When I lived near the Crystal Coast region of North Carolina in the early 2000s, I had my first experience with a shrimp burger in Morehead City, the site of the annual N.C. Seafood Festival.
I had never seen or heard of anything like it. These incredibly crispy, fried shrimp stacked on a hamburger bun, sometimes with nothing else and sometimes with a variety of accompanying toppings.
As a pure cheeseburger lover – meaning I enjoy beef, cheese and bun most of all – I had a hard time calling it a burger. But regardless of its name, it was good, and I ended up trying a variety of shrimp burgers during my time “Down East” in the Tar Heel State.
I decided recently that I wanted to venture creating my own shrimp burger at home. I didn’t expect the first trial to be all that great, but I wanted to share the shrimp burger with others, and I wanted to do it from my own kitchen.
So, here’s what I came up with on a recent Friday night, and what my wife Molly and I thought about it. I don’t know that it’s worthy of something as prestigious as the N.C. Seafood Festival, but it was good enough to earn praise in our home (more on that way below). One thing to know before reading further: Many shrimp burger recipes mix the shrimp in a food processor to create a patty with the shrimp. I took a different route based on the shrimp burgers I ate in Eastern North Carolina.
The Burger Ingredients
20 medium-size shrimp, deveined and without tails
dash of salt
dash of pepper
dash of paprika
dash of worcestershire sauce
dash of lime juice
dash of lemon juice
1/8 stick of butter
2 large hamburger sandwich buns
1 teaspoon of mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon of ketchup
1/2 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
1. Your shrimp need to have no external coverings, including tails. Saute the shrimp on medium heat on your stovetop in a pan with butter with a dash each of salt, pepper, and lime and lemon juices.
2. Cool the shrimp. (You can flash freeze in the freezer, but don’t let them get too cold or icy. You want them where they just aren’t hot or too warm to dredge.)
3. Mix the egg and a dash of worcestershire sauce in a bowl and toss in your shrimp.
4. Once the shrimp are coated enough with egg mixture, toss them into a separate bowl with a mixture of all-purpose flour and a dash each of salt, pepper and paprika.
5. When your shrimp are well-coated with flour, add them to your frying pan in a thin coating of cooking oil of your choice (can use the same one you sauteed in if you clean it out beforehand). You don’t need too much oil for something as small as shrimp.
6. Once one side is well-fried, turn them over and fry the other side. You can add a hearty dash of both lemon and lime juices over the shrimp as they fry but before the coating solidifies.
7. Remove your shrimp and drain the grease off as desired.
8. For your sauce, mix 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise with 1/2 teaspoon of ketchup and 1/2 teaspoon of red wine vinegar in a small mixing bowl. Mix throughly until all blended into one solution. You can add a dash of paprika to this sauce and mix it in well, too, if you like.
9. Spread the sauce on the inside of each half of your sandwich buns.
10. Add the shrimp on top by placing a layer one-shrimp-deep on the bun. Add the extras on top. You can always add lettuce, tomato, onion or any other topping you desire before serving. We went with the basic shrimp burger.
This recipe yields two shrimp burgers.
Be brave and try it! Let me know what you think!
Molly’s Take: I’ve never actually had a shrimp burger, so when some friends came over and we were discussing Matthew’s new dinner idea, everyone was curious. Is it formed into a patty? Is it just shrimp on a bun? Is it shrimp on a burger? To be honest, I didn’t know myself! But I found out soon enough that Matthew’s style of shrimp burger is tasty, crispy fried shrimp on a hearty bun, with a happy helping of tangy sauce to boot. I loved the simple three-ingredient sauce, as it complemented the shrimp’s subtle lemon and lime flavors. Overall, the shrimp burger was quite delicious and I can’t wait for Matthew to make it again. I’m sure next time, he’ll have even more new additions!
Matthew’s Take: Having had a variety of shrimp burgers in coastal North Carolina, where the seafood is fresh and the cooking traditions with it run deep, my recipe isn’t quite ready for primetime. But it was pretty good! And the sauce was a pleasing addition to the citrusy, breaded shrimp. This is definitely one I’d try again. Perhaps the best part of this recipe is that you can adapt it any way you like. You don’t even have to fry the shrimp, which was a new experience for me. I ended up with a thin, crispy coating. As unhealthy as it may be, I’d love to have a thicker coating next time. And I might try some fresh veggies to top the sandwich was well. You can make this one your own!