Salt and pepper shrimp is popular on Chinese restaurant menus but is also so easy to make at home!

Lightly floured shrimp are fried and tossed with a spicy Thai chili and garlic sauce.

This delicious dish is made all in one pan and ready to serve over rice or noodles in minutes!

a bowl of Chinese salt and pepper shrimp

What is Salt and Pepper Shrimp?

  • One of the easiest Chinese seasonings to duplicate, salt and pepper shrimp have a light, crispy coating that’s infused with zesty garlic, ginger, and Thai chili peppers.
  • Make salt and pepper shrimp as an appetizer or serve as a main dish with some white rice, in a mixed veggie stir-fry or over some garlicky sauteed baby bok choy.
  • This versatile recipe can easily be used on chicken wings, boneless pork loins, whole mushrooms, and broccoli or cauliflower florets.
ingredients to make Chinese salt and pepper shrimp labeled: green onions, shrimp, Thai chili peppers, peppercorns, salt, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, cornstarch, flour and cilantro.

Ingredients & Variations

Shrimp – Choose large shrimp (AKA jumbo, which means in a 1-pound bag, you’ll see approximately 21-25 or 26-30 pieces of shrimp). Smaller shrimp will work if you decrease the cooking time. Leave the tails on since they add more flavor during the cooking process.

Coating – Cornstarch creates a light and crispy coating, if you don’t have cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca flour, or rice powder will work. Use almond flour or xanthan gum for a low-carb alternative.

Seasonings – No fish sauce? No problem! Use tamari, oyster sauce, or coconut aminos. This recipe tastes best using freshly ground peppercorns, preferably a mix of white, black, pink, or Sichuan, if you have them.

For More Flavor!

  • Dry roast the peppercorns in a saute pan and let them cool before grinding for a smokier, roasted flavor.
  • Use more or less of the red chili peppers depending on your heat-index preference or switch them out entirely for red pepper flakes.

Variations – A teaspoon or two of brown sugar can be added with the Thai chilis in Step 8 if you want a sweeter version.

fried shrimp in a pan

How to Make Salt and Pepper Shrimp

Make salt and pepper shrimp in one pan with everyday ingredients!

  1. Marinate shrimp in fish sauce, as described in the recipe below.
  2. Grind peppercorns and salt using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  3. Chop garlic, ginger, and Thai chili peppers. Set aside.
  4. Drain shrimp, pat dry, and toss in flour and cornstarch.
  5. Fry shrimp in oil and transfer to a paper towel to drain.
  6. Add fresh oil to the pan and saute garlic and ginger. Add peppers and cook until tender. Add green onions.
  7. Return shrimp to the pan and stir everything together.

Season with ground salt and peppercorns and fresh cilantro. Serve hot on their own or with a tasty sweet and sour sauce.

Deep fried shrimp tossed in a frying pan with seasonings

Tips & Tricks

  • Prepare the salt and pepper seasoning blend in advance and keep in the pantry until ready to use. Double it up, since it’s so versatile!
  • Be sure to pat the shrimp dry in Step 4 so the cornstarch evenly adheres to each piece.
  • Save washing a bowl by tossing the shrimp and cornstarch together in a large plastic bag – then simply throw away the bag.
  • For best results, use a meat thermometer to ensure the oil is at the right temperature. Frying food in batches decreases oil temperature, so allow enough time for the oil to come back to 350°F before cooking another round of shrimp.
A piece of Chinese salt and pepper shrimp held in chopsticks

Other Tasty Starters and Appetizers

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A piece of Chinese salt and pepper shrimp held in chopsticks
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Chinese Salt and Pepper Shrimp

Crispy golden brown shrimp are fried with ginger and chili pepper, and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Author Candace


  • 1 pound large shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 3 Tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns* mixed preferred
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse salt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 piece ginger approx. 1-inch
  • 4 red Thai chili peppers
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons oil for frying, about ⅓ cup
  • 2 green onions sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves for garnish


  • In a small bowl, mix together shrimp and fish sauce. Set aside to marinate.
  • Use a mortar and pestle to grind the peppercorns* and salt coarsely, leaving some larger pepper chunks.
  • Coarsely chop the garlic, ginger, and red chili peppers.
  • Drain shrimp and pat dry. Toss shrimp with flour and cornstarch to coat evenly. Set aside.
  • In a medium skillet on medium high heat, heat a layer of oil in a pan (about ¼ inch), making sure it reaches 350°F.
  • Fry shrimp in small batches, leaving space between each one for approximately 3 minutes, or until they turn golden brown on both sides, flipping after about 90 seconds. Once shrimp are cooked, remove from the oil and place on a paper towel lined plate.
  • Discard excess oil from the pan. Add 1 tablespoon fresh oil and heat on medium heat. Once hot, add garlic and ginger. Sauté just until they start to brown, about 2-3 minutes (be careful not to burn them).
  • Add chopped red chili peppers to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add sliced green onions to the pan and cook for 2 more minutes.
  • Add the fried shrimp to the pan and gently combine with the sautéed mixture, stirring until everything is well incorporated. Remove from the heat.
  • Sprinkle the dish with the coarsely ground peppercorns and salt mixture to taste. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve immediately


  • *Substitute peppercorns with about ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste.
  • Fry shrimp in smaller batches to ensure they cook evenly and crisp well.
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Nutrition Information

Calories: 209 | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.04g | Cholesterol: 143mg | Sodium: 2287mg | Potassium: 272mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 379IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 87mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information does not include optional ingredients or garnish and is an estimate. It may change based on actual ingredients and cooking methods used.

Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine American, Chinese

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About the author

I am a wife, mother of two, and professional accountant. I love fantastic food, and it is so often the center of our lives, from everyday dinner, to family gatherings, and special evenings at fabulous restaurants. I have always loved cooking and baking, with my mom and grandma, and now, with my daughter and son. I love trying new recipes while enjoying my favorites too. I’m so happy to share them with you.
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