Savor: New England Shrimp Rolls

It’s been a few weeks since I shared a recipe on the blog, so I thought it was time again. This recipe is one of our summer favorites and when I made a round of these this past weekend, I seized the opportunity to load up the camera with the easy how-to steps to share with you. There are very few measurements in this recipe because the flavors are all based on your personal tastes and, as the cook, you taste and adjust as you go. You can double, triple or even cut this recipe in half and it always works.

Also, with the exception of prepping the shrimp (more on that below), this is a great recipe that kids can help with because so much of it is just organized pouring and stirring. Many scientific studies report that kids involved in home meal prep create children more enthusiastic to taste new things. I have to think parents would love some help in the kitchen sometimes, too. Or, as any serious New England fisherman would tell you, “Any port in a storm.”


  • 1 lb. shrimp,  peeled, de-veined, cooked, tail-off (can be frozen, thawed)
  • Mayonnaise (Miracle Whip doesn’t work in this recipe)
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Chives (fresh or dried)
  • Boston lettuce (or most other leafy, green lettuces)
  • Hot dog rolls
  • Your favorite plain-but-salty potato chips

Prepping The Shrimp

You can use frozen cooked shrimp for this recipe. I do all the time. In fact, I highly recommend it if you are making a large batch of these rolls for a larger group, because it can help keep your grocery budget in line. Just thaw your shrimp safely, under lots of cold water, when you are ready to make this recipe. These are the shrimp I use, from Trader Joe’s:

The package clearly says, “deveined” but I never trust that printing. Let’s talk about that for a second. If you are an experienced cook, you may already know what I’m about to say, so you can just sit back and nod in agreement as you read along. If cooking with shrimp is new or intimidating for you, I want to give you some real knowledge to make it approachable.

Shrimp must be “deveined” to eat it. Having a fishing factory machine cut the vein out of individual shrimp is next to impossible, because the shrimp are all different sizes, and slide around, etc. This is why you always have to check every shrimp yourself. Here is a “deveined” shrimp, from the bag for my recipe:

Yeah. See that dark line running down the middle of the shrimp? That’s the vein. So, not really “deveined”, as the bag said it was. To get rid of that vein, you need to slice open the shrimp with the tip of a sharp knife, I use a paring knife…

…and then scrape the vein out. That black stuff you see is the vein. This may seem like a lot of work, but I’m going to speak very frankly here, so put down your drink. The “vein” is technically a “vein” in the biological definition of the word. However, it is also the digestive tract of the shrimp…which carries everything along its body the same way ours does. Take a sec to think about what that involves. You with me? Get that vein out of your food!

If you are worried about using a knife to cut into the shrimp, you can use a pair of kitchen scissors (the type you use for food only) to cut open the shrimp and then use the knife to clean the vein out.

The vein runs the whole length of each shrimp, so be sure you get all of it out and then give the individual shrimp a good rinse in cold water. When you have all of the veins out, give the whole bowl of shrimp another good rinse of cold water and then drain the bowl well. Then, using your freshly re-washed kitchen scissors, cur every shrimp in half like this:

This just makes the shrimp easier to manage in the roll. We used to try to make these rolls with whole shrimp, but it gets much messier than it needs to that way. Cutting the shrimp now keeps the same flavor, but helps get more of the final dish into your mouth and less on your shirt. When you are all done, you should have a bowl of shrimp that looks similar to this…

…all ready to do your bidding in the recipe. Plus, you’ll enjoy it more knowing it’s clean shrimp because you prepped it yourself. See, that wasn’t so much to do! Now set that bowl aside and let’s get the recipe going.

Pouring, Mixing and Tasting

We start the recipe mixing by putting a couple of spoons of mayonnaise into a small bowl. I’m using an iced tea spoon to get mine out of the bottom of the jar and into the bowl, because I find it easier to reach the mayo and my hand doesn’t end up wearing mayo like it’s a lotion.

Next, we are going to add in a little bit of lemon juice…

…and whisk it into the mayo. The addition of the acidic juice is going to break down the mayo a bit and make it all lumpy.

Just keep whisking gently until the mayo is smooth again:

This is where we start the tasting. Grab a few extra spoons so you can taste as we go. First, taste the lemon-mayo mix. It should taste thinner in consistency than regular mayo, but also have a little lemon tang in the flavor. (FYI: This is why Miracle Whip does not work for this recipe at all. It already has too much acid in it to adjust to taste.) Go ahead, dip in with your spoon and taste:

If you can’t taste the lemon, add just a few more drops of juice to the mayo mix and whisk it in well. If the lemon flavor is very strong for you, add a tiny dollop of extra mayo to the bowl and whisk it in well. Taste the mixture again (with a clean spoon!). Keep adjusting as you need to, using only very small amounts of mayo or lemon juice as you go. Worst case scenario: you might have a little bit more sauce than you need when we add it to the shrimp. Not a budget breaker.

Now we add a little bit of salt to the sauce to keep that seaside flavor of fresh shrimp within our sauce. You don’t need a lot. Just whisk it in.

Be sure to taste the sauce again to see how you are doing. Hey, look! We are cooking like our great-grandmothers! Measuring by hand, tasting by instinct. This is the way to better cooking and more kitchen confidence. One step and one recipe at a time!

When you have your sauce tasting just right…creamy, with a little hint of lemon in the end of the bite and just a touch of seashore-like salt… we are going to add the sauce to the bowl of shrimp, slowly, not the other way around. We only want enough sauce to bind the shrimp well together. There should be a light sauce on your shrimp, not some shrimp in a bowl of sauce.

The shrimps are the stars of this dish, so pamper them by gently folding the sauce around them, not stirring the bowl up quickly.

See, I didn’t end up using all the sauce I made, just what the shrimp needed. No big deal. Now we add our chives. Measure out a small palmful…

…and fold it gently into the mix. (I think am getting better at taking these spice-bottle-in-one-hand, camera-in-the-other shots.) You can add more chives, as you need to, to get an even distribution in the shrimp.

The sauce will help the chives stick to your shrimp as you fold them in. When the chives are all folded in, it should look something like this:

I generally like to chill this recipe right here for a few hours before serving. I just toss some foil over the bowl and pop it in the fridge for a while. I like the flavors to bond a little together. But if you don’t have the time, you don’t have to. Whatever fits your schedule.

Serving It Up

There are only three ingredients left in our recipe and they all are involved in the serving. The first one we are going to use is the lettuce. This is a New England style seafood roll recipe, so it only makes sense to use:

You can use other leafy green lettuces (no iceberg lettuce is welcome here), but Boston lettuce, I think, works the best. Pictured below is our pretty lettuce after Mr. CARO has run it through his favorite kitchen toy tool, our salad spinner. (You can read more about that right here.)

Now we are ready for our rolls. We have tried all kinds of rolls for this recipe over the years and these are our Goldilocks-like conclusions:

  • Hoagie rolls: too big, filled with too much shrimp, gets messy quickly
  • Hamburger buns: easier to toast, but shrimp slides out of every side
  • Hot dog buns: easy to toast, shrimp stays put, just the right size

Open up your hot dog rolls and give them a light toast laid flat…

..then gently tear the lettuce leaves off the hard white lettuce ribs. Try to keep the green lettuce leaves in big pieces…

…and fit them down into the toasted hot dog buns, lining them completely:

I know, you can barely see the rolls now, but you want this leafy green balance to all the creamy shrimp while still keeping the crunch of the toasted roll. It all comes together in the end, trust me. You can now ladle your shrimp onto the roll and the lettuce holds it in place, without letting the sauce soak into the bread.

And now we need our last ingredient for this dish. It is really the very best thing to serve with these rolls…our potato chips. You really want a nice, simple, crisp-but-salty chip to go with these shrimp rolls. When in Rome New England…

…use the local chips. Time to eat!

Picnic Bonus

We are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner here in Baltimore. Mr. CARO and I packed a picnic dinner of these shrimp rolls and skipped off to one of our favorite picnic spots this weekend to watch the party at our Inner Harbor. I’d like to show you a picture of the delicious shrimp rolls we packed, but we had been looking forward to our picnic all day and they were gone before I remembered to take out the camera. Oops! This was the beautiful view from our picnic spot, so you can see how we were distracted:

I’m telling you all of this to share that these shrimp rolls wrap up beautifully for picnics in foil. Because the lettuce leaves keep the shrimp mix from getting the bread soggy, you can even prep this recipe completely the night before your party/picnic and just keep the rolls wrapped in your fridge until go time. Easy packing, easy clean-up!

And here is my very own PSA: Please try to use recycled foil in your home, and then be sure to recycle it again, so that the planet can stay enjoyable for all of us to share a picnic. Little steps like this in our daily lives can make a big difference!

Does this recipe sound good to you? What makes a great picnic sandwich? Do you make a great seafood salad in your home over the summer? Share your opinions and recipes in a comment!

If you liked this recipe, there are more to come this summer. You can also always explore the recipes I’ve shared in past posts by clicking on the Savoring Home Recipes link on the side bar.

Posted on June 19, 2012, in Food, Recipes. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. This looks like a great recipe. You make a great point about soggy bread. I never would have thought that the lettuce would be the key. I’ll try this next weekend.

    • We solved this issue through extensive (and delicious) trial and error, Katie. We had picnic of several soggy, fall-apart-and-all-over-your-lap sandwiches which finally drove the point home for me!

  2. What makes a great sandwich? Anything with bacon on it, my husband will tell you. I like egg, tuna, or chicken salad. It just means summer to me.

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