Don't Toss Shrimp Heads, Transform Them Into A Flavor-Packed Seasoning

Much like shells, shrimp heads boast a ton of flavor. So, rather than let these tasty scraps go to waste, why not give them a second life? While they can be saved for stock or used to craft a crispy snack, another creative way to transform shrimp heads is to repurpose them into a super savory seasoning perfect for elevating a myriad of recipes.

Making shrimp seasoning, or more aptly, shrimp powder is a creative way to combat needless food waste. It's also cost-effective and nearly effortless to make. However, the biggest benefit of making shrimp seasoning lies within its bold profile. Shrimp powder is richly savory with a briny saltiness and subtle nuttiness. Along with emphasizing fishiness in shrimp-centric dishes, the rust-colored powder can also underline umami in other dishes. Plus, it even provides layers of flavor, increasing overall complexity.

The process for crafting the savory powder is straightforward. After giving hollow shrimp heads a rinse under running water and thoroughly draining, place them on a baking sheet. Since the goal is to dehydrate the shells without burning them, opting for a low and slow approach is ideal. We recommend baking shrimp heads at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour (potentially, longer) until they're totally dry and borderline brittle. Once the crisp heads have cooled, add them to a spice grinder and pulse them into a fine dust. Just like that, the savory shrimp seasoning is ready to use!

A pinch of shrimp powder can improve any dish

The beauty of making shrimp seasoning from scratch is that it can be customized exactly to your liking. Though even the most basic powder offers an abundance of flavor, introducing other dried herbs and spices like cayenne, smoked paprika, onion powder, or thyme can add another dimension of depth. Regardless of how you decide to modify your seasoning, remember to use it in a timely manner and to store it properly — we recommend keeping it in the freezer — to guarantee optimal freshness.

When it comes to using shrimp head powder, less is more. Similar to other umami-enhancing condiments such as fish sauce or anchovy paste, shrimp powder should play a modest role in recipes given its pronounced flavor and fragrance. A light-handed sprinkle is usually all it takes to accentuate umami and amplify flavor in a dish. That said, more powder can also be added should you want to impart more savory, shrimp-y goodness.

As for the recipes that benefit from a pinch of powder, chowders and laksas laden with seafood can be improved much like shrimp-forward pasta dishes, hearty gumbos, or a tartare. Otherwise, the umami-rich seasoning can be a delicious addition to anything from chicken fried rice to a butternut squash stir-fry. A sprinkle can be the key to better tasting sandwiches and salads. With so many ways to experiment, shrimp head seasoning is sure to become your go-to ingredient when recipes are in need of a revamp!