If you have, you know what the fuss is about. If you haven’t, it’s time to try these succulent shrimp.
All hail Royal Reds, the huge crimson shrimp that taste like lobster and scallops, the crown jewel of Gulf shrimp.
Fishermen must venture far and deep to find the prize shrimp known as Royal Reds. Their range stretches from Massachusetts all the way to French Guiana, but sweet spots run along the Gulf from the Florida Panhandle to the Mississippi Delta, in deep cool waters between 800 and 1,500 feet down.
Royal Red season lasts from late summer to late fall, peaking in September. However, because the shrimp are found up to 60 miles offshore, fisherman (the select few that are licensed to harvest Royal Reds) often flash-freeze their catches immediately, which captures the fresh-off-the-boat flavor and texture in peak form and makes them available year round.
You can use Reds in any shrimp recipe, but they deserve to be used in ways that showcase their naturally briny flavor and rich meat that’s compared to lobster and bay scallops. Connoisseurs say that the best way to enjoy these robust shrimp is steamed or grilled in their shells, accompanied by nothing more than melted butter (okay, maybe garlic butter), a big stack of napkins, and icy cold beverages.
Related: How to Peel, Devein, and Butterfly Shrimp
When preparing Reds at home, pay close attention, because they cook in about half the time of gray, white, or brown shrimp, despite their large size. It’s best to use frozen Reds on the day they are thawed. Don’t be shy about asking about Royal Reds in Gulf restaurants that might serve them in season, but don’t necessarily say so on the menu.
Few people other than locals knew of Royal Reds until about 20 years ago, plus a few savvy tourists who timed their annual Floribama and Gulf shore vacations to coincide with peak harvest. Word continues to spread among those of us who can’t get enough of the South’s outstanding fresh, local, world-class shellfish—as it should.
Our Favorite Royal Red Shrimp Recipe
Chef Bill Briand of Fisher's at Orange Beach Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama, knows his way around a royal red shrimp. His recipe for Grilled Royal Reds with Lemony Garlic Butter has become our go-to.