It seems like there are as many different shrimp sizes as there are fish in the sea.
From mini to colossal and everything in between, simply ordering shrimp at the grocery store can feel overwhelming. Here you are, just craving scampi for dinner, and all of a sudden your head is buzzing with sizing jargon in front of the seafood counter!
The good news is that shrimp sizing doesn’t have to be overwhelming or confusing. Choosing the right shrimp for every occasion is easier than you think. This shrimp sizing guide covers all of your questions, including:
- How many shrimp you need to buy per person
- The best size shrimp to buy for optimal flavor and texture
- The nutritional value of each size
- How to know whether you’re buying quality shrimp
Whether you’re a life-long seafood lover or just getting your feet wet cooking shrimp at home, this guide will answer all of your crustacean-related questions for fearless shrimp-buying from now on.
The Most Common Shrimp Sizes
There are several common shrimp sizes that you’re likely to encounter. From largest to smallest, they are:
You may also see shrimp labeled extra-large, medium-large, small and tiny. And that’s because these sizing terms aren’t regulated. So one store’s jumbo shrimp could actually be larger than another outlet’s extra-large shrimp.
What Does the U Mean on Shrimp Packaging?
The best way to cut through the jargon?
Look for a U and some important numbers on the label. This little letter stands for “under” and indicates the number of shrimp you’re buying per pound. The lower the number, the larger the shrimp.
For example our colossal shrimp are U-8/12. This means that every pound contains 8 to 12 big, fresh shrimp. In fact, colossal is the largest shrimp size you can find! Our slightly smaller wild caught shrimp are in the jumbo range of 16 to 20 shrimp per pound (U-16/20).
On the other end of the scale, the smallest shrimp you can buy weigh in at 71+ shrimp per pound. In the middle, medium shrimp are in the range of 36 to 41 per pound.
Does Shrimp Size Count Heads and Tails?
The per-pound counts above refer to peeled and deveined shrimp, which means any shells, tails and heads have been removed. If you’re purchasing head-on colossal shrimp, for example, the edible part of the shrimp will actually be closer to large once they’re peeled and deveined.
All of our shrimp have been peeled and deveined for straightforward sizing and easy cooking at home (it’s easier for everyone that way!).
Speaking of easy cooking, here’s our simple Shrimp Cooking Guide.
Shrimp Sizing Chart: A Brief Overview of Shrimp Sizes
Let’s dive into the details!
|Type||Shrimp Per Pound||Appetizer Serving Size||Entree Serving Size|
Colossal Shrimp 101
Colossal shrimp are the largest money can buy. These stunning shrimp are often larger than what’s served at high-end seafood restaurants, and they’re much bigger than any shellfish at a grocery store or even a specialty fish market—you’ve gotta see ‘em to believe how incredible they are. You’re generally looking at 8-12 shrimp per pound.
Flavor and the Best Ways to Serve Colossal Shrimp
Colossal shrimp are best described as “juicy” and “delicious”, with a natural sweet-savory flavor from the sea. Their large size makes colossal shrimp the perfect seafood for grilling, as they can withstand open flames and high temperatures without burning to a crisp like their more delicate, smaller cousins.
These large shrimp also make an impression on top of pasta, or served chilled as a decadent shrimp cocktail appetizer. They’re also great for a barbecue or for butterflied and stuffed shrimp. Thanks to their size, these shrimp are visually striking and hold their own as a main course.
Serving Size: How Many Colossal Shrimp Per Person?
When you’re serving the biggest shrimp around, you don’t need to pile your plate with dozens of shrimp to make a satisfying meal.
- As an appetizer, 2 colossal shrimp is a satisfying serving
- As an entree, plan to serve 4 colossal shrimp per person
Of course, we won’t be surprised if you double or triple that number—when they taste this good, it’s hard not to.
What About the Nutrition of Colossal Shrimp?
Shrimp, no matter the size, are a healthy source of lean protein. With just 1 gram of fat and 80 calories per serving, colossal shrimp are filling without weighing you down. They’re also carbohydrate-free and pack an impressive 18 grams of protein per serving. That’s something to call home about!
How Long to Cook Colossal Shrimp
These meaty shrimp take a bit longer to cook than their smaller counterparts. But all shrimp are fairly quick-cooking compared to other proteins like red meat, poultry and fish fillets.
Shrimp are fully cooked when they’re pink all the way through and curled into a tight “c” chape, right around 145°F.
In a hot skillet, colossal shrimp take about 2 minutes per side to cook fully. For a shrimp cocktail, you can simmer shrimp for no more than 4 minutes for a perfectly juicy, plump and flavorful bite.
Jumbo Shrimp 101
Moving down the sizing line, the second-largest shrimp size is the jumbo. There are 13 to 25 jumbo shrimp per pound (U-13/25). Our Wild Caught Shrimp are in this range.
Jumbo is also the most common size called for by recipes. If your recipe doesn’t specify a shrimp size, you can safely bet on jumbo shrimp being a reliable, delicious fit.
Flavor and the Best Ways to Serve Jumbo Shrimp
Jumbo shrimp have a slightly sweet flavor and a snappy, crunchy texture. They’re the ideal two-bite size for shrimp cocktails.
If shrimp cocktails are on the menu, we strongly recommend this homemade cocktail sauce.
But you really can’t make a wrong turn when it comes to preparing jumbo shrimp. From pizza to stir-fries to topping grits, jumbo shrimp should be your go-to for all of your favorite seafood recipes.
Serving Size: How Many Jumbo Shrimp Per Person?
The number of jumbo shrimp per serving depends on how and who you’re serving. On average, it shapes out something like this:
- 6-8 jumbo shrimp is considered an entree serving
- As an appetizer, 4-5 jumbo shrimp is often sufficient
Once you get to munching, however, if you decide to pop a couple extra on your plate… we won’t tell anyone if you don’t.
Jumbo Shrimp Nutrition
One serving of 6 jumbo shrimp contains 120 calories, 2 grams of fat, no carbohydrates and a whopping 23 grams of protein. By and large, jumbo shrimp are reliably delicious and nutritious.
How Long Does Jumbo Shrimp Take to Cook?
Defrosted jumbo shrimp take about 3 minutes total to cook through in a hot skillet or boiling water. Once again, jumbo shrimp are fully cooked when they’re pink all the way through and curled into a tight “c” shape around 145°F.
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Large Shrimp 101
Large shrimp weigh in at 26 to 35 units per pound. Within this range, you may find shrimp labeled medium-large, large, or extra-large.
Just remember that count per pound matters more than marketing terms!
Flavor & Best Ways to Use Large Shrimp
Large shrimp are sweet-tasting, with a satisfying crunch. They’re substantial enough to hold up to oven roasting, and can be lightly breaded and deep-fried for a savory snack.
For grilling, it’s best to use indirect heat and to skewer large shrimp to keep them from falling through the grates.
Serving Size: How Many Large Shrimp Per Person?
You’ll need a few more large shrimp per person than jumbo to satisfy the average seafood lover.
- For an entree, expect to serve each guest 8 to 10 shrimp
- For an appetizer, 4 to 6 large shrimp is standard
Large Shrimp Nutrition
8 large shrimp contain 100 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 21 grams of protein. There are no carbohydrates in a serving of shrimp.
How Long Do Large Shrimp Take to Cook?
Large shrimp will cook even faster than jumbo, so it’s important to keep a close eye on them. 2 to 3 minutes is all it takes to cook up pink and firm large shrimp. They’ll be done before you know it! Look for the tight “c” shape curl to know when they’re cooked through.
Medium Shrimp 101
On the smaller end of the shrimp sizing spectrum, medium shrimp include counts from 36 to 50 shrimp per pound. These are fast-cooking, everyday shrimp.
Flavor & Best Way to Use Medium Shrimp
Smaller often means sweeter with shrimp, and medium shrimp can be quite sweet tasting. However, their smaller size also means they can have a less intense flavor than more toothsome jumbo or colossal shrimp.
Most medium shrimp are a bit too small to make a satisfying dip into cocktail sauce. Instead, your best bet for serving medium shrimp is to make them part of a larger dish. Stir-fries, curries, pastas and soups are great ways to make the most of your medium-sized shrimp.
This size is also small and pliable enough to turn into fillings for dumplings and meatballs. Their more mild flavor makes a great canvas to add your favorite seasonings and aromatics.
Serving Size: How Many Medium Shrimp Per Person?
You’ll need more of a pile of medium-sized shrimp to satisfy most adult appetites.
- 9 to 12 medium shrimp per person for an entree
- 6 medium shrimp for an appetizer.
Medium Shrimp Nutrition
10 medium shrimp contains 100 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 20 grams of protein.
How long to Cook Medium Shrimp
If you’re pan-searing, sautéing or boiling your shrimp, expect them to take just about 2 minutes to cook through. Baking anything in the oven takes a bit longer, but only by 1 or 2 minutes. As always, keep a close eye on your shrimp to avoid overcooking.
Mini Shrimp 101
The smallest shrimp are called small, mini, or baby shrimp. These cute, one-bite crustaceans are the fastest-cooking option. Mini shrimp clock in at 51 to 71+ shrimp per pound. This size is almost always sold peeled and deveined because no one wants to do all that work at home for a small bite of food.
Flavor & Best Way to Cook with Mini Shrimp
Mini shrimp tend to have the most subtle flavor compared to their larger siblings. This makes them better suited to bold-flavored dishes and heavy seasoning. Mini shrimp are easy to grind into sausages, fillings and pastes. They’re also great for adding protein to soups and they’re easier to eat in a single bite off of a spoon than larger, multi-bite shrimp.
Small shrimp are also the ideal size for making crispy, snackable popcorn shrimp. They’re easy to bread and fry in a large batch.
Serving Size: How Many Small Shrimp Per Person?
If you’re using really tiny shrimp (71+ per pound), you’re better off measuring mini shrimp by the cup or ounce than by counting. A typical serving of shrimp is 3 ounces. This can be 12 to 20 small shrimp per person, depending on the size.
Small Shrimp Nutrition
One serving of small shrimp contains 80 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 carbohydrates and 15 grams of protein.
How Long to Cook Small Shrimp
You can expect mini shrimp to cook in under a minute in many cases. As soon as they turn opaque and pink, they’re cooked.
Shrimp Sizing FAQ’s
Whoa! We’ve looked deep into the differences between shrimp sizes, but if you still have questions about the different shrimp sizes and how to cook with them, we have answers!
What is the Biggest Shrimp Size?
Colossal shrimp are the largest. At 8 to 12 shrimp per pound, these are the most toothsome, satisfying size. They’re also highly versatile, from frying to steaming to roasting to sautéeing, there’s no dish that colossal shrimp aren’t at home in.
How Long is a Shrimp in Inches?
It’s probably not a surprise that shrimp length varies quite a bit. The smallest shrimp measure just a few millimeters in length. Colossal shrimp, on the other hand, can measure up to 8 inches long. On average, large shrimp measure between 1.5 and 3 inches long, including tail and head.
Shrimp vs. Prawns?
Though they look similar, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, shrimp and prawns are actually two distinct species. This is evident by their looks. For example, anatomical differences enable shrimp to curl into that familiar “C” shape, while prawns stay straightened out. Prawns also have three pairs of legs, while shrimp have one pair.
Shrimp and prawns are grown, harvested and served all over the world. But you’re more likely to see the word “prawn” listed on a menu in Europe, Australia, or Asia than in the US. When it comes to cooking, you can easily substitute shrimp in recipes that call for prawns and vice-versa. To most closely match the look, flavor and size of prawns, choose colossal shrimp.
What is the Best Size Shrimp?
The best shrimp for you depends on how you plan to use it and your taste preferences. Most recipes, and palates, prefer larger shrimp for their firm texture, satisfying bite and sweet flavor.
For appetizers like shrimp cocktail and dishes where the shrimp is the star of the show, larger shrimp like colossal and jumbo are stunning to behold, filling to enjoy, and are all-around a more exquisite option for special meals.
For dishes that include shrimp along with other vegetables or starches, such as pasta or stir-fries, jumbo shrimp are a filling, quick-cooking and flavorful protein option.
And when you want to turn your shrimp into a paste, purée, filling or meatball, smaller is often better. These shrimp are easy to break down and pair well with a variety of flavors.
Shrimp Buying 101: It’s All About The Source
At the end of the day, whether you’re stocking up on mini shrimp for homemade shumai or going all-out with succulent colossal shrimp for a show-stopping appetizer, the most important thing is to buy fresh seafood from a trustworthy source.
When you know your shrimp was raised and harvested sustainably and preserved for maximum freshness from ocean to table, the seafood will speak for itself. The highest-quality shrimp needs nothing more than a squeeze of lemon to wow your taste buds.
To confidently buy shrimp that always tastes its best, look for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch seal of approval. All of our shrimp are designated “best choice”, thanks to our commitment to only selling 100% traceable, all-natural, chemical-free seafood. And the best part is how easily you’ll be able to taste the difference.