Saffron Citrus Shrimp Salad Recipe

Shrimp salad is another salad to add to your repertoire of dishes like chicken salad, tuna salad, and pasta salad, all of which are popular options for easy meals and warm-weather picnics. Like the others, shrimp salad can be made in countless ways, from classic versions with boiled shrimp and mayonnaise to culinary creations with grilled shrimp, unique dressings, and additions like beets, charred corn, or cactus.

Recipe developer Michelle Bottalico has created a shrimp salad that takes advantage of the bright and aromatic pairing of citrus and saffron that goes well with shrimp. Orange is the citrus of choice for this dish, with a little added lemon to boost it. The shrimp are first marinated with saffron broth, orange and lemon juices, garlic, and spices. Zesty citrus complements the rich flavor of the marinated shrimp, and saffron's complex flavor profile is a real treat. Although it's more expensive than other spices, enjoying dishes like this is one of the reasons you should keep saffron in your pantry.

Orange segments, sliced fennel, and shallot are mixed with the shrimp before it's served on a bed of lettuce and dressed with a vinaigrette that contains more orange juice as well as orange zest to give it a pop that plays well with the included honey's sweetness. A garnish of mint leaves adds brightness before you serve this beautiful salad.

Gather your saffron citrus shrimp salad ingredients

For this recipe you will use raw shrimp, which can be fresh or frozen. If you use frozen shrimp, make sure you thaw it first. For the shrimp marinade, you'll need saffron threads, warm water, olive oil, freshly squeezed orange juice, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, salt, and black pepper, and you'll need some additional olive oil for frying the shrimp.

The orange vinaigrette calls for extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, more freshly squeezed orange juice, honey, orange zest (which should be organic to avoided treated peels), and salt. You'll use fennel, orange segments, and shallot for the additional salad ingredients. Have lettuce and mint leaves on hand for serving. Any kind of lettuce will be fine here — we used spring mix in the photos, but spinach, arugula, Romaine, or baby kale are other options.

Step 1: Make the saffron broth

Using your fingertips, gently crush the saffron threads before placing them in a small bowl with the warm water and stirring gently to mix. Cover the bowl and let it steep for 10 minutes.

Step 2: Make the marinade

Make the marinade: Place the olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, salt, black pepper, and saffron water in a large mixing bowl and whisk well.

Step 3: Marinate the shrimp

Add the shrimp and gently mix to coat it evenly. Let the bowl sit for 30 minutes to marinate.

Step 4: Heat the oil

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, preferably cast iron.

Step 5: Place half of the shrimp in the pan

Place half of the shrimp in the hot pan in a single layer. Don't add extra marinade beyond what is coating the shrimp, or it could burn.

Step 6: Fry the shrimp

Fry the shrimp for 2–3 minutes per side, until opaque.

Step 7: Fry the remaining shrimp

Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside before frying the remaining shrimp, adding a little oil to the pan between batches if it seems too dry. Do not add any extra marinade.

Step 8: Make the salad dressing

Make the salad dressing: Combine the olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, honey, orange zest, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk well.

Step 9: Toss the salad

Place the shrimp, fennel, chopped orange segments, and shallot in a large bowl. Toss to mix.

Step 10: Plate and dress the salad

Arrange the lettuce on 4 salad plates, divide the shrimp mixture evenly on top of the lettuce, and drizzle with dressing.

Step 11: Garnish and serve the saffron citrus shrimp salad

Garnish with mint to serve.

What are some tips for marinating and cooking shrimp for a salad?

Marinating shrimp before cooking is an easy way to infuse it with even more flavor. Make sure you use raw shrimp for this recipe because cooked shrimp will not absorb the marinade as well. You can use frozen raw shrimp if you prefer, but make sure they are fully defrosted before placing them in the marinade.

As for how long to marinate shrimp, 30 minutes max is best for this recipe. Shrimp can technically be marinated for up to 1–2 hours, but if the marinade contains acidic ingredients, that's too long. Acids cause the proteins in shrimp to denature over time, essentially cooking the fish; if it pre-cooks, it can get tough and rubbery after the cooking time in the pan. Long marination also turns shrimp mushy. An important tip: Don't reuse any leftover shrimp marinade, because the raw fish juices can cause food-borne illness. You can use it as a sauce if you simmer it for 10 minutes first.

While the shrimp in this recipe are pan-fried, you can opt to broil, bake, or grill them on skewers. Broiling takes about 5 minutes, but check them at 3–4 minutes to make sure they don't overcook. Baking takes 4–6 minutes at 400 F, and grilling takes about 2 minutes per side.

What does saffron add to this shrimp salad, and how do you use the spice?

Saffron is a spice now cultivated mostly in Iran and Spain and appreciated for its unique flavor and aroma. The dry saffron threads you see in stores are hand-picked stigmas from the Crocus Sativus flower. There are only three stigmas per flower, and they must be picked by hand during the three-week period each year that the flowers are in bloom. It takes about 75,000 stigmas to make up one pound of saffron. The labor involved in harvesting it makes saffron the world's most expensive spice. The good news is a little goes a long way. In fact, using too much saffron can overwhelm the dish and make it bitter.

Saffron pairs well with seafood, adding not just a delicious flavor to dishes but also a beautiful, golden color. You may be familiar with two well-known examples of this pairing: seafood paella and bouillabaisse. The complex flavor of the spice is often described as floral, earthy, slightly sweet, and warm.

To use saffron threads in shrimp salad (as well as in many other dishes), you'll need to steep the threads in hot water first to draw out the flavor. Just crush the threads into a small bowl of hot water with your fingertips, give it a quick stir, and let it sit, covered, for about 10 minutes before pouring it into the shrimp marinade.

Saffron Citrus Shrimp Salad Recipe
5 from 19 ratings
Perfect for springtime and summer, this shrimp salad showcases the bright flavors of orange, saffron, and fresh fennel alongside the pan-fried shellfish.
Prep Time
47
minutes
Cook Time
12
minutes
Servings
4
servings
saffron shrimp salad on dish
Total time: 59 minutes
Ingredients
  • For the marinated shrimp
  • ½ pinch saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • ½ tablespoon + 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • For the dressing
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons organic orange zest
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • For the salad
  • ½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium navel orange, segmented and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 cup spring mix, or an equal amount of other lettuce
  • 8 mint leaves
Directions
  1. Using your fingertips, gently crush the saffron threads before placing them in a small bowl with the warm water and stirring gently to mix. Cover the bowl and let it steep for 10 minutes.
  2. Make the marinade: Place the olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, salt, black pepper, and saffron water in a large mixing bowl and whisk well.
  3. Add the shrimp and gently mix to coat it evenly. Let the bowl sit for 30 minutes to marinate.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, preferably cast iron.
  5. Place half of the shrimp in the hot pan in a single layer. Don't add extra marinade beyond what is coating the shrimp, or it could burn.
  6. Fry the shrimp for 2–3 minutes per side, until opaque.
  7. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside before frying the remaining shrimp, adding a little oil to the pan between batches if it seems too dry. Do not add any extra marinade.
  8. Make the salad dressing: Combine the olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, honey, orange zest, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk well.
  9. Place the shrimp, fennel, chopped orange segments, and shallot in a large bowl. Toss to mix.
  10. Arrange the lettuce on 4 salad plates, divide the shrimp mixture evenly on top of the lettuce, and drizzle with dressing.
  11. Garnish with mint to serve.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 260
Total Fat 12.7 g
Saturated Fat 1.8 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 182.6 mg
Total Carbohydrates 14.2 g
Dietary Fiber 2.3 g
Total Sugars 9.3 g
Sodium 581.4 mg
Protein 24.2 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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