Shrimp Powder Uses

Shrimp powder is a versatile ingredient used in many cuisines around the world.

Shrimp Powder Uses

Made from dried, ground shrimp, it packs an intense umami flavor that can elevate the taste of many dishes.

What Is Shrimp Powder

Shrimp powder is made from shrimp that have been dried and ground into a fine powder. It originated as a way to preserve seafood in tropical climates where fresh shrimp weren't always available.

The drying process concentrates the flavor of the shrimp, giving the powder an intense taste of the sea. When rehydrated and cooked, shrimp powder becomes soft and releases its briny-sweet flavor into food.

Some key facts about shrimp powder:

  • Called hai mi or xia mi in Chinese cooking and udang kering in Malaysian cuisine
  • Has a strong, salty umami taste from the dried shrimp
  • Adds richness and complexity to dishes without needing much powder
  • Shelf-stable so can be kept without refrigeration before opening
  • Versatile ingredient used in many Asian cuisines

While whole dried shrimp are also common, the ground form has some advantages for cooking:

  • Distributes shrimp flavor evenly throughout a dish
  • Softens and blends more readily when cooking
  • Easier to portion and measure in recipes

Let's look at some of the many ways cooks around the world make use of this intense, seafood-flavored powder.

Using Shrimp Powder in Southeast Asian Cuisines

Shrimp paste and powder are essential ingredients in Southeast Asian cooking, used both for flavoring and as a protein source. Here are some classic ways it's used:

In Curries and Soups

A small amount of shrimp powder adds plenty of umami depth to curries. It's commonly used in Thai and Lao curries like red curry and green curry.

For soups, shrimp powder enhances seafood soups like laksa or can provide a flavor boost to vegetable soups.

With Noodles and Rice

Mixing a little shrimp powder into a noodle sauce lends a rich, briny taste. It's especially good with vermicelli noodles, pad thai, or stir-fried rice noodles.

For fried rice, a sprinkle of shrimp powder adds flavor complexity in a different way than fresh or frozen shrimp.

In Dips and Sauces

Balachaung, a Burmese condiment, combines shrimp powder with fried shallots, garlic, and chili. It's served with rice dishes and used as a flavorful dipping sauce.

Shrimp powder also enhances chili pastes, fish sauces, sambals, and nam prik dipping sauces served with Southeast Asian meals.

With Vegetables

In vegetable side dishes like gai lan, bok choy, or morning glory, shrimp powder seasoning gives a tasty umami contrast to the greens.

It can also be combined with ingredients like chilies, lime, and shallots to make flavorful salad dressings and dipping sauces for fresh vegetables and herbs.

Cooking with Shrimp Powder Outside of Asia

While best known in its native Asian cuisines, shrimp powder's flavor-enhancing powers can improve all types of dishes. Here are some ideas for using it creatively:

Add Depth to Soups and Stews

A small amount of shrimp powder whisked into the broth deepens the flavor of seafood stews. It also boosts vegetable and meat soups and chowders.

Lend a Savory Boost to Dressings and Sauces

Whisk just a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of shrimp powder into vinaigrettes, herb sauces, marinades, and aioli. It will amplify the umami without tasting fishy.

Combine with Seasonings for Seafood

Mix shrimp powder into breading for fried fish or shrimp. Or make a blackening seasoning with it to coat fish or chicken before searing.

Flavor Rice, Grits, and Grains

Stir a pinch of powder into rice pilaf, cooked grits, or risotto for a pop of flavor. It also livens up plain grains like farro or quinoa.

Make It a Secret Seasoning Booster

Add just a tiny bit of shrimp powder to boost the savory taste of dishes without the flavor being recognizable. Try it in potato salad, pasta sauce, casseroles, etc.

Tips for Cooking with Shrimp Powder

To get the most out of shrimp powder, follow these tips:

  • Start with a very small amount, then adjust to taste. A little goes a long way!
  • For a smooth texture, soak in hot water for 10 minutes before use to rehydrate.
  • Add early in cooking for the most flavor infusion into a dish.
  • Toast lightly in oil to intensify the taste.
  • Store sealed in the freezer for longest shelf life of up to 6 months.

Now that you have ideas for shrimp powder uses, let's go over how to buy quality powder and how to substitute if you can't find it.

Buying High-Quality Shrimp Powder

Look for shrimp powder that is:

  • Vibrant orange-pink color
  • Dry and powdery, not clumpy or sticky
  • Sold in a sealed package without visible moisture
  • Free from any grayish discoloration
  • Packaged with transparent viewing window when possible

For the freshest taste, buy from a store with high product turnover and check expiration dates. Specialty Asian grocers will have the best selection and quality.

When stored sealed in the freezer, shrimp powder will keep its potency for many months.

Key Takeaway: For best flavor, choose fresh, dry shrimp powder with an orange-pink color and no moisture or gray discoloration.

Substitutes for Shrimp Powder

If you can't find shrimp powder, these options can substitute in a pinch:

  • Shrimp paste - Use half the amount called for in recipe
  • Anchovy paste - Provides umami flavor, but not the sweetness
  • Fish sauce - Adds salty flavor, but not as much complexity
  • Dried shiitake mushrooms - For vegetarian/vegan dishes
  • Nutritional yeast - Imparts savory, cheesy notes
  • Mushroom powder - Provides umami without the seafood taste

Keep in mind that none of these will replicate the exact taste and aroma of true shrimp powder. But in recipe testing, feel free to experiment with substitutes to find an option that works for your dish.

Easy Recipes with Shrimp Powder

Ready to start cooking with this powerhouse seasoning? Here are a few easy recipe ideas to start out:

Shrimp Powder Fried Rice

Sauté rice with shrimp powder, garlic, ginger, scallions, soy sauce, and eggs for a quick, flavor-packed fried rice.

Shrimp Powder Coconut Curry

Make a rich Thai red or green curry with coconut milk, vegetables, and a dash of shrimp powder for depth.

Shrimp Powder Veggie Stir-Fry

Toss shrimp powder with soy sauce, sesame oil, and cornstarch to make a flavorful stir-fry sauce for crisp-tender vegetables.

Shrimp Powder Compound Butter

Blend shrimp powder into softened butter with herbs and citrus zest, then roll into a log for a tasty compound butter.

Shrimp Powder Salad Dressing

Whisk a bit of shrimp powder with olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and herbs for a bright dressing on greens or grains.

Now that you have plenty of ideas for ways to use this versatile powder, it's time to start experimenting in your kitchen!


Can I use fresh shrimp instead of the powder?

Fresh shrimp won't replicate the concentrated flavor of the dried powder. For best results, use shrimp powder when it is called for in a recipe.

Is shrimp powder spicy?

Shrimp powder on its own is not spicy, though some brands add chili. Check the ingredients list to confirm if the powder contains spice.

What does shrimp powder taste like?

Shrimp powder has an intense umami seafood flavor, slightly sweet and very savory. A little bit infuses food with a briny taste of the ocean.

How should I store shrimp powder after opening?

To retain freshness after opening, transfer any remaining powder to an airtight container or resealable plastic bag. Store in freezer for longest shelf life.

Can I use shrimp powder if I have a shellfish allergy?

No, avoid shrimp powder if you have a shellfish allergy, as it contains dried shrimp and could trigger an allergic reaction. Opt for a substitute seasoning instead.

What dishes pair well with shrimp powder?

The umami flavor of shrimp powder pairs excellently with rice, noodles, stir-fries, seafood, poultry, creamy sauces, citrus flavors, and herbs like cilantro, basil, and mint.

How long does shrimp powder last when stored properly?

When stored sealed in a cool, dry place, shrimp powder will keep for about 1 year. For longest shelf life up to 2 years, keep shrimp powder frozen.

Is shrimp powder suitable for vegetarian or vegan diets?

No, shrimp powder contains dried seafood so it is not vegetarian or vegan. Use dried mushrooms or nutritional yeast instead for a vegan/vegetarian substitute.

Can I use shrimp powder to make a soup broth?

Yes, shrimp powder makes a quick and flavorful base for seafood soup broths. Whisk a bit into hot water or fish stock for an infusion of umami shrimp flavor.


With its concentrated savoriness and versatility, shrimp powder is a valuable flavor enhancer in many cuisines.

Use just a pinch to boost soups, sauces, rice dishes, noodles, stir-fries, and more with a briny hit of umami.

Store shrimp powder in the freezer and experiment with incorporating its intense taste into both Asian and non-Asian recipes.

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