Shrimp: Main Image

Buying Tips

Because most shrimp have been frozen and deteriorate quickly after they’ve thawed, they stay fresher if you buy them still frozen. When purchasing thawed shrimp, be sure that they smell fresh, without the slightest hint of ammonia. Shrimp should have unstained shells, with no black spots along the sides, a condition called melanosis. Some shrimp have been dipped in sodium bisulfite or sodium tripolyphosphate to improve appearance and extend shelf life. If you are concerned about these additives, ask your fish seller to show you the box the shrimp were received in.


Shrimp can be sold raw with heads and shells intact; raw with shells on and heads removed; raw and peeled; or peeled, cooked, and deveined. They are sold by the “count,” which is the number of shrimp per pound (454g). Shrimp can be frozen individually (called IQF), or in blocks. Most shrimp sold in U.S. supermarkets and fish markets have been frozen and thawed. Shrimp are also available canned.

There are thousands of varieties of shrimp, but those we eat fit into two categories.

Warm-water shrimp

These tend to be medium to large in size. Types include white shrimp, pink shrimp, and brown shrimp—all of which have pink meat when cooked. Rock shrimp have sweet meat within shells that are difficult to peel. Freshwater shrimp (or Malaysian prawns) come from lakes and river deltas in Asia and can grow to weigh nearly a pound (454g).

Cold-water shrimp

These tend to be smaller, but have firmer, sweeter meat. Pacific ocean pink and Atlantic Northern pink shrimp are usually machine-peeled, cooked, and served as shrimp meat. Spot, sidestrip, and coon shrimp live in North Atlantic waters and are usually sold fresh.

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The information presented in the Food Guide is for informational purposes only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2022.