My Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp is a restaurant quality appetizer that you can make at home! It’s so easy to make and healthier than the traditional deep fried version, thanks to the air fryer. It’s the perfect party appetizer and can be made gluten free too!
Whether you’re looking for an appetizer to serve at your next party or just a quick weeknight meal, this recipe is for you! Coconut shrimp is one of those dishes that’s always sure to be a hit. Anytime I put a platter of them out at a party, they’re always the first thing to disappear!
These shrimp are tender and juicy on the inside with an irresistibly crispy, golden brown, coconut crust. Plus, you can pick them up by their tails so they’re not messy at all. Coconut shrimp are the perfect finger food!
Both kids and adults love them. Having a hard time getting your kids to eat seafood? Make this dish for them!
Air fryer vs deep fryer
The coconut shrimp you get in restaurants are typically deep fried. That’s how they achieve that crispy exterior. While they’re delicious, they’re not exactly the healthiest.
My Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp are a lot healthier because I use an air fryer. An air fryer is basically a mini convection oven that sits on your countertop. It has a fan that helps circulate heat around your food more efficiently, making it nice and crispy, similar to deep-fried food.
So basically, deep fryers cook food by submerging it in hot oil, whereas air fryers cook food using hot air that circulates around it.
Air fryers will give you crispy deep-fried food that you crave but with minimal oil. Because of the way air fryers work, you can simply spray a small amount of olive oil on the shrimp before cooking. This cuts back significantly on calories and fat.
You can even skip this step altogether and use no oil at all but I prefer to use a small amount to help achieve a golden brown color.
How to make coconut shrimp in the air fryer
- Prepare your shrimp (see section below)
- Set up a breading station with flour, eggs and a mixture of shredded coconut and panko breadcrumbs. I recently got this set of breading trays. I love it- it makes setting up the breading station a cinch!
- Coat the shrimp with the ingredients in the breading station
- Cook the shrimp in the air fryer
- Serve shrimp with desired dipping sauce. My sauce of choice is Thai sweet chili sauce.
That’s it! In about 8 minutes, you’ll have beautiful, crispy, golden brown shrimp ready to be devoured!
How to prepare the shrimp
Did you ever notice that restaurant coconut shrimp look different than the shrimp you make at home? It’s because they butterfly the shrimp before they cook them.
Butterflying is a technique that flattens the shrimp out. As a result, they cook faster and you get a larger surface area to add more of the coconut breading. Yum!
Plus, the shrimp look cute when you butterfly them because they can stand up on a plate and it makes them easier to pick up. If you don’t butterfly the shrimp, that’s fine- they’ll still taste great. Just cook them a minute or two longer.
How to butterfly shrimp
- Start with extra large shrimp (21-26 count per pound), preferably peeled and deveined with the tails on. Having the tails on makes the shrimp easier to pick up and provides a handle. You can use fresh or frozen shrimp. If using frozen, make sure they’re fully defrosted.
- Place the shrimp on a cutting board. Using a small paring knife, cut along the back of the shrimp to open it up. Don’t cut all the way through. Spread the shrimp open and flatten it out.
- To watch me butterfly shrimp, be sure to click on the recipe video!
- Once all the shrimp are butterflied, proceed with breading them. Pat them dry first- this will help the coating stick and helps the shrimp get extra crispy.
- Pat your shrimp dry before breading it. This will help the coating stick better and allow the shrimp to get extra crispy.
- Preheat the air fryer first to get it nice and hot before cooking.
- You can spray or brush the air fryer rack with oil as well as the food, if desired. You can skip this step but I like to spray the shrimp to get a nice golden brown color and to prevent sticking.
- Don’t overcrowd the basket. You want the shrimp in a single layer so that the air circulates around them. This will help them cook evenly and crisp up nicely. If your air fryer comes with a second rack, you can put a layer of shrimp on that as well and cook twice as many.
- Flip the shrimp halfway through to get even browning on both sides.
- Every air fryer is different in terms of how hot they get and how quickly they heat up so you may have to adjust the temperature and cooking time based on your air fryer. There are recipes online that call for cooking coconut shrimp in an air fryer at 400°F for 15 minutes or more however I find that to be way too hot and too long. The coconut will burn at that temperature and the shrimp will get rubbery. I find 350°F for 7-8 minutes to be perfect for my air fryer. If you’re not butterflying the shrimp, you can add another minute or two to the cooking time.
Yes! To make this recipe gluten free, you can substitute gluten-free flour (like coconut flour) for all purpose flour and gluten-free panko breadcrumbs for regular panko.
Yes, you can use fresh or frozen shrimp in this recipe. Actually the "fresh" shrimp you see at the seafood counter of your grocery store were most likely previously frozen and thawed. Just make sure to fully defrost the shrimp before making this recipe.
Coconut shrimp can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. The best way to reheat them is in the air fryer. You can also reheat them in the microwave, the oven or on the stove in a pan with a little oil.
It can take anywhere from 7-12 minutes depending on the model of your air fryer and also how large the shrimp are. If you butterfly the shrimp, they will cook faster than shrimp that are not butterflied. Take the shrimp out as soon as they're done. When shrimp are overcooked, they get tough and rubbery.
What to serve with coconut shrimp
I like to serve this coconut shrimp with Thai sweet chili sauce for dipping. It's an excellent appetizer to serve at parties. If you want to turn it into a meal, you can serve these shrimp with air fryer zucchini, roasted broccoli or Brussels sprouts and steamed jasmine or brown rice. You can also try my Quinoa Fried "Rice" or Cold Sesame Noodles.
More tasty air fryer recipes
More tasty shrimp recipes
Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp
- 1 pound extra large shrimp (21-26 count, peeled and deveined with tails attached)
- ¼ cup flour (can use gluten-free flour)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 eggs
- ¾ cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs (can use gluten-free panko breadcrumbs)
- Olive oil spray
- Sweet chili sauce for serving
- First, butterfly the shrimp (this step is optional but will give the shrimp a nice appearance). To do this, insert a small knife along the back of the shrimp starting near the head and run it down the center of the shrimp to the tail, cutting about ¾ of the way into the shrimp (do not cut all the way through the shrimp). Using your hands, spread the flesh open until the shrimp lies flat. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.
- Set up a breading station. Place the flour, salt and pepper in a tray and mix them together. Place the eggs in a second tray and whisk them with a tablespoon of water. Place the coconut flakes and breadcrumbs in a third tray and mix them together.
- Working one at a time, pat the shrimp dry and dredge them in the flour. Dust off any excess flour and then dip them into the egg wash. Finally, press the shrimp into the coconut mixture, coating both sides.
- Heat an air fryer to 350°F. When hot, place a layer of shrimp in the basket and spray or brush them with olive oil. Don’t overcrowd the basket. Cook for 4 minutes then open the basket and flip the shrimp over. Cook another 4 minutes until done (if you did not butterfly the shrimp, you may need to cook them 1-2 minutes longer). Remove the shrimp from the basket and cook the remaining shrimp.
- Arrange the shrimp on a serving platter. Serve them with sweet chili sauce or your favorite dipping sauce.