How to Devein Shrimp {& Quickly Cook Them!}

how to devein shrimp-14 squareOkay. Can we talk a little about shrimp? And how they’re one of the friendlier seafoods? Even non-seafood-lovers often enjoy shrimp. Shrimp are widely available and easy to cook and can be served in a wide variety of ways. Shrimp is lean and protein-packed and delicious.

What’s not to love, right?

I will tell you. Shrimp that has not been deveined. And when they say “vein,” they really mean “intestinal tract.”

Yes, friends, I’m talking about poop.

I actually kind of hate deveining shrimp; it makes the eating of the shrimp less enjoyable for me. But, since I’ve lived in Louisiana for 6 1/2 years now, I’ve made it a priority to buy gulf shrimp, which is more expensive than farmed international shrimp. And I don’t do shrimp that still have their heads, so the compromise I’m willing to make is that if someone else will take care of the heads and the legs, I can take care of the “vein.” Usually. Sometimes you’ve just gotta make someone else do it.

I kind of assumed everyone deveined their shrimp, but after I moved here, I realized that many, many people don’t devein shrimp. I’ve even had shrimp in fancy New Orleans restaurants that didn’t devein their shrimp. Guys…always devein your shrimp. Maybe it’s cultural, but this is one cultural thing I can’t get onboard with (and I’ve eaten squirrel). But it’s gross not to. It takes away from the shrimp’s delicate flavor. And it’s gritty. Also, it is poo.

So if you’ve never deveined a shrimp, or if it’s always felt intimidating, today’s your day. I’m giving you fair warning right now, I’m showing you how to cut the digestive tract out of a small sea creature, so if that grosses you out, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

For starters, I try to buy fresh shrimp from a local fish market (or the grocery store counter, or even a butcher–many meat markets also carry seafood). I realize this isn’t always a possibility, but I’ve had much better luck with less-fishy-tasting shrimp when I don’t buy the frozen bags in the freezer case.

how to devein shrimp-1Mine don’t have heads and most of them don’t like legs. Just the way I want them (the still have shells and tails.)

For starters, you need to peel the shrimp. Take one of the little buggers…

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and carefully peel off the shell.

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You’ll have a little shell-less shrimp. Hold the shrimp with the curved back facing up.

how to devein shrimp-4I enlisted the help of my friend and babysitter extraordinaire Laura to help model the actual deveining. She was thrilled.

Take a small, sharp knife and carefully cut down the middle of the shrimp’s back, head to tail, cutting about halfway through the shrimp (less if you can see the vein and it’s more shallow.)

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Look for a long, dark line. Usually, in a pound of shrimp, I’ll have two or three where I can’t find a vein–if you’re having a hard time finding one, don’t sweat it. But when you do find it, slip the tip of the knife under the vein and gently lift it out.

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When it gets out far enough, you may need to remove the rest with your fingers.

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And then voila! You have a perfectly cleaned, ready-to-cook shrimp.

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Repeat with the remaining to devein shrimp-10

Now…what do you do with them when you’re done? My favorite way to eat them is to use your favorite oil/vinegar-based salad dressing to marinade them (30 minutes-4 hours will do the trick) and then throw them into a grill basket (no need to bother with skewers) on the grill and cook for a few minutes per side. But they also absorb flavor and cook quickly, so if you only have a few minutes, take some olive oil, garlic, a lemon or lime, salt and pepper, a handful of green onions, and 1 pound of peeled, deveined shrimp.

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Heat a large skillet (cast iron if you have one) over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil (I’m using Our Best Bites garlic olive oil, but lemon or rosemary would be AMAZING) and heat for about 1 minute or until very hot. While the oil is heating, season the shrimp on both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the shrimp to the pan

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and then add the garlic and green onions.

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Cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until the shrimp are bright pink. When the shrimp are done cooking, squeeze the juice of the lime or lemon over the shrimp, season with salt and pepper or hot sauce, garnish with a few chopped green onion stems, and serve immediately (with rice or pasta or quinoa or over a green salad).

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How to devein and pan-fry shrimp





  1. I am so glad you addressed the “poo” issue. It is disgusting that people don’t remove the vein. One of the reasons I don’t eat shrimp unless I prepare it myself.

  2. My husband refuses to eat shrimp because of the vein. (He’s a vegetarian, that will eat just two kinds of fish). I love shrimp, but will not devein. Grosses me out! I do love to eat them though, and on the grill is the very best way.

  3. I don’t like seafood or shrimp. The shrimp is probably for the reasons you mentioned about them not being deveined. If I get to feelong adventuresome soon, I’ll have to give your technique a try. Maybe I might end up liking shrimp.

  4. Yeah, I’m never EVER going to do this. My husband and I have a deal that I no longer try to get him to eat salmon and he no longer tries to get me to eat shrimp. For about the first 5 years we were married we used to try, but now he knows that even shrimp that’s “not too shrimpy” still tastes like shrimp and I don’t want to eat it. We eat all our salmon when he’s out of town and he eats all his shrimp at restaurants. But I love your cute polka dot knife. 🙂

  5. Gulf shrimp are amazing! I usually keep the water running while deveining shrimp because it is so yucky, and I don’t want the vein attaching to me.

  6. I want the polka dot knife more than the shrimp, and I ADORE shrimp! Fiddling with them really skeeves me out though, haha.

  7. Good for you for promoting poop-free cuisine! I thank you from the bottom of my southern-transplant heart!

    So, I usually buy deveined shrimp, but have you noticed the dark ‘vein’ on the underside of the shrimp (the leg side)? That grosses me out, so I take the time to tediously remove those too. They remove much like the shrimp’s intestinal tract removes–in a long, thin grey tube. Do you know what those are?

    1. yes, what is that about? I thought I de-veined it and then saw some stuff on the other side, looked like a vein. It don’t notice it on all shrimp but on some it is really noticeable.

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