I was born and raised in New England, so there’s one food (or food group, really) that’s always been synonymous with summer for me: seafood rolls. Hot and buttered or chilled and creamy, I’ve never met a seafood roll I didn’t love—but when it comes to actually making them? Well, that’s a different story, since they’re either A) notoriously labor-intensive, B) altogether too expensive, or in some cases, both.
In my never-ending quest to develop a seafood roll recipe that was undeniably delicious, budget-friendly, and simple to put together, I landed on these warm, Old Bay-spiced shrimp rolls that just so happen to be as crowd-pleasing as they are economical.
There aren’t a ton of ingredients in these shrimp rolls, but each serves a very specific (and important) purpose:
- The hot dog buns keep everything in their compact, handheld package, and since they’re top split, both sides of the buns can be toasted to buttery, golden perfection. If you can’t find top-split (sometimes called “New England-style”) buns, you can certainly use regular—but the former is definitely a classic when it comes to seafood rolls.
- A layer of crisp lettuce adds a subtle crunch, but it also keeps the buns from getting soggy. As a result, you can even pack these rolls for a picnic without worrying that you’ll end up with a soggy mess.
- Chives and shallots deliver an onion-y, savory bite in two ways: the chives are mixed into a lemony mayo that gives these rolls some creaminess, and the shallots are fried until crisp and sprinkled over top for a rich, salty crunch.
- When it comes to the shrimp, we’re keeping things simple: Toss them in some Old Bay seasoning and olive oil, sear until they’re wonderfully browned, and pile high. I find that large (26/30 count) shrimp work best here, as they’re large enough to take on some color without overcooking yet still perfectly bite-sized.
Old Bay has become the seasoning of choice for many seafood dishes, and even though it’s technically only one ingredient, it adds lots of complexity to anything you cook with it—and these shrimp rolls are no exception. It’s a blend of 18 distinct herbs and spices, but I find that one in particular is the star of the show: celery salt. It bumps up the savoriness of this dish without any extra effort on your part and turns this simple recipe into one that I crave more than I’d care to admit.
If the thought of frying something to golden-brown perfection terrifies you, don’t worry. There’s nothing to be scared of here… I promise! These crispy shallots come together more easily than you might think, and the visual and audio cues that are a part of the cooking process make them totally foolproof.
The shallots start in cold oil, meaning you won’t have to carefully scoop them into a vat of hot oil and risk burning yourself. After boiling away for a while, you’ll hear the bubbling start to subside, which is your audio indicator that they’ve released all their moisture and they’re about to start turning golden brown. Once they’re uniformly golden brown, remove them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, sprinkle with salt, and you’ve got a garnish that you’ll want to sprinkle all over anything and everything, shrimp roll or otherwise.
While not every element of these shrimp rolls can be prepped in advance, two elements in particular can be (and they’re just as delectable when made ahead): the crispy shallots and lemony chive mayo. When you’ve made those two components ahead, all you’ll have to do is sear the shrimp, toast some buns, and assemble.
- Once the crispy shallots have cooled completely, store them in a plastic bag or reusable container with a paper towel at the base to soak up any residual oil. They’ll stay fresh and crispy at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- Store the lemony chive mayo in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. If you’d like to keep it in the fridge for up to five days, omit the chives when mixing it together and add them just before serving.
These shrimp rolls practically scream summer. A hearty pile of potato chips works beautifully here (and doesn’t require any additional work). Rule of thumb: if you can imagine happily devouring it on a hot summer day, it’ll taste delicious alongside these shrimp rolls. Here are a few options:
- 2 cups thinly sliced shallots (from 3-4 large shallots)
- 1 1/4 cups vegetable or canola oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons minced chives, plus more for garnish
- 1 teaspoon grated garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 pound large (26/30 count) shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
- 2 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter
- 4 top-split (or “New England-style”) hot dog buns
- 1 head of butter or Bibb lettuce
- Fry the crispy shallots:
Line a plate with paper towels before you begin frying the shallots.
Add the thinly sliced shallots and oil to a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring the shallots and oil to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Let the oil simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes, or until the bubbling fades and the shallots begin to turn a pale golden color.
- Drain the shallots:
Once the shallots start to brown, stir constantly for about 1 minute or until they’re uniformly golden. Use a slotted spoon to remove them onto a paper towel-lined plate and spread them out evenly. Sprinkle with kosher salt and set aside.
- Make the lemony chive mayo:
In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, chives, garlic, black pepper, and kosher salt until smooth. Reserve until ready to assemble the shrimp rolls.
- Season the shrimp:
Pat the shrimp completely dry with paper towels and add to a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the Old Bay seasoning. Use your hands or a spoon to make sure each shrimp is evenly coated.
- Sear the shrimp:
Place a large nonstick skillet over high heat. When hot, add the seasoned shrimp in one even layer, without any additional oil. Sear the shrimp for 1 minute, or until they’ve begun to turn pink at the edges.
Use tongs to turn them and sear the second side for another minute, or until the shrimp are just cooked through and curled.
Remove the shrimp to a plate and reserve until ready to assemble.
- Toast the buns:
Wipe out the skillet and place over medium heat. Spread the softened butter on the outside edges of the top-split hot dog buns. Place the buns in the skillet and toast for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and crisp. Remove to a serving platter.
- Assemble the shrimp rolls:
Line the inside of each toasted bun with 2 leaves of butter lettuce and top each with 1/4 of the seared shrimp. Drizzle with the lemony chive mayo, and sprinkle generously with the crispy shallots and reserved chives.
Serve warm, with plenty of napkins.
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