Soft Taco

 “Don’t judge a taco by it’s price” – Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 

I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t like tacos.  They are quick make, easy to eat and super tasty.  While the origins of the taco are hard to pin down, the term “taco” can be traced back to the silver mines of Mexico in the 18th century.  Originally used to describe explosives wrapped in paper which were used to excavate silver ore, the word eventually became the name of the popular meal served to miners, a tortilla wrapped around meat filling.

Nowadays tacos can be both traditional or full of extreme ingredients and flavors.  From fast-food chains to high-end restaurants, chefs are pulling out all the stops to create exciting variations of this Mexican staple.

This recipe for Shrimp Tacos is full of fresh ingredients and bold flavors.  It works well in both hard or soft taco shells.  Slicing the onions and peppers, shredding the cheese, dicing tomatoes can all be done ahead of time to speed up the cooking time.

raw shrimp

Prepping the Shrimp: Start with one pound of whole shrimp (approximately 26-30 shrimp per pound).  Shrimp is typically frozen just after being caught, so using frozen shrimp vs. fresh shrimp will not affect the taste.  To defrost, leave shrimp in the refrigerator overnight.  If you are in a hurry, you can also put shrimp in colander and submerge in a bowl of cold water.  Let shrimp sit is cold water 15-20 minutes until thawed, changing the water half way through.

Once shrimp are thawed, you will need to peel and devein them.  If you are not sure how to do this, click here for a video showing the proper technique.  Make sure to rinse the shrimp in cold water and pat dry before tossing with seasoning.

taco mix 2

Shrimp Taco Seasoning Mix:  To make, you will need paprika, red pepper flakes, cumin, sea salt, ground pepper and maple sugar*.  Measure and whisk together all your dry ingredients in a small bowl.

Once the dry ingredients are blended together thoroughly, add Worcestershire sauce and whisk to create a thick paste.  Don’t worry if it is clumpy!  Just spoon the mixture into a gallon-size plastic bag and add shrimp.  Seal the bag and toss gently, making sure all the shrimp are covered in seasoning.  The moisture from the shrimp will help thin the paste and allows the spices to stick.

* I love maple sugar and believe it is a must have ingredient in any kitchen, but it is not available in all supermarkets.  If you can’t find it don’t despair- just substitute 1/2 teaspoon of raw sugar into the dry ingredient mix and then add 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup with the Worcestershire sauce.  Keep an eye out for maple sugar at specialty markets and pick up for the next time.

You are now ready to cook!


Cooking: For the best results, use two skillets.  You want the flavor of each ingredients to stand out and the shrimp to have as much seasoning as possible.  Since they take more time to cook, start by sauteing your peppers and onions in a tablespoon grapeseed oil for about 5 minutes.  The vegetables will soften and the edges to start to brown.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, while you start on the shrimp.

Heat up a second (larger) skillet with 2 teaspoons of grapeseed oil.  Add the marinated shrimp and any extra spice mix from the bag.  Cook for 2 minutes on each side.  You will notice the shrimp turning white, indicating they are cooking.  Make sure to keep and eye on the shrimp and move them around so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  After 4 minutes, add the vegetables from your first pan and continue to saute for 2 more minutes.  The veggies will pick up any remaining spices from the bottom of pan for a subtle kick of flavor.

Taco standServe: Tacos can be messy which is why I love this taco rack from Crate and Barrel.  It makes prepping tacos a snap!  You can easily stuff, dress and serve them right from the rack.   Using a spoon or tongs, pile your warmed shells with some veggies, three shrimp a piece and garnish with diced tomatoes, cheese and cilantro.  The shrimp have so much flavor that you don’t need to add anything else.

Serve with a side of chips and guacamole  or a salad and enjoy!

Hard Taco


Shrimp Tacos

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 4

Serving Size: 2 tacos per person


    For the Tacos
  • 1 lb raw shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined
  • 8 taco shells, soft or hard
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 medium yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (for vegetables)
  • 2 teaspoon grapeseed oil (for shrimp)
  • Seasoning Rub
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Garnishes
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F
  2. Rinse peeled and deveined shrimp and pat dry with paper towel.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together cumin, pepper, sea salt, maple sugar, red pepper flakes and paprika.
  4. Add Worcestershire sauce and whisk to create a thick paste.
  5. Put seasoning mix in a one-gallon plastic bag and add shrimp. Toss in bag until all shrimp are coated with seasoning.
  6. If using hard shell tacos, place shells on backing sheet and warm in oven for 6 mins.
  7. While shells are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil in a medium sized skillet. Add onions and peppers and saute until vegetables start to soften and edges are browning, approx 5 mins.
  8. In a second (larger) skillet, warm 1 1/2 teaspoons grapeseed oil. Add shrimp and cook 2 minutes on each side. Shrimp will turn white and seasoning will start to blacken.
  9. After the shrimp have cooked for 4 minutes, add the peppers and onions to the shrimp skillet and continue to saute for an additional 2 minutes, lightly coating the vegetables with the seasoning mix. Remove from shrimp and vegetables from heat and transfer to a bowl to serve.
  10. Fill taco shell with a spoonful of onions and peppers. Top with 3-4 shrimp per shell. Sprinkle with diced tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and chopped cilantro.


*If you are using soft shell tacos, wrap shells in paper towel and warm in microwave for 30 seconds before serving. There is no need to turn on oven.

*If maple sugar is not available, substitute 1/2 teaspoon of raw sugar into the dry mix and add 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup with the Worcestershire sauce.

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