These spicy shrimp tacos with charred corn and mango salsa are fiery, sweet, and great for a crowd but easy enough for a simple, weeknight dinner.
Summer is like, here! It happened so fast and now everything’s all pool parties and summer BBQ’s. And because I’m a weirdo planner and simply CANNOT live in the final moments of spring I’m already obsessively fantasizing about how I’ll spend the next couple of months, especially now that the temperatures are sitting squarely in the “hot but not hellfire” range.
Part of this fantasy involves a pool – which I don’t currently have access to. So if you’re in my neck of the woods and you’ve got a pool, or a friend with a pool, hit me up! – kidding, unless you have a pool. So I guess…not kidding.
Second part of fantasy includes a boat…see above.
But the third part of this summery scene I’ve built up in my mind is all about food. Summer food is the best. Light, fun, vibrant, colorful, and if I have things my way – SPICY!
Rather than tell you a story about how spicy shrimp tacos were a staple of my childhood (which would be a lie) and how they shaped me into the woman I am today. I’ll instead get right down to business. Why? Well honestly, I just got back from a very nice trip down south where I ate lots of delicious things, spent time with good friends, and rode around on motorized bikes (fun and a bit dangerous – I highly recommend), but now am definitely suffering from a very severe case of vacation brain. So while I get re-acclimated to what day it is, you can ogle these juicy, spicy, little pockets of taco love. And just in time for all those Memorial Day BBQ’s! Keep on reading for some helpful tips, or just scroll on down for the recipe. Happy Friday, friends!
Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn and Mango Salsa
It’s a mouthful I know, but for as wordy as the title is the actual recipe is easy, fast, and ridiculously flavorful. A few pointers to keep things spicy, sweet, and stress free are always helpful though, so here are the deets.
How to defrost shrimp
Let’s face it, most of us are buying frozen shrimp – either directly out of the freezer case, or from the seafood counter where most of it has been flash frozen, shipped, and then defrosted before being sold to you anyway. Because I am an A number 1 control freak I prefer to buy mine still frozen. That way I can control exactly when and how they get defrosted. Whenever you’re buying shrimp like this make sure you read the package. You’re looking for three things.
- Your frozen shrimp should be labeled “IQF” or Individually Quick Frozen. This basically just means you’re not getting a huge block of shrimp all stuck together in one massive clump.
- The only ingredient should be shrimp (or occasionally water). Steer clear of anything that has multi-syllabic additives in the ingredient list.
- Size matters – despite what you may have been told. I use 16-20’s which just means that there are roughly 16-20 shrimp per pound. These are sometimes referred to as “jumbo” shrimp. Reasons why I love this particular size? They are readily available at most grocery stores, and are large enough to stay moist while still getting good color on the outside.
So once you get your 16-20, individually quick frozen, additive free shrimpies home, what’s the best way to thaw them? If you’re an excellent planner you can just pull out what you need and let them sit in a covered container in the fridge overnight. But if you’re like me and ALWAYS forget to do this the night before, just pop your frozen shrimp into a bowl and run a slow stream of cold, tap water over them for about 20 minutes. Then peel, de-vein, and pat dry.
How to cook shrimp
Shrimp can be deceiving. They cook FAST and because of that there’s not a lot of wiggle room. Here are a few things you can do to avoid overcooked, under browned, bland shrimp – because life’s too short for mediocre shrimp tacos.
- Keep it dry. Shrimp, especially previously frozen ones will have a lot of surface moisture, which when introduced to a hot pan will steam your shrimp instead of searing them. A quick but thorough pat down with a paper towel will keep that moisture at bay.
- Season aggressively. Spicy shrimp tacos are not meant to be subtle. Go big or go home – and if you’re worried about getting it right, make a tester shrimp to cook and taste and then adjust your seasoning accordingly.
- Sprinkle on some sugar. This is less for sweetness and more for color. Adding just a touch will promote browning, which is sometimes difficult to achieve in such a short cooking time. That browning is not only appealing to the eye, it also means more flavor.
- Give em some room. If your shrimp is piled on top of each other in too small of a pan, it will never get brown. Each little guy needs his own space to cook, so choose your skillet accordingly. If you need to cook them in a couple batches that’s totally OK.
- Don’t overdo it. Shrimp can go from tender and juicy to rubbery and stringy in no time. Once they’ve gone from translucent to opaque they are done. Some of the tails will have curled, some will not, but trust me – all of them are good to go. Plus they will continue to cook a bit as they cool.
Charred Corn and Mango Salsa
This is a very versatile condiment. It’s spicy, smokey, fruity, crunchy, tangy, and fresh. Basically it covers all the bases and makes these spicy shrimp tacos incredibly simple and straightforward (ie: no need for a THOUSAND garnishes). Of course you can always gild the lily – a few slices of creamy avocado never hurt anyone, for instance. But the beauty here is that once you’ve got your bowl of salsa, cooked shrimp, and charred tortillas, you really don’t need anything else. Charring the corn and jalapeno is an extra step, but what it provides in flavor is totally worth the five minutes of effort.
How to char veggies
There are a lot of different ways to put some smokey char on your veggies. I am going for what I think is the most direct route – an open flame. Just fire up your gas range, pop your corn and jalapeno directly over the fire, and keep turning until you get a nice even char. Alternatives? Place everything in a dry, cast iron skillet and you can achieve almost identical results – it will take just a little longer this way though. You can also go to broiler town. Line up your veg on a rimmed baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally for a few minutes. Keep a close eye on it though, as I’ve definitely fallen victim to all sorts of burned dishes as a result of absent minded broiling.
Then depending on the kind of veggie you’re charring, go ahead and scrape the peels off with the back of a knife, chop, and add to whatever recipe you’re making. Don’t rinse them though. You don’t want to wash away all that good smokey flavor.
How to dice a mango
Mangoes are tricky little suckers. They’re oddly shaped, very slippery once peeled, and have a HUGE seed right in the middle that you cannot just pop out. I’ve butchered a lot of mangoes in my time (like seriously, they looked awful) and I’ve found the best method is also the simplest.
- Cut a small slice from the stem end of the fruit, so it can stand on the cut edge without rolling.
- Then using a sharp vegetable peeler, take off all the skin. I like the Y shaped peelers for this, but any old veggie peeler will work. If your mango is particularly slippery use a paper towel to get a better grip.
- Using a sharp, flexible knife (a boning knife is ideal, but a paring knife is great too), cut the two large lobes from around the curved seed in the middle. The seed itself is oblong and pretty flat – like a big almond, so you’ll get two larger sides of flesh and two very small strips.
- Then dice it up and add it to your salsa. I also like to snack on the middle part – because snacks are great.
Once you’ve got your mango diced and your veggies charred the rest is as easy as squeezing a lime and stirring everything together. Then let it hang out for a bit. This mango salsa is great after a ten minute sit, but excellent after an hour. And don’t your shrimp tacos deserve excellence?
Next steps? Assemble tacos, squeeze a little lime over the top, pop open an icy beverage or two, and enjoy that summer sun!
Need some more summer party recipes? Check these out.
- Crunchy Fried Chicken Tacos with Garlic Ranch
- Vegan Chorizo Tacos
- Spicy Charred Corn Queso
- Chipotle Black Bean Burgers with Cashew Ranch
Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn and Mango Salsa
Spicy shrimp tacos with charred corn and mango salsa are sweet, fiery, and ready for your next summer party!
- Prep Time: 15 Minutes
- Cook Time: 15 Minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 Servings 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Cuisine: Mexican
For the shrimp:
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp chili flake
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 pound jumbo shrimp*, peeled and de-veined
1 T oil (something neutral like canola)
For the corn and mango salsa:
1 ear corn, or 3/4 C corn kernels
1 jalapeno pepper
1 large mango, peeled and diced**
1/2 small red onion, diced fine
2 scallions, sliced thin
1/4 C chopped parsley (or cilantro)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp honey
1 tsp oil
Juice of one lime
Zest of one lime
Corn tortillas for serving
Combine the salt, sugar, cumin, chili powder, paprika, chili flake, and cayenne. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the shrimp and toss to combine. Set aside while you make the salsa.
Place your shucked ear of corn directly over a medium flame on your gas burner***. Turn frequently and cook until kernels begin to char, about 2-3 minutes. You’re not looking for all over char, just good color in a few places. Remove from heat, cut kernels off of the cob, and place them in a medium bowl.
Repeat this process with the jalapeno, but make sure to evenly char it all over. Remove from heat, scrape the black char off the skin and dice fine. Leave the seeds in for a spicier salsa, remove them to tame the heat. Add the diced jalapeno to the corn along with the mango, red onion, scallions, parsley, salt, honey, oil, lime juice, and zest. Mix thoroughly and season to taste. Set aside.
Char your tortillas for about 20 seconds per side over an open flame and then wrap them in a clean kitchen towel until ready to serve. You can also heat the whole stack in a low oven (250°F), wrapped in a damp paper towel and then tightly in aluminum foil.
Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high to high heat, until you start to see small wisps of smoke. Add the shrimp and spread into one even layer. Let cook undisturbed for about one minute, or until they are nicely browned on one side. Flip and sear on the other side for 1-2 minutes or until the meat is just opaque all the way through. Remove from heat.
Assemble tacos with shrimp, corn and mango salsa, pickled red onions, and extra lime wedges.
*I use 16-20 shrimp for this. This just means that there are 16-20 shrimp per pound. I also buy mine frozen and already de-veined (sometimes labeled as EZ-Peel). If you get yours completely unprocessed just peel them and then run a sharp, paring knife down the back of each shrimp, this will expose a small, black vein that you will want to remove.
**The easiest way I’ve found to deal with a mango is to cut a little bit off the bottom so it stands up easily on a cutting board. Then use a vegetable peeler to get rid of the skin. Then, standing the fruit up on its cut edge, slice the lobes off each side. The pit is wide and flat – a little like a very large almond, so you’ll get two larger pieces and two smaller. Then dice those pieces up, and snack on whatever is leftover on the middle bit.
***If you are working with loose corn kernels or don’t have a gas range you can char everything in a dry cast iron skillet, or on a sheet pan set under your broiler.
Keywords: spicy shrimp tacos, charred corn and mango salsa, fruit salsa, shrimp tacos