Blackened Shrimp

Blackened shrimp with homemade seasoning in a black skillet with butter.

These easy Cajun Blackened Shrimp are so good you will want to eat the whole recipe right out of the pan. We couldn’t stop. And if you love blackening seasoning, you won’t want to miss this Blackened Salmon and Baked Blackened Tilapia.

If you like spicy and smoky, you will want to run to the kitchen to make this recipe. It is so simple to prepare and I couldn’t believe the flavor. Plus you can use them in virtually anything – tacos, burrito bowls, lettuce wraps, pasta dishes, quesadillas, salads – they are super versatile. 

There are a few important things to keep in mind when cooking this recipe, more specifically the shrimp. The key to cooking delicious, non-rubbery shrimp is to make sure they are not overcooked. You want to start with a hot pan so that they shrimp begin to sizzle and cook as soon as they hit the pan. You also want to give the shrimp some space so that they get seared on the outside and don’t steam. A crowded pan will result in shrimp that are steamed without that crunchy coating you want for blackened shrimp.

If you are wondering, blackening seasoning is a Cajun spice blend that combines paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and some kind of heat. Usually from cayenne pepper or chili powder.  It was originally created in New Orleans and now is popular all over the South. Originally it was mostly used to cook seafood but now blackening seasoning is used on everything from chicken to pork to veggies and even tofu. Traditionally it doesn’t contain any sugar, but some people add a touch of brown sugar to balance out the spiciness.

Blackened Cajun Shrimp in a pan with spices and butter.

How do you make blackening seasoning?

Blackening seasoning is incredibly easy to make and most people have what they need in their spice cabinet. Plus making it at home means you can adjust the amount of each spice to get it perfect for your palette. Add some extra heat, throw in some extra garlic, make it your own. Here is the basic recipe used for these shrimp. Please note, many people use cayenne pepper in place of the chili powder and some people will add in some thyme as well. This recipe makes a larger batch you can store with your spices.

  • 3 tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. chili powder (adjust to taste)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Salt and pepper

Can these be grilled? Could they be baked?

This blackened Cajun shrimp recipe works great on the grill or in the oven. The only adjustment you will want to make is to melt all the butter and toss it with the shrimp and spices instead of leaving some for the pan. On the grill, the shrimp will take 1-2 minutes per side. Sometimes it is nice to place them on a skewer to make it easier to flip the shrimp. They can overcook in the time it takes to flip each individual shrimp. For the oven, spread the shrimp our on a baking sheet covered in foil. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and cook for 8-10 minutes until shrimp are opaque. 

Ideas for Serving Blackened Shrimp

There are so many different ways to serve this spicy shrimp. These are some of the ones I make most often, but honestly, the possibilities are pretty endless. They also make a killer appetizer for parties and the holidays. I almost always include them in my holiday appetizer spread.

  • Tacos: Warm up some corn tortillas and create a quick slaw with shredded cabbage, cilantro, and lemon juice. Pack the tortillas with the shrimp, crunchy slaw, and a few slices of avocado and you have some amazing blackened shrimp tacos.
  • Rice Bowls: Since this dish is typically served with rice (since it sops up the delicious Cajun butter), making a rice bowl is another great option. Start with a bowl of brown rice. Then add black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, and your blackened shrimp. Squeeze lemon or lime juice over the top and sprinkle on some fresh cilantro. 
  • Salads: It’s always fun to create restaurant-style salads at home and this shrimp is an excellent way to elevate a standard salad. I like to make a Cobb inspired salad. Start with a big bowl of crispy lettuce. Then add diced tomatoes, red onions, cooked turkey bacon, blue cheese, hard-boiled eggs, and avocado.
  • Pasta: A Cajun style blackened shrimp pasta dish is hard to resist with the spicy and creamy sauce studded with tomatoes and bell peppers. Start by cooking the shrimp as the recipe instructs until just opaque and set aside. Then set the shrimp aside. Add then a diced bell pepper and half a diced onion to the same pan and cook for 6-8 minutes until tender. If they begin to stick, add 1-2 tablespoons of water, Turn heat down to low and add a can of diced tomatoes (undrained) and a 1/4 cup of cream cheese. Make some extra blackening seasoning and add that to the mixture. Cook until cream cheese melts and the sauce is formed. Taste and season if needed. Then toss with 8 ounces of pasta. 
  • Spaghetti Squash Boats: Follow the same recipe as above but make it with spaghetti squash instead. Toss everything with the spaghetti squash and serve in the spaghetti squash halves if desired.
  • Lettuce Wraps: If we have leftovers, which almost never happens, I usually make lettuce wraps with corn, black beans, and avocado. Quick, easy, and delicious.

A skillet with blackened shrimp and a red and white napkin.

Is there a way to make these for zero points?

For those on Weight Watchers, you can make these for zero points by leaving out the butter and cooking them in a nonstick skillet with cooking spray. The butter will add a richness to the dish, but they come ut great either way.

Calories 203, Total Fat 7g, Total Carbohydrate 2g, Protein 35g, Serving Size 6 oz

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