Can you eat shrimp raw in sushi?

Quick Answer

Yes, you can eat raw shrimp in sushi as long as the shrimp is very fresh and properly prepared. Shrimp used in sushi is usually frozen briefly to kill bacteria and parasites. Raw shrimp sushi from a reputable restaurant or grocery store is generally safe, but there is always a small risk of food poisoning when consuming raw seafood. People with compromised immune systems may want to avoid raw shrimp.

Can Shrimp Be Eaten Raw?

Shrimp can be eaten raw, including in popular dishes like ceviche and sushi. Raw shrimp has become increasingly common and popular in recent years. However, there are some health risks associated with consuming raw shrimp, mainly related to bacteria and parasites. Here is an overview of the safety issues with eating raw shrimp:

Danger of Bacteria

Like other raw meats, raw shrimp may contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Listeria, E. coli, and Campylobacter. These bacteria can cause food poisoning symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The risks are increased if the raw shrimp has been improperly handled, stored, or prepared.

Danger of Parasites

Raw shrimp may also contain parasites like protozoans or roundworms. The parasite of most concern is Cryptosporidium parvum, which can lead to the illness Cryptosporidiosis. Symptoms may include severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss. Again, the risks are higher with improperly handled shrimp.

Proper Handling Reduces Risks

To make raw shrimp safe to eat, it needs to be very fresh and properly handled from harvest to serving. This includes rapid chilling, refrigerated storage, and avoiding cross-contamination. All equipment must be thoroughly cleaned as well. Any laps in handling protocols can allow pathogen growth. Reputable sushi restaurants and seafood processors follow strict safety standards to serve raw shrimp safely.

Parasite Destruction via Freezing

Commercially sold raw shrimp for sushi is required to be frozen first to destroy any parasites. Home freezers may not get cold enough, so sushi-grade shrimp is flash frozen to temperatures below -4°F very rapidly. This quick freeze kills parasites but maintains quality. Freshly caught shrimp should always be frozen for raw preparations.

Is Eating Raw Shrimp Safe During Pregnancy?

Pregnant women need to be especially cautious with raw shrimp due to increased vulnerability to foodborne illnesses. The danger is mainly from bacteria and parasites that could be passed to the developing baby and potentially cause birth defects or miscarriage. Listeriosis from bacteria like Listeria is a particular concern. To stay safe, pregnant women should only eat fully cooked shrimp.

Higher Risk of Illness

Pregnant women experience suppressed immune function, so their bodies are less able to fight off infections from harmful bacteria. The types of bacteria in raw shrimp could lead to severe illness in pregnant women. Certain parasites like Cryptosporidium are also especially concerning.

Potential Harm to Fetus

If a pregnant woman contracts an illness from contaminated raw shrimp, it can be passed to the fetus through the bloodstream. Bacterial infections in the fetus may lead to premature birth, low birth weight, or even stillbirth. The toxins some bacteria release can also cause neurological problems or birth defects.

Avoidance Recommended

Given the substantial risks, the FDA and most doctors advise pregnant women to avoid raw or undercooked shrimp. The safest approach is to cook shrimp thoroughly to an internal temperature of 145°F. An alternative is to choose fully cooked shrimp products like those in prepared sushi rolls or shrimp cocktail. If in doubt, avoid raw shrimp during pregnancy.

How is Raw Shrimp Prepared for Sushi?

Sushi chefs use specific techniques to prepare raw shrimp for use in sushi in a safe manner. This specialized process ensures any bacteria or parasites are killed while preserving shrimp quality. Here are the key steps involved:


After harvesting, shrimp destined for sushi is immediately frozen solid to temperatures below -4°F. Quick freezing kills any parasites present. The cold temperatures also inhibit bacteria growth. Shrimp is typically flash frozen in blast freezers.


Frozen shrimp for sushi is thawed in refrigerators right before use. It is typically not thawed and refrozen. Thawing is done slowly over 12-24 hours at temperatures below 40°F.

Deshelling and Deveining

After thawing, shrimp is removed from shells and the digestive vein is taken out. This is done meticulously through manual labor or specialized machines. Proper deveining is vital for safety.


Once shelled and deveined, the shrimp is rinsed thoroughly in cold water to wash away any bacteria or debris. Proper rinsing helps reduce microbial risks.


Rinsed shrimp is chilled again prior to serving, either placed on ice or refrigerated. Keeping shrimp very cold inhibits pathogens and preserves freshness until being eaten raw.

What Types of Shrimp are Used in Sushi?

Several varieties of shrimp are well-suited for raw preparations like sushi due to their sweet, tender texture and ocean-fresh flavor when eaten raw. The most common raw shrimp varieties used in sushi include:


Amaebi, or sweet shrimp, has a soft texture and mild, sweet taste. These small pink shrimp are served with fried heads and tails on as nigiri or gunkan sushi.


Botanebi shrimp are a type of spotted prawn that are pale pink in color with a slightly salty flavor. Their crunchy texture makes them ideal in hand rolls.


Akaebi shrimp have a dark red shell color and bright orange flesh. They have a rich umami taste accented by mild sweetness. These plump shrimp are often used in shrimp sashimi.


Hotategai refers to fresh raw scallops, which are technically bivalves, not shrimp. Their tender meaty texture and sweet mild taste is prized. Scallops often replace shrimp in sushi for variety.

What are the Different Types of Shrimp Sushi?

Shrimp can be used in a wide variety of sushi types thanks to their versatile sweet flavor that pairs well with rice, vegetables, fish, and seaweed. Here are some common ways shrimp is used in sushi:

Shrimp Nigiri

This traditional nigiri sushi features a raw shrimp pressed onto a molded oblong of sushi rice. Sweet shrimp is most popular.

Shrimp Sashimi

Sashimi is raw seafood sliced into thin pieces. Plump raw shrimp like akaebi are ideal choices for serving as shrimp sashimi.

Tempura Shrimp Roll

Fried tempura shrimp are a tasty addition to maki rolls wrapped in nori seaweed and rice. The crisp shrimp contrast nicely with smooth textures.

Shrimp Salad Roll

Chopped shrimp salad is often mixed with mayo or veggies then rolled up California roll-style for a flavorful maki sushi option.

Ebi Nigiri Sushi

Ebi refers specifically to cooked shrimp, which can be served as nigiri still warm from the grill or pan. The light char pairs well with the rice.

Shrimp Gunkan

Gunkan sushi features seafood mounded on an oval of rice wrapped with nori. Shrimp gunkan is popular with spicy tobiko flying fish roe topping.

Is Shrimp Sushi Safe for Beginners?

Shrimp is one of the safest and most appealing sushi options for beginners. Here’s why shrimp sushi is a good choice for those new to raw fish:

Mild Flavor

The natural sweetness and subtle flavor of shrimp provides a gentle introduction to sushi. It avoids the intense taste of some raw fish that can be off-putting at first.

Familiar Texture

Cooked shrimp is a familiar food for many, so the firm yet yielding texture of raw shrimp is not too far out the comfort zone. Other raw fish can have odd mouthfeels.

Low Mercury Risk

Large predatory fish often have high mercury levels, but small shrimp are low on the food chain so mercury risk is minimal. This makes raw shrimp safer for frequent sushi eating.

Appealing Aesthetic

The bright pink hue of fresh raw shrimp is inherently appetizing. Its vibrant color makes shrimp nigiri or sashimi attractive to novice diners.

Allergy Friendly

Shellfish allergies are much less common than fish allergies. Shrimp sushi is less likely to cause allergic reactions compared to sushi with salmon or tuna.

Available Cooked

For those uneasy about raw seafood, there are many cooked shrimp sushi options like tempura or ebi nigiri. So shrimp can be enjoyed without going fully raw.

Nutrition Facts of Shrimp Sushi

Shrimp sushi offers a nutritious blend of protein, healthy fats, and key vitamins and minerals. Here are some of the nutrition facts for shrimp sushi:

High in Protein

A serving of 3 pieces of shrimp nigiri contains about 9g of protein. Shrimp is a lean source of protein that supports muscle growth and metabolism.

Rich in Selenium

Shrimp provide 47% of your RDI of the antioxidant mineral selenium per serving. Selenium benefits thyroid and immune health.

Source of B12

Eating 3 pieces of shrimp sushi gives you 15% of your daily B12 needs. This essential vitamin aids nervous system function.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Shrimp contain some omega-3s EPA and DHA, important for heart and brain health. A serving has around 90mg of omega-3s.

Vitamin E

A serving of shrimp sushi delivers 2mg of vitamin E, an antioxidant that may promote healthy aging and immunity.

Vitamin B6

Shrimp supply vitamin B6, which supports metabolism and red blood cell production. You get 6% of your daily value per sushi serving.

Nutrient Amount Per 3-Piece Serving
Calories 90
Protein 9g
Selenium 47% DV
Vitamin B12 15% DV
Vitamin E 2mg
Vitamin B6 6% DV

Risks of Allergic Reactions to Shrimp in Sushi

While less common than finfish or shellfish allergies, some people may experience allergic reactions to shrimp sushi. Symptoms of a shrimp allergy can include:

Tingling Sensations

Some may feel a tingling or itching in the mouth and throat after eating shrimp sushi. This is caused by the immune system reacting to proteins in the shrimp.

Hives or Rash

Hives or skin rash/flushing are common shrimp allergy responses. The rash is usually reddish and very itchy. Some also experience swelling of the skin, lips, or face.

Respiratory Distress

More severe shrimp allergies can cause throat tightening, wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing due to constriction of the airways.

Stomach Problems

Symptoms like nausea, vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea may follow eating shrimp sushi in those with an allergy. This is the body forcefully rejecting the shrimp proteins.


In rare cases, a shrimp allergy can trigger system-wide anaphylaxis with severely low blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, and even death if untreated. This requires an epinephrine injection.

Treatment of Allergic Reaction

People with a known shrimp allergy should avoid sushi containing it altogether. If exposed, they should seek emergency care for severe symptoms. Mild symptoms can be treated with oral antihistamines.

Freshness and Texture of Shrimp for Sushi

For the best flavor, texture, and safety eating shrimp sushi, it is vital that the shrimp is extremely fresh. Here is what to look for:


Shrimp should have a vibrant pink or reddish hue without any yellowing or dark discoloration. Loss of color is a sign of age.


There should be no “fishy” or ammonia odor. Shrimp for sushi should smell mildly briny or ocean-like at most. Off-putting odors indicate spoilage.


The shrimp flesh should look translucent without any cloudiness or mushy spots. Clear shrimp means minimal bacterial growth.


Fresh raw shrimp feels firm yet springy. As shrimp ages, it becomes mushy with a soft or gummy texture. Older shrimp loses its pleasant crunch.


Shrimp for sushi should appear moist, shiny, and slippery. Dryness is another sign that freshness is fading and quality is declining.

Tight Muscles

Check that the shrimp tails have tightly curled muscles. Limp, straight tails indicate the shrimp has lost muscle rigidity due to age.

Tips for Making Shrimp Sushi at Home

While raw shrimp from trusted restaurants is likely safe, you can further reduce risks by making your own shrimp sushi at home. Follow these tips for success:

Purchase Sushi-Grade Shrimp

Only use raw shrimp labeled as sushi-grade or sashimi-grade from reputable sellers. This ensures it was handled properly.

Freeze Shrimp First

Even if the shrimp is sushi-grade, freeze it for 7 days at -4°F as an extra precaution before thawing in the fridge.

Prep Under Sanitary Conditions

Devein, rinse, and prepare shrimp on clean surfaces using sanitized equipment to prevent cross-contamination.

Use Cooled Sushi Rice

Cook rice with a vinegar mixture to make proper sushi rice. Chill the rice fully before using to construct sushi.

Slice Shrimp Thinly

Cut sushi-grade shrimp into very thin slices across the grain. This gives an appealing texture.

Eat Shrimp Sushi Quickly

To limit bacterial growth, eat any homemade sushi containing raw shrimp immediately after assembling. Do not let it sit at room temperature.


Eating raw shrimp in sushi is generally considered safe, provided it has been frozen and prepared properly to protect against risks from bacteria and parasites. Reputable sushi restaurants adhere to safe handling guidelines for serving raw shrimp. For vulnerable groups and home preparations, fully cooking shrimp provides an added layer of protection against foodborne illness while still allowing enjoyment of the sweet briny shrimp flavor complemented by rice, nori, vegetables, and fish. With an attractive pink hue, mild taste and tender texture, raw shrimp makes a solid choice for sushi beginners. While allergies are rare, those with known shrimp allergies should avoid sushi containing it. Overall, raw shrimp sushi remains a popular item at sushi bars globally thanks to shrimp’s friendly flavor profile that pairs delightfully with classic sushi ingredients.

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