I don’t know about you, but shrimp feels like a special occasion protein. Shrimp boil, peel and eat shrimp, fried shrimp sandwiches, shrimp cocktail, shrimp scampi: to me, each of these dishes evokes a distinctive event and setting, and they’re all places I want to be. This shrimp butter is the perfect New Year’s Eve party fare. Somewhere between a compound butter and a dip, it showcases finely chopped shrimp in creamy, rich butter to enjoy on crackers or baguette slices.
For this delightfully retro party snack, we turn to a veritable icon in the food world: James Beard. Originating in his 1972 book American Cookery, this rendition leans slightly closer to key seasonings in shrimp cocktail, featuring celery seed and Worcestershire sauce for that characteristic flavor. Guests will delight in the novelty of a dish called shrimp butter, and then be sold on the sheer deliciousness of it. A little shrimp goes a long way here, and best of all, the effort is minimal AND it all comes together in one bowl!
Don’t Skimp on the Good Stuff
Good quality shrimp is sweet and tender, and is right on par with the venerable lobster, in my opinion. Like most seafood and meat, the difference in quality is reflective in the price you pay, so considering shrimp is in the name, be sure to spring for the best you can afford. Gulf caught shrimp are my go-to, and on the whole, I would recommend hitting up the freezer section before the fish counter. Shrimp are super perishable, and are always frozen immediately upon being caught. The fancy looking shrimp on ice behind glass? That’s the same bag that you’ll find in the freezer section, just defrosted for who knows how long.
Precooked shrimp is always bland and rubbery, so I would suggest instead buying it raw, and simply poaching the shrimp in well salted water for just a few minutes until cooked.
The need for quality also applies to butter! The cost differential between average butter and amazing butter is usually only a few dollars, and I promise it will make a difference. For a great butter that’s widely accessible and affordable, my favorite is Kerrygold! But feel free to buy the best butter you can find and afford.
Shrimp butter is great shoveled with a spoon directly into your mouth, but other than that, my favorite way to eat it is spread on the iconic saltine cracker. Saltines are crisp, light, and a little bit salty, a perfect foil for the rich butter. If this is the route you go for serving, just be sure to pull it out of the fridge a few hours before partytime to make sure it’s room temperature and spreadable.
Beyond that, add it to pasta, scrambled eggs, or folded into grits! Spread it on white bread for tea sandwiches, or even dip celery and carrot sticks into it if you’re feeling virtuous.
Waves of Shrimptastic Recipes
Finely chopping all of the ingredients will make for smoother, more spreadable, more sophisticated shrimp butter. If you’d like, give the shrimp and seasonings a few pulses in the food processor in Step 2, right before transferring to a bowl with your butter.
Cooking the shrimp with the shells on gives them a shrimpier flavor, plus makes them easier to peel. Try to find shell-on shrimp that are already deveined.
1 small white onion, finely minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, shell on (see recipe note)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for salting the water
1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
Soak the onion:
In a small bowl, add the chopped onion and cover with cold water and an ice cube. Allow onion to sit in water for at least 5 minutes to let the flavor mellow. Afterward, drain from water, pat dry with a paper towel, and set aside.
Poach the shrimp:
Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with ice water for shocking the cooked shrimp. Set aside.
Fill a medium saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the shrimp. Cook until shrimp are completely pink and firm to the touch, 5-7 minutes.
Transfer to the bowl of ice water and let sit until cool enough to handle. Peel and, if necessary, devein. Then pat dry and transfer to a cutting board.
Be sure to pat the shrimp dry; if they are wet, they won’t mix into the butter properly.
Chop the shrimp:
Chop the shrimp very finely until it’s nearly a paste.
You can use a food processor to do this.
Beat the butter:
In a large bowl, beat the butter with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Add the remaining ingredients:
Add the chopped shrimp and remaining 1 teaspoon salt, lemon zest and juice, Worcestershire sauce, herbs, pepper, and celery seed.
Mash with the back of a fork (or continue using the wooden spoon) until all of the ingredients are well distributed.
Serve immediately with saltines (or any light, crisp cracker), or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Let come to room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving; when pliable, re-beat until spreadable and creamy.
Shrimp butter can be made ahead and frozen for up to 1 month. To store, spoon the butter onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a log.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 19g||24%|
|Saturated Fat 12g||58%|
|Total Carbohydrate 1g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 2mg||10%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|