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Maryland Style Steamed Shrimp

Maryland Style Steamed Shrimp- Jumbo shrimp are coated in Old Bay and steamed with local beer for a quick, easy, succulent, and delicious bite.

February 15, 2022 by Nicole Collins

So, I’ve been playing an interesting game the past couple of weeks.

Let’s call it kitchen roulette.

Basically, I’ve been cooking as if we’ve transported back to April 2020 when nobody was leaving their houses, and everyone was surviving solely on what they found in their freezers and pantries. I haven’t been to the grocery store in over 4 weeks!

This whole adventure started because I needed to defrost my basement freezer. Though I didn’t realize this about myself until I started this particular journey, I tend to hoard food. Since I’m usually cooking for one, I freeze a lot of leftovers. Or when I see something on a good sale that’s freezable, I stock up. Sometimes, I’m totally inspired when I go to the store, buy all the things for a recipe, pop it all in the freezer until I’m ready to make it, and forget about it forever. And, all these scenarios led to an overflowing supply hidden behind mounds of icy build up.

But here’s the thing…woman cannot live on frozen food alone. But somehow, I ended up with magical lettuce that’s still as bright green as the day I bought it a month ago and enchanted milk with a super long expiration date that’s still going strong. Between the magical produce and the delicious things I’ve been finding hidden in my freezer, I’ve actually been eating pretty well.

In the midst of this journey, I had a little “if you give a mouse a cookie” moment when deciding what I wanted to do with some shrimp that I wanted to clear out of the freezer. I settled on making shrimp salad, planned on roasting the shrimp like I usually do at home, saw the beer stash in my basement while grabbing the shrimp, remembered how easy it is to steam shrimp myself, and totally pivoted my whole plan.

And that’s the tale of how we got to today’s recipe. Honestly, I don’t know how I haven’t shared this with you sooner!

So today, we’re making Maryland Style Steamed Shrimp!

Steamed shrimp is as much of a way of life here in Maryland as our steamed crabs are. And, they are so darn simple to make. We need 4 ingredients, a large pot, a steamer basket, and 10 mins to make succulent, super flavorful, absolutely delicious shrimp.

So, let’s get to it!

Let’s talk shrimp. Though you really could do this with any sized shrimp, I like to make this with either an extra large or a jumbo sized shrimp. We want raw shrimp that still has the shell on, because the shell helps the shrimp stay nice and juicy on the inside while it cooks. You could even use frozen shrimp that’s been thawed. Actually, that’s oftentimes what I’ll do. Take the shrimp straight from the freezer, let it sit in a bowl of cold water for 10-15 mins, drain it, and it’s ready to go. Easy breezy.

Before we toss our shrimp into a steamer basket, we’re going to line the bottom of the basket with some sliced onion. The onion is kind of multi-purpose here. It helps to infuse extra flavor into the shrimp while it’s steaming. But, the shrimp and Old Bay help to infuse flavor into the onions too. Many people like to serve the onions with their shrimp for extra snacking, but just as many discard the onion after cooking. It’s totally up to you! You technically could even skip the onions all together, and the shrimp will still be perfectly yummy. But, why? Onions are one of those things that most people have on hand at all times anyway, so let them do their work.

To create a delicious steaming liquid for our shrimp, we’re going to add some water and some light beer to the bottom of a large stock pot, and bring it to a boil. To be totally authentic, use a local Maryland beer like Natty Boh or Guinness Blonde (my fav). If you don’t those options available to you, any light lager or ale will work. You can slightly taste the aroma of the beer in the shrimp, so we definitely don’t want to use a darker beer or a stout. It’ll get too bitter. However on the flip side, you could skip the beer all together if you prefer. Apple cider vinegar is a perfectly acceptable substitute for this recipe. We’ll just adjust the water to vinegar ratio a smidge.

Once the liquid is boiling, we’ll add our steamer basket loaded with onion and shrimp right to the pot. Then, we’ll coat the shrimp in a generous sprinkling of Old Bay. The lid goes on the pot. And, the shrimp only need about 5-6 minutes to becoming absolutely perfect. You’ll know they’re finished when they’re beautifully pink and opaque with a slight curl to them. Or, you can always check the internal temperature to make sure it hits 145 degrees.

When it’s time to serve, you can leave them right in the basket for ambiance or transfer them to a serving dish. Serve them alongside with some lemon, cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, and or butter; and you have a delicious appetizer right at your fingertips. Just peel off that outer shell, and enjoy. OR, you could always peel the shrimp, chill them, and serve them in a shrimp cocktail. OR, you could peel the shrimp, chop them up, and make a delicious shrimp salad. OR, you really could substitute this shrimp in any recipe that calls for cooked or Old Bay shrimp. OR…I could go on all day!

The texture of steamed shrimp really can’t be beat. It’s the cooking method that leaves them the plumpest and juiciest in my opinion. Plus, there’s a nice kick from the Old Bay infusion that steeps through the shell along with a light fragrance that you taste thanks to the beer and onion.

I could easily eat these steamed shrimp for every meal for the rest of forever and never get tired of them!

Ok, everyone! I’m trying to conjure up the warm weather in any way that I can. So, expect the Old Bay content to continue!

For now, enjoy! And, let’s eat!


Maryland Style Steamed Shrimp

Serves: 1 lb Print


  • 12 oz light beer, like ale or lager (I used Guinness Blonde)

  • ½ cup water

  • ½ medium onion, sliced

  • 1 lb extra large shrimp, peel on (thawed, if frozen)

  • 2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning


  1. Arrange onion slices over the bottom of a steamer basket. Top with shrimp, evenly spread over the basket. Set aside.

  2. To a large pot or dutch oven, add beer and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.

  3. Once the liquid is boiling, add steamer basket to the pot. Sprinkle Old Bay all over the top of the shrimp. Cover the pot with a lid, and steam the shrimp for 5-6 minutes until the shrimp are pink and opaque.

  4. To serve, discard the onion, if desired; peel shrimp, and enjoy!

Recipe notes:

*To be authentic, use a Maryland beer like Natty Boh or Guinness Blonde for this recipe if you can. Otherwise, stick with a light beer.

*You could use apple cider vinegar in place of the beer if you need to. To do that, use ½ cup apple cider vinegar and 1 ½ cups water.

*I used a 21-30 ct shrimp with is actually a blend of extra large and jumbo shrimp. You could use either. Obviously, larger shrimp take a smidge longer to cook, but it all happens pretty fast when you're steaming. You'll know when they're done when they're nice and pink, they start to curl a little, and they're totally opaque. If you feel more comfortable checking temps, we're looking for an internal temp of 145 degrees.

*Some Marylanders like to eat the flavored onion with their shrimp, and some toss it. Taste it, and decide for yourself!

*You can serve these shrimp as is with cocktail sauce as an appetizer, chop them up to make shrimp salad, or really use them any other way you'd used cooked shrimp.

*Here is the steamer basket I use.

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