Hello Summer Heat Wave! It’s hot out there! And who wants to slave over a stove when the temperature is off the charts? Thank goodness for outdoor grilling. It always feels good to cook outside — even when it’s just your family gathering for dinner, cooking on the grill makes an average night feel festive, you know? I asked Lindsey for a good summer grilling recipe and she said, “Maybe something with mango salsa?” And I was like, “Yes! Exactly. Anything with mango salsa.” I think you’ll love this meal idea.
Here’s what Lindsey says:
To be honest, my husband and I aren’t the hugest fans of shrimp. Our children, however, LOVE shrimp. So every once in awhile I splurge and buy a bag of shrimp (on sale, of course). Grilled Shrimp Skewers are fun to make in the summer, even more so with my homemade Spicy Mango-Pineapple Salsa. It’s colorful and just the thing for a BBQ or 30-minute dinner.
What Kind of Shrimp to Buy for Skewers
When buying shrimp, you’ll see some numbers on the label or sign. This indicates how many shrimp there are of a certain size in a pound. Less shrimp per pound for large and more shrimp per pound if they are smaller. I tend to go for a middle-of-the-road when buying shrimp. Smaller shrimp tend to be a little more tender than the larger ones, but that’s not always the case.
Other things you will see on the label or sign include: fresh or frozen, previously frozen, cooked or raw, tail on/off, peeled/unpeeled. To me a lot of this is personal preference. I usually select raw shrimp and beyond that I know I can peel them myself, if needed, and the tail on doesn’t matter to me either.
I will say that buying frozen shrimp might be the best bet when it comes to freshness. A lot of seafood is flash frozen right after it is caught, similarly to frozen fruit and veggies. I usually shy away from previously frozen because I’d rather do the thawing myself. Unless you live somewhere near the coast or have a fishmonger who flies seafood in every few days, it can be really difficult to find truly “fresh” shrimp. My point is: don’t get hung up on the fresh/frozen thing. Frozen is just fine. 😉
Unpeeled or peeled shrimp can both be grilled. Peeling ahead of time makes it easier to eat, but you don’t get the pretty color of the shell, and the shell also provides a little extra protection from the high heat. Most, if not all shellfish require a shorter cooking time. This is a hot, hot grill and they skewers will be on there a maximum of 5-6 minutes. Much more than that, and the shrimp will be extra tough.
Marinating and Assembling the Shrimp Skewers
A simple citrus-y marinade we use a lot at my house is simply olive oil, salt and pepper, minced garlic and shallot, plus citrus zest. You get the flavor of the citrus without the acid.
Acidic liquids like citrus juice and vinegar can “cook” seafood by changing the proteins. It’s not actual cooking, of course. If you want ceviche, totally add some citrus juice to your seafood and let it marinate, otherwise stick to a non-acidic marinade and squeeze some citrus juice or drizzle with vinegar when serving.
I tend to lean towards metal skewers vs. bamboo. But if you’re using bamboo, the plus side is that they aren’t on the grill for very long, so they aren’t as liable to burn up. Either way, be sure to pre-soak bamboo skewers for at least several hours or overnight before using.
I have found that the skewer needs to go through the shrimp in two places or they will fall off. Another way to prevent that from happening is to use two parallel skewers, which works best if you use extra large shrimp.
How To Make Mango Salsa
Tropical salsas have been a thing for a long time, I know. They’re not new, but they are revolutionary IMHO. I remember when I first had mango salsa as a teenager and my mind was blown. For years I’ve tinkered with my recipe changing up the different amounts — do I add tomatoes? what about extra lime juice? The thought occurred to me to add some finely chopped pineapple and a little orange juice too. Holy moly. So incredible! It’s really fruity and a little spicy — perfect with pretty much any protein.
Choosing the perfect mango can be a little tricky. Where I live, we are miles and miles away from anywhere tropical and all of our tropical fruit is flown or driven in. Mangos can be wonderful or terrible — and that’s despite how they look on the outside. I have the best luck with the small golden yellow ataulfo mangos (sometimes called honey, or baby mangos), or the slightly larger Alphonso mango which originated in India. The flesh is a bit more buttery and less stringy than the other types. I also like Keitt and Haiti mangoes, which look like giant atulfo mangos and have the same buttery texture.
The other types of mango we see most often here in the states are usually Kent, Palmer, or Tommy Atkins mangoes that turn from green to red or yellow as they ripen. These varieties are a bit more fibrous and stringy, but still have great flavor. Frozen or canned mango can also be used.
Jalapeños are pretty easy to find everywhere, as are serrano peppers. In well-stocked grocery stores, you may even be able to find banana peppers, Anaheim, habanero, etc.. Use what you like and can find. Start by adding some of the minced chiles and add more until it reaches the desired level of spiciness. My husband and I have different ideas in regards to what is/isn’t spicy — at my house, we have two bowls of salsa. Hah! (In case you were wondering, he has a MUCH higher tolerance than I do! And I love spicy food!)
One more thing: it’s really a good idea to wear gloves when working with chili peppers. If you are particularly sensitive, have any small cuts, or wear contacts, this is particularly important. The volatile oils do not easily wash away and can last for hours on your hands and fingers. Not that I ever tried to remove my contacts after chopping jalapenos…ahem. Wear the gloves. Hah!
For the chiles, you have a lot of latitude. You can control the heat according to the type of pepper/chile used. The seeds and ribs are where the heat is concentrated — remove or keep them according to preference. Keep in mind that jalapeños can be a bit inconsistent. You might get one that is as mild as can be, and another that is off-the-charts spicy.
I am a huge cilantro fan, but I realize not everyone is. So in this salsa you can use cilantro, or substitute fresh mint, basil, or parsley. It will change the flavor slightly, but not dramatically. I love the way fresh mint serves as a foil to spice. Hey, use a bit of all four if you want. The fresh herbaceous flavor is what’s important.
I like to serve the shrimp skewers with a side of rice and beans, over a bed of salad greens, or with grilled veggies.
1 1/2 cups fresh mango, finely diced
1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple, finely diced
3 jalapenos, 2 serrano, or 1 habanero chile(s), finely minced*
1/2 cup red onion, finely minced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (save the zest for the marinade)
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (save the zest for the marinade)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
Coarse freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh herbs such as cilantro, basil, parsley, or mint, roughly chopped
- Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Taste and add more salt, if needed.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Keep refrigerated for up to 3-4 days. (Freezing is not recommended.)
-To make salsa more mild, remove ribs and seeds from chiles.
-Other fruit can be substituted for the pineapple and/or mango, if desired. Suggestions: fresh blueberries, strawberries, avocado, melon, kiwi, jicama (not technically a fruit!), peaches, nectarines, or tomatoes.
Grilled Shrimp Skewers
2 pounds shrimp, thawed if frozen
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons honey or agave, optional
1 shallot, finely minced
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lime
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon each: ground cumin, coriander, cayenne, and chili powder (optional)
Metal or bamboo skewers (see note above about soaking bamboo skewers)
- Prepare shrimp according to preference: peel and remove vein, leave unpeeled, etc. Place the shrimp in a large bowl.
- Whisk the remaining ingredients together and pour over the shrimp. Toss to coat. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or up to a few hours.
- Preheat a BBQ grill for direct heat. Make sure to really clean off the grates to prevent shrimp from sticking.
- Thread shrimp onto skewers. Quickly oil the grates using high-heat oil (like avocado oil) and a wad of paper towels held with tongs.
- Place skewers on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes on the first side and another 2-3 minutes on the second side, depending on the size of the shrimp and whether or not they are peeled. Peeled shrimp will cook much faster.
- Remove from heat and keep warm until ready to serve.
- Serve with Spicy Mango-Pineapple Salsa. Side suggestions: green salad, grilled veggies, rice and beans, etc.
Wow! Thank you, Lindsey. This looks amazing.
Tell me, Friends. Do your kids like shrimp? Do you? In my experience, even for my kids who wrinkle their noses at seafood, shrimp are somehow acceptable to them. Maybe it’s the mild flavor. Or maybe the texture. Shrimp seem like a good “starter” seafood for picky kids.
Photos and recipe by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.