How many calories in a single popcorn shrimp?

Popcorn shrimp are a popular appetizer or snack made of small, bite-sized pieces of breaded and fried shrimp. But many people wonder just how many calories are packed into one of these tasty morsels. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the calorie count in a single popcorn shrimp and look at ways you can enjoy this snack more healthfully.

The Basics of Popcorn Shrimp

Popcorn shrimp get their name from their popped, puffy exterior created by the breading and frying process. They are made from small shrimp, usually 21-25 count per pound. This means there are 21-25 shrimp in one pound. The shrimp are peeled, deveined, and butterfly cut lengthwise. Then they are coated in a light breading that puffs up when fried to cover the shrimp in a crispy coating.

The breading helps provide a satisfying crunch and also allows the shrimp to cook evenly. Breading mixes can contain ingredients like flour, cornmeal, bread crumbs, starch, baking powder, and seasonings. The breaded shrimp are then deep fried in oil for 2-3 minutes at 350°F until golden brown and crisp.

The end result is a crunchy, popcorn-like texture enveloping a plump and juicy shrimp interior. Popcorn shrimp make for a fun finger food and tasty appetizer at restaurants or parties. Their small size also makes them perfect for dipping into sauces and condiments.

Calories in a Single Popcorn Shrimp

The number of calories in a single popcorn shrimp can vary depending on the size of the shrimp and the type of breading used. Here are some general nutrition estimates:

  • A small (21-25 count) popcorn shrimp contains around 30 calories
  • A medium (16-20 count) popcorn shrimp contains around 40 calories
  • A jumbo (10-15 count) popcorn shrimp contains around 60 calories

These counts are for unsauced, unseasoned popcorn shrimp that have been deep fried in oil. The calorie content comes mostly from the oil used for deep frying. The actual shrimp provide minimal calories, while the breading adds a small amount.

Factors That Affect Calorie Count

Several factors can raise or lower the number of calories in a popcorn shrimp:

Shrimp Size

Larger shrimp contain more actual edible shrimp meat, so they will be higher in calories than smaller shrimp. Jumbo shrimp can have around 50% more calories than a petite popcorn shrimp.

Breading Type

Some breading mixes are lighter and thinner than others. A heavy, thicker breading will add more calories from the additional carbs and fat that it provides.

Frying Oil

The type of oil used for frying has a big impact on the calorie content. Oils like canola, vegetable, peanut, or soybean oil add around 120 calories per tablespoon. So the longer the shrimp fry, the more oil gets absorbed, ramping up the calories.

Cooking Method

Frying adds a lot of oil and calories. Popcorn shrimp that are oven-baked with just a light spritz of oil will have up to 30-40% less calories than deep fried shrimp.

Added Sauces and Seasonings

Dipping sauces like cocktail sauce, ranch, or buffalo sauce can add 50-100 calories per tablespoon. Seasonings like cajun seasoning are lower in calories but increase the sodium content.

Nutritional Profile

Here is the full nutritional breakdown for 3 ounces or about 6-8 medium popcorn shrimp:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 230
Fat 12 g
Saturated Fat 2 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 140 mg
Sodium 440 mg
Carbohydrates 12 g
Fiber 0 g
Sugar 0 g
Protein 12 g

As you can see, a serving of popcorn shrimp is high in cholesterol, sodium, and saturated fat due to the deep frying preparation. There are zero carbs from sugar, since the carbs mainly come from the breading.

Ways to Make Popcorn Shrimp Healthier

If you want to keep enjoying popcorn shrimp while reducing the calorie count, here are some tips:

Opt for Smaller Shrimp

The smaller the shrimp, the fewer calories it will contain. Choose petite (36-45 count) or colossal (21-25 count) shrimp over jumbo.

Use Whole Grain Breading

Breading made from whole grains like whole wheat flour or panko breadcrumbs will add more fiber and nutrients.

Bake Instead of Fry

Baking popcorn shrimp uses minimal oil compared to deep frying. Spritz with cooking spray or brush with olive oil instead.

Air Fry Instead of Fry

Using an air fryer will mimic the crunch of frying with only a teaspoon of oil. Air fried popcorn shrimp has up to 80% less fat.

Use Healthier Oils for Frying

Opt for monounsaturated fat-rich oils like olive, avocado, or canola oil for frying. Avoid oils high in saturated fat like coconut or palm oil.

Portion Control

Stick to a reasonable portion of 6-8 medium shrimp per serving to keep calories in check.

Avoid Unhealthy Dips and Sauces

Condiments like ranch, tartar sauce, or heavy cocktail sauce add extra fat and calories. Opt for lighter options like mustard, ketchup, or hot sauce.

Healthy Popcorn Shrimp Recipes

Here are some healthy recipes that provide all the flavor and crunch of traditional popcorn shrimp with less guilt:

Baked Parmesan Popcorn Shrimp


  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Pat shrimp dry. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a bowl, mix panko, Parmesan, Italian seasoning and garlic powder.
  4. Dip shrimp in olive oil, then coat evenly in panko mixture.
  5. Arrange breaded shrimp on baking sheet. Lightly spritz with olive oil.
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes until crispy and golden brown. Serve with lemon wedges.

Crunchy Oven-Baked Popcorn Shrimp


  • 1 pound colossal shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup cornflake crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, mix cornflake crumbs, flour, paprika and garlic powder.
  3. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Dip in egg whites, then coat evenly in cornflake mixture.
  4. Arrange breaded shrimp on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly mist with cooking spray.
  5. Bake 10-12 minutes until crispy. Serve with desired dipping sauce.

The Bottom Line

A single medium popcorn shrimp contains around 40 calories, depending on size and cooking method. Deep frying adds more oil and calories compared to baking or air frying. Jumbo shrimp pack over 50% more calories than petite. Healthier preparations using whole grain breading, lighter frying, and portion control can lower the calorie count of this appetizer.

Overall, popcorn shrimp in moderation can be a tasty treat. Just be mindful of unhealthy dips, and keep your portion size reasonable to avoid excess calories and fat intake from this snack.

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