Pickled Shrimp


Pickled shrimp with fennel and spices! Easy make-ahead holiday appetizer. Gluten-free. So fun to eat with toothpicks!

Photography Credit: Sheryl Julian

Pickled shrimp is one of those party dishes that has everyone rushing into the kitchen to see how you made it. In fact, you didn’t do very much at all, which is what makes pickled shrimp such a great choice for cocktail parties and holiday gatherings.

The shrimp look so amazing packed into a jar. You can see the pink curls against the glass with spices and herbs swirling around them.

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Pickled shrimp is an easy, make-ahead appetizer that never fails to impress.

All you do to make pickled shrimp is poach some shrimp and then pack them into a big crock or canning jar with simple pickling spices, vinegar, and olive oil. Let this sit in the fridge for a day or two, and pull out the jar just before the party starts.

2016-10-22-pickledshrimp-6It’s all very colorful, especially if you use a clear glass jar: pink shrimp, bright yellow slices of lemon, mustard seeds, thyme leaves, red onion, and fronds from a bulb of fresh fennel. (The fennel gives mix some crunch in addition to being pretty!)

The pickling liquid is a combination of cider vinegar and olive oil. As long as the shrimp are submerged in liquid, they’ll keep well for a few days in the refrigerator.

When it’s party time, tip the contents into a bowl – spices and all – and hand out toothpicks. Part of the fun is letting guests go fishing.

Pickled Shrimp Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Pickling time: 1 to 3 days
  • Yield: 1 quart (or about 6 servings)

You can double or triple this recipe as needed as long as you have extra jars!


  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced into very thin rounds
  • Salt, to taste
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 pound (12-20 count) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails intact
  • 1/2 bulb fresh fennel
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, or more if needed
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Few sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • 2 tablespoons capers and their juices
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed

Special equipment:

  • 1-quart canning jar or crock, or any combination of smaller jars equaling 1 quart


1 Cook the shrimp: In a large saucepan, combine the celery, half the red onion, half the lemon slices, a large pinch of salt, and the water. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add then shrimp, and then immediately remove the pan from heat and cover again. Set aside for 5 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink.

2 Prepare the fennel: Trim the fronds from the fennel (save a handful). Cut the bulb in half again through the root. Set the pieces cut sides down and slice the fennel as thinly as possible.

3 Pack the shrimp into a jar: In a 1-quart canning jar or crock, layer the cooked shrimp, remaining lemon slices, remaining red onion, sliced fennel and a few fennel fronds, thyme sprigs, garlic, capers, and mustard seed. (Discard the cooking liquid.)

Pickled Shrimp

4 Pour in the vinegar and oil. Combine the vinegar and oil in a measuring cup; it's fine if they separate. Pour the vinegar and oil into the jar to cover the shrimp. If the liquid doesn’t quite cover the shrimp, add more olive oil.

5 Cure the shrimp: Cover the jar tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 day or for up to 3 days.

6 To serve the shrimp: Carefully spoon the mixture into a big bowl and serve with toothpicks or in individual stemmed glasses as an appetizer or first course.

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Sheryl Julian

Sheryl Julian is an award-winning writer, editor, and food stylist. She is the former food editor of The Boston Globe, co-author of The Way We Cook, and editor of The New Boston Globe Cookbook. Her food sections won Best Newspaper Food Coverage from the Association of Food Journalists in 2015.

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13 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Niquie

    Fantastic! I made this as an appetizer and along with it, I served a simple Chinese cucumber salad. I made extra so I could have some the next day and it was even better. I am making this again. Thank you!


  2. Bill verchere

    The recipe didn’t say anything about what happens to the 4 cups of cooking water so I discarded it. Probably the wrong thing to do, as most pickling recipes require water with vinegar.

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Deepu Panicker

    Awesome recipe..


  4. Mike

    Can I substitute anise for fennel? My store only had anise. :-(

  5. Suzy

    Where/when do the red pepper flakes go in? In the cooking pot, or in the preserving jars? I simply omitted so I hope it still turns out good!

    Show Replies (1)
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