Can Raw Shrimp Be Pink?

As the US’s top-selling seafood item, it is safe to say most of us are familiar with the beautiful pinkish hue of the shrimp. Whether you’re eating it in a salad, a stew, or a curry, shrimp are a versatile food and their beauty adds aesthetic appeal to most meals. So, can raw shrimp be pink?

Raw shrimp can be pink if they are in the pink shrimp variety. These are found in the North Atlantic and North Pacific regions and are smaller and sweeter than other shrimp. Other types of shrimp can be light pink when raw and change color when cooked.

Shrimps are the most popular seafood item in the US, with the average American consuming about 4.6 pounds of shrimp per year. Their delicate flavor and beautiful pinkish hue make them popular in many dishes. This article details more about this sought-after food item.

Why Is Raw Shrimp Pink?

Colour is an essential element of food; few food items change color as much as shrimp. But, as many people will have noticed, raw and cooked shrimp look very different.

There are different kinds of shrimp, including pink, brown and white penaeid shrimp, which all have a translucent pinkish-grey look when raw. Therefore, they can be difficult to distinguish between when raw.

While all shrimp initially has a translucent pinkish-blue color, which changes to brighter pink when cooked, the pink shrimp is a much brighter pink when raw than other types, such as the brown shrimp.

Pink shrimp are generally found in the colder waters of the North Atlantic and North Pacific and are slightly different from other types of shrimp that are a translucent pinkish-blue color when raw.

The pink shrimp variety is smaller than other types of shrimp and noticeably pinker in color. Their flavor is also noticeably milder than other types.

In addition, Key West pinks are bright pink when raw and therefore are easy to distinguish from the other kinds.

However, other types of shrimp, such as brown shrimp, while being a much lighter pink than the pink shrimp variety, change when they are cooked, and switch to a much brighter pink.

Astaxanthin makes shrimp pink

The reason raw shrimp, whether of the pink or brown variety, is pink is because of some intricate chemical interactions at a cellular level.

What we commonly think of as a shell, is its exoskeleton which contains pigments of astaxanthin. This is the same molecule that gives salmon its beautiful pinkish color. The same happens with lobster and crab.

The almost translucent pinkish grey of the raw shrimp exoskeleton changes when it is cooked at high temperatures, and the protein molecules are changed.

Pink shrimp change color from pink to white when cooked, and brown shrimp change from a translucent pink to a brighter pink and white.

You could use color to determine whether shrimp has been cooked because it will appear in a much brighter form. However, it is not advisable only to rely on the color of shrimp when determining its safety.

What Is The Best Way To Eat Shrimp?

It is essential to ensure your shrimp is cooked before eating it. Raw shrimp can be dangerous, and you must ensure the shrimp has been prepared adequately.

If you are buying your shrimp to cook at home, it is advisable to buy from reputable outlets as this gives you a better chance of getting a quality product.

You do not want to buy expired shrimp that has not been transported in a cold chain. If raw or off, seafood can cause food poisoning, so it is essential to ensure you consume a quality product.

Their beautiful soft pink color adds visual appeal to dishes and are versatile ingredients in many staples across the US. These include salads, main dishes such as curries and paellas, toppings for pizza and steak dishes, and in soups.

In addition, they can be cooked in many ways, including fried, grilled, flame-grilled, and barbecued.

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How Do I Know If My Shrimp Is Cooked?

You’ll know your shrimp is cooked and ready to be consumed when it is pink and the flesh is white. It must no longer be translucent.

If you notice the shell is still translucent, it is advisable to keep cooking them for a few more minutes and then remove them from the heat. Let them rest for a few minutes as they will continue cooking even after being removed from the heat.

In addition, it is generally advisable to cook your shrimp at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This should kill off any unwanted microorganisms that could potentially cause food poisoning.

Why Does Food Change Colour?

Different processes in food cause changes in color. Fruits and vegetables change color as they ripen, and shrimp, lobster, and crab change color when cooked.

This is all thanks to the molecule astaxanthin, a part of the group of carotenoids. Another example of a molecule from this group is carotene, which turns a carrot orange. The astaxanthin is bound to proteins forming a complex known as crustacyanin.

Raw shrimps change color when cooked because the heat from the cooking activates the proteins and they change. Therefore, bright pink indicates that the shrimp has been cooked and is ready for consumption, but you should not rely on this alone.

The translucence of the shrimp also changes as it is cooked. However, the color change is not known exactly at what temperature.


Raw shrimp is pink, but the pink shrimp is more noticeably pink than other varieties. The color will brighten as the shrimp are cooked through heat.

While a pink shrimp is suggestive of having been cooked, you should ensure it is from a reputable restaurant or eating spot before consuming them, as they are known to give you food poisoning if they have not been properly prepared.