April 24, 2023

Vegan Recipe Review: Coconut "Shrimp"

I haven't done a recipe review in a while, mainly because I haven't had time to try out new recipes. Yesterday, Jerry and I spent most of the day working on spring cleaning stuff. I was really hungry and we couldn't wait to sit down and eat! But I had no idea what to make. I grabbed this recipe from the printer (I printed it a while ago and forgot it was there until I was cleaning). I realized that I had all of the ingredients on hand and I figured I'd give it a try.

I wasn't sure if I'd be posting about it because honestly, I was very skeptical about how it would turn out. Vegan shrimp? But I always love to try new things.

I was never a big seafood fan (aside from my dad's fried perch), but I did like shrimp. And my favorite shrimp was the coconut shrimp at Red Lobster. I knew this probably wouldn't be quite the same without the piƱa colada-like sauce at Red Lobster, but if it tasted good, I'd be happy.

I got this recipe from Sam Turnbull's site, It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken. I've mentioned before that her recipes are always a big hit or miss for me--I either really love it or definitely won't try it again. You can find the recipe on her site here. (I'll link to it again at the end of the post)

First, the ingredients:

flaxseed, unsweetened shredded coconut, panko bread crumbs, flour, white miso paste, paprika, garlic powder, lemon juice, vegetable broth, salt, pepper, and soy curls

The "shrimp" is actually just soy curls (I've been using soy curls for a while now and we really like them). First, I sorted through the soy curls to pick out any that somewhat-resembled the shape of shrimp. I needed to get two ounces (dry) of them, so I wasn't very picky about what shape they were! Two ounces is only 1/4 of a bag, and these went a LONG way--I was surprised at how much this made.

Then I mixed together the marinade ingredients: miso paste, paprika, garlic powder, vegetable broth (I used a cup of water + a teaspoon of vegetable bouillon), salt, and pepper. The recipe didn't specify to use hot water, but I know from experience that soaking soy curls works much better with hot water. I put the soy curls in with the marinade and set it aside while I assembled the breading bowls.

There are three bowls: one with flour and pepper; another with water and flaxseed; and the third with panko bread crumbs and coconut.

The recipe suggested using chopsticks for each bowl so that they don't get too messy going from station to station--I thought that was clever!

...in theory, haha. First, I'm not very efficient with chopsticks. I can bring food to mouth with them if I have to, but trying to move pieces around in a timely manner just wasn't working. Also, the chopsticks got pretty messy somehow as well, so I eventually just started using my fingers. Much messier, but faster and easier.

I'd only used hot water for the soy curls and not boiling water like I usually do (boiling water makes the soy curls soak it up much faster). I thought the hot water would work here, but I wasn't too sure about it when I felt them--they still seemed pretty firm. I even let them soak a little longer. They were firmer than I usually make them and I thought that may ruin the dish completely. However, I just went along with the rest of the instructions.

First, you coat the curls in the flour + pepper mixture. Then you dip them in the flaxseed mixture. Then you coat them with the panko + coconut mixture. (Note: I really thought the flaxseed "egg" would be an odd choice for this recipe--but that was not the case. The pieces of flaxseed stayed at the bottom of the bowl, so the soy curls didn't pick much of it up.)

After about 10 minutes, I had a large plate full of the breaded soy curls.

Next, you heat a large skillet with oil and place the soy curls in a single layer to cook. I cooked them until they were browned and then flipped them over and browned the other side.

When I was done, I had a pile of (yummy looking) coconut "shrimp".

I really wasn't expecting much from these--the marinade hadn't smelled that great, and for soy curls, marinade is everything. I was very surprised, then, when I tried one and it was SO GOOD.

It was a mild flavor, definitely tasting like the coconut breading I'd hoped. And the texture--shrimp is something I thought could probably never be replicated well--was PERFECT. The texture was definitely that of shrimp, and the flavor was mildly coconut-ty. The breading was super crispy and stuck to the soy curls very well.

I honestly think that if these were shaped like shrimp (better than the pieces I used), and you didn't know they weren't actually shrimp, they could probably be passed off as shrimp. And I am NOT one to say that very often about vegan food. When it comes to vegan food, I like to call a spade a spade. (Nutritional yeast does not taste like cheese and even though I like nutritional yeast for what it is, I will never try to convince someone that it tastes like cheese.)

Jerry and I loved the soy curls! Noah wasn't here and Eli didn't want to try them, so Jerry and I ate the entire plate ourselves. He said I should mention (and I agree) that these don't have to try to mock shrimp. They are good as they are--coconut soy curls. But soy curls have such an unfortunate name--it doesn't have the same ring to it and it's gross-sounding to people who haven't tried them before.

[Side note: Soy curls are made of just one ingredient--soy beans. They are actually compliant in the whole foods plant-based diet, because they are made with the whole soybean and minimally processed. They don't have much flavor, which is why they are super versatile--they absorb the flavors of the marinade.]

I started calling the coconut soy curls "scrimp"--because soy curls (sc) and it rhymes with shrimp. *shrug*  Regardless of what they care called or what they are made of, they are DELICIOUS. I ate them plain (the recipe suggests serving them with cocktail sauce, but I never have cocktail sauce or horseradish, so we just ate them plain. And we loved them.

I'm going to see if I can find a recipe for a sauce that resembles the one at Red Lobster. Jerry and I both agreed that these need to be a regular recipe around here. I'm not sure what Noah would think of them (he likes soy curls, but I don't know if he's ever tried a coconut breading on anything). The next time I make them, I'll make sure that Noah will be here.

I know soy curls sound like a weird food to people who have never heard of them (they certainly sounded weird to me!) but if you're up for an adventure with the odd ingredient, this recipe is definitely one try! (Soy curls are only made by one company: Butler Foods. I order them directly from their website. I'm not affiliated with them in any way.)

You can find the recipe for the Coconut "Shrimp" at It Doesn't Taste Like Chicken.


  1. I've heard of soy curls but never tried them when I was vegetarian. I did try TVP before, I remember liking it in a recipe for little "chicken nugget" style patties. Have you tried TVP in any recipes?

    1. Yes, I have! I use TVP sometimes in place of where I would have used ground beef or turkey--taco filling, spaghetti sauce, and I make a skillet lasagna that calls for it. If you like the TVP, I'm sure you'll like the soy curls! They are just as easy to use (rehydrate in water or broth, then add to wherever you would typically use strips or chunks of meat). They are a whole lot cheaper than meat, too!


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