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Coconut Shrimp Tacos Without Breading

Spice up your next Taco Tuesday with coconut shrimp tacos – succulent shrimp grilled or baked to perfection and drizzled with a spicy coconut lime chili sauce. Add creamy avocado and crunchy slaw for a symphony of flavors and textures.

The tacos are super messy to eat which is perfect for an informal casual meal. With a few shortcuts, they are ready in 30 minutes including marinating time.

two hard shell coconut shrimp tacos with avocado, chili coconut sauce.

What to expect

This easy recipe is not made with traditional coconut shrimp which is breaded with flour and a shredded coconut mixture and then deep-fried. You still get wonderful coconut flavor from the marinade and sauce. (The best part is no breading and deep frying!)

Taste and texture: You get sweetness from maple syrup and sweet chili sauce, heat from Thai sweet chili sauce and garlic chili sauce, tartness from the lime, creaminess from the coconut milk and avocado, and crunch from the shrimp, coleslaw, and taco shells.

Flavor fusion: Tacos are typical Mexican fare. These have an Asian twist. Sounds odd, but the flavor blend is delish.

Versatile: It’s easy to change up the flavors, toppings, and how you serve the tacos. If you don’t have a grill, we have baking instructions for the shrimp in the recipe notes.

Ingredients – tailored to your taste

bowl of raw shrimp, hard tacos, avocado, coconut milk, sweet chili sauce, garlic chili sauce, lime, slaw, garlic.

Tacos: Use hard shells or soft corn tortillas. Flour tortillas will work fine too.

Shrimp: If you’re grilling the shrimp, I find larger shrimp work best to get a little char without overcooking them.

Coleslaw: Make your own or use store-bought coleslaw, preferably with a vinaigrette dressing (not mayo).

Marinade/sauce: is made of coconut milk (I prefer full fat), maple syrup (or brown sugar), lime, and two spicy sauces – bottled garlic chili sauce and Thai sweet chili sauce. You can substitute the garlic chili sauce with any hot sauce such as sriracha.

Variations:

  • Use guacamole instead of diced avocado.
  • Try chopped ripe mango as a topping.
  • Add a little bit of fish sauce to the marinade for more depth. You’ll only need about a teaspoon or two.
  • Make a vegetarian version with tofu, grilled zucchini, or mushrooms instead of shrimp. Marinate and grill the same way.

Step-by-step Instructions

shrimp marinating in ziploc bag with coconut chili lime sauce.
Marinate shrimp in coconut chili lime sauce.
marinated skewers of raw shrimp on cutting board.
Thread the coated shrimp onto the skewers.
skewers of shrimp on grill.
Grill shrimp for a few minutes in a single layer on each side. Don’t overcook.
pile of grilled shrimp on white cutting board.
Remove shrimp from skewers and finish sauce for drizzling. Add them to your taco shells or warm tortillas.
two hard shell coconut shrimp tacos with bowl of sauce and plate of grilled shrimp.
Serve tacos with shrimp, avocado, coleslaw, and coconut chili lime sauce. Add a fresh lime wedge for garnish (optional).

Tips for how to serve shrimp tacos

I serve two to three tacos per person and figure about 1/4 pound/113 grams of shrimp per person. I like setting out the components family-style, letting the eaters build their own tacos.

Here are 3 ways to serve this easy shrimp taco recipe:

  1. in hard taco shells (as pictured);
  2. deconstructed to avoid messy eating – pile on the coleslaw, shrimp, avocado, and the dipping sauce, then crush the taco shell on top; or
  3. in a soft corn tortilla warmed on the grill or in the microwave.

What to serve with spicy shrimp tacos

For a casual, simple meal, you can just make extra coleslaw and serve it on the side. Or try our grilled purple slaw (delish).

A couple of other ideas for side dishes: tomato and onion salad, corn and tomato salad, mango salad, or a cup or bowl of easy gazpacho.

The shrimp tacos are also great with a fruit salsa topping like mango or pineapple salsa.

Shortcuts

  • Use a prepared coleslaw, preferably with vinaigrette (not mayonnaise) dressing
  • Buy pre-peeled and deveined shrimp OR for a big shortcut, buy cooked shrimp (marinate for 10-15 minutes if possible to add flavor).
  • Buy ready-made guacamole

Make ahead

  • All the components of the coconut shrimp tacos can be prepared ahead (shrimp, coleslaw, avocado, sauce/marinade). 
  • The marinade/sauce will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  • The shrimp can be served at room temperature or warmed for 20-30 seconds in the microwave (be careful not to overcook or they will turn rubbery).

Recipe FAQs

Are fresh shrimp or frozen shrimp better?

It’s safest to buy frozen shrimp as they are frozen very soon after they are fished. Shrimp sold as ‘fresh’ are often just defrosted and it’s difficult to know how long they have been sitting there.

What is the easiest way to defrost shrimp?

Put them in a colander and run cold water over them until defrosted. This is the quickest way – only a few minutes. Instead, you can put them into a bowl of cold water to defrost. This will take a little longer. In both cases, dry them well once defrosted.

How do you know when shrimp are cooked?

When the end of the thicker part of the shrimp (opposite the tail) turns opaque, the shrimp is done. The inside should just lose its translucence. The outside will turn bright pink or white depending on the type of shrimp. Cut off a little piece and check for doneness. Shrimp cook quickly, so be careful not to overcook them or they will turn rubbery.

What fish can I use instead of shrimp?

Instead of shrimp, try cod fillets, halibut, or mahi mahi to make delicious fish tacos. You can bake, pan fry or grill the fish.

How can I cook the shrimp without a grill?

If you don’t have a grill, you can pan-fry or bake the shrimp. Pan-fry in a bit of vegetable oil or coconut oil on medium-high heat for a few minutes. Bake marinated shrimp in a single layer on a sheet pan at 425F/218C for 5-7 minutes (depending on size). 

two hard shell coconut shrimp tacos with avocado, chili coconut sauce and slaw.

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two hard shell coconut shrimp tacos with avocado, chili coconut sauce.
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Coconut Shrimp Tacos (Without Breading)

Spice up your taco night with coconut shrimp tacos – juicy, marinated shrimp grilled or baked to perfection and drizzled with a spicy coconut lime chili sauce. Add creamy avocado and crunchy slaw for a symphony of flavors and textures.
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican-Asian
Servings: 8 tacos

Equipment

  • metal or wood skewers (if you grill the shrimp)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8 hard taco shells (or soft shells)
  • 3 cups coleslaw, preferably with vinaigrette dressing
  • 1 avocado, peeled and diced (sprinkle with lime juice to avoid browning)
  • salt, to taste
  • chopped cilantro or parsley, and fresh lime juice for garnish (optional)

Marinade/Sauce

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon garlic chili sauce (or other hot sauce)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup (or honey)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce (to be added later)

Instructions

  • PREPARE GRILL: Oil and preheat grill to medium high, heat (about 425F/218C.) If using wooden skewers, soak them for 20 minutes.
  • MARINATE SHRIMP: Rinse defrosted shrimp in cool water then pat shrimp dry with a paper towel. Add all marinade ingredients to a ziploc bag. Massage to combine well. Add the shrimp to the bag of marinade. Massage to distribute sauce evenly. Marinate 15-20 minutes (but not more than 30 or lime juice will affect texture).
  • GRILL SHRIMP: Thread shrimp on skewers. Place remaining marinade in small saucepan. Lightly salt shrimp, then spray with oil to prevent sticking. Grill shrimp a total of 3-4 minutes (depending on size), turning half way through. Do not overcook. Remove shrimp from skewers to a plate. Note 2 to bake or pan-fry.
  • MAKE SAUCE: Heat remaining marinade in saucepan to medium heat. Cook for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced and slightly thickened. Add 1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce. Taste and add more to taste and to level of heat/spiciness desired. Transfer to small bowl.
  • ASSEMBLE AND SERVE: Set out coleslaw, taco shells, shrimp, avocado and sauce. Assemble tacos or let eaters assemble their own. In each shell, add some coleslaw, 3-4 shrimp, some diced avocado and a bit more coleslaw. Drizzle on some sauce. Top with chopped cilantro or parsley and a squeeze of lime juice if using.

Recipe Notes

  1. Variations: 
    • Instead of shrimp, try halibut, cod or mahi-mahi fish.
    • Use guacamole instead of diced avocado. 
    • Try chopped ripe mango or mango salsa as a topping.
    • Add a couple of teaspoons of fish sauce to the marinade for more depth.
    • Make a vegetarian version with tofu, grilled zucchini, or mushrooms instead of shrimp. Marinate and grill the same way
  2. Baking method: Bake marinated shrimp in a single layer on a baking sheet at 425F/218C for 5-7 minutes (depending on size). You can also pan-fry the shrimp on medium-high heat for a few minutes in a little bit of vegetable or coconut oil. 
  3. Make Ahead: 
    • All the components of the coconut shrimp tacos can be prepared ahead (shrimp, coleslaw, avocado, sauce/marinade).
    • The marinade/sauce will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
    • The shrimp can be served at room temperature or warmed for 20-30 seconds in the microwave (be careful not to overcook or they will turn rubbery).
 
Nutrition value estimates are for one shrimp taco with fillings and sauce. 

Nutrition

Calories: 253kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 214mg | Sodium: 961mg | Potassium: 326mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 69IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 159mg | Iron: 3mg
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2 Comments

  1. Awesome recipe.
    I used soft tortillas and included 2 Kooks grilled summer peaches! In th “wrap. Delish!!!!