This crispy, sesame prawn toast (which some know as shrimp toast) is the one thing I can never pass up when order Chinese. Crunchy on the outside with a soft and flavourful prawn mixture hidden inside, it’s a favourite the world over.

If you love a bit of Chinese or Japanese take-out, you’ll also love these salt and pepper prawns or karaage chicken. Both make perfect additions to your appetiser boards.

A batch of prawn toast on a black plate with a white bowl filled with chilli sauce.

Who knew a Chinese takeaway favourite could be so easy to make at home. Once you get into the swing of it, you can be serving these up in 20-30 minutes. The part that takes the longest is peeling the prawns.

While it’s tempting to buy prawn / shrimp meat that has already been shelled, the texture and flavour does suffer (especially if the meat has been frozen). My preference is always to buy prawns with the shell still on and you will get a rhythm going once you start.

What you’ll need?

Just 8 ingredients is all you’ll need for this tasty Chinese finger food.

Ingredients for prawn toast on a marble worktop.
  • Prawns / shrimp (1): Any size is fine but they must be raw.
  • Spring onion / scallions (2): Make sure it’s fresh to give you the best flavour.
  • Egg (3): This is what will hold that filling together.
  • Ginger (4) and garlic (5): These, along with the onion, add a good umami flavour which is the flavour that keeps you coming back for more.
  • Sesame seeds (6): It wouldn’t be sesame prawn toast without these but if you don’t like them, you can sub some or all of them for panko bread crumbs.
  • White bread (7): Just white sandwich bread is all you need – roughly 1cm thick. I recommend sticking to white bread as it has the mildest flavour which doesn’t compete with the filling.
  • Light soy sauce (8): Another umami flavour plus it adds all the seasoning you need. Don’t use dark or sweet since they add a molasses flavour too.

How to make prawn toast

Minimal ingredients and the use of a food processor make this recipe incredibly simple. Once all the ingredients are ready it all comes together so quickly.

Collage of two images showng cutting bread and placing on a wire rack.
  1. I recommend drying the bread out but this is a simple case of cutting away the crusts, cut the bread in half, then place on a wire rack overnight.

A collage of 4 images showing preparing and cooking prawn toast.
  1. Peel and devein the prawns then place them in a food processor.
  2. Add the onion (chopped roughly), ginger, crushed garlic egg and soy sauce, then blitz until well combined and just a few chunks of prawn meat remain.
  3. Start heating some oil in a dutch oven or large saucepan with a thermometer inserted – it should reach 180C / 350F.
  4. Spread it over the bread slices then dunk them straight into sesame seeds.
  5. Fry them 4-6 at a time, depending on the size of your wok, until golden brown. They’ll only take 2-3 minutes to cook.
  6. Transfer them to a plate lined with paper towel, seed side down again.

The toasts will remain piping hot for 10 minutes, while you cook the rest. If you’re worried they’re cooling too much, just loosely lay a single sheet of paper towel over the top.

Tips and tricks

  • Dry the bread: Though not absolutely necessary, this gives you super crunchy prawn toast. It means you don’t need to turn them during frying. The prawn meat doesn’t overcook and the bread doesn’t soak up lashings of oil before it’s ready, so it’s perfectly cooked and not greasy.
  • Dry the prawns: Use paper towel to dry the prawns of any excess moisture before adding them to the food processor. Too much moisture will soften the bread and make the mixture less sticky.
  • Leftover sesame seeds must be discarded: Don’t reuse any sesame seeds from the bowl where you been dipping the raw prawn meat.
  • Use a thermometer in the oil: this will help you keep an eye on the temperature so that the oil does not get too hot (aka burnt prawn toast) or too low (aka greasy prawn toast). Perfect temperature will give you perfectly cooked toasts that aren’t greasy.
  • Don’t crowd the pan: As a rule of thumb, I like to take up just over half the space in the pan with foods. When you add the toasts to the oil, it will immediately drop the temperature a little which can cause it to absorb more oil and cook more slowly. I find 4-5 in a regular dutch oven works well.
  • Fry them seed side down: the prawn meat and sesame seeds side should be put directly into the oil. There is no need to turn them since you’ve dried out the bread already.
  • Test one: once you’ve cooked a batch, cut one open, straight through the centre, to make sure the prawn filling is opaque and there are no translucent parts anymore. This will give you a good indication of the cooking time you need with your particular setup.
  • This recipe can be halved easily: Everything halves pretty simply but instead of a whole egg, just use an egg white.
A slice of prawn toast being dipped into chilli sauce.

Can I bake them?

They can be baked but, simply put, they don’t turn out as good as frying them.

As long as you take my tips above, the amount of oil they actually absorb will be limited, however if you really want to bake them, heat the oven to about 210C / 410F / 190C fan forced and bake for 5-10 minutes on a wire rack over a baking tray.

How to serve them

Sesame prawn toast is great served with just a sweet chilli sauce or sweet and sour sauce.

I very often just use the good old bottle variety sweet chilli but I also have a homemade version that’s really delicious. It’s the one you can see in these photos.

My pickled vegetable chilli dipping sauce

This doesn’t yet have a place on this blog since I don’t really know what to call it but it really is good.

A glass jar filled with chilli sauce surrounded by chillis.
  1. Heat ½ cup of rice wine vinegar with ½ cup of sugar stirring until dissolved. Bring it to a boil for a minute, then set it aside to cool.
  2. Once cool add 2-3 teaspoons of fresh finely chopped chilli (to your taste) and a tablespoon each of very finely chopped cucumber and carrot. Stir in ½ teaspoon of salt (or soy or fish sauce).

That’s it. It’s almost a combination of sweet chilli sauce and sweet and sour. It’s got a sweet pickled flavour with the kick of chilli and I absolutely love all the little textural bits of veggie.

Can they be made ahead of time?

Prawn toast is best served fresh and while I’ll happily eat leftovers the next day, it’s definitely not as crisp on the outside and soft inside.

You can make the prawn mixture ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 24 hours before spreading on the bread.

While best fresh, you can reheat them in the oven if you have leftovers. About 10 minutes at 180C / 350F / 160C will be fine.

Can they be frozen?

You can freeze them uncooked. For best results, freeze the bread first on a flat tray, then top them and return them to the freezer on a tray until firm. Transfer them to an airtight container until you need them.

Keep in mind, if your prawns were frozen when you bought them, it’s not recommended to refreeze them, so buy fresh prawns if you want to freeze them for later.

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Chopsticks holding a slice of prawn toast, showing the inside.

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A batch of prawn toast on a black plate with a white bowl filled with chilli sauce.

Sesame Prawn Toast (Shrimp Toast)

4.58 from 7 votes
When it comes to this Sesame Prawn Toast, you won’t be able to stop at one. Slices of bread topped with a flavourful prawn mixture and sesame seeds are fried to golden perfection for this classic Chinese takeaway finger food.
Start this recipe a day ahead. 

Ingredients

  • 10 slices white bread
  • 750 g prawns in the shell, raw (1.6lb)
  • 2 large spring onions (scallions), roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ginger, freshly grated
  • 2 small cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup Sesame seeds
  • 4 cups Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • Sweet chilli sauce for dipping or see post for a homemade sauce

Instructions
 

Day before serving

  • Cut the crusts off of the bread, then cut each slice in half. Lay them flat on a wire rack and cover with a clean tea towel. Allow to sit overnight to dry out.

Day before OR on day of serving

  • Shell and devein the prawns and roughly chop, then put them in a food processor.
  • Add the onion, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and egg. Pulse until everything is chopped and combined well but still a few prawn chunks. Store in an airtight container if doing this the day before.

Day of serving

  • Top each bread stick with a layer of prawn mixture, roughly 1cm thick. Level it out so that it cooks evenly.
  • Roll the side with prawn mix in sesame seeds then place sesame seed side up on a wire rack.
  • Heat about 1 inch of oil in a large saucepan to 180C. Add a thermometer on the side so that you can keep an eye on the temperature throughout. Line a baking tray with 2-3 layers of roughed up paper towel.
  • Gently place 5-6 prawn toast pieces into the oil, sesame seed side down and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes until nicely golden.
  • Remove from the oil and place them (seed side down) on the paper towel while you cook the rest.
  • Serve immediately with sweet chilli sauce for dipping

Notes

  1. Drying the bread in the oven: If you don’t have time to do it overnight, cook it in a 160C / 320F / 140C fan forced oven for 10-15 minutes.
  2. This recipe can be halved easily: Everything halves pretty simply but instead of a whole egg, just use an egg white.
  3. Discard leftover sesame seeds.
  4. Test one: once you’ve cooked a batch, cut one open, straight through the centre, to make sure the prawn filling is opaque and there are no translucent parts anymore. This will give you a good indication of the cooking time you need with your particular setup.
  5. Don’t crowd the pan: When you add the toasts to the oil, it will immediately drop the temperature a little which can cause it to absorb more oil and cook more slowly. I find 4-5 in a regular dutch oven works well.
  6. Use a thermometer in the oil: this way you can keep it at a constant temperature.
  7. Dipping sauce: see the post for a great recipe for dipping sauce.
  8. Make ahead: You can make the prawn mixture ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 24 hours before spreading on the bread.
  9. Reheating: While best served fresh, you can reheat leftover for about 10 minutes at 180C / 350F / 160C in the oven.
  10. Freezing; They can be frozen and it’s best done uncooked. See the post for the best method.
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