Chef Samone Lett
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Atlanta Based Chef, Samone Lett

How I Make My Shrimp Marinade

Whether I’m doing a personal chef or private catering event, when clients eat my shrimp they always ask “HOW I MAKE THEM TASTE SO GOOD” People ask how I season my shrimp and how I like to make my shrimp marinade. My biggest focus is flavor; whether the shrimp will be eaten separately or will be added to a main dish. This particular process focuses on a Shrimp Tortellini dish prepared for a catering event at the Orlando Art Museum this past February. The client’s final menu consisted of: three butler passed appetizers; two entree Items; and three side options; the Shrimp Tortellini being one of entree items presented.

I wanted to take some time to share some simple things I do to get the flavor many people have come to enjoy!

FIRST: Frozen or Fresh Shrimp

It’s important to carefully consider if purchasing frozen or fresh shrimp will make the difference in your dish. The decision depends on the timeframe between purchase date and cook date, or the quality of the dining experience you want to present to your guests. Obviously, money can be saved and there’s more flexibility with time, when you buy frozen shrimp in the shell that’s already pre-packaged. Selecting raw shrimp however, from the fresh fish section of a supermarket, means that it’s shelf life will be pretty short but you’ll get a better quality product. Purchasing fresh shrimp is typically what my personal and private chef clients in request – and “fresh” is usually the best way to go!

SECOND: Check Your Shrimp First

Sometimes depending on how you get the shrimp purchased, you’ll find a dark thread like vein running along the back of the shrimp. You want to remove this before cooking, otherwise your meal could end up tasting a bit sandy and gritty; it’s definitely not something you want to present to your guests. Use kitchen scissors to cut through the shell along the back of the shrimp, from the head to the tail; then use the scissors or a small knife to pull out the vein.

THIRD: What Type of Shrimp Marinade

Every marinade/seasoning process is different based on the taste you’re looking for, or what the shrimp is being prepared to be added to. So whether you’re making Shrimp Skewers, Shrimp Pasta or Fried Rice with Shrimp every seasoning and marinade process will vary. For example, if the marinade is acidic in nature (lemon, lime, orange, etc.), 30 minutes or less should be fine to let the shrimp just sit in your marinade. Any more than that and the acid will start to break down the delicate shrimp meat and make it mushy. If your marinade is non-acidic (olive oil, garlic, herbs) you could marinate for an hour or more. Remember, cooking should be fun and not rigid. Do some experimenting and trial runs to see your own results!


  • I prepared a marinade that would be seasoned well for a Shrimp Tortellini dish. I mixed basil, garlic, pepper, cilantro, a little bit of lime juice and tossed the shrimp around in it
  • Try not to use all the marinade in the beginning so you can save some later for coating the shrimp once it’s cooked
  • Let it soak in the marinade for about 20-30 minutes in a bowl and just cover it with food wrap and leave it in the fridge.
  • You can also let the shrimp sit over night to really lock in the flavors, but be mindful of timeframe it sits in the fridge. Health safety is really important.

  • Get a pan that’s wide enough in circumference that will give you some room to stir around your shrimp
  • Put a little bit of cooking oil in the pan (I prefer olive oil) and get the pan nice and hot, to where the oil becomes lighter and moves around freely in the pan
  • Let the shrimp cook in the pan and stir it around. Make sure the shrimp keep moving to ensure it cooks evenly
  • While cooking I added a small amount of Himalayan Salt to bring out the flavors
  • After about 2 minutes of cooking the shrimp look for a sort of pinkish opaque color, which lets me know it’s done. Keep it in longer if you want the shrimp to get darker


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