Japanese Starter: Shrimp Tempura Recipe

Contrary to what many believe, tempura isn’t a style of cooking that originated in Japan. In fact, it made its way over to the country through the Portugese Jesuit missionaries who arrived during the sixteenth century. since then, of course, tempura has grown and evolved to form its own decidedly Japanese dish. I wanted to go ahead and learn how to create my own tempura at home. I wanted the batter to come out perfectly crisp, and the shrimp inside to come out perfectly cooked and sweet. The secret to this recipe was using a high cooking temperature that lowered the amount of grease from the tempura. We also added vodka to the batter instead of water, which was important to how crisp it came out. Best of all, this batter can be used for other tempura recipes like veggies. For a small side with this dish, I would highly recommend some grated pickled daikon if you can find it. Delicious! Keep reading below for this excellent shrimp tempura recipe!


Photo: Flickr user Hajime Nakano

Shrimp Tempura

Serves 4


  • 3 quarts vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs colossal shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 cup seltzer water
  • kosher salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 200F. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, clip on a candy thermometer and heat the oil to 385F (about 20 minutes).
  2. While the oil heats, make 2 shallow cuts about 1/4″ deep on the underside of each shrimp. Whisk together the flour and cornstarch in a large bowl. Whisk the egg and vodka together in a second large bowl. Whisk the seltzer into the egg mixture.
  3. When the oil reaches 385F, pour the liquid mixture into the bowl with the flour mixture and whisk gently until combined. Submerge half the shrimp in the batter, then remove the shrimp from the batter one at a time. Carefully place the shrimp in the oil and fry, stirring with whopsticks or a wooden skewer to keep the shrimp from sticking. Fry until the batter is a light golden brown (2 to 3 minutes). Use a slotted spoon to transfer the shrimp to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt, then place the shrimp on a wire rack set in a rimmed backing sheet and place in the oven.
  4. Return the oil to 400F and repeat with the remaining shrimp. Serve immediately.
  5. Enjoy!

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