Shrimp is one of the most popular culinary ingredients, well known and used in a lot of different dishes. But at the same time, there are a lot of different reasons someone might need a shrimp substitute for a recipe.
You might be looking for a shrimp alternative because of dietary reasons, because of allergies, because they’re usually not cheap, or you might simply not enjoy their flavor.
Whatever the reason may be, here’s what you need to know to make the right choice when it comes to the best shrimp substitutes.
The best substitutes for shrimp
Shrimp are animals that belong to the crustacean family, which includes other aquatic animals such as crabs, crayfish, lobsters, and prawns.
They’re very popular in the kitchen and are available from smaller sizes to even jumbo. You can find them fresh, already cooked, or frozen, either still in their shells or already peeled.
Since they are a very versatile food they can be cooked in several ways and they can be used in pasta or rice dishes, as a standalone plate grilled with lemon and pepper, in a stir fry, or in a soup. They can also be sauteed in wine, to boost their flavor, or in other types of alcohol that go well with seafood.
Shrimp, like other seafood, are high in protein and have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. They are a significant source of cholesterol, but they’re considered a healthy meal for the circulatory system because they don’t contain high levels of saturated fats. They usually also have low levels of mercury.
Along with other shellfish, shrimp is among the most common food allergy in adults and children alike. These kinds of allergies are generally lifelong and can be really dangerous. Many people allergic to shellfish can however tolerate mollusks (scallops, oysters, and mussels).
That being said, let’s see which are the best shrimp substitute that you can use in your recipes.
1. Other types of crustacean
If you’re looking for a substitute for shrimp because you couldn’t find this particular ingredient at the supermarket, fear not, because any kind of crustaceans can work perfectly in almost any recipe. You can use crabs, lobsters, crawfish, prawns… there are a lot of different options.
The flavor of these crustaceans is obviously pretty similar to shrimp since they belong to the same family, but keep in mind that shrimp is usually cheaper than crabs or lobsters.
This choice obviously doesn’t work as a shrimp replacement if the problem is a shellfish allergy, or if you’re looking for something way cheaper than shrimp, but it’s still a good choice because of the similar taste and texture of the other crustaceans.
If you’re looking for a substitute for dried shrimp, because you couldn’t find them in the supermarket, a good alternative can be shrimp paste.
Another good substitute for shrimp, similar to the first option, is langostino. Langostino is a Spanish word that usually means prawn, but that has different meanings depending on the area. In the kitchen, it’s used to refer to the meat of the squat lobster, a crustacean that is neither a lobster nor a prawn.
Langostinos are usually not longer than 8 cm and resemble either small lobsters or large shrimp. This crustacean can be an affordable alternative to other shellfish and makes for a good substitute for shrimp in any kind of recipe.
Just like other kinds of crustaceans, the flavor and the texture are really close to shrimp, but they’re not a good idea if you’re looking for an alternative because of an allergy.
The term surimi refers to a fish paste that’s available in many different forms and shapes, and that can be used in a lot of different recipes and to produce various kinds of processed foods. It can imitate the texture and the taste of expensive crustacean, without having the same high price and with a longer shelf-life.
Surimi consists of fish proteins, refined by heading, gutting, and mincing the ingredients. If you’re looking for a substitute for shrimp because of allergies reasons, keep in mind that many brands of surimi may actually contain some kind of crustacean meat. You can try looking for shellfish-free surimi, but be careful.
Surimi is low in fat and calories and offers a healthy amount of phosphorus. It can be a great shrimp replacement because it consists of seafood ingredients that reach a flavor really similar to crustaceans, in particular shrimp or crab.
Mussels are bivalve mollusk, a type of shellfish that can be found in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams worldwide. They’re a popular ingredient in the kitchen and can be used in a variety of different recipes.
They’re low in fat, high in protein, and vitamin C, with high levels of nutrients (iron and selenium, for example).
Mussels have a light flavor and this makes them versatile and adaptable to different recipes. They work well as a substitute for shrimp if you’re not looking for something with the same taste and texture. While you can’t substitute mussels if shrimp is the main part of the dish, they make a good alternative in those recipes that require a lot of different ingredients, for example, paella, pasta, or rice.
Scallops are another kind of shellfish, related to mussels and oysters, so they offer the same kind of perks as mussels as a substitute for shrimp.
There are many different varieties of scallops, and they can go from tiny bay scallops to larger sea scallops. The smaller kinds are usually less expensive, but they both have a similar taste and a soft texture. Scallops are highly nutritious and low in fats. They contain a lot of minerals and vitamins, and they’re also high in zinc, copper, and selenium.
Just like mussels, scallops have a slightly delicate flavor and they can be a good substitute for shrimp in those recipes where shrimp flavor is not the main characteristic of the dish.
6. Squid and cuttlefish
Squids and cuttlefishes are both members of the cephalopods family, and they’re both well-known and loved ingredients in the kitchen, especially in the Mediterranean area and in Japan.
They can be sautéed, grilled, deep-fried, and they can be used in soups, stews, or as an ingredient in complex dishes like paella, pasta, or risotto. Both the tentacles and the body are eaten, and the meat is usually either cooked really quickly or simmered for a long time to avoid a thought consistency.
They both can be a good shrimp replacement, following the same criteria of mussels and scallops: they don’t have the same distinctive flavor of shrimp (or other crustaceans), but can nonetheless work as an alternative in more complex dishes.
Clams, just like mussels, are bivalve mollusks that can be found worldwide and that are used in a lot of different dishes and in a lot of different cultures around the world.
There are over 150 different species of clams, all edibles, and they all usually live in sand or sediments. This is one of the main differences between clams and other bivalves that grow attached to hard surfaces. The taste and the color of clams depend on the sand and the water they live in.
Clams are an excellent source of iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. They also contain protein, carbs, and some cholesterol.
Just like mussels (squid and cuttlefish), clams can be a good substitute for shrimp, as long as you’re not expecting the same taste and texture. They can be used in a lot of different seafood dishes, and are one of the most loved ingredients for pasta.
8. Vegan shrimp
If you’re looking for a vegetarian substitute for shrimp, you actually have a lot of options!
There are different companies that produce vegetarian or vegan shrimp, usually made with different kinds of seaweeds and spices. You can buy a vegan shrimp substitute or made it yourself: as long as it works for you, it will also work for your dish.
You can also use tofu in seafood recipes, because it absorbs the flavor of what you pair it with, or some other vegetables that pair well with the flavor in your dish, like zucchini.
How to choose a shrimp substitute
There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing a substitute for shrimp, and the right one depends mostly on the reason why you’re looking for a substitute in the first place.
If the reason is simply that you didn’t manage to find shrimp at the supermarket, your best bet is to use another kind of crustacean. A different kind of shrimp or crab can be a perfectly good alternative. Lobsters are delicious, and a nice option, but they’re a bit on the pricier side.
If you’re looking for a shrimp substitute due to an allergy, you can always choose another type of crustacean but if all crustaceans are a problem, you can opt for mussels, clams, squid, or cuttlefish.
While if you’re looking for a vegetarian substitute for shrimp, look for any of the vegan or vegetarian shrimp surrogates.