Everything you need to know about SoCal’s best dish.

By Mary Tomlinson
May 22, 2018
SoCal Shrimp Tacos
Photo Credit: Greg Dupree; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Chargrilled shrimp hot off the grill, a swoosh of creamy guacamole, a sprinkle of cotija cheese, all cradled in a warm corn tortilla. Have the grilled shrimp taco cravings begun yet?

This piece of handheld SoCal dinner perfection not only tastes best when enjoyed beachside (and with a Mexican lager in hand), but comes together faster than you can say, “Pass the salsa verde.” So fire up the grill, warm up those tortillas, and commit this easy shrimp taco recipe to memory. You won’t regret it.

How to Buy Shrimp

A delectable shrimp taco begins with purchasing the best shrimp possible. When purchasing fresh from the seafood counter or the fishmonger, seek out shrimp with translucent shells and a slight ocean smell. Buy shrimp the day you plan on cooking them, and keep the crustaceans in the fridge on ice until you’re ready to cook.

Shrimp freeze well, meaning purchasing frozen is a viable option as well. Pull well-sealed bags of frozen shrimp from the back of the cooler and steer clear of ice crystals or freezer burn spots. Shrimp come in shell-on, EZ peel, or pre-peeled options, so pick depending on your comfort level (and amount of time you have). Thaw frozen shrimp in the fridge the night before your taco extravaganza.

Related: How to Make Chicken Wonton Tacos

How to Cook Shrimp for Tacos

Preheat the grill to high. If you don’t have a grill, a hot skillet will work in a pinch. Once the shrimp have thawed, toss them in a mixture of lime juice, extra-virgin olive oil, honey, cumin, kosher salt, coriander—the blend of honey and cumin makes for sweet-and-spicy perfection. Thread shrimp onto skewers if using a grill, then cook for a quick 2 to 3 minutes per side or until they turn pink. Any longer and the delicate shellfish can turn rubbery.

The Best Toppings for Shrimp Tacos

The beauty of shrimp tacos lies in the limitless toppings. Fresh tomatillo-serrano or burnt tomato salsas and cilantro-flecked guacamole beat out store-bought versions by a long shot. Cotija, a crumbly, Mexican-style cheese, is the ultimate salty topper.

Shredded cabbage, diced tomatoes, and green onions add fresh veggie flavor, and while sour cream is a fan favorite topping, plain Greek yogurt makes for a healthy, protein-packed substitute, too. (For an authentic creamy element, go for luscious Mexican crema.)

SoCal Shrimp Tacos
Photo Credit: Greg Dupree; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro; Food Styling: Torie Cox

But the honor of our favorite next-lever taco topping goes to quick-fry avocados (above). Dredge slices in masa flour, paprika, salt, and pepper, then fry in a Dutch oven until golden brown. The result? Warm, crispy avocado wedges that practically melt in your mouth. 

Photo: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Lindsey Lower; Food Styling: Mary Claire Britton

What to Drink With Shrimp Tacos

The obvious choice for a grilled shrimp taco libation is a light Mexican beer or a mouthwatering margarita. (We’ve got recipes for those in every flavor, from the tropical SoCal Fruit Cart Margarita to the heat-packing Fiery Mango Margarita to the classic Coastal Margarita.) But the ultimate pairing comes in the form of the effervescent Coupe de Ville Fizz.  Stir together orange and lime juice, tequila, orange liqueur, and a chilled Mexican-style lager for a fizzy, beer-bubbly margarita.  

Get the Recipe

Here’s the full recipe for our SoCal Shrimp Tacos featuring honey-and-cumin grilled shrimp and those delectable fried avocado wedges. Feeling adventurous? Try our taco recipes from around the world, or learn how to make fish tacos that will make San Diego jealous. For dessert, there’s only one option: a pizzelle-wrapped, sweet corn ice cream-filled, chocolate-dipped dessert taco.