Coconut Shrimp cakes make a perfect appetizer or main meal dish. Inspired by Thai flavors, they have a delicious sweet, salty, spicy balance. Top them with creamy cilantro aioli and serve on their own, in a soft brioche roll, or on top of a rice and vegetable bowl or green salad.
If cilantro is not your favorite flavor, other leafy herbs such as parsley, basil, or green onions can be used in both the shrimp cakes and aioli to create a different flavor profile.
If you prefer to serve the shrimp cakes in a bun, use small slider rolls or consider making four larger shrimp cakes rather than the eight smaller ones so they fit on a regular size burger bun.
Food Processor: Using a food processor makes this recipe come together in a snap. Make sure to use short pulses to ensure cohesive mixing without over blending.
Cast Iron Skillet: Use a large skillet that is at least 10-12 inches wide. Cast iron works well for frying because it holds on to the heat and provides an even cooking surface.
Portion Scoop: Portion scoops are great for portioning evenly sized shrimp cakes and the release bar makes them very easy to use. If you don’t have one, a ¼ cup measuring cup will work as well.
Immersion Blender: An immersion blender is perfect for blending small amounts of sauce such as aioli, but another blending device such as a small blender cup or mini food processor bowl will also work. If you do not have any of these, the aioli can be made by finely chopping the cilantro and whisking it into the remaining aioli ingredients.
What you Need
Salad shrimp: Salad shrimp have a mild and sweet flavor and come pre-cooked and already shelled making them effortless to add to recipes.
Red bell pepper: Adds a subtle sweet flavor and color to the shrimp cakes.
Unsweetened shredded coconut: Look for coconut labeled “unsweetened” as many types of shredded coconut are sold with sugar added.
Panko breadcrumbs: Panko breadcrumbs are extra light and crispy and help bind the shrimp cakes as well as create a crisp golden crust.
Egg: Acts as an important binder and helps the shrimp cakes hold together.
Shallot: Shallot adds a savory element to the dish and helps balance the sweet notes of the other ingredients.
Cilantro: Cilantro adds savory depth to the dish. The flavor profile can be changed by using parsley, basil, or green onions instead.
Fish sauce: Fish sauce is a classic ingredient used in Thai cooking and adds a deep umami and salty flavor. Don’t be tempted to skip it, it really makes the dish!
Sriracha: Just enough to balance the other flavors in the dish. If you like spice feel free to add more to your taste.
Coconut oil: Coconut oil has a high smoke point which makes it excellent for searing and frying as well as enhancing the overall coconut flavor.
Mayonnaise: Look for a high quality mayonnaise such as one made with avocado oil as it is used to make up the bulk of the aioli sauce.
Lime: Fresh lime juice is always the most flavorful, but bottled will work as well.
Garlic: Fresh minced garlic packs a punch in this aioli. You can mince it by hand or run it through a garlic press.
How to make the dish
Create the shrimp cakes. Combine the shrimp cake ingredients in the food processor and pulse until just combined. Be careful not to over blend. Form the shrimp mixture into cakes and roll in the coconut and panko mixture.
Cook the shrimp cakes. Fry the shrimp cakes in a hot cast iron pan with the coconut oil until they are crisp and golden brown.
Make the Aioli. Combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy.
Serve these savory shrimp cakes and aioli as a stand alone appetizer, on top of a rice bowl, green salad, or layered in a brioche roll with crisp lettuce and thinly sliced red onion.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
- 1 pound salad shrimp, thawed and drained
- ¼ cup diced red bell pepper
- ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut, divided
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs, divided
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon sriracha
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Drain the shrimp and use paper towels to thoroughly pat dry and press out as much moisture as possible. This is an essential step to ensure the shrimp cakes retain their form and do not get soggy.
- In the work bowl of a food processor combine the drained shrimp, diced bell pepper, 3 tablespoons shredded coconut, 2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs, egg, shallot, cilantro, fish sauce, sriracha, and kosher salt. Pulse 10-12 times, stopping half way through to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is evenly incorporated. There should still be some small pieces of shrimp and the mixture should hold together when firmly pressed.
- Use a ¼ cup measuring cup or portion scoop to form the shrimp mixture into eight even patties, pressing them together as you go. Set them aside on a plate.
- In a shallow bowl combine the remaining ¼ cup of shredded coconut and ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs. Coat the formed shrimp cakes in this mixture one at a time, making sure to firmly press the crumbs into the cakes.
- Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add the coconut oil. When the oil just starts to shimmer add the shrimp cakes in a single layer and sear for 2-3 minutes on both sides or until they are golden brown and crisp on the edges. Remove from the pan and set on a plate to cool slightly.
- To make the aioli combine the mayonnaise, chopped cilantro, lime juice, garlic, and salt in a wide mouth jar and use an immersion blender to thoroughly blend until smooth and creamy.
- Top the shrimp cakes with the cilantro aioli and serve immediately.
Marisa Kerkvliet of Lemon Thyme Kitchen is a freelance recipe developer and food photographer with a Master’s degree in Nutrition. She was raised on her family’s farm in Northwest Washington and her appreciation for good food developed at a very early age. She is passionate about creating recipes and beautiful imagery that highlight high-quality seasonal ingredients. Marisa loves all types of seafood, but her favorites are salmon and scallops!