This popular salt and pepper prawns recipe is easy to make and totally delicious. Served with a delicious lime sriracha mayo, the flavour from these simple ingredients is amazing.

If you love prawns as much as we do, try these Honey Grilled Prawns with Chorizo Dukkah or Sesame Prawn Toast (Shrimp Toast).

a batch fried prawns with chilli and green onion slices

This recipe is a popular one and today I’m updating it with more information and step by step images.

Ingredients in salt and pepper prawns

A collection of really simple ingredients, many of which you already have on hand, is all you need.

Ingredients for salt and pepper prawns on a marble surface
  • Prawns (1): I like tiger prawns but whatever you do, get large prawns with the head and shell still on (in the image above, I’ve removed that already). Those with the shell and head already removed will not taste as good, nor will the texture be very nice.
  • Oil (2): For frying. These prawns are shallow fried and a vegetable oil is best. Not olive oil as it can’t handle higher heats. Use rice bran, sunflower or peanut oil.
  • Cornflour (3): This is most of what coats the prawns.  
  • Light soy sauce (4), Shaoxing rice wine (5) and sesame oil (8): This trio makes up the marinade for the prawns and gives an incredible amount of flavour.  If you can’t get the rice wine, you can use sake or dry sherry in it’s place.
  • Salt and Pepper (10): Plenty of these two give these prawns their classic flavour.

Ingredients for the lime sriracha mayo

I love this simple dressing. It’s as easy as mixing together 3 ingredients and incredibly simple to adjust to your liking.

  • Mayonnaise (6) is the main ingredient. I use a light version.
  • Sriracha (9) is a hot sauce made of chilli, garlic, vinegar, sugar and salt. It’s available pretty much in any grocery store these days.
  • Lime juice: Use the juice from real limes (not the bottled variety) as it has a much better flavour.
Hand holding a crispy fried prawn with a slice of chilli on it

How to peel and devein prawns

I can’t say enough how important it is to buy prawns with the shells on. Most prawns are frozen before sale and if the shell is removed before freezing, they will have an awful crunchy texture once they’re cooked.

Prawns should be meaty so, unless you’re confident they’re fresh and not frozen, get the ones with shells on and shell them yourself. It’s really easy to do. For these ones, we leave the tail on as a little handle but you can certainly remove that too if you prefer.

(See photo 1 below)

  1. Remove the head: Slice the head off and push aside. (Prawn heads and shells can be frozen for later and used to make a tasty seafood stock).
  2. Remove the shell: Use your thumb to dig in near the legs and belly to pull the shell away from the meat, all the way down to the tail.
  3. Cut along the back: Use a sharp knife and carefully cut along the back of the prawn from the tail to where the head was, then prise it open.
  4. Remove the vein: You can either pull out the vein (it’s actually the digestive tract) with your fingers or scrape it out with knife and discard.
  5. Butterfly them: For this recipe we semi-butterfly the prawns, so deepen that cut to about halfway through the prawn flesh.
  6. Clean: Rinse it in a bowl of water and set aside while you continue with the rest.

How to make salt and pepper prawns

I love how easy this recipe is. Marinade the prawns, coat them in the coating, give them a quick fry and then devour.

A collage of images showing steps to make salt and pepper prawns
  1. Dry the prawns first with paper towel (photo 2) so the marinade and coating will stick better.
  2. Whisk an egg white, then add the marinade ingredients (photo 3) before mixing through the prawns (photo 4).
  3. Combine the cornflour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and add the prawns, pressing the coating all over (photo 5).
  4. Fry the prawns in hot oil for 1-2 minutes on each side (photo 6).

The cooking time will depend on the size of the prawns – they should be opaque white when done.

From here you mix up the lime sriracha mayo ingredients in a small bowl then serve it alongside the prawns while they’re hot and fresh.

How to serve

These salt and pepper prawns are perfect served as an appetiser (4 serves) or as a main (2 serves). A light side salad or some stir fried vegetables would be perfect on the side.

This is great for a healthy option as, while they are shallow fried, it is for such a short time they don’t soak up any of that oil at all. Also, the  coating is very thin so it also stays oil free and very crispy.

You can also use this same recipe to make salt and pepper squid (calamari) which is actually a favourite of mine. I can never go past it at a restaurant and it’s why I created this recipe.

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a batch fried prawns with chilli and green onion slices

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a batch fried prawns with chilli and green onion slices

Salt and Pepper Prawns (shrimp)

5 from 2 votes
Simple prawns (or shrimp) in a crispy spice coating, these salt and pepper prawns are an easy, lighter dish. With a creamy lime sriracha mayo, these will disappear as quickly as you can serve them.

Ingredients

  • 500 g large raw prawns, shells on (1.1 pounds or 20 large prawns)

LIME SRIRACHA MAYO

  • cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha (or to taste) (note 1)
  • Juice of one lime (or to taste)

MARINADE (optional but recommended)

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or sake (note 1)
  • 1 tablespoon light soy (note 1)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

TO FRY

  • ½ cup cornflour (cornstarch) (65g / 2.3oz)
  • 2 teaspoons coursely ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • ½ cup vegetable oil (rice bran, sunflower or peanut0
  • Sliced green onion and chilli to serve (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Start by shelling the prawns, leaving the tails on. With a sharp knife, slice down the back of the prawn about 1/2 of the way through. Scrape out the digestive tract.

LIME SRIRACHA MAYO

  • Combine the mayonnaise with the sriracha and lime juice. Mix well. Adjust to taste, then chill until serving time.

SALT AND PEPPER PRAWNS

  • In a medium bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy, then stir in the rice wine, soy and sesame oil. Add the prawns to the marinade and chill for 20 minutes.
  • Combine the cornflour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and set aside.
  • Prepare a dish with some paper towel for resting the prawns and after cooking. Heat half the oil in a wok to about 180C / 350F.
  • Remove the prawns from the marinade and coat in the cornflour mixture, making sure to really press it on, all over.
  • Gently shake off any excess flour, then shallow fry the prawns in 2-3 batches, adding and heating the remaining oil as needed. Cook for 1-2 minutes on one side then turn over and cook for the same on the other. The time will depend on how big the prawns are but just cook until they just turn opaque white. Transfer to the paper towel to soak up any leftover oil.
  • Serve immediately with lime sriracha mayo, wedges of lime, sliced spring onion and chilli.

Notes

  1. I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons)
  2. Serves 4 as an appetiser or share dish or 2 as a main size serve.
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