The substitute for shrimp can be really hard to pin down, but luckily there are many other seafoods that carry the same light texture and taste that we get from shrimp, giving us plenty of options in the case that we run out. While it really does depend on what you’re making, there are a few proteins that you can always fall back on.
The best substitutes for shrimp are crayfish, lobster, crab, surimi, white fish, chicken, and tofu.
Crayfish is one of the best substitutes for shrimp due to its crustaceous nature, similar size, and similar flavors of meat. Though most used in the south, crayfish are very versatile and can absorb the flavors around them, making them a fit for most regional dishes.
When crayfish is added to a dish, it absorbs the flavor around it. The flavor of crayfish by itself is a bit sweet, mineral laced, and just a little bit salty. It is very simple to add to dishes where shrimp might be used, such as in crab boils and other Cajun dishes. The light meat makes it very a palatable, although it must be cooked thoroughly to avoid parasites.
The best ways that crawfish can be used as a replacement of shrimp is in soups and stews, do to the ability of crawfish to soak up the spices and broth around it.
Lobster can make an excellent replacement for shrimp when present in soup, stews, and even tacos. Lobster differs from shrimp in texture, but it is comparable in its sweet and savory nature. Lobster differs from crayfish in its flavor properties, as lobster won’t change its taste entirely based on what is around it. It will still retain its sweet and savory flavor, making it harder to blend in like crayfish.
However, if you’re not dead set on a shrimp flavor and open to interpretation, lobster can be a perfect substitution due to its unique flavor. When placed as a replacement for shrimp tacos, adding a bit of spice will create an entire new experience while still having that seafood craving fulfilled.
Crab meat that isn’t artificial has an entirely different taste than what surimi tried to imitate. The actual flavor of crab can be very hard to pin down, but it shares a lot of food pairings with shrimp, which makes it a suitable substitute and yes, crab meat can be frozen.
Crab pairs well with spices such as
- Lemon balm
- Fava Bean
- And Ciabatta
These pairings also all go well with shrimp, making it an excellent idea for a substitution in Hawaiian dishes and salad.
Surimi is a versatile form of fish flesh that makes up a good amount of imitation seafood. High in omega 3s, surimi is often used as a form of imitation crab in sushi, as well as the filling in fish sticks. The flavor of surimi varies because of its artificial nature, which means it can be flavored to fit what it is trying to imitate.
Although, surimi that fits shrimp can be very hard to find. The sweetness of imitation crab can often be too potent for it to be a suitable replacement.
Chicken would be an amazing substitute for shrimp, especially if there are people who generally don’t like seafood around. Chicken is a lean meat, and while it doesn’t mimic the slight sweetness of shrimp, it does mimic the savory nature and the meaty texture.
Chicken is notoriously versatile, and it can make a good substitution for shrimp tacos, soups and stews, and one of the hardest foods to substitute for, being curry. There are many curries that shrimp and chicken are essentially interchangeable, and it can be spiced for the missing seafood flavor.
Often, when replacing shrimp with chicken, you can take out the sweeter elements of the dish and keep the tangy or savory elements in order to properly fit the food for the substitution.
Tofu is easily the best vegetarian substitute for most meats due to its versatility. Tofu is similar to crayfish in that it absorbs the flavor around it, making it a good substitute for seafood dishes as well.
In order to make it taste more like meat, you can put liquid aminos in the pan when you’re cooking it. That with a good seafood rub will make it a good replacement if you need to have a meat-free version of the main dish, giving all of your guests a similar culinary experience.
What Other Vegan Shrimp Substitutes Can I Use?
The reported best alternative for vegan shrimp is king oyster mushrooms, tofu, and even sweet potatoes.