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Learn how long to boil shrimp and get juicy, delicious shrimp every time, whether you’re making shrimp cocktail or another dish. We cover how to boil shrimp quickly and easily with boiling times and tips for every kind of shrimp!

Shrimp cocktail using jumbo shrimp with tails on and boiled briefly to perfect doneness

Boiling is one of the best ways to cook shrimp, whether you’re making shrimp cocktail, shrimp salad, or another recipe. We’re often asked “how long does it take to boil shrimp?” and the answer is “it depends” on size and type of shrimp!

Given how expensive shrimp can be, we all want to make sure it won’t turn out dry and chewy! Along with plain boiled shrimp, you can use a similar technique to make a southern shrimp boil in an aromatic broth with corn, potatoes, sausage and seasonings.


You can boil any type of shrimp, including Gulf shrimp, tiger shrimp, white shrimp and rock shrimp. Wild-caught shrimp from the Gulf coast or Florida is the best if you can find it in season. Imported shrimp is usually farmed in Asia and is less expensive, although considered less safe as well.

Any shrimp size is fine, whether raw or frozen, shell-on or shell-off. I prefer deveined shrimp, but that’s just a preference. Note that shrimp are very perishable, so cook raw shrimp within a day of purchase or thawing.

Medium-size, peeled, tail-on shrimp in a bowl after boiling with a beautiful orange-pink color


How long to boil shrimp depends on shrimp size and type. Also, if you have a large pot of boiling water, it’ll stay hot more easily. I recommend at least 2 quarts of water per pound of shrimp.

Follow the chart below to determine shrimp boil time for your setup:

Shrimp Size (Count per lb) How Long to Boil Shrimp
Raw Frozen
Small (51-60) 30 sec 1 min
Medium (41-50) 1 min 1 1/2 min
Large (31-35) 2 min 3 min
Jumbo (21-25) 3 min 4 min
Extra jumbo (16-20) 4 min 5 min

A large peeled shrimp that's been boiled and chilled being dipped in cocktail sauce

Since shrimp behave differently, it’s best to ignore rules of thumb such as shrimp turning pink when done, or floating or curling, etc. For example, frozen shrimp turns pink on the outside before it’s cooked through, while red shrimp don’t curl much during cooking. Boiling time is still the most accurate measure of doneness.

Here are other questions on boiling shrimp:

  • How long to boil frozen shrimp: Large frozen shrimp need 3 full minutes of boiling time; the texture is better if you thaw the shrimp first.
  • How long to boil raw shrimp: Boil raw shrimp for the times in the chart above to ensure doneness.
  • How long to boil jumbo shrimp: Raw jumbo shrimp need 3 minutes of boiling time and frozen jumbo shrimp need 4 minutes.
  • How long do you boil shrimp in shell: Boiling time is identical for shell-on and shell-off shrimp.

Large shell-on shrimp that have been boiled and arranged on a serving plate with lemon wedges for shrimp cocktail


Here’s how to boil shrimp in three simple steps:

  1. Fill a medium-large pot of water half-full, about 2 quarts (2 liters) of water per pound of shrimp.
  2. Bring to a rolling boil and add the shrimp. Simmer until the time’s up or they float.
  3. Drain and cover with cold water or ice water to stop the cooking process.

How to tell when shrimp is done? Shrimp will have curled, turned pink and begun floating in the water when done. Whitish formations near the tail indicate overcooking. Follow the shrimp boil time above.

It’s easiest to scoop the shrimp straight out of the pot using a slotted spoon.

Serve boiled shrimp with fresh lemon, cocktail sauce and some salt and pepper.

Shrimp cocktail using jumbo shrimp with tails on and boiled briefly to perfect doneness
5 from 5 votes

How to Boil Shrimp

Learn how to boil shrimp and get juicy, delicious shrimp every time, whether you're making shrimp cocktail, shrimp salad or any other dish.
Cook Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 5 mins
Servings: 4 servings


  • 1 lb shrimp, raw or frozen, any size
  • 1 tsp salt, optional

Serving Ideas (Optional)

  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 1 cup cocktail sauce


  • Fill a medium saucepan halfway with cold water. Place over medium-high heat.
  • Once the water boils, add the shrimp and simmer until cooked following the cook time chart.
  • Drain the shrimp.
  • Place in a bowl with cold water or ice water to stop the cooking process.
  • Use as directed in your recipe or serve as is.


  • Use 2 quarts (2 liters) of water per pound of shrimp.
  • Most shrimp is already quite salty, so salting the water is usually not necessary.
Nutrition Facts
How to Boil Shrimp
Amount Per Serving (80 g)
Calories 121 Calories from Fat 18
% Daily Value*
Fat 2g3%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Cholesterol 286mg95%
Sodium 882mg37%
Potassium 128mg4%
Carbohydrates 3g1%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 23g46%
Vitamin C 19mg23%
Calcium 171mg17%
Iron 2.6mg14%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Please read our nutrition disclaimer.

Author: TipBuzz
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: World
Keyword: how long to boil shrimp, how to boil shrimp
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