Honey walnut shrimp has become a Chinese banquet dinner and takeout classic in the US. I know many of you love honey walnut shrimp, but that most of you also probably hate deep-frying at home. I knew I had to test a shallow-frying recipe to make this a recipe you'd want to make at home!
Benefits of shallow-frying honey walnut shrimp
What's the difference between shallow-frying and deep-frying? Here are some benefits to shallow-frying:
The oil heats up faster
Since shallow-frying shrimp only requires a little more than enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan, the oil heats up to temperature in just a few minutes. One of the (many!) annoying things about deep-frying at home is that it can take a while to heat up a whole pot of oil.
Easier cleanup and less oil to reuse
Every time I finish deep-frying at home, I strain the oil to reuse it for other cooking. However, most of the time I don't like using oil that's been fried in for other recipes, as it typically tastes of fried food. Shallow-frying will reduce that amount and make it easier to use up!
My best tips for shallow-frying honey walnut shrimp
As much as I prefer shallow-frying over deep-frying at home, there is one advantage to deep-frying: it's better at maintaining the hot temperature of the oil, which yields the crispiest fried food without greasiness. Knowing this, here are a few tips I recommend:
Making sure the oil is HOT enough (375F-400F) will prevent greasy and soggy fried shrimp
I learned this one the hard way! I highly recommend testing the oil temperature with a thermometer. If you don't have one, test with a few drops of batter in the oil -- it should sizzle rapidly and excitedly. A gentle sizzle is not enough! On the other hand, if it browns instantly, the oil is too hot.
Fry in several separate batches -- don't overcrowd the pan
Once you add the shrimp to the oil, it'll instantly bring down the temperature. If you overcrowd the pan, it'll cool down the oil too much, resulting in greasy and soggy fried shrimp. Make sure to bring the oil temp back to 375F-400F between batches.
Customizing this honey walnut shrimp recipe to your preferences
There are tons of honey walnut shrimp recipes out there! The one I'm sharing here was created to my personal preferences: fried shrimp that's airy, crispy, and dressed lightly in a rich sauce. If your preferences are different, here's what you can modify:
For a crunchier, harder shell on the fried shrimp
Cold beer or carbonated water in the batter, as recommended here, will yield the lightest and crispiest fry just like tempura. If you want a crunchier, harder shell, use regular, cold water! The benefits of a crunchier and harder shell are that it can potentially stay crunchier for a longer period of time.
For a thicker shell on the fried shrimp
For my honey walnut shrimp, I like it when I can still see the shrimp through the batter. Some people prefer the thicker, all opaque shell though (think Panda Express honey walnut shrimp). If you prefer a thicker crust on the shrimp, reduce the liquid in the batter by 1 tbsp. The thicker batter will coat the shrimp more generously and yield a thicker fried crust.
For fried shrimp that stays crunchy for longer after dressing it in sauce
Honey walnut shrimp is best enjoyed immediately after cooking, because the fried crust on the shrimp will decrease in crispiness pretty quickly. Once you coat the shrimp in the honey-mayo sauce, it won't be as crispy.
If you want fried shrimp that stays crispier longer, even after it's dressed, I recommend reducing the lemon juice in the sauce recipe to keep the dressing thick. Personally, I prefer a thin and more acidic dressing because of its richness, even if it compromises on the crispiness a bit. Do what you like!
How to reheat honey walnut shrimp
If you don't plan to finish the dish in one sitting, I recommend only dressing the amount of shrimp you plan to eat. Store the undressed, fried shrimp separately from the sauce. To reheat, either air-fry the shrimp or pan-sear them in a bit of oil to get them crispy again.
Honey Walnut Shrimp (without deep-frying!)
- 18-20 jumbo shrimp peeled and deveined
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1/16 teaspoon white pepper
- neutral oil for frying
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon neutral oil (avocado, canola, vegetable, etc.)
- 5 tablespoon cold beer, carbonated water, or water (beer or carbonated water will give a lighter and crisper texture; regular water will give a crunchier texture)
- 2 oz walnuts
- 2 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or white sugar)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoon mayo (use Japanese kewpie mayo for an extra rich flavor)
- 1 teaspoon sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1-2 teaspoon lemon juice (use less for a thicker sauce)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- sesame seeds
Prepare and marinade shrimp
- Make sure shrimp are cleaned, peeled, and deveined. If there isn't a cut along the backs of the shrimp already, make sure to carefully make that cut with a paring knife.18-20 jumbo shrimp
- Dry the shrimp well, then season with salt and white pepper. Set aside.¼ teaspoon salt, 1/16 teaspoon white pepper
Make the candied walnuts
- In a dry pan on low heat, toast the walnuts, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until lightly toasted. Remove from the pan.2 oz walnuts
- Add the water to the pan first, then the sugar and honey (if using). Honey will make the candied walnuts a bit stickier, but adds flavor. If you don't want to use honey, just use an extra tablespoon of sugar.1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 tablespoon honey, 2 tablespoon water
- Cook until it becomes a thick syrup texture. Turn off the heat and add in the toasted walnuts, and coat them evenly. Remove, and let cool (making sure the walnuts are not touching) on parchment paper for easy cleanup.
Make the shrimp batter and fry the shrimp
- In a bowl, mix all the ingredients of the batter together until well-incorporated. I like using cold beer for the light and crispy texture it'll give the fried shrimp; the same can be achieved with carbonated water. Regular water also works great and will give a slightly crunchier crust.¼ cup all purpose flour, 2 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon neutral oil, 5 tablespoon cold beer, carbonated water, or water
- To a clean pan on medium-high heat, add enough oil to fill up the bottom (about ¼ inch in height). Let the oil come to at least 375F before frying. If you don't have a thermometer, test with a few drops of batter -- it should rapidly bubble. If it browns instantly, it's too hot and you should reduce the heat a bit.neutral oil
- Mix the marinated shrimp into the batter. Gently shake off excess batter from each shrimp and add them into the hot oil. Make sure they're not touching, otherwise they'll stick. To ensure the oil stays hot and that you end up with the crispiest results, fry in 2-3 separate batches. Fry the shrimp 1-2 minutes on each side, or until lightly golden brown. Remove the shrimp, shake off any excess oil, then let cool on a wire rack.
Make the sauce and combine
- Mix all the sauce ingredients together. For a thicker sauce that will keep the shrimp crispier for longer, add less lemon juice. I personally prefer a slightly thinner sauce, but it does reduce the crispiness of the shrimp more quickly.2 tablespoon mayo, 1 teaspoon sweetened condensed milk, 1 teaspoon honey, 1-2 teaspoon lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Spoon some of the sauce (start with 1-2 spoonfuls) over the shrimp, and mix. Add more if desired.
- Finish by adding the candied walnuts, scallions, and sesame seeds.scallions, sesame seeds