There’s no denying how much we all love shrimp. This little crustacean remains the most popular type of seafood in the United States and it’s easy to see why. There’s something about the texture and mild flavor that appeals to countless people. Plus, shrimp is somehow both decadent and affordable, which is a pretty amazing combination. You can even buy it online!
Shrimp is also a versatile ingredient, partly because of its mild flavor. This means you can use it in many different dishes and go to town with seasonings. Shrimp is also a decent source of protein and nutrients, so it may even offer health benefits.
That brings us to the question of what to serve with shrimp. There are many interesting shrimp sides to consider, including rice, steamed vegetables, a green salad, grits, and even zucchini noodles.
Of course, the best side will depend on how your shrimp has been cooked and seasoned. If the shrimp dish includes plenty of flavor, you will likely want a mild side, like mashed potatoes or white rice. If the shrimp has less seasoning, a flavor-packed side will be best.
Dark leafy greens like kale are excellent in salads. They offer more body and flavor than lettuce, while also being more nutritionally dense.
Such salads are especially good when your shrimp has plenty of flavor. In fact, blackened shrimp is often served on top of a kale salad. You might even create a complex version of the salad, like a kale Caesar salad or a salad that includes chickpeas, avocado, and a delicious dressing.
This Lemon Parm Kale Salad is a fairly simple recipe, one that relies on lemon juice, minced garlic, parmesan cheese, and homemade croutons. The cheese and croutons make this a little like a Caesar salad, except that it has a much healthier dressing.
The bright lemon flavor is an excellent addition. It helps to make your meal feel light and to cut through any heaviness in your other ingredients.
Mashed potatoes go well as a side for almost any main imaginable. That’s because they’re a carb rich side with a subtle flavor. As such, they complement your other dishes without taking away from them.
There are also tricks you can take to make your mashed potatoes more interesting. For example, some people include cream cheese to boost the creaminess of their potatoes. Others add a little parmesan for extra flavor.
You could even use a different vegetable as the base of your mash. Most root vegetables work well and you can even combine two or more types. Or, you could try a different approach, like cauliflower mash.
Plus, the combination of truffle and shrimp should be exceptional. Why not serve the shrimp directly on top of your mashed potatoes, perhaps with some shaved parmesan cheese?
Like potatoes, white rice has a mild flavor and plenty of starch. This makes it a great side for plenty of mains, including shrimp.
If your shrimp doesn’t have many extra seasonings, white rice may be too mild. Thankfully, there are many ways to elevate it. A simple approach is to cook your rice in coconut milk instead of water. Doing so gives your rice a distinct coconut flavor that is absolutely perfect with shrimp.
This Easy Cilantro Coconut Lime Rice takes the coconut rice idea and elevates it with lime and cilantro. Those two additions are fantastic for making the rice more flavorful, without going overboard. The author also suggests a few extra ingredients you can use to boost the flavor further.
If you don’t like cilantro or don’t have any of it on hand, no worries. The dish can easily be made with another type of herb instead, like basil.
What side dish could be more classic than the humble salad? You see versions served alongside simple mains and complex ones, for every type of occasion imaginable.
It’s easy to see why too, given that salads are often light and refreshing. There’s also an almost endless selection of salad types and possible ingredients to choose from.
For shrimp, look for a salad with a little bit of a kick in the dressing (a zingy Italian dressing would be perfect). This extra flavor is fantastic at cutting through shrimp dishes that have a creamy sauce or are heavy in butter.
The lettuce is the showcase ingredient for the salad, so it should be as fresh as possible. You can experiment with different types of lettuce here. Each will bring its own distinct features to the salad.
Because this is a fresh lettuce salad, it’s best to make it no more than a few hours before serving. The quality will decrease if you leave it to sit longer than this and you’ll lose much of what makes the salad special.
Now we’re onto vegetables, particularly steamed vegetables. The different types all have their own flavors and textures, but almost all are fantastic with shrimp. You might even try a medley of vegetables, which would give you plenty of antioxidants and nutrients.
Of course, vegetable combos aren’t the only way to go. Sometimes you’ll want to serve a single type of vegetable, like asparagus. Doing so gives you distinct flavor and texture contrasts between your shrimp and the vegetable.
Don’t forget about seasoning either. Compound butter is a popular choice here, as it gives you a fantastic combo of herbs and butter. You can make the butter with many types of herbs, including fresh rosemary and fresh thyme.
This Stovetop Steamed Vegetable Medley is both simple and delicious, which is exactly what you need some nights. The recipe calls for carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, and asparagus, plus parsley, butter, and white pepper for seasoning.
These vegetables vary in their cooking time, so you’ll need to add them to your steaming basket in stages. Thankfully, the recipe provides the directions you need to get the timing perfect.
If you wanted to change the vegetables, you’d need to research the steaming time for each new addition. That’s okay, there’s plenty of information about steaming available online.
What about garlic bread and shrimp? While the combo isn’t incredibly common, it does have plenty going for it. For one thing, shrimp and garlic always pair well together. The carbs from the bread are a nice contrast against shrimp too.
Some people even end up serving shrimp on garlic bread, making an open face sandwich. A simple combo of garlic bread, shrimp, and avocado pieces is an excellent place to begin. You could also experiment with your favorite ingredients and flavors.
Why stick with regular garlic bread when you can turn to something as exciting as this Cheese Stuffed Garlic Bread? The combination of cheese and garlic works well with plenty of mains, so it should be excellent with shrimp. Well… let’s be honest, cheesy garlic bread tastes good with pretty much anything.
There are some other ingredients for flavor as well, including parsley, chives, rosemary, garlic, and even lemon. These make the bread even more complex and delicious.
You don’t even need to make the bread yourself. You could simply use a loaf you purchased from the local store.
Cheesy Pasta Or Rice
Shrimp has a notable buttery flavor, which is why it pairs so well with cheese-based dishes, including cheesy pasta or rice. Both dishes are also easy to prepare and give you plenty of contrasting carbs. You could easily serve veggies alongside the dish if you felt like it (or skip them for a decadent and comforting meal).
As a starting point, why not try a cheesy orzo pasta dish? This is the best of both worlds, as orzo has a similar size and shape to rice, despite being a type of pasta. Orzo also cooks quickly, normally in 10 minutes or less.
What do you think of this Parmesan Mushroom Orzo? It includes parmesan cheese and truffle oil, which is a truly decadent decadent combination. There are also mushrooms, shallots, seasonings, and olive oil in the mix.
The mushrooms are one of the best features of the dish. These and the truffle oil are the perfect contrast against the cheese and carbs. And if you don’t like orzo, you could easily make a similar meal with a different type of pasta.
A Caper-Based Dish
Capers are a fascinating ingredient. They have a unique tart flavor that’s a little like green olives with lemon and a little like something else entirely. The flavor isn’t subtle, so capers will stand out in any meal you include them in.
You may have already seen capers served with shrimp before. They’re often included as part of a shrimp salad, but that’s just one of many options. Many caper-based sides will also go well with shrimp, giving you a perfect hit of flavor.
This 20 Minute Lemon Caper Pasta is one of the best places to begin with capers. It’s a very simple recipe that relies on spaghetti, lemon, garlic, capers, parsley, plus a few extra ingredients.
Despite being simple, the pasta is packed with flavor. You could easily serve your shrimp on top of it or try this alongside a fairly complex shrimp meal. It’s hard to go wrong with a meal this delicious.
Shrimp and grits is one of those classic American dishes that is incredibly familiar to some people and downright strange to others. Even the timing of the meal is debated, as some people will serve shrimp and grits for breakfast, while others eat it later in the day.
Regardless, shrimp and grits really do work well together. You’re often getting the same cheesiness that makes some of the other sides work well, plus creaminess from the grits.
Grits have a mild flavor of their own. This allows you to tweak the flavors of your recipe however you like. For example, you might skip the cheesy idea entirely and focus on spices instead.
These Baked Gouda Cheese Grits aren’t just for grit lovers. They’re also perfect for people who have never made grits before. The grits are first cooked in a broth, which infuses them with plenty of flavor. They’re then baked using eggs, cream, cheddar, and gouda.
Needless to say, you end up with a decadent version of grits that tastes a little like macaroni and cheese. These grits would be excellent on their own and even better once served with freshly cooked shrimp.
Part of the appeal is the cheesy crust you get after baking the grits. This provides a fantastic contrast within the grits and should work well with your shrimp too. Besides, it’s always nice to try something a little different.
We’ve talked about rice before, but it isn’t a particularly exciting side on its own. Sometimes you need a bit more, which is where rice risotto comes in.
The dish is simple to make. You’re basically just cooking high starch short grain rice with stock or some other flavorful liquid until you end up with a creamy meal.
It’s easy to see how well risotto works alongside grits. The creaminess and starchiness alone are excellent contrasts to the crustacean. While you could go with any flavoring ingredients you wish, we think mushroom is the perfect choice. Mushrooms are often paired with shrimp anyway and their earthiness is exactly what you need.
This Porcini Mushroom Risotto is an ideal way to make risotto more elegant and unusual. The recipe relies on dried porcini mushrooms, which provide a surprising depth of flavor. They’re easy to use too and the entire meal can be prepared in 30 minutes or so.
Parmesan and fresh dill are notable ingredients in the recipe as well. Both provide plenty of flavor and complement the mushrooms. Many of the classic ingredients are included as well, such as onion, butter, garlic, and stock. These are all essential for the right balance of flavor and texture.
So far, we’ve highlighted a variety of carb rich sides for your shrimp. That’s fine, unless you’re hoping to decrease your carb intake.
Zucchini noodles are a great alternative, as they’re lower in carbs than pasta, while also being more nutritious. They have a fresher flavor than pasta as well, which can be excellent alongside shrimp.
There are now many recipes that use zucchini noodles well, some of which taste even better than pasta dishes. Just be warned – no matter how you dress them up, zucchini noodles will never taste the same as pasta.
Rather than make a salad-like zucchini noodle dish, why not try something like these Stir Fry Zucchini Noodles instead? The noodles are cooked in a wok, first on their own and then with teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, and sesame seeds. Those ingredients provide plenty of flavor, while the cooking process tenderizes the noodles.
Interestingly, the recipe uses spiralized onions alongside the zucchini. Doing so adds an interesting texture to the dish and is more interesting than serving cooked zucchini noodles on their own.
To round our list off, we have asparagus. While the vegetable isn’t to everyone’s taste, it’s one that many people love. Plus, it’s easy to cook and pairs well with shrimp.
You might even serve shrimp with asparagus and nothing else (especially if you’re watching your carb intake). This is a fantastic approach, as the two ingredients can be cooked in the same skillet, giving you a fast and easy meal.
If you want some carbs in the mix too, check out this Lemon Garlic Pasta with Broccoli and Asparagus. The two vegetables are nicely balanced by the citrus tones of the lemon, plus saltiness from capers that are also included.
I love how this dish is easy to make, yet has a complex flavor profile. Plus, as we mentioned earlier, capers often work well with shrimp, so you’re getting a few fantastic ingredients at once.
Specific Dish And Side Combos
The notable thing about steaming and boiling shrimp is that you’re generally not adding a lot of fat. As such, you can easily include a fatty side dish, such as garlic bread or something laden with cheese. Cheesy grits would be especially good, although that’s just one option of many.
You’ll usually also want at least one vegetable, especially if you’re including a high-carb side. Fresh green salads are an easy choice here, not least because there are so many types to choose from.
Similar principles apply for grilled shrimp as well. However, because we’re talking about grilling, you might think about dishes commonly served at the same time. Coleslaw is excellent here or any salad that riffs on the slaw idea. You could also make your own shrimp tacos, which are always delicious.
Shrimp cocktail is normally served as an appetizer, so you’re looking for light and easy sides. Carb heavy options include crackers, bread sticks, cheese straws, and hush puppies (to name just a few). Bacon wrapped asparagus is a delicious and complementary treat to consider as well.
Again, you can always fall back to a light side salad. Don’t be afraid to experiment here. You can veer far away from the traditional ingredients and still get an amazing side dish.
If your shrimp dish tends to be fatty, as is the case for bacon wrapped shrimp or garlic butter shrimp, citrus notes always work well in your side dish. These help to cut through some of the heaviness and cleanse your palate. For example, you might try coleslaw with lemon or lime in the dressing.
You could also experiment with matching flavors, like serving garlic butter shrimp with garlic bread or perhaps garlic noodles. Just be sure you don’t overdo it. You can always have too much of a good thing.
What About Flavorful Shrimp Dishes?
Because shrimp is mild, we’ve highlighted a number of flavorful dishes to complement it. However, sometimes you’re also adding a decent amount of flavor to your shrimp. Dishes like bang bang shrimp, blackened shrimp, and coconut shrimp are just a few examples.
The easiest approach is to choose a mild side, like mashed potato or white rice. This allows the flavoring on your shrimp to shine without the risk of any clashes.
A little more work is needed if you want a flavorful side along with your shrimp. You’ll need to make sure the key flavors of your dishes match or complement one another. For example, you might serve coconut shrimp with coconut, lime, and cilantro rice.