When you find out how easy it is to make Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp in your Ninja Foodi, or any Air Fryer, you will be whipping up a batch all the time!
I have been a fan of Coconut Shrimp since the time, long, long, ago, when I took my first bite. WOW! The flavor combination is exceptional! It was also unexpected. I didn't think I would like it. I love coconut, but with shrimp? So odd to me. After experiencing my first Outback Coconut Shrimp, I was hooked.
I ended up ordering it whenever I saw it on the menu, I can't get enough of it! Very seldom did any restaurant beat the Outback Coconut Shrimp. Did Outback put Coconut Shrimp on the map? I'm thinking so!
Then, of course, we moved to a tiny town in Tennessee. I'm sure this popular appetizer shows up on restaurant menus in TN, but the issue is: there aren't any restaurants near us. I think the closest one is about 30 minutes away and... you guessed it! No coconut shrimp. Outback is about an hour away and, although worth the trip for this delicious appetizer, why not try to make them?
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It didn't enter my mind, for the longest time to try to make them myself and I'm certainly kicking myself now. The Ninja Foodi makes everything possible, right? Surely, it isn't that hard to make Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp in the Ninja Foodi? So, I set out on my little adventure of creating what turned out to be one of the EASIEST recipes I've ever created. AND, guess what? They are as good or BETTER than Outback Coconut Shrimp! Yep! Better for you, too! Win-Win!
Once you see the process and how fast you can whip these up at home, restaurants all over the world are going to hate me. Sales of coconut shrimp will plummet. The world will be turned upside down. Will Outback go out of business? Who's to say, but my world was turned right side up once again!
What are the Best Shrimp to use for Coconut Shrimp?
The best shrimp to use are the best quality shrimp you can find that are large or jumbo in size. Smaller shrimp will work, but they just aren't as easy to hold and dip in your favorite sauce. I won't get into the farm-raised versus wild caught discussion here because not everyone has the same access to quality shrimp.
In Maryland, I was always able to find wild caught shrimp or, in a pinch, US farm raised. Now, in TN, I have to use the shrimp in the bag, in the freezer section of Walmart. It is what it is. The Ninja Foodi Coconut Shrimp were still delicious!
I used EZ-Peel, deveined, shell on, raw shrimp. I thought they were large when I did the video, but I just checked and they are considered Jumbo with a count of 21-25 per pound. To me, that is large, not jumbo, but, I guess the rating for shrimp has changed just like so many other things.
The most important thing is to use RAW shrimp. Already cooked shrimp won't be the same. You want the shrimp to cook while the breading crisps. A perfectly cooked shrimp has a little snap when bitten and is not rubbery at all.
What type of Coconut should I use for Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp?
Shredded coconut that you get in a bag in the baking aisle of the grocery stores comes either sweetened or unsweetened. I could only find sweetened coconut in the store I went to, so, that is what I used and it was just fine. I had a friend test this recipe and she used unsweetened coconut and her coconut shrimp turned out perfect, too!
Sweetened coconut is soaked in a sweetener and therefore is moister than unsweetened. It doesn't matter which one you use, but you may need to decrease your temperature some if using unsweetened coconut because it is drier and tends to brown quicker. I would start out with the temperature stated in the recipe and just keep an eye on your shrimp and adjust the temperature and timing accordingly.
Shrimp cook very fast, so I wouldn't worry too much about them being undercooked. If you do want to cook them longer and your coconut is browning too much, decrease the temperature and switch to bake/roast. This will finish cooking the shrimp and will slow down the browning on the coating.
Can I make these ahead of time and freeze?
Yep! You sure can. The MOST IMPORTANT thing is to thaw your shrimp correctly. If you don't plan on cooking them right away and want to coat them and freeze, thaw the shrimp in the refrigerator. This ensures that they stay a certain temperature and don't fall into the danger zone where bacteria can multiply.
Once they are thawed, rinse them under cold water and remove the shells. Remember to leave the tail on. Coat them according to the instructions and lay them in a single layer on a parchment lined tray. Freeze completely and then put them in an airtight bag or container.
When you are ready to cook them, preheat the Ninja Foodi on broil (with the basket in) for 10 minutes. If you are using a different Air Fryer, use the hottest setting. Remove the coconut shrimp from the freezer and spritz the basket with oil. Place the shrimp in a single layer and spritz the tops with oil. Select the air crisp or air fry setting on 375ºF/190ºC. Air Fry for 3-4 minutes, flip and spritz with oil. Air Fry for another 3-4 minutes. The frozen coconut shrimp I air fried took 7 minutes total.
You can also thaw, coat, and cook them before freezing if desired. Personally, I think they are better frozen before cooking, but here are my suggestions if you want to cook them first.
Air fry the coconut shrimp on 375ºF/190ºC for 2 minutes, flip and spritz with oil. Air Fry 2 more minutes and remove.
Once cooked, allow the coconut shrimp to cool completely. Place them on a parchment lined tray and freeze. Once frozen, place them in an airtight bag or container.
To reheat, preheat the Ninja Foodi or Air Fryer on the highest setting (broil/grill for the Ninja Foodi) for 10 minutes with the basket in. Spritz the basket with oil and place the frozen, cooked, coconut shrimp in a single layer. Select the Air Fry or Air Crisp setting and set the temperature to 375ºF/190ºC. Air Fry or Air Crisp for 4 minutes. Flip the shrimp and spritz with oil. Air Fry another 2-3 minutes. Remove and Enjoy!
Can I make these Coconut Shrimp Low Carb?
Yep! Shrimp are essentially carb free, so the only things you need to change are the type of coconut you use, the flour, and the panko bread crumbs. Use unsweetened coconut and, instead of panko, you can use almond flour or crushed up pork rinds to mix with the coconut. I would use almond flour instead of regular flour or whatever flour substitute you like.
I'm sure there are many other substitutes for the bread crumbs, but I have had really great success with using a combination of almond flour & finely crushed pork rinds. That way, I boost the protein a bit, too!
Let me know if you have any other Low Carb substitutions you like to use! I'm always interested in adapting recipes to decrease the carb count!
What do I serve with Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp?
While coconut shrimp are mostly served as an appetizer, you can make them a full meal! Simply serve with a side salad and a great dipping sauce!
I decided to go in a different direction with the dipping sauce I used and it is PERFECT! Traditionally, coconut shrimp is served with a sweet and sour (sometimes spicy) sauce that is made from a sweet chili sauce and apricot preserves or even orange marmalade.
I had some opened pineapple that I need to use up, so I whipped up a Pineapple Sweet & Sour Sauce in my Ninja Foodi Cold & Hot Blender. Oh my goodness... it was better than I ever imagined! Better than Outback's dipping sauce and that is saying something!
If you think about it, what is the yang to coconut's yin? Pineapple! There you go. Why people think orange or apricots is a better match up is beyond me. Hey, maybe we can put this Air Fryer Coconut Shirimp with Pineapple Sweet & Sour Dipping Sauce on the map?
We could, you know. Just share it on every form of social media and, of course, make it and then talk about it. Can you imagine? We could change the course of coconut shrimp forever. Who needs deep fried coconut shrimp anyway? Not, us. We have an air fryer. We also have a better dipping sauce. So there, Outback, take that!
We can make Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp that is BETTER than Outback's Coconut Shrimp WITH a better dipping sauce!
How to make Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp
It is so easy, you will be amazed. The ingredients are simple, the technique is simple, and they are quick to make. LOVE IT!
The first thing you want to do is thaw your shrimp if they are frozen. There are a couple of ways to do this, but IF you are breading and cooking them right away, the fastest way is to run cold water over them while they are in a strainer. They will thaw in a matter of minutes.
If you are planning on breading them and freezing them to cook later, please thaw them in the refrigerator for safety reasons.
While the shrimp are thawing, get your breading station ready. For this recipe, I found it easiest to use a small bowl for the flour and egg. Since we want to dip the shrimp in the flour and egg and aren't using a large amount, the shallow coating trays aren't the best choice. I did use a coating tray for the panko and coconut mixture though and that worked great.
Lightly beat one egg in a small bowl. Place flour into another small bowl. Combine the panko and coconut in a coating tray or shallow container.
Once the shrimp have thawed, peel and devein them, if needed. Remember to leave the tails on, so you have something to hold onto when dipping!
Now is a good time to get the Ninja Foodi or Air Fryer preheating. You want to do this with the basket in, so it heats up, as well. I set the Ninja Foodi on broil for 10 minutes. Use whatever is the hottest setting for the appliance you are using.
Dip each shrimp in the flour and lightly coat the entire shrimp. Next, dip the shrimp in the beaten egg. You want to try to cover all the flour with the egg mixture so the coconut and panko really sticks. Finally, coat with the mixture of coconut and panko and set on a tray until you are ready to air fry them.
Once the air fryer has preheated, spritz the basket with the oil of your choice and place the shrimp in the basket in a single layer. I found that you can fit about 8 jumbo shrimp just fine in the Ninja Foodi basket. Spritz the top of the coconut shrimp with oil. Select the Air Crisp or Air Fry setting on 375ºF/190ºC and set the time for 10 minutes.
IMPORTANT! It seldom takes 10 minutes to finish cooking the coconut shrimp and it is important to check on them every 2 minutes.
After about 2-3 minutes, check on them and if the coconut is getting to brown, lower the heat one step down. I flipped mine at 4 minutes, gave another spritz and cooked 2 more minutes and they were done. I did not have to decrease my temperature, but all air fryers will be different. Keep an eye on the coconut shrimp and adjust temperature and time based on how they are looking.
Remove the coconut shrimp and set them on a cooling rack until you are ready to serve. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce! My favorite is this Pineapple Sweet & Sour Sauce!
Ninja Foodi Coconut Shrimp ~ Air Fryer Recipe
- Air Fryer
- 8 large Shrimp
- ½ cup sweetened coconut
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- ¼ cup flour all purpose
- oil of choice for spritzing
- Combine the panko and coconut in a shallow tray. Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl. Add the flour to a small bowl. Thaw your shrimp if needed.
- Preheat the Ninja Foodi on Broil or preheat your air fryer on the highest temperature setting for 10 minutes. Make sure the basket is inside during the preheating.
- Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail on. Dip the shrimp into the flour so it has a light coating. Dip into the egg and then coat with the panko and coconut mixture. Set aside until all are coated.
- Spritz the basket with the oil of your choice and lay the shrimp in a single layer on the bottom of the basket. Spritz the top of the shrimp with oil. Put the TenderCrisp lid and set the Air Crisp to 375°F/190°C. Air Crisp for about 4 minutes and Flip. Spritz again with oil and Air Crisp an additional 2-4 minutes. Decrease your temperature if the coconut is getting too brown.
- Serve & Enjoy!
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Seeing the need for easy, delicious, and high quality recipes, she is focusing all of her efforts creating recipes specifically for the Ninja Foodi. Her recipes are easy for the home cook to follow and provide step-by-step instructions.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can.
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