Whether you’re in a grilling mood, making pasta, or creating a delicious salad, one of the best ingredients to enhance your meal is shrimp. Its delicate yet distinctive flavor can be the piece that ties many dishes together, and its meatiness (if cooked correctly) can add that perfect texture to a softer dish like pasta or salad.
However, what happens if shrimp isn’t available, you are a vegetarian, or you are looking for a less costly option?
As it turns out, there are many substitutes to choose from that can give you similar tastes and textures. Below we have 13 substitutes to choose from, ranging from other shellfish to non-seafood and even vegan options. Read on to find out what they are.
Top 16 Shrimp Substitutes for Everyone
No matter what your dietary needs or preferences are, there is sure to be a substitute that will not only take the place of shrimp but still maintain the texture and/or taste that you are looking for in a shrimp dish. Let’s take a look at some of them and what makes them good options when shrimp is not available.
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Langostino is a fantastic shrimp substitute.
For one, it looks similar to shrimp, which can make those who are a bit less adventurous more willing to try it. However, on the taste and texture aspect, it is one of the best options out there, maybe even better than other crustaceans. It has the same mild sweetness and tenderness as shrimp.
For those substituting due to allergies, you will get the same taste and tenderness without ending up in the hospital.
Apart from Langostino, which has a remarkably similar taste and texture to shrimp, your best bet for a substitute with as similar a taste and texture as possible is just about any of the other varieties of crustaceans.
Shrimp is a crustacean, so anything from this family is going to have a similar taste and/or texture depending on the part of the body you use.
Some of the most well-known crustaceans include the following:
Specifically, the lobster tail. The tail is more tender and softer (similar to shrimp) than the rest of the lobster. It also has a sweet and buttery flavor to it, like shrimp, which means you can eat it without tasting much of a difference, especially in recipes like scampi.
These crustaceans are salty and mildly sweet, just like shrimp, and are especially good for serving in shrimp cocktail substitutes. Their downsides are that they are more difficult to find, and they tend to be more expensive than shrimp. However, if you want to plan ahead, they can be a fun substitute.
Prawns can be tricky to tell apart from shrimp to the untrained eye. Generally speaking, they are larger than shrimp (though not always). Prawns tend to be found in freshwater, whereas shrimp are in saltwater.
However, they have a very similar taste and texture. If you live in an area that is more likely to have fresh prawn than fresh shrimp, then it can be a cheaper option with the same taste.
Crabmeat tends to be a little tougher and flakier than shrimp meat. However, it has the same salty, fishy taste that shrimp does, and the difference in texture can be enjoyable and work well with a variety of dishes that use shrimp, including pasta or tacos.
If you are looking to stay in the shellfish family but make your recipe a little different, then mollusks such as scallops are a great option. They have a similar texture to shrimp: springy and a little chewy. They also have the mildly fishy, buttery, and sweet taste that shrimp are known for. They taste especially similar if you cook them with the lemon butter sauce used in a lot of shrimp recipes.
Scallops are also incredibly versatile. In addition to being served in butter lemon sauce, they can be deep-fried or stir-fried as well. The main thing you need to watch out for is the temperature. Make sure they do not cook beyond 130 degrees Fahrenheit, so they maintain their texture.
Mussels are a good substitute in a recipe where they won’t be the main focus. Think pasta, or rice, or other dishes with a lot of different ingredients. They are a great substitute in recipes where shrimp would otherwise be added to add texture and meatiness, rather than a substitute for flavor.
Because their flavor is more muted and lowkey, they will take on the flavors and spices around them and can help create a delicious dish.
If you are feeling a little more adventurous and want to substitute something with a bit of a different taste, then clams are right up your alley. They have a smooth texture and a strong taste. While there is a noticeable difference in the taste as compared to shrimp, they still work well in just about any dish you would put shrimp in.
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Non-Shellfish, Seafood Substitutes
Unfortunately, you may love the taste and texture of shrimp but be allergic to shellfish entirely. That means that not only are shrimp off the table, but everything listed above is as well.
So, what do you substitute if you can’t eat shellfish but still want to stay in the seafood family and keep the seafood taste? We’ve got you covered with the options below.
Surimi is a paste made out of fish or other meat and is very commonly used in Asian dishes. Surimi is an excellent substitute for shrimp as it has a similar fishy flavor and a similar texture. It is also created in such a way that it looks like shrimp. While some people may find this off-putting, others may appreciate the similarity and find it easier to switch to using surimi.
Surimi is very high in protein, plus it tends to be much less expensive than most other kinds of seafood, which means you can create a meal with the taste you like but at a lower price.
Squid and Cuttlefish
If you’re looking for a shrimp substitute as part of a bigger pasta or rice dish or to put in soups or stew with plenty of other ingredients, squid and cuttlefish can do the trick. Both are great options because you are not limited on which part you can use; both body and tentacles will work fine.
While they do not taste like shrimp (their flavor is milder, more like that of mussels), they can be cooked either fast or slow, meaning they are a great addition to sauteed, stir-fried, or grilled meals as well as soups or strews. Their gentler flavor won’t overpower the meal, and they act as a textural addition to round it out.
If you want to keep it in the seafood family, you can’t forget about fish. Whitefish, in particular, can be a great shrimp substitute.
Whether you’re looking for a similar texture or a similar taste, any of the following will work well:
- Pollock. Pollock has a fishy taste to it.
- Cod. Cod has a savory, salty taste to it.
- Halibut. Halibut is great if you want a sweet, milder flavor that is pretty similar to shrimp.
Best Vegetarian Substitutes for Shrimp
Nowadays, more and more people are becoming vegetarians or vegans for a variety of reasons, including health or religious beliefs. You may wonder if it is possible to still enjoy the same recipes that you used to with this limitation.
The answer is yes. Let’s take a look at a few of the vegetarian substitutes available.
Fake shrimp are a relatively new thing and are made by combining plant-based protein powder and red algae. The red algae are the same thing that real shrimp eat, which gives them their distinctive pink color.
By combining the protein powder and algae, the fake shrimp not only look like real shrimp but taste a lot like them too. Thus, they are a successful substitute for any shrimp dish you want to try.
For those who may be a little weirded out by the idea of eating algae, sweet potatoes, with a bit of work on your part, can be a tremendous vegan shrimp substitute.
Simply combine sweet potato puree, flour, garlic, powder, paprika, and vegetable oil. Knead the ingredients for 2-3 minutes, making sure not to overdo it, so the dough doesn’t get too tough, and it maintains a similar texture to shrimp. Cut the dough into shrimp-size pieces.
Make a saltwater broth with 8 cups of water, a couple of tablespoons of salt, and a couple of tablespoons of seaweed. This broth is what will give your sweet potato “shrimp” a similar flavor.
Put the sweet potato “shrimp” into the cold broth, bring it to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. This substitute is a great option for many things you would use shrimp for, including cocktails or pasta cooked in garlic butter.
If you are going for a vegan substitute, then we can’t forget about the classic go-to: tofu. Tofu works well as a shrimp substitute because it is incredibly versatile, has a mild taste, and has a similar texture to shrimp. It picks up the flavors of whatever it is cooked in. Just drain and cut into cubes and use it in any recipe that calls for shrimp.
The main thing to remember if you decide to use tofu is to pick soft tofu. A tough one won’t have the right texture and will be more challenging to cook.
King Oyster Mushrooms
If you want to whip up a quick vegan stir fry, then you don’t have to look any further than King Oyster mushrooms. King Oyster mushrooms are very nutritious, plus they have a similar texture to shrimp: soft and crunchy. To prep them, all you need to do is wash them, cut them up, and throw them in your stir fry. You aren’t limited to just stir fry, either. They can be breaded and fried, as well!
Lastly, for those who are not keen on seafood, but also not vegetarian, you cannot go wrong with chicken. Not for nothing, chicken breast is one of the most popular substitutes for shrimp. If a particular recipe with shrimp looks good, you can make the recipe as is and just add the chicken instead.
While chicken isn’t as sweet, it is similar in a variety of ways, including:
- Texture. They both have a similar texture as long as they are not overcooked.
- Versatility. Both chicken and shrimp are easily infused with the flavors that they are cooked with, such as pasta sauce or marinades.
- Low calorie, high protein. Both chicken and shrimp are low calorie and high in protein, making them a popular choice for those on a specific diet or regimen.
Keep in mind that if you use chicken, it will need to be cooked for longer than shrimp.
Shrimp is a versatile ingredient used in everything from pasta and soup to stir-fry dishes and tacos. However, sometimes shrimp may be difficult to find, or you may be allergic to shellfish, are trying to stick to a vegetarian diet, or simply don’t like seafood in any form. If you find yourself in any of these situations, you may wonder if there is a way to still try out these fun new recipes even without shrimp.
Fortunately, shrimp is such a versatile ingredient that no matter what you are trying to make and what your dietary restrictions are, there is a substitute for it, vegan included. Some great options include other shellfish such as langostino, lobster, crab, mussels, or clams.
When it comes to meatless options, you can use tofu, mushrooms, and even sweet potatoes. You do not have to be limited by your allergies or your diet, or be forced to use the same old ingredients just because you can’t have shrimp.
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