on their own or with pasta, tacos, or bowls of any kind.
You’ll love that this recipe is:
- Quick and easy. The marinade is simple to whip up, then it cooks with the shrimp to do double duty as a tasty sauce.
- Versatile. Pair these with anything or enjoy them on their own as a snack or appetizer.
- Flavorful. Jerk seasoning, honey, and pineapple or lime juice impart amazing taste with minimal effort.
I like making these to serve over a bed of greens (for me) and a bed of rice (for my kids), or going all out to make a luscious jerk shrimp pasta for dinner.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Here are a few notes and shopping tips about the ingredients you’ll need to make this, as well as possible substitutions. Full amounts are noted in the print-friendly recipe card below.
- Shrimp: Be sure to buy raw shrimp, already peeled and deveined if possible, to save time. Keep reading for tips on defrosting shrimp fast.
- Jerk seasoning: The star of the show!
- Pineapple juice or lime juice. For the marinade. You can use fresh lime juice, or purchase small cans of pineapple juice. (I keep these on hand because they are my son’s favorite for a kid’s “happy hour.”) You can also simply use the extra juice from a can of pineapple rings or chunks.
- Honey: A little sweetness enhances the spice blend and flavors the shrimp.
- Olive oil and cilantro or parsley for an optional garnish.
What is jerk seasoning?
The basic elements of Jamaican jerk seasoning hail from Caribbean cooking, as one might expect. It typically includes a mix of smoky and savory seasonings — pepper, onion, garlic, cumin, and thyme — together with spices more typically considered “sweet” — cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and brown sugar.
The term “jerk” is itself of Caribbean origin in this context, and may have originally referred to a technique of poking holes in meat so it can absorb more flavor, or simply to the process of slow-roasting meat wrapped in peppers and spices or a marinade.
An authentic jerk seasoning would rely on Scotch bonnet peppers for heat and flavor, eschewing the red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper often found in Americanized versions.
However you like it or choose to replicate it, Jamaican jerk seasoning is an incredibly versatile addition to your spice cabinet, one that adds heat, dimension, and complexity to everything it touches.
You can easily purchase jerk seasoning in hot or mild variations.
How to make a homemade jerk seasoning blend?
As is often the case with specialty seasoning blends, making your own is easy, rewarding, and economical. Use this recipe for a homemade jerk seasoning that yields a mild-medium blend.
Of note, this is a simplified version that relies on ingredients readily available to the average American. If you’re looking for the most authentic version possible, purchase from a reliable spice importer or Caribbean specialty store.
How To Make Jerk Shrimp
This simple jerk shrimp recipe comes together with one bowl and one pan. Here are the steps and a quick visual overview. You will find full instructions with exact ingredients in the print-friendly recipe card below.
- Mix up the marinade. You will need the seasoning, a bit of olive oil, lime juice or pineapple juice, and honey. Let the shrimp rest in this mixture for at least 15 minutes (at room temperature is fine for this long) or up to 1 hour (in the fridge).
- Cook shrimp. When it’s go time, pour the shrimp and the marinade into a hot, oiled skillet. They will cook fast, so pay attention and be ready to eat!
You can also grill jerk shrimp! Marinate as directed. When ready to grill, thread shrimp onto skewers and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side, just until pink and opaque.
After the shrimp are done, sample one quickly. Add salt and pepper to taste. And if you’re craving yet another layer of flavor, drizzle on a little lemon juice or soy sauce, or sprinkle with cilantro or parsley.
Recipe FAQs and Expert Tips
What vegetables go well with jerk shrimp?
These go beautifully with summer vegetables: our favorites are grilled or sautéed zucchini, summer squash, or bell peppers. Jerk shrimp are also nice over a bed of arugula — it’s sturdy and has its own peppery bite that stands up well to the flavors — or with a simple mango salsa.
Do you remove the tails from shrimp before cooking?
Removing shrimp tails prior to cooking is strictly a matter of personal preference. I often leave them on for looks, but it is honestly easier to eat shrimp when the tails are already removed. You can throw away the tails or freeze them in a tightly-sealed zip-top bag to use in shrimp stock.
What’s the fastest way to defrost shrimp?
To quickly thaw frozen shrimp, remove all packaging and place the shrimp in a large colander. Set the colander in the sink and run cold water over the shrimp for about 5 minutes. Why cold water? Shrimp are so easy to cook that running them under hot water can start doing so prematurely!
You also can defrost shrimp in the refrigerator overnight or during the day. They are truly so easy to defrost right before cooking, though. This makes them a perfect protein to keep in the freezer for last-minute meals.
Storage & Reheating
- Storage: Jerk shrimp will keep well for 3-4 days. Store leftovers in any airtight container in the refrigerator. These are our favorite meal-sized fridge storage boxes.
- Reheating: Warm shrimp in the microwave or over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Add a splash of broth or water, only if needed, to minimize sticking. If warming in the microwave, use 50% power to reduce the odds of the shrimp becoming overcooked and rubbery.
- Freezing: I don’t recommend freezing these shrimp after they’re cooked.
Love easy shrimp recipes? Me too! One of my favorites are these Greek shrimp skewers with Mediterranean orzo salad, and you can never go wrong with red Argentine shrimp or garlic butter shrimp that are done in 15 minutes flat!
If you try making these Jerk Shrimp, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
- 2 Tablespoons jerk seasoning
- 1/4 cup lime juice or pineapple juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil divided
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 pound medium shrimp raw, peeled and deveined
- fresh cilantro or parsley optional garnish
- Combine jerk seasoning, lime or pineapple juice, 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil, and the honey in a large bowl. Whisk well to combine. Add shrimp and stir to coat. Let rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes or in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour.
- When ready to cook, warm remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in the shrimp and the marinade. Cook shrimp for 2-3 minutes per side, watching closely, just until they are opaque and cooked through.
- After the shrimp are done, sample one quickly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
- Alternate grilling instructions: Marinate as directed. When ready to grill, thread shrimp onto skewers and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side, just until pink and opaque.
- More potential finishing touches: Tasted a shrimp and craving yet another layer of flavor? Drizzle on a little lemon juice or soy sauce, or sprinkle with cilantro or parsley.