Food & Drink

Lowcountry Pickled Shrimp

A tangy and supremely riffable recipe from Hank Shaw’s latest cookbook

Photo: Holly A. Heyser

“Pickled shrimp is a common Southern appetizer, especially in the Lowcountry, and various versions of it exist from Texas through the Gulf, around Florida up into South Carolina, where it is a Charleston classic. My version is a bit like Mexican escabeche, with pickled onions and jalapeños, but it isn’t so spicy that you can’t eat lots of it.

This recipe is best made with medium shrimp. It’s a nibble, an appetizer, something to eat at a cocktail party or with crackers or on a salad. It excels as a salad topping, where the pickling liquid, which includes some olive oil, becomes the salad dressing. 

If you don’t love every ingredient in my pickled shrimp recipe, you can change things to suit yourself. Onions are traditional, as is mustard seed and bay leaf. Peppers of some sort make an appearance a lot—I use jalapeños, but bell peppers are probably more common. 

Unlike a ceviche, pickled shrimp are actually cooked before pickling. Some cooks just toss a bunch of bay leaves in the salty boiling water, but I prefer either some Old Bay seasoning or Zatarain’s crab boil. It adds one more layer of flavor. Be sure to add a little bit of the cooking liquid into your pickle, maybe a couple tablespoons.”—Hank Shaw, Hook, Line, and Supper

Read more on Hank Shaw‘s new cookbook from G&G’s Wild South columnist here.


  • Makes 3 pints

    • 10 oz. pearl onions

    • 2 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning

    • 1 pound shrimp, peeled

    • 3 jalapeño peppers, sliced

    • 2 tbsp. capers, with a little of their brine

    • 1 tsp. dried thyme

    • 1 tsp. mustard seeds

    • 7 oz. lemon juice

    • ¼ cup olive oil

    • Distilled vinegar


  1. Bring a couple of quarts of water to a boil and boil the pearl onions for 3 minutes. Remove the onions but keep the water. Rinse the onions under cold water so you can handle them, then slice off the root end. Use your fingers to pop out a cleaned onion, leaving the peel in your hand. Compost the peels. Set the onions aside. 

  2. Add the Old Bay to the onion water and bring it back to a boil. Add the peeled shrimp and turn off the heat. Pull the shrimp out after a couple of minutes, when they are just cooked through. 

  3. Divide the onions, sliced jalapeños, and shrimp between three pint jars. Mix together the capers, a little of their brine, the thyme, mustard seeds, lemon juice, and olive oil. Pour this evenly into the jars. Add a few spoonfulls of the cooking water.

  4. The shrimp need to be completely submerged, so top up with some vinegar if you need to. Hand-seal the jars and keep in the refrigerator. They can be eaten 24 hours after they’re made, and last about two weeks in the fridge.

Recipe excerpted from Hook, Line, and Supper by Hank Shaw