five spice grilled shrimp with sweet and sour sauce

5 spice grilled shrimp

Five spice powder is seriously under used in our household. It’s a combination of some of my favorite spices (star anise, fennel seed, cinnamon, cloves and szechuan peppercorns), so it was only a matter of time before I dreamt up a grilled shrimp recipe that highlights these fragrant spices.

I love using the warm, aromatic spices with meats (I learned this from my mom, who makes the most amazing chinese 5 spice riblets), and they’re equally delicious on seafood.

These shrimp are marinated in an umami rich mixture of soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, ginger, sriracha and brown sugar for a sweet, spicy and flavorful meal. The notes of star anise and fennel add irresistible flavor to seafood, and these shrimp skewers are no exception.

It only takes a few minutes on the grill for the sugars to caramelize and the flavors to bloom with a touch of smoke and char. This quick cooking keeps the shrimp juicy and succulent, so make sure to watch them closely and pull them off the heat as soon as they curl and turn pink. I love these shrimp as is, straight from the grill, but try the homemade sweet and sour sauce if you’re looking for a dip. It’s so much better than those little packets you get from the Chinese buffet!

what should I serve with grilled shrimp?

These shrimp can be served as an appetizer or a main dish. As an appetizer, a simple dipping sauce is enough! If served up as a main, my favorite way to eat them is over a bed of rice alongside some grilled vegetables (or roasted artichokes!) or this flavorful, simple salad with gigante beans, salami and fennel.

If you’re feeling adventurous, pair them with a Gruner Veltliner from Austria. These white wines are fresh, peppery and spicy and can range from very light and delicate to full bodied and rich. The subtle peppered flavor will allow the five spice shrimp to shine, while the bright acidity will refresh your palate and keep the meal light and simple.


five spice grilled shrimp recipe

five spice grilled shrimp with sweet and sour sauce

serves 4-6 as an appetizer, 2-3 as an entrée


sweet and sour dipping sauce

  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar

  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 tbsp ketchup

  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened pineapple juice (juice from an 8 oz can of rings is the perfect amount, can use water in a pinch)

  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp water

five spice grilled shrimp

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup toasted sesame oil

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce

  • 1 (4 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and grated

  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

  • 2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder

  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

  • 1 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

  • 1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped

  • 5- 6 metal skewers or bamboo skewers (soaked 30 minutes in water)


sweet and sour dipping sauce

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk to combine brown sugar, salt, ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, pineapple juice and pepper flakes (if using). Cook, whisking occasionally, until sugar has dissolved and mixture is just beginning to bubble at the edges, about 3 minutes.

  2. Give cornstarch mixture a stir then pour it into the sauce. Whisk constantly until mixture reaches a full boil and thickens, then remove from heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed then transfer to a small bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature with five spice grilled shrimp.

Sauce can be made a day ahead, and is good for up to one week in the refrigerator.

five spice grilled shrimp

  1. In a large bowl, whisk to combine vinegar, brown sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, five-spice powder, cayenne and salt. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper if needed. Add shrimp to bowl, toss to coat, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

  2. When ready to grill, thread four to five shrimp onto each skewer.

  3. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Clean then lightly oil grill grates. Grill shrimp until cooked through, opaque and slightly charred, about 2 ½ minutes per side.

  4. Arrange on a platter, sprinkle with cilantro and serve with sweet and sour sauce (recipe above).

Shrimp are best eaten immediately.

five spice grilled shrimp

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