Calabash Fried Shrimp Recipe

| September 27, 2020 | 9 Comments

Calabash Style Fried Shrimp

Follow our easy, step-by-step, photo illustrated instructions to learn how to fry golden brown shrimp at home. Printable recipe included.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, enjoy.
Lightly battered and lightly fried. That’s the Calabash way of frying seafood. I’ll show you how we fried them at my brothers “Captain Gordon’s Seafood Restaurant” some years back. It’s really simple and easy, and they taste awesome.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, slider.

Lightly battered, lightly fried. Here in North Carolina, it’s a style of frying seafood that we refer to as Calabash style. It’s totally awesome if you ask me.

Down along the East coast, very close to the North Carolina and South Carolina state line, there is a small little town called Calabash. You’ll find several seafood restaurants in Calabash, all serving this very delicious lightly battered and lightly fried seafood. I’ve had the pleasure to eat at several of them.

When my older brother opened his “Captain Gordon’s Seafood Restaurant” in our little town back in the 80’s, Calabash was the style of seafood that we served. I managed the kitchen for him during the first year or two that it was open. I’ll say it yet again, that was some of the hottest and hardest work I’ve ever done. Smile.

You’ll find the recipe very simple. And, I do hope you will give our recipe a try. Let me know how you like it when you do. I love to read your comments and memories in the section at the end of our recipe.

At the restaurant, we would serve about 500 people every Friday night. That was a lot of seafood and fish back in those days because we served a large portion of both on the plates that went out to our customers.

Calabash shrimp is usually a “popcorn” shrimp. We served a 130/150 size shrimp. That’s about 130 to 150 shrimp per pound. You’ll eat them several at a time, like popcorn. Thus the name.

Be sure to check out our other Calabash style seafood recipes here on Taste of Southern. I’m doing a series of these based on my days at my brothers restaurant. You’ll find the links below the recipe.

Ready to give our recipe a try? Alright then, let’s head on out to the kitchen, and… Let’s Get Cooking!


Calabash Fried Shrimp, ingredients.
Calabash Fried Shrimp – You’ll need these ingredients.

We always used what was known as “popcorn” shrimp. They were very small in size and fried up quickly. I’m using a 61/70 count shrimp here. It was the smallest I could get at my local grocery store, but what we sold were even smaller than these. You’d eat several of them at one time, kind of like eating popcorn. Smile.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, thaw the shrimp.
If you’re using frozen shrimp, you’ll need to thaw it first. Just place the shrimp in some cold water. It will thaw out in just a few minutes.

We bought shrimp by the 50 pound box back in the restaurant days. It came in 10 pound blocks with 5 blocks per case. We’d fill up a sink with water and add a case of shrimp at a time to the water. The water would get so cold from the frozen shrimp that it would make your hands hurt just trying to open the packages and rinse the shrimp.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, drain the shrimp.
Drain the water off of the shrimp once they are thawed and you’re ready to start frying them.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, add milk.
Pour enough milk over the shrimp to coat them well. Probably will not need much more than 1/4th cup. And, you need to use the EVAPORATED MILK. It’s a bit thicker and will hold to the shrimp better. Toss the shrimp around in the milk until they are fully coated.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, add flour.
Place about a cup of flour in a deep bowl or container.

We used large “bus pans” at the restaurant. We had one large pan for flour and another large pan for shrimp. Even now, using this small container seems kind of funny to me.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, add salt.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the flour.

Start off easy on the salt. You can test fry a few shrimp to see if you prefer to add more later.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, mix well.
Stir the flour and salt together.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, add shrimp.
Remove some shrimp from the milk and place them in the flour.

At the restaurant, we’d cup our hands together and scoop up two big handfuls of shrimp at the time and place them in the flour.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, toss shrimp to coat.
Toss the shrimp around in the flour until they are fully coated.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, shake off the excess flour.
A wire basket comes in real handy for this part. Place the shrimp in the basket and shake off any excess flour. You don’t want lots of extra flour going into your hot oil. It just sinks to the bottom of your fryer and burns, causing your oil to go bad quicker.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, shake off excess flour.
You just want a light coating of flour sticking to the shrimp.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, place in hot oil.
You’ll need to heat your cooking oil up to 350F degrees for frying the shrimp. At home, I use a deep pot to do this. Give the oil time to heat up before you add the shrimp. Carefully flip them out of the shaker basket into the cooking oil. I’m using Canola Oil here.

I’ve mentioned it before, but we used pure Lard at the seafood restaurant for all of our frying. It’s pretty common in the South, or at least it was back then. I imagine a lot of restaurants these days fry in Peanut oil.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, lightly fried.
It will only take a minute or two to fry the shrimp. They will float to the top when done and should be a light golden color when they’re ready to be removed from the oil.

Remove the shrimp and place them in a pan with a wire rack if you have it to let them drain for just a moment. Then, they are ready to be served.


Calabash Fried Shrimp, enjoy.

These are normally served with a choice of baked potato or French fries, a side of Creamy Cole Slaw, and of course, you’ve got to have Southern Hushpuppies. A little Tartar Sauce or Cocktail Sauce on the side is also typical in a seafood restaurant around here. Plus, don’t forget a big pitcher of ice cold Sweet Tea.


clock clock icon cutlery cutlery icon flag flag icon folder folder icon instagram instagram icon pinterest pinterest icon print print icon squares squares icon

Calabash Fried Shrimp Recipe

  • Author: Steve Gordon
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 minutes
  • Total Time: 17 minutes
  • Yield: 2-3 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Dish, Seafood
  • Method: Fry
  • Cuisine: American, Southern


Lightly battered, lightly fried. That’s the way you fry Calabash style shrimp. It’s super easy and really super delicious. Ready in just a few minutes.



1 lb. small size Shrimp, peeled and deveined.
1 cup Self Rising Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt, or to taste
1/4 cup Evaporated Milk
Oil for frying


Thaw frozen shrimp in a bowl of cold water.
Drain water from shrimp when ready to fry.
Add milk to drained shrimp. Toss well to fully coat with milk.
Place flour in a small bowl or deep container.
Add the salt. Mix well.
Place cooking oil in deep pot over Medium heat on stove top. Bring to 350F degrees.
Remove shrimp from bowl with milk and drop into the flour.
Toss shrimp well in flour to fully coat.
Place shrimp in a wire basket if you have one. Gently shake off excess flour.
Carefully place shrimp in hot oil.
Let fry for about 1-2 minutes or until lightly golden brown in color.
Remove from oil and place on a wire rack to drain.
Serve while warm.


You really need to use evaporated milk for best results. Fry up a few shrimp to test the oil for frying and to see if you’d like to add more salt to your flour mixture. You can also just lightly add more salt once the shrimp are slightly cooled before serving.

Keywords: fried shrimp, calabash style fried shrimp, seafood, evaporated milk, fried fish, easy, quick

Your Comments:

Have you tried our Calabash Fried Shrimp recipe?  How did you like it?

Share your memories of this dish with us. It will only take a minute or two for you to leave your comments in the section below.

Sign Up For Our Free Newsletter:

While you’re here, be sure to sign up for our totally FREE NEWSLETTER.  I’ll send you an Email every once in awhile to remind you when I post a new recipe, or when anything else of importance is going on around Taste of Southern.  It’s totally free, and super easy to sign up.  And, should you ever decide that you are no longer interested, it’s even quicker to unsubscribe.  How cool is that?  I’ll be looking forward to seeing you add your name to our list. The signup box is below and you’ll also find one in the top right hand corner of each page. I hope you’ll do it today.

Be Blessed!!!


You might also like: Southern Fried Catfish

Or, maybe this one?  Creamy Cole Slaw

How about this? Eastern North Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ in the Oven


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Fish-Seafood, Main Dishes

About the Author ()

Award Winning Food Preservationist, Fisherman, Author of three cookbooks. "From Mama's Big Oval Table, From Mama's Big Oval Table - BOOK TWO and Carolina Christmas Sweets and Appetizers." Online Contributor to Our State Magazine Newsletter.

Comments (9)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Julie Youngblood says:

    This recipe sounds delicious and I will attempt it soon! My cousin lived in Little River after leaving upstate SC to teach horticulture on the coast. He passed away at age 95. I visited as much as I could and every visit he took me to a restaurant where the ships came in to get my favorite meal of calabash shrimp. My last trip down there was 2010-2012. Great childhood memories of catching crabs from the dock on the inlet that passed thru his property and his wife making the best deviled crab from our catch. His children still own his home but hurricane hugo wiped out the dock and a golf course that went put in next to his property made crabbing not safe for consumption due to chemicals running from the golf course into the inlet. True travesty in my opinion. We had been doing this trip yearly since the 1960’s. Still wonderful memories!

  2. Susan Smith says:

    Been wanting to go back to Calabash for good fried shrimp however the years have gone by and I found myself “googling” on how to fry shrimp recipes, and found this site. O’ my goodness
    after following this recipe to the “T” my husband and I siad we need to buy more shrimp!! Thank you for sharing your recipes.

    S.Smith, AL

  3. Norma says:

    Thank you so much for this Calabash Shrimp recipe! I was born in Kinston and was raised in VA. However, every summer vacation and holiday we would visit family in Kinston and would always stop to eat several times while there the great Calabash Shrimp Restaurants.

    I’m now 62 and living in Hilton Head Island and you would think I could find Calabash shrimp around here, but no. Thus the reason I Googled for a great Calabash Shrimp recipe to remind me of the good ‘ole days.

    Thanks so much for sharing and please stay safe and healthy!

    ~~Norma Short~~

  4. Debbie B says:

    Hi Steve, love this recipe and love shrimp especially the small popcorn type, so sweet. I have eaten many times at the restaurants in Calabash and love them.

  5. Charlene Beaufils Amos says:

    Sounds wonderful and easy to make too. We love shrimp and I am definitely going to try this recipe. Thank you Steve!

  6. Dara says:

    Another Yummy Steve. Thank YOU and God Bless You.

  7. Lois Muzzy says:

    Are those deep fried? How deep does the oil need to be?

  8. Donna Gordon Pike says:

    Good morning Steve! Just looking at those besuties made me hungry for fried shrimp and YES, I would eat them for breakfast because I have had them for breakfast before. My Mom used to cook her shrimp this way and we all loved them so much. Many, many years ago, as kids we used to ask for them for breakfast and she would occasionally make them for us as a treat. Gotta love a Mom that does that.

    I now have to make them, I simply cannot wait to taste them again. Thanks for sharing, you sure just brought back some great memories. Keep on frying and be blessed and healthy!

  9. Karen Miller says:

    That’s the way we’ve always cooked shrimp. Didn’t know it had a specific name for the recipe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *