My sister lives on Oahu.
Go ahead. Feel bad for her.
She made Hawaii her home well over a decade ago, and lucky for me, our family has been consistently traveling to this tropical paradise for years.
Other than spending time with her, my favorite part of venturing off the mainland is inhaling as much coconut as humanly possible.
Fresh coconut water in my morning smoothie? Absolutely. Traditional chocolate haupia pie (coconut milk pudding) for dessert? Mahalo! Don’t mind if I do.
Piña coladas for breakfast?
What? I’m on vacation!
And when it comes to coconut in its flakiest form, I can’t get enough jumbo shrimp coated in the sweet, snowy dust. Crispy seafood on its own is pure bliss, but crust it in shaved coconut and swipe it through a fiery, fruity sauce?
Hello, sandy toes and sunburns.
Coconut shrimp are a comforting, slightly sinful appetizer that is typically enjoyed as a collective effort. They’re fried, after all, so it makes sense that they’re often passed amongst a group.
Well, I’m done sharing.
I knew that if I could find a way to lighten up these deep-fried treats without sacrificing the crunch factor, I could transform them into a main meal I could keep all to myself.
All hail the nonstick spray!
I honestly have no idea what we did before oil came in a sprayable form. The ability to evenly mist a breadcrumb-coated ingredient with oil changed the game.
Instead of lowering each shrimp into a bubbling tub of oil, or bathing them in an indulgent sauce of lemon butter, I unapologetically shower them with cooking spray and give them a ride in the oven until golden brown. Flipping each juicy morsel about halfway through baking allows both sides to crisp to perfection.
Not only does baking save a boatload of calories, but the end result is lighter and far more refreshing than frying.
Since I ditch the greasy batter that might mask the seafood’s delicate flavor, the shrimp’s sweet, succulent melodies are front and center, while the coconut’s gentle notes serve as soothing background music.
It’s hard to imagine coconut shrimp without a tangy counterpart, and the vibrant sauce I whip up might as well be a magic trick.
Three ingredients. No waiting.
Since the shredded coconut is unsweetened (and just a touch of sugar gets added to the breading), you want your dip to pack a bold bite. Each of the three elements in this simple sauce ring different bells on your taste buds, and pack their own enormous flavor profiles.
The apricot preserves act as the sugary base, and its golden color and slightly tart zing are unmatched.
Add in a few funky drops of apple cider vinegar and a snappy pinch of crushed red pepper, and you basically just snapped your fingers and made homemade sweet and sour sauce.
I may only get to see my big sister in Hawaii once a year, but every time I make these lightened-up coconut shrimp, I taste a piece of paradise without ever having to hop on a plane.Print
Bake up a tropical treat in your kitchen tonight. These lightened-up sweet and sour coconut shrimp are your crispy ticket to paradise.
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- Nonstick cooking oil spray
- 1 pound medium-sized raw shrimp, deveined with tails on
- Coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut flakes
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- In a small bowl, whisk together the apricot preserves, vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 415°F and spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
- Rinse the shrimp and pat them dry with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper.
- Set up an assembly line of three bowls. Place the flour in one, and the eggs in another. Combine the coconut, breadcrumbs, sugar, and a pinch of salt in the third bowl.
- Dip one shrimp at a time into the flour, turning to coat both sides. Next, coat it with the egg, and then dip it into the coconut mixture. Continue with all of the shrimp, and arrange them on a baking sheet in a single layer. Generously spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
- Bake for 6 minutes, then flip. Continue to bake until golden brown and opaque in the center, about 4 more minutes.
- Serve warm with dipping sauce on the side.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Appetizers
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Seafood
Keywords: shrimp, coconut shrimp, sweet and sour
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Make the Dipping Sauce
In a small bowl, stir together the apricot preserves, vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
Step 2 – Set up Breading Station
Preheat your oven to 415°F and spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Rinse the shrimp and pat them dry with a paper towel, then season them lightly with salt and pepper.
Set up an assembly line of three bowls the same way you would with chicken cutlets. Start with the flour on the left, the eggs in the middle, and then combine the coconut, breadcrumbs, sugar, and a pinch of salt in the final bowl all the way on the right.
Place the greased baking sheet at the end of your breading station, to the right of the coconut-breadcrumb mixture.
If you peeled the shrimp yourself, consider reserving the shells to make a from-scratch seafood stock!
Step 3 – Coat
Holding one shrimp at a time by the tail, dip it into the flour, and turn it to coat both sides.
Shake off any excess flour, then drop it into the eggs. Use your other hand to turn and coat the shrimp in the egg.
Using your dry hand, transfer the shrimp to the coconut-breadcrumb mixture, and toss several times to make sure it’s generously coated.
Arrange the breaded shrimp on the baking sheet in a single layer, and continue this process until all of them are coated. Generously spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Step 4 – Bake
For medium to large shrimp, bake for 6 minutes, and then flip each shrimp over. Continue to bake until golden brown and opaque in the center, about 4 more minutes.
If your shrimp are on the smaller side, bake them for about 7-8 minutes total, flipping once about halfway through.
Serve warm with dipping sauce on the side.
Take a Vacation in Your Very Own Kitchen
It’s impossible to smell the aroma of toasty coconut clinging to fresh seafood without wanting to jump in the ocean.
And I mean that in the best possible way.
Though this recipe calls for a traditional assembly line often meant for frying (flour, egg, breadcrumbs), these coconut shrimp go for a spin in the oven instead, to achieve their crusty coats.
To bulk up this dish and add another refreshing element of crunch, lose the shrimps’ tails and wrap them in Bibb lettuce. Top with colorful pickled veggies like rainbow carrots and watermelon radishes.
For more lightened up shellfish dishes, try these Grilled Shrimp Po’Boys with a creamy remoulade sauce and a bunch of crunch from fresh veggie toppings, or try my Shrimp with Red Chili Coconut Sauce or Skillet Cajun Shrimp if you want some heat!
- The Easiest Grilled Pork Chops with Mango Salsa
- Pineapple Coconut Smoothie
- The Best Hawaiian Chicken
I’m a condiment queen, so there’s no sauce that doesn’t satisfy my needs. What are your favorites to drag crunchy seafood through? Share your most delightful dips in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on January 22, 2012. Last updated May 26, 2019.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”