Most home cooks don’t realize they can make a fantastic homemade shrimp stock from their discarded shrimp shells and tails. It’s so easy and takes very little time. This flavor powerhouse will boost your fish dishes like no other!
Huh? What is Shrimp Stock (or any seafood stock) and why should I make it?
Shrimp or any seafood stock is a flavorful broth made from the discarded shells and bodies of fish and shellfish. Like any stock, it’s made with additional aromatics such as onion and celery to round out the flavor.
You can use shrimp shells and tails, crab shells or lobster shells – cooked or uncooked – or a combination of them. The easy part is that it cooks for a brief time (under an hour) compared to beef or chicken stock.
Why should you make shrimp stock with your leftover shrimp shells?
It’s delicious and it’s free. Yep, free jumbo-sized flavor added to your seafood dishes that you’d otherwise put in the trash can. And perhaps one of the biggest perks is that it isn’t a time-consuming project, unlike a meat stock, so you can make it while you’re eating dinner and have it cool while you’re doing the dishes.
What kind of shrimp to buy, anyway?
I prefer to buy shell-on, easy-peel, deveined shrimp. Shrimp are labeled by the approximate number of shrimp per pound. 32/40, 16-21, etc. The larger the shrimp, the more tender they’re likely to be upon cooking because they don’t overcook as easily and you have a little more control.
I buy several bags of shrimp on sale and store them in the freezer. Unless you live on the coast, the loose shrimp in the fish case
Pre-cooked shrimp or raw?
I never buy cooked shrimp for several reasons. Firstly, they are cooked by the shrimp producer in very large batches and are generally overcooked
Shrimp are expensive and I don’t want to waste my money, I trust myself more than mass producers and you should trust yourself, too. I also buy American shrimp whenever possible.
How to Make Homemade Shrimp Stock
The most important thing I want you to learn is the value of simply cooking your shells in
You’ll see other recipes with many other ingredients and that’s perfectly fine and yummy, but what I’m emphasizing to you is that it can be made quickly and easily while you’re at the stove doing other things. And my whole point here on Chef Donna At Home is bringing you doable deliciousness.
Don’t throw out those shells!
I made this stock from the tails and shells of 1.5 lbs. (24oz) of 16/21 count deveined easy-peel shrimp. Peel them and remove any remaining veins (digestive tracts) separately; you don’t want veins in your stock. By the way, if you see a coral-colored vein, that is a reproductive tract of a female, basically an egg sac. Take that out, too.
Heat a saucepan and add a small drizzle of oil such as vegetable or canola oil. Add the ends and outer layer of an onion – here I used that of the onion I chopped for dinner prep. I also added a few chives, it’s what I had handy.
Saute it for a minute or two then add the shells and saute another minute or so. They’ll begin to turn pink. Cover with water and bring it to a light simmer. Simmer gently for approximately 30-40 minutes. Perfect amount of time to finish cooking dinner and sit down to eat.
When your stock is nicely colored, strain and cool. This yielded about 2 cups. If you have shells from more shrimp, you’ll have more stock, and vice versa. You can throw those shells away now that they’ve given you all they’ve got and you’ve gotten your money’s worth!
Other aromatics? When to salt? Storage?
Aromatics are the vegetables and herbs and such added to food to flavor them. Of course, you can add more to this stock and I often do. A little celery, carrot ends, parsley stems, peppercorns and the like. Just be careful to not add too much or it will overpower the delicate flavor of the shrimp itself.
I like to salt my shrimp stock about half as much as needed. It’s all your choice. I prefer the flexibility of being able to season the end product when I cook with it.
If you’re in a rush, just cover those shells with water and cook them up for a little while and be done with it. You’ll still have a very useful stock.
After it cools, I transfer the stock to a plastic container (leaving headspace for expansion) and label and freeze it. This is where those miscellaneous containers from cottage cheese, sour cream, or the deli come in handy. You don’t need anything fancy.
What to Cook with Homemade Shrimp Stock
- Salmon Cream Pasta with Roasted Red Peppers
- Shrimp and seafood chowders and soups and gumbos
- Jambalaya, Paella or other rice dishes served with seafood
- Sauce for fish dishes
- Poaching liquid for fish
Homemade Shrimp Stock
- 1 tsp oil
- shells and tails from 1 1/2 lbs. shrimp
- 3 tbsp onion, celery and/or carrot pieces
- water to cover
- few parsley stems or fresh chives
- salt, as desired
- Heat a 2 quart saucepan on medium heat. Drizzle in oil.
- Sauté the onion (and other vegetables if using) for a minute or two. Add the shrimp shells and cook another minute or so.
- Cover with water and add parsley stems or chives, if using. Bring to a simmer.
- Simmer gently for 30-40 minutes.
- Strain over a bowl. Season with salt as desired.
- I recommend you season the stock with salt lightly or not at all. You’ll be seasoning the final dish you’re using it in, and oversalting is never good
- Freeze the stock for later use. Especially great to have several containers to use in a chowder or bisque later on.