These healthy air fryer shrimp tacos with cilantro slaw and pickled red onions are better than street tacos from a food truck. They’ll have you wishing that every day was Taco Tuesday.
America’s Test Kitchen is the home of delicious and healthy recipes like these shrimp tacos. The perfect dinner for any occasion, they’re sure to become one of your favorite items for Taco Tuesday and Cinco de Mayo or any time you crave Mexican food and don’t want to derail your diet. It just might become your favorite shrimp recipe!
Transforming raw shrimp into tender shrimp to use in a shrimp taco, the air fryer is the perfect tool to cook shrimp in a healthy way.
Why You’ll Love Air Fryer Shrimp Tacos
- They’re healthier than fried shrimp tacos – three tacos have fewer than 500 calories.
- They’re easy to make and faster than going out for street tacos.
- Topped with cilantro slaw and pickled onions, they taste great!
There are three components of these delicious tacos: the air-fried shrimp, the cilantro slaw, and the pickled red onions. To make them, you need the following ingredients:
- White vinegar
- Light brown sugar
- Red onion
- Extra-large fresh shrimp
- Minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Chili powder
- Greek yogurt
- Lime juice
- Napa cabbage
- Fresh cilantro
- Corn tortillas
If there is one thing we have all learned after January 1, 2020, sometimes we have to make substitutions because of the lack of availability. Whether it is from supply chain shortages or the desire to social distance and “make do” with whatever we have in our pantry, we’ve learned how to adapt. Below are a few substitutions that you can make when you make this dish, without compromising the taste or quality:
- Minced canned chipotle chiles – Use a can of chipotle chiles and dice them. You can use leftover chipotle chiles to make Grilled Chicken Tostadas.
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – Avocado oil makes a great substitute for olive oil. If you compare the nutrition information for the two, you will see that they are nearly identical. The main difference is that avocado oil has 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat compared to olive oils 1.5 grams and a tablespoon of avocado oil provides 23% of the RDA of Vitamin E and olive oil provides 33%.
- Greek yogurt – You can substitute light sour cream in place of Greek yogurt in a pinch. Generally, sour cream is higher in calories than Greek yogurt while the latter is higher in protein and carbs.
- Napa cabbage – I found that using pre-shredded cabbage worked really well in this recipe. Feel free to shred a head of cabbage to save money and for a fresher product.
- Tortillas – This recipe calls for using 6-inch corn tortillas. You can substitute flour tortillas in their place. I did this using Trader Joe’s flour tortillas which only added 15 additional calories. (I made the swap because I prefer to use organic ingredients when possible and Trader Joe’s sells a tasty mini flour tortilla.). Want to save calories? Use lettuce to wrap to make these the ultimate low-carb shrimp tacos!
Note: If you cannot find fresh extra-large shrimp, look in the freezer department for a bag of frozen shrimp. Follow the directions on the bag for thawing the shrimp.
🔪How To Make Shrimp Tacos
Making the Pickled Red Onions
This needs to be done first because it will take about 45 minutes for the onions to “pickle.” You can actually do this part up to a week ahead. (See the notes in the recipe card below.)
Place ½ cup of distilled white vinegar,1 ½ tablespoons of light brown sugar, and ¼ of salt in a medium bowl and microwave it until it is steaming. (This will take 2-3 minutes.) Whisk the vinegar mixture to help the sugar and salt dissolve.
Add thinly sliced red onion to the brine and push it down to submerge it completely.
Making the Cilantro Slaw
Combine ¼ cup of Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of lime juice in a medium bowl. Whisk in two tablespoons of the pickled red onion brine. Add the shredded cabbage and chopped cilantro to the yogurt mixture and toss.
Air Frying Shrimp Cooking Process
Combine the minced chipotle chiles, chili powder, 1 ½ teaspoons brown sugar, and ¼ teaspoon of salt together in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to coat.
Preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Place a layer of shrimp in the basket and cook shrimp until they are opaque throughout – about 6 to 10 minutes. Toss the shrimp halfway through cooking.
I found that with my Ninja Air Fryer I didn’t have to flip or toss the shrimp. I simply cooked them for about 9 minutes and out came perfect shrimp. The cook time will vary depending on the model of YOUR air fryer.
Assembling the Shrimp Tacos
The last piece of this culinary puzzle is to assemble the tacos. But first – you will want to warm up your tortillas. Doing so makes them more pliable (bendy) and will help to prevent them from falling apart once you use them to wrap the fillings.
Place the warm tortillas on a plate and top with cooked shrimp, followed by a small layer of cilantro slaw, and top with pickled onions. You can garnish with a touch of Greek yogurt or sour cream and a sprig of cilantro.
Frequently Asked Questions
You know that cooked shrimp is done when it has curled and has become opaque, meaning “not able to be seen through; not transparent.“
According to Taste of Home, “A perfectly cooked shrimp is firm enough to curl without being constricted, and it has an opaque pinky color with a sheen. When they are overcooked, shrimp turn matte white or gray. Another easy way to tell if your shrimp are cooked is if they are curled into a nice C shape.”
You can garnish the tacos with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream. Serve alongside avocado and lime wedges.
For side dishes, cilantro lime rice (or riced cauliflower) and black beans make for tasty sides.
Yes. Just be sure to thaw it completely before tossing it in the chili-chipotle marinade.
While most shy away from reheating shrimp in the microwave, I find that microwaving on HIGH for about 30 seconds works well – for me.
Other people recommend reheating shrimp in an air fryer.
Chipotle Shrimp Tacos
- Air Fryer
- ½ cup distilled white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed divided
- ½ teaspoon table salt divided
- ½ small red onion sliced thin
- 12 ounces extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled, deveined, and tails removed
- 2 tablespoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon lime juice plus lime wedges for serving
- 1 ½ cups shredded napa cabbage
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro plus extra leaves for serving
- 6 (6-inch) corn tortillas warmed
- Microwave vinegar, 1 ½ tablespoons sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt in medium bowl until steaming, 2 to 3 minutes; whisk to dissolve sugar and salt. Add onion to hot brine and press to submerge completely. Let sit for 45 minutes. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons brine. (Drained onion and reserved brine can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)
- Lightly spray air-fryer basket with canola oil spray. Halve shrimp lengthwise. Combine chipotle, oil, chili powder, remaining 1 ½ teaspoons sugar, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in large bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Arrange shrimp in even layer in prepared basket. Place basket into air fryer and set temperature to 400 degrees. Cook until shrimp are opaque throughout, 6 to 10 minutes, tossing halfway through cooking.
- Whisk yogurt and lime juice together in small bowl. Toss cabbage with cilantro and reserved brine in separate bowl. Serve shrimp with warmed tortillas, cabbage, pickled onion, yogurt, lime wedges, and extra cilantro leaves.
America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook – Healthy Air Fryer
Air fryers have taken the culinary world by storm. No surprise there, as more than 40% of all Americans own one! But what began as a novelty appliance has become an essential part for many home cooks—airfryers can cook foods quickly without any oil or mess at all.
Staying up to date with the latest trends, America’s Test Kitchen’s cookbook, Healthy Air Fryer, offers up new air fryer recipes that are even healthier options than their deep-fried counterparts.
As typical for ATK, the book includes a section on all-things air fryer: different models, performance ratings, scaling recipes, equipment to use along with your air fryer, and tips and techniques for using this favorite small kitchen appliance.
Below are the six recipe sections and a taste of the recipes in each:
- Breakfast – Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos, Roasted Fruit and Almond Butter Toast, and Whole-Wheat Blueberry-Almond Muffins
- Poultry – California Turkey Burgers, Chipotle-Honey Fried Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Citrus Salad, and Whole Roast Chicken with Lemon, Dill, and Garlic
- Beef and Pork – Steak Frites, Flank Steak with Corn and Black Bean Salad, and Sweet and Spicy Glazed Pork Chops with Sesame Bok Choy
- Seafood – Honey-Glazed Salmon with Snap Peas and Radishes, Salmon Burgers with Tomato Chutney, and Shrimp with Curry Noodles
- Vegetable Mains and Sides – Ramen Noodle Bowl with Eggplant and Five-Spice Tofu, Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges, and Roasted Delicata Squash
- Small Bites – Lemon-Pepper Chicken Wings, Shoestring Fries, and Date-Almond Snack Bars
If you are looking for healthy recipes using your air fryer on busy weeknights, check out America’s Test Kitchen’s Healthy Air Fryer: 75 Feel-Good Recipes. Any Meal. Any Air Fryer. at your local bookstore or at Amazon.com.
Be sure to come back and tell us how your shrimp tacos turned out!