Easy salt and pepper king prawns is one of the nation’s favourite takeaway dishes but it is easy to make a home with this straightforward recipe. No deep fat frying required to enjoy this fakeaway at home!
Salt & pepper king prawns
Seafood dishes from the Chinese restaurant often feel like a real indulgence, but this salt and pepper prawns recipe is as easy to make as it is delicious.
It is one of those dishes that makes a big impression for very little effort. The flavours are fresh and bold, and I love the mix of textures and bright colours.
The mouth-watering prawns are coated with a light, crispy spiced batter. I’ve added two types of crunchy onions and lots of heat from the chilli, together with a good kick of garlic!
Serve your salt and pepper king prawns with a simple dip as a starter, or with rice or noodles as a main. It’s so good that you will want to make a double batch next time!
This salt and pepper prawns recipe really is a very simple for the results it produces. I’m confident that you will want to make it part of your regular menu.
Why make salt and pepper prawns
- It is very simple but produces impressive results.
- Salt and pepper king prawns taste fabulous! Spices, salt, pepper, heat and the crunch of the coating give you that perfect balance that is crucial in Chinese dishes.
- No deep frying or need for a thermometer. Fuss-free cooking at its best.
- It is quick – less than 30 minutes from start to finish!
- It is a one pan dish, so less washing up!
- Cooking from scratch means no unhealthy additives or hidden allergens.
Salt and pepper prawns ingredients
- King Prawns – Large prawns, ready cooked and prepared. If you prefer you can make salt and pepper shrimps. Just choose large shrimps.
- Five Spice – This produces that distinctive Chinese flavour and I always keep some in the cupboard. Use it in moderation. Do check the ingredients before you buy, though, as some brands contain lots of added sugar. It should be nothing but spice. They all taste a bit different, so find one that you like.
- Sichuan Pepper – also known as Szechuan pepper, it produces a tingle and numbing feeling. Use sparingly. Different brands vary in potency.
- Cornflour/Corn starch – to coat the coating. This is one of my essential store cupboard ingredients.
- Pepper and salt – Medium ground black pepper and crunchy sea salt.
- Chilli – I use a red chilli but you can also use green, and go as hot or mild as you like. Use a sweet pepper instead if you don’t like the heat.
- Onion & garlic – one small onion and one large clove
- Spring onions / scallions
- Oil (not pictured) – I generally cook with olive oil but the flavour is wrong for Chinese style dishes. You want something light with little flavour.
How to make Chinese salt and pepper prawns – step by step
Before you start, read my step-by-step instructions, with photos, hints and tips so you can make this salt and pepper king prawns recipe perfectly every time.
Scroll down for the recipe card with quantities and more tips at the bottom of the page.
Step One – First, prepare your veg:
- Onion – Peel, top and tail and cut into chunks of about 1 cm / half an inch.
- Spring Onions – Top and tail, and then remove any tough or dry outer layers. Then slice one across and cut the other lengthwise into strips.
Helen’s Fuss Free Tip
Cutting the spring onions two ways looks great in the finished dish adding a professional touch!.
- Garlic – Peel and finely chop.
- Chilli – Remove and discard the membrane and seeds. Then finely chop. Use more or less according to taste and the heat of your chillies!
Helen’s Fuss Free Tip
Spare/leftover chillies can be frozen in an airtight container. That way, they stay juicy and fruity, and much tastier than dried chillies. Add to the pan and fry from frozen.
If you are preparing a large quantity of chilli, then I strongly advise using a pair of latex gloves. The juice can stay on your hand for ages, and you don’t want to rub your eye with chilli fingers!
Step Two – Prepare the coating for the prawns. Mix the cornflour (corn starch) and the spices together. I like to do this in a plastic tub with a sealable lid, because I like to shake it. You can use a bowl if you prefer.
Step Three – Remove the prawns or shrimp from their packet and pat with a paper towel to remove any water.
Add the prawns to the spice mix. Then put the lid on the tub securely and shake well (or stir in, if using a bowl). Make sure the prawns are well coated with the cornflour mix.
Step Four – Put the oil in a heavy pan and set over a medium high heat. When it looks hot enough for frying, test the temperature by adding one prawn, which should sizzle. If it does, add the rest of the prawns and fry for 2 minutes on each side, until cooked through and starting to turn golden.
You only need to turn the prawns once. Don’t stir as they cook, because you want the coating to crisp up.
Step Five – Transfer the cooked prawns onto a double layer of kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil.
Step Six – Drain most of the oil from the pan and then add the onions. Fry until they are golden and starting to crisp at the edges. Loosen any of the coating that has stuck to the bottom of the pan and combine with the onions.
Helen’s Fuss Free Tip
The culinary term for those crispy bits at the bottom of the pan is fond, French for base or foundation. They are full of flavour, so that’s why we carefully scrape them up.
Add the spring onion, chilli and garlic and cook for another minute.
Step Seven – Finally, return the prawns to the pan and cook for a further two minutes to make sure they are piping hot
Serve and enjoy immediately.
I like to enjoy my salt and pepper king prawns or shrimp as a simple starter. For a main meal, it is also good with noodles or my Chinese rice.
You could also serve them as a canape on a blini, or add some salad, lime mayonnaise or sweet chilli dip to make a wrap for lunch on the go.
- Adjust the five spice to taste.
- Add some extra heat with more chilli or fresh ginger.
- Get your extra vegetables by frying sliced bell peppers, or blanched green beans along with the onion.
Storage and freezing
My salt and pepper king prawns recipe is really best enjoyed fresh out of the pan because that’s how you get the crispy finish. I don’t recommend freezing.
Reheat – Add a splash of oil to a hot pan and fry for a few minutes until hot throughout.
Make ahead – Prepare all the ingredients up to step 3. Once coated in the cornflour mix, cook the prawns immediately.
Hints and tips
- I like to use a tub with a sealable lid to make the coating because it’s so much easier that way. You can shake the flour and spices together, and then shake the prawns in the coating mix. It contains any mess, which makes life easier all round.
- Make sure you allow the oil to drain off the prawns in a piece of kitchen paper, for a crispy coating that isn’t greasy.
Five spice is an East Asian blend of spices popular in China, Taiwan, Vietnam and beyond. It consists of star anise, fennel seed, Szechuan pepper, clove and cinnamon. Warm and earthy, it lends a distinctive character to Chinese dishes. The five spices may originally have related to the five elements of traditional Chinese philosophy.
Although there is almost no difference in the flavour or preparation, these are different species. It’s hard to define the differences, though, because there is so much overlap. Shrimp are generally smaller and live mostly in salt water, while prawns are likely to be bigger and live in fresh water. If you want to make salt and pepper shrimp, just follow the recipe, but don’t overcook them if they are small.
Usage differs between the UK and US too.
Cornflour should be gluten free but check your brand is suitable just in case. If the cornflour is safe, the recipe is safe. It is best to read every label to be safe.
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- Salt and Pepper Chips – These fries are a naughty but nice takeaway treat that’s not so naughty made at home.
- Salt and Pepper Chicken – Tender, juicy chicken coated with a crispy seasoning.
- Chinese Rice – Lightly spiced, this Asian-inspired rice goes with everything. You can even make it in the pressure cooker.
- Sticky Asian Chicken Wings – Just like take out, but homemade in 45 minutes with 3 minutes hands on time,
- Sticky Soy Chicken – Delicious, with just four ingredients.
- Chicken Chow Mein – Takeout style at home.
Salt and Pepper Prawns (Shrimp)
- 1 small onion
- 2 spring onions (scallions)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 red chilli
- 300 g prawns (ready prepared, cooked)
- 2 tbsp cornflour ( a scant ¼ cup corn starch)
- ½ tbsp sea salt
- ½ tbsp Chinese five spice mix
- ½ tbsp black pepper (medium ground)
- 1 tsp Sichuan pepper
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- Peel, top and tail the onion and then cut into quarter inch chunks.1 small onion
- Top and tail the spring onions, and peel off any tough, or dried off outer layers. Cut one lengthwise into strips and the other crosswise into slices2 spring onions
- Peel and finely chop the garlic.1 clove garlic
- Remove seeds and membrane from the chilli and finely chop.1 red chilli
- Remove the prawns or shrimp from their packet and pat with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture.300 g prawns
- Mix the cornflour (corn starch) and the five spice, salt, black pepper and Sichuan pepper together thoroughly in a container big enough to take the prawns. If you use a sealable plastic tub, you can shake to mix and then shake again to coat.2 tbsp cornflour, ½ tbsp sea salt, ½ tbsp Chinese five spice mix, ½ tbsp black pepper, 1 tsp Sichuan pepper
- Add the prawns to the flour mixture and coat well.
- Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan over a medium-high heat. When it is very hot, add one prawn to test. If it sizzles, the oil is hot enough. You can now add the rest of the prawns. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Don't stir.3 tbsp vegetable oil
- Once cooked, transfer the prawns to a double layer of kitchen paper on a plate or bowl to soak up some of the oil.
- Drain most of the oil from the pan before adding the onions. Fry until golden and starting to crisp. Loosen any bits of coating left in the pan, as you want to include these in the dish.
- Add the spring onion, chilli and garlic and cook for another minute.
- Finally, return the prawns to the pan and cook for another couple of minutes to ensure they are piping hot. Then serve and enjoy.
- Either large prawns or shrimp will do depending what you call them!
- Nutrition calculated with one tablespoon of oil
- This recipe is 10 Weight Watchers Points per portion