Baked, breaded, fried, chilled—no matter how you cook it, shrimp is undoubtedly one of the seafood world’s most versatile ingredients. It can also be one of the most intimidating.

The confusion usually starts at the supermarket, where there are literal piles of shellfish to choose from. Where to begin? First, with your nose. To check for freshness, perform a sniff test. If it reeks of ammonia, beware. Next, look for spots on the head and body—black marks means they’ve been sitting around for a little too long and yellow shells indicate freezer burn. If they seem up to snuff, it’s time to settle on a size. The general rule of thumb is the bigger the number, the smaller the shrimp because they’re sold by quantity per pound. For example, if you buy a pound of 16/20, you’ll get around 16 to 20 pieces, whereas if you purchase a pound of 31/35, you’ll receive 31 to 35 pieces.

Once you get the shrimp home, it’s time to peel and devein. While that may sound messy and difficult, it’s actually a quick, two-step process.

  1. Remove the head and pull off the legs, which will make it much easier to peel off the shell. You can also use kitchen shears to cut along the top of the shrimp and pop it out from there.
  2. Using those same shears or a small paring knife, split the back of the shrimp open and remove the vein (which is actually the digestive track) and discard.

Save the heads and shells to make your own seafood stock and try these recipes, which are, well, shrimpy when it comes to their star ingredient, but not when it comes to flavor.

1. Vietnamese-Style Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Chowhound

We won’t judge if you eat as you wrap. Filled with cooked shrimp, rice noodles, and fragrant fresh herbs, these rolls are as fun to eat as they are to make. Get our Vietnamese-Style Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce recipe.

2. Shrimp Tacos with Watermelon Pico de Gallo

Always Order Dessert

As if shrimp tacos don’t already scream summer, these are topped with a refreshing pico de gallo made from chunks of fresh watermelon, red onion, cilantro, and lime juice. Get the recipe.

3. Shrimp Étouffée

Grandbaby Cakes

Enjoy a big ol’ bowl of the iconic New Orleans dish—no plane ticket necessary. Staying true to tradition, a rich dark roux and the “holy trinity” of Cajun cooking (onions, bell peppers, and celery) form the base of the luscious stew. Get the recipe.

4. Cilantro-Lime Grilled Shrimp

Taste And See

Everything’s more fun to eat on a stick, shrimp included. Boost the shellfish with a fast, zesty marinade, then cook them quickly on the grill until charred and juicy. Get the recipe.

5. Shrimp Tempura Banh Mi

Hip Foodie Mom

Sushi roll-meets-banh mi in this hybrid sandwich, which swaps out pork for tempura shrimp. Pickled vegetables, fresh zucchini, and green bell peppers add serious crunch factor to the deliciously messy package. Get the recipe.

6. Taco Salad Bowl with Grilled Prawns

The Food Gays

Think of this as a healthier, but still flavor-packed version of a Chipotle salad. The shrimp gets a smoky hit of chipotle powder before they’re grilled and the bowl is finished with a citrusy lime dressing that you should definitely make an extra batch of. Get the recipe.

7. Shrimp Pasta Salad with Spinach and Artichokes

The Weary Chef

Packed with seasoned shrimp, artichoke hearts, and shaved Parmesan, this hearty pasta salad is so good, you may not want to wait ‘til it’s chilled to start chowing down. Get the recipe.

— Head photo: Chowhound.

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