Chef John's Shrimp Tempura


I'm showing you what I think is the easiest, simplest, best method for doing tempura, which produces something with an extremely thin, but still very crispy, coating. If you're not into shrimp, this technique will work with many other things.

Prep Time:
10 mins
Cook Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
20 mins
12 shrimp

There are many different methods for making shrimp tempura, and after trying most of them I believe this is the simplest, easiest way to achieve what I consider the ultimate result – a perfectly cooked shrimp encased in a light, airy, very thin, but extremely crispy shell. Some people like theirs heavily battered, but I want to see the shrimp through the coating. Hey, I'm not trying to eat a fritter.

One of the keys here is using large, very dry shrimp, and prepping them properly so they don't curl up in the hot oil. Besides that, you need to make your batter with ice cold sparking water right before you're going to fry. A cold batter is a crispy batter, so plan accordingly. Finally, the freshly fried shrimp should be eaten almost as soon as they come out of the oil. Don't burn your mouth, but letting these sit around getting cold is a crime against nature.

In fact, this is one of those things where you should have your guests huddled around the fryer so they can be enjoyed as soon as they're made. And, as you're hanging out with your friends eating these beauties, you can share the rather fun fact that tempura isn't actually a Japanese invention. Apparently, the Portuguese introduced the technique in the 16th century. Who knew? Anyway, historical background aside, if you want very easy, very light, and very crisp shrimp tempura, I really do hope you give this a try soon.


  • 12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

  • canola oil for frying

  • ¼ cup self-rising flour

  • ¼ cup potato starch

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

  • ½ cup cold sparkling water

For the Dipping Sauce:

  • ½ cup prepared dashi stock

  • ¼ cup mirin

  • ¼ cup soy sauce

  • 1 pinch white sugar, or to taste (Optional)

  • grated daikon radish (Optional)


  1. Dry peeled and deveined shrimp on paper towels. Flip each shrimp over and make shallow cuts through to make sure they won't curl up when frying. Refrigerate until needed.

  2. Heat oil in a deep fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

  3. Combine self-rising flour, potato starch, salt, and cayenne in a bowl with a whisk. Add cold water and whisk until flour disappears and a crepe-like batter is achieved. Coat shrimp in batter.

  4. Fry shrimp in small batches, no more than 6 at a time, making sure they don't stick together, until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

  5. Stir together dashi broth, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar for sauce. Grate daikon radish over. Taste and adjust as needed. Serve shrimp with dipping sauce.

    Chef John's Shrimp Tempura
    Chef John's Shrimp Tempura. Chef John

Chef's Notes:

Shrimp need to be perfectly dry prior to frying. Either dry and hold on paper towels, or very lightly coat in potato starch or cornstarch.

Batter can be made with cornstarch or rice flour instead of potato starch. You can use 1/4 teaspoon fine salt instead of kosher.

-If you don't have self-rising flour, you can use all-purpose flour with baking soda added, see this user's recipe for an example.

Classic dipping sauce has half the soy and mirin, so this is my extra strength version. Sugar is often added to the dipping sauce, as is grated daikon.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

170 Calories
1g Fat
19g Carbs
15g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Calories 170
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 1g 2%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 96mg 32%
Sodium 1381mg 60%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Protein 15g
Potassium 206mg 4%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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