ShrimpBecause there are literally thousands of varieties of shrimp in the waters of our world, seeing shrimp on an ingredient list in a recipe is not as straightforward as you may think. A cook in Vietnam will use a shrimp in their recipe that may look similar to the shrimp used by a cook in Louisiana but the flavor and texture will be different. Not better per se, but different.

When looking at a recipe that has shrimp as an ingredient, most people think of the medium-sized shrimp that can be found in your local meat case in varying forms: wild, farmed, frozen, and peeled & deveined. Most of the thousands of varieties of the world’s shrimp don’t ever make it to market. They are eaten by the larger occupants of the earth’s oceans. Of the hundreds of varieties that are eaten by people, only a few dozen are readily available for consumption in the United States.

To help you navigate these confusing waters, we’ve put together some brief information about the shrimp you are most likely to find in stores to help keep you informed.

First things first, unless you live in the Gulf Coast or in areas where there are local shrimp, finding fresh shrimp will be fairly difficult. The good news is that, unlike other seafood,  shrimp freezes really well without losing its flavor or texture. Buying frozen shrimp and keeping it in your freezer to use as needed, can be a convenient way to always have some on hand. Fair warning—shrimp will start to deteriorate even in the freezer so it is recommended that you store them for no longer than a couple of months.

Most of the shrimp sold and consumed in the US is part of a group considered to be Tropical Shrimp. They are found in the waters off the coast of the Carolinas and Florida as well as the Gulf of Mexico, Ecuador and Mexico’s West Coast.

Gulf Shrimp
Probably the most visually recognizable variety of Tropical Shrimp is the Gulf of Mexico Pinks. When raw they are a pinkish, pale orange-ish color and are usually labeled as Gulf Shrimp or Gulf Prawns. They are considered to be the premium domestic shrimp and their sweet flavor is the main reason.

Gulf of Mexico White Shrimp
The next best variety, and most popular, would be the Gulf of Mexico White Shrimp which is harvested in the same Carolina, Florida Gulf of Mexico area as the pinks but are also available as farmed shrimp. They are known for their full, nutty flavor and firm texture. These are the shrimp most likely to be found in your seafood case.

Black Tiger Shrimp
Giving the White shrimp a run for their money would be the Black Tiger Shrimp from the waters of Thailand, Indonesia, and Taiwan. These shrimp are more likely to be farmed, although wild black tiger prawns can be found in the waters from Japan to East Africa. These shrimp can grow to be up to 13 inches long but most of the tiger prawns found in the US markets are smaller than the Gulf shrimp. And, though they have excellent flavor, they can be a bit inconsistent.

This is just a drop in the bucket of all the information available should you want to do further research. (The classifications alone will have your head spinning!) Who knew that shrimp was this complicated?

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