Everything You Need to Know About Royal Red Shrimp

Learn why they are called the crown jewel of Gulf shrimp.

Royal Reds are huge crimson shrimp that taste like lobster and scallops, making them the crown jewel of Gulf shrimp. Fishermen must venture wide and far to find the prize shrimp known as Royal Reds, a range stretching from Massachusetts to French Guiana. Still, sweet spots run along the Gulf from the Florida Panhandle to the Mississippi coast, 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, fishermen (the select few licensed to harvest Royal Reds) often flash-freeze their catches immediately, capturing the fresh-off-the-boat flavor and texture in peak form. It also makes them available year-round.

You can use Reds in any shrimp recipe. The flavor resembles lobster and bay scallops, showcasing their natural salty flavor and rich, buttery meat. 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 (maybe garlic butter), a big stack of napkins, and icy cold beverages.

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 the day they thaw. Don't be shy about asking for Royal Reds in Gulf Coast restaurants that might serve them in season—the menu might not necessarily say so.

Few people beyond coastal Alabama knew of Royal Reds just 20 years ago, but today, savvy tourists time their annual Flora-Bama stops and Gulf Shores vacations to coincide with peak harvest. Word of these deepwater delicacies continues to spread among seafood devotees 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.

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