Heart eyes for coconut shrimp and dipping sauce


I was out in the desert for a conference a couple of months ago and was reminded why the Palm Springs-Indian Wells area is so great. The weather is beautiful, the variety of restaurants is mouth-watering and the landscaping is ultracool.

What’s with the gush about the landscaping? I think because it’s “desert done right.” Drought tolerant landscaping is something I’ve been considering for years now but haven’t done. Why? Because much of it is so – what’s the politically incorrect term? Ugly.

But what I saw on this trip was amazing. Bold but peaceful. Stark but sublime. Simple but dramatic. This was xeriscaping I could live with and be happy. So, I took lots of pictures and filed the images in my brain for later.

The gals I was with at the conference decided to have dinner at Tommy Bahama’s. I had never eaten there before, so I was game. I realized the marketing genius behind the store and restaurant being together: I had to walk past the gorgeous million dollar bathing suits and floaty dresses to get to the restaurant. They weren’t really a million dollars but they might as well have been.

What can I say about the dinner? Two words: Coconut shrimp. Crunchy, delicious, addicting coconut shrimp. I didn’t order it but someone else did and shared a few. I was immediately sad I hadn’t gotten it myself.

Fried foods are kind of frenemies to me. I love eating them, but the time spent preparing the fried items can be a pain. With my goal this year being more 30-minute meals, I had written off fried food from my dinner menus.

But, never say never! I found this week’s recipe on one of my favorite cooking blogs, Natasha’s Kitchen. What I enjoy about her recipes is that they are delicious, family-friendly, healthy and many times what you’d find in trendy upscale restaurants, like Tommy Bahama’s.

The prep for this was quick and the results were fantastically delicious. The fact that this recipe clocks in at 30 minutes from start to finish? It’s kind of like my response to that desert landscaping: Heart eyes emoji, right now.

Delicious Coconut Shrimp with two-ingredient Dipping Sauce. Photo by Betty Williams.

Delicious Coconut Shrimp with two-ingredient Dipping Sauce


Serves 8 as appetizer or 4 as entree

Ingredients for Coconut Shrimp:

1 lb. large shrimp (21-25 count), peeled and deveined with tails left on

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (can sub in gluten-free flour)

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2 large eggs, beaten with a fork

1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (regular or gluten-free)

Light olive oil, vegetable oil or coconut oil

Shrimp Dipping Sauce:

1/4 cup sweet chili sauce (such as Mae Ploy brand)

1/4 cup apricot preserves or apricot fruit spread


If shrimp is frozen, thaw under cool running water and drain. Gently pat dry with paper towels.

Gather together three pie pans or shallow bowls. Combine flour, garlic powder and salt in the first pan. In the second pan, whisk together two eggs. In the last pan, stir together the coconut flakes and panko breadcrumbs.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set next to the pie pans. Dredge each shrimp through the three pans, first in flour, then dip in the egg, and lastly in the coconut-crumb combo. Be sure to press the coconut crumb mixture onto the shrimp. Place shrimp on the baking sheet and repeat with remaining shrimp. At this point, you can flash freeze the shrimp in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes and transfer to Ziploc bags to cook at a later date.

To cook the shrimp, heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add enough oil to generously cover the bottom. When the oil is hot, carefully add several shrimp (don’t crowd the pan) and sauté two to three minutes, then flip and sauté another two minutes until golden brown. Shrimp cooks quickly, so you’ll need to keep an eye on it. Transfer cooked shrimp to a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil.

To make the dipping sauce, combine the sweet chili sauce with the apricot preserves in a small bowl and serve with coconut shrimp.