Vegan fried shrimp is perfect for a fancy dinner at home – as an appetizer or entrée. Hearts of palm is cut into bite-sized pieces, breaded in seasoned panko breadcrumbs, and fried until beautifully crisp. Serve it with cocktail sauce for dipping.
At one time in my life, I would have listed fried shrimp as one of my top 5 favorite foods. With crispy panko coating and cocktail sauce for dipping, it was a regular pick for birthday dinners.
I’m not alone in that. Fried shrimp is one of the most popular foods for date nights and celebratory meals.
Once I went vegan, I assumed that experience was behind me. After all, vegetarians and vegans don’t eat fish or other sea life.
But then I realized that a lot of the experience of eating shrimp comes down to breading, sauce, and texture. Shrimp itself doesn’t have a ton of flavor outside of vague fishiness. However, add some Old Bay seasoning, breading, and cocktail sauce with zingy horseradish, and that all changes.
Luckily, it’s easy to do all of those things with plant-based ingredients. That makes a vegan fried shrimp experience not far out of reach.
So what about the “shrimp” itself? While there are store-bought vegan shrimp on the market, I prefer to use hearts of palm. Those packaged vegan shrimp are often made with konjac, and that’s not my favorite. I find it to be rubbery.
However, hearts of palm have a lovely toothsome texture and light briny flavor. (If you like jarred artichoke hearts, you’ll enjoy hearts of palm.)
Hearts of palm are harvested from the inner core of certain palm trees. I became a fan of the ingredient about a decade ago when I started using it to make vegan ceviche.
Where can you find hearts of palm?
You can find hearts of palm in cans, jars, or vacuum packaging in the center aisles of grocery stores. They’re often next to the artichoke hearts and other brined foods.
Note that hearts of palm vary in width. The organic hearts of palm I used for these pictures is a little skinnier than most, which is ideal as far as breading to filling ratio. But any will work for this recipe.
Make cocktail sauce from scratch or buy jarred
As far as I’m concerned, cocktail sauce is a must to really bring this experience home. Homemade cocktail sauce is an easy recipe to make ahead of time.
Or if you prefer, vegan cocktail sauce is readily available in most grocery stores. Trader Joe’s has a cocktail sauce that happens to be vegan. That’s what I usually buy when I don’t feel like making my own.
When looking for cocktail sauces, check the ingredients. Some brands use non-vegan Worcestershire sauce, which includes anchovies.
How to make fried vegan shrimp
Drain a 14-ounce can or jar of hearts of palm. (The drained weight is 7.7 ounces.) Pat the hearts of palm dry on a clean kitchen towel.
Cut the hearts of palm into roughly ½ to 1-inch pieces. That’s about 3 to 5 pieces per standard-sized sticks.
Make a breading station with the following:
- A plate with all-purpose flour
- A small bowl with a mix of flour and non-dairy milk
- A plate with panko breadcrumbs seasoned with Old Bay seasoning
One piece at a time, roll the hearts of palm in flour.
Dip it in the flour/non-dairy milk mixture.
Then coat it in seasoned breadcrumbs.
Fry in a skillet with oil at a medium-high heat for about four minutes, turning as it browns.
When the hearts of palm is brown all over, move it to a towel-lined plate to drain. Season with a couple more dashes of Old Bay seasoning.
If you’d like to serve the vegan shrimp on the side of a cocktail glass as shown, carefully make a small cut into the side of a few of the breaded & fried hearts of palm. Be careful not to cut all the way through.
Put sauce in a cocktail glass. Then place the vegan shrimp on the side through the slits.
Make it your own
You can make this dish your own by varying the seasonings. Instead of Old Bay seasoning use any of the following:
- Cajun seasoning salt
- Granulated onion
- Granulated garlic
- Salt & pepper
- Nori flakes for added fishiness
Instead of serving vegan shrimp with cocktail sauce, serve it with lemon wedges, malt vinegar, lemon dill aioli like in my vegan crab cakes, or sriracha mayo like in my beer battered fried green tomatoes.
What to serve with it
Vegan fried shrimp is a terrific appetizer all on its own. You can add it to tacos by replacing the Gardein in these vegan fish tacos. Or it can be a main course with any of the following:
- Spinach salad with strawberries
- Corn chowder
- Buffalo grilled corn
- Lemony potatoes or baked potato
- Roasted cabbage or coleslaw
- Pesto rice
- Roasted asparagus with chickpeas & spinach
- Buttery garlic noodles with red wine mushrooms
- Sautéed kale with garlic
How to reheat
To reheat fried hearts of palm, I recommend using the air fryer for the crispiest coating. In fact, it’s virtually indistinguishable from when it’s freshly made.
To reheat, air fry at 375 degrees for 5 minutes, stopping once to carefully turn the pieces.
Fried vegan shrimp
- Put the drained hearts of palm on a clean kitchen towel and pat dry.
- Move the hearts of palm to a cutting board. Cut them into ¾ to 1-inch long pieces. From a standard can, you'll get 3 to 5 "shrimp" per each stick of hearts of palm, depending on the thickness of each one.*
- Now it's time to make a breading station. Put 2 Tablespoons of flour on a dinner plate. Put the remaining Tablespoon of flour in a small bowl with non-dairy milk. Use a fork or whisk to evenly combine it and get out any lumps. Finally, put ¼ cup of panko breadcrumbs on a plate with ½ teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning. Use your fingers to evenly combine the seasoning throughout the breadcrumbs.
- Before you begin breading the hearts of palm, bring a non-stick skillet to a medium high heat with about a half inch of organic canola oil (or your preferred neutral-flavored high-heat oil).
- While the oil heats, bread the hearts of palm. One at a time, roll a piece of heart of palm in the flour until it's covered. Tap it on the side of the plate to remove any excess. Then dip it into the milk mixture. Tap it on the side to remove any excess. Finally, roll it in the seasoned panko breadcrumbs. (As you're breading the hearts of palm, if you run out of breadcrumbs, put another ¼ cup on the plate, along with an additional ½ teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning.)Set the breaded heart of palm on a clean plate, and continue until all of the pieces are breaded.
- Once all of the hearts of palm are breaded, drop a breadcrumb into the oil in the skillet. If oil immediately bubbles around it, it’s ready for frying.
- Put the hearts of palm into the oil (working in batches, if necessary, so as to not overcrowd). Fry for about 4 minutes, rotating the hearts of palm as they brown, so that every part is fried. If you're working in batches, the oil will continue to get hotter as you cook. So subsequent rounds may not take quite as long to cook. Lower the heat, if needed. Once they are brown all over, they are done.
- Once the hearts of palm are brown all over, move them to a clean, towel-lined plate to drain.
- Shake more Old Bay seasoning on the breaded hearts of palm while it's still hot. Serve with cocktail sauce for dipping.
- Optional: If you’d like to serve the vegan shrimp on the side of a cocktail glass, carefully make a small cut into the side of a few of the breaded & fried hearts of palm. Be careful not to cut all the way through. Then put cocktail sauce into the glass, and place the vegan shrimp on the side through the slits.
Content, recipe, and photos updated January 5, 2021. Originally posted October 29, 2012. This breaded hearts of palm was originally a recipe for a Doctor Who-themed fish fingers & custard.