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This recipe for spicy zesty Air Fryer Cajun Shrimp is going to be a new family favorite! The bold flavors come from a house-made cajun spice mix so you know the heat is customizable for every palate. Serve these juicy shrimp as an appetizer or a main dish, there’s no wrong way to enjoy them!!
Plump fresh shrimp are tossed with my homemade cajun seasoning mix and the air fryer cooks the shrimp to juicy succulent perfection. This easy shrimp recipe is so delicious you’ll make it as often as you can get away with it. And the shrimp cooks so quickly you can even make them on busy weeknights!
Living in Alaska we don’t have a LOT of chances to find Cajun Cuisine but we do have access to beautiful fresh shrimp. And I love to cook with them!
I was inspired to make these spicy shrimp by a spicy pasta dish at a local brew house and a friend’s love of shrimp and grits! It’s become one of our favorite shrimp recipes!
How to serve these shrimp
You can serve these delicious cajun shrimp in a variety of different ways! For main dishes, dinner or lunch, try serving them over creamy grits or polenta. Or make a spicy sauce and serve them over pasta.
Make cajun shrimp tacos or add the perfectly seasoned shrimp to lettuce wraps. Serve them over salads. And I suppose you can even make a spicy shrimp hoagie or grinder. Or make this beautiful Cajun Alfredo Sauce and serve these shrimp on top of a big bowl of pasta!
I enjoy them any way we make them.
For appetizers, you can serve a platter (or a cast iron skillet for looks!) of the best cajun shrimp with a little tub of toothpicks or appetizer picks. Or serve them with little toasts or crackers for a bigger bite.
What you need
- fresh or frozen shrimp(see notes below for tips on shrimp)
- light olive oil
- cayenne pepper
- smoked paprika
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- ground black pepper
- lemon wedge
- large bowl
- paper towels
- Basket Style Air Fryer
- digital thermometer
What kind of shrimp do I use?
I prefer to use shell-on shrimp, the easy peel variety with the vein removed. I thaw the bag overnight in the fridge, then rinse and peel them before preparing them for cooking. You can leave the tails on or remove them, that is a personal preference. One more thing to do before tossing them with oil and the blend of spices is to pat them completely dry with paper towels.
If you forget to thaw the shrimp beforehand you can easily thaw the shrimp by rinsing the shrimp in cool water for 10-15 minutes. Place shrimp in a colander in a large bowl and place in the sink. Fill with cool water and let the shrimp sit for 5 minutes. Drain and repeat two more times or until the shrimp are thawed.
If you love shrimp, like we love shrimp try these shrimp recipes
What Size Shrimp?
For the photos and recipe testing I used 21-25 shrimp per pound BUT you can use ANY size shrimp you prefer or happen to have on hand. Simply adjust your cooking time, more or less for different size shrimp.
If you preheat the air fryer as directed then bigger shrimp will take 8-10 minutes while smaller shrimp take about 4-6 minutes. Shake the pan for any size of shrimp halfway through the cooking time.
Using a basket-style air fryer means you don’t even need to lay them out in a single layer. The hot air swirling around plus giving them a little shake means the shrimp will easily cook through even when in a double layer.
I do recommend using a good digital thermometer so you avoid overcooking the shrimp. Overcooked shrimp are tough and rubbery. Cook shrimp just until they reach 120° on a digital thermometer.
How do I customize the spice blend?
You can add more or less of ANY of the spices and herbs in the mix. I like the ratio of herbs and spices just like it is but many people prefer LESS or NO cayenne pepper because they don’t like spicy foods. If the cayenne is too much for you leave it out, or switch it out with a pinch of red pepper flakes for a little less kick.
Many commercial cajun spice mixes do not contain smoked paprika but the flavor works really well with the other spices. You can leave it out and sub in extra paprika.
If you have leftovers
Store Leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat or enjoy chilled.
Cajun Shrimp in the Air Fryer
- 1 pound shrimp see post for notes on shrimp
- 1 TBSP light olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/8 tsp cayenne* *optional
- 1/4 lemon* *optional
- peel shrimp if needed, rinse, and pat dry with paper towels
- preheat the air fryer at 400° for 5 minutes
- place shrimp in bowl and drizzle with oil, toss to coat
- mix spices together
- sprinkle half the spices over the shrimp and toss to coat
- add the remaining spices and toss to coat again
- when the air fryer is preheated add the shrimp to the basket
- air fry on 400° for 8 minutes, shaking after 4 minutes to redistribute the shrimp
- continue cooking on 400° for 4 minutes or until a digital thermometer reads a finished temperature of 120°
- squeeze the lemon over the shrimp before serving if using
- serve cajun shrimp hot or cold or as desired