What To Do If Your Shrimp Smells Like Ammonia

Does your shrimp smell like ammonia? Seafood is delicious, but spoilt seafood is toxic and can be fatal. Therefore, knowing what to look for before eating shrimp and other seafood is essential for your safety. For example, what does it mean when shrimp smells like ammonia?

If your shrimp smells like ammonia, the shrimp is likely old or spoiled. In either case, you shouldn’t eat shrimp that smells like ammonia, as it can kill you. Fresh shrimp should have a fresh, salty smell but should never smell like ammonia or other chemicals.

To buy fresh seafood like shrimp, you must know what to look for. Seafood has an extremely short lifespan, so you must store it correctly and ensure it is safe before cooking it. We will discuss what it means when your shrimp smells like ammonia, how to buy fresh shrimp, and how to store it.

Why Does Shrimp Smell Like Ammonia?

There are few dishes that taste quite as amazing as those made with the freshest seafood ingredients. However, if your dish contains bad seafood, you could get violently ill and may be hospitalized or worse. Therefore, you should be concerned whenever you notice something wrong with your seafood.

For example, what does it mean when your shrimp smells like ammonia? Well, the ammonia smell you get from shrimp indicates that the proteins in the shrimp have started to decompose. In other words, the shrimp is going bad. A light ammonia smell may simply indicate that the shrimp is old. In contrast, a more pungent ammonia smell signifies that the shrimp is rancid.

In either case, don’t risk eating the shrimp. When buying and cooking seafood, using only the freshest ingredients is imperative. Therefore, if the shrimp shows any indication that it isn’t entirely fresh, you risk getting food poisoning. Likewise, when cooking with frozen seafood, you must ensure it hasn’t gone bad.

Frozen shrimp should smell fresh as it thaws. The shrimp also shouldn’t show any signs of freezer burn, as this means that the meat has been frozen for too long. While you cannot get sick from eating shrimp with freezer burn, the taste and texture will be unpleasant.

If you buy fresh shrimp and want to freeze it, do so as soon as possible. Freezing rancid seafood doesn’t kill the bacteria, and you can still get ill from eating seafood that has been frozen after decaying. So, how do you determine if your shrimp is fresh when buying it?

How To Buy Fresh Shrimp

While not everyone is fortunate enough to reside in an area with access to fresh shrimp, you must know what to look for if you do. As mentioned, frozen shrimp should show no signs of freezer burn when you buy it. There also shouldn’t be any signs that the shrimp has been defrosted and frozen again.

But what do you look for when buying fresh shrimp? When buying fresh shrimp from a seafood stand or fishmonger, you must consider three things. This is what to look for when you are shopping for fresh shrimp.

Smell – fresh shrimp should smell slightly salty and fresh, like the ocean. If the shrimp has a pungent smell or smells like ammonia, it has spoiled and isn’t safe to eat.

Storage – fresh seafood must be kept on ice or in a fridge to prevent them from dying and rotting. Shrimp cannot survive outside the water for as long as mussels or oysters. However, it is likely already rancid if the shrimp is stored in the sun or in a bowl of melted ice.

Color – most shrimp is grey when raw. However, the color of the shrimp should be vibrant. If the shrimp looks dull or dry, it is no longer safe to eat. Furthermore, the shrimp should be plump and juicy. Shriveled shrimps are likely also going bad.

If you notice any of the signs above, don’t bother buying the shrimp, as you cannot ensure that it will still be safe to eat by the time you cook it. You can also ask the fishmonger when the shrimps were brought in. They should have a date-stamped card as proof. If the shrimps haven’t been caught that day, they aren’t fresh and may make you ill.

How Do You Store Fresh Shrimp?

If you bought fresh shrimp or caught it yourself, you must store it correctly to prevent it from going bad. This will ensure that the shrimp is fresh when you cook it. First, we recommend cooking the shrimp on the day you buy or catch it.

When you buy the shrimp, immediately place it in a cooler box or container. If you have ice in the container, ensure the ice is frozen solid. Also, ensure that the shrimp are in an open bag so they don’t suffocate while transporting them. The fresh air will help keep them fresh, whereas a closed bag will speed up the decaying process.

When you arrive home, put the shrimp in a bowl with ice and place the shrimp in the refrigerator until you want to cook them. If you don’t plan on cooking it within the next 48 hours, it will be safer to freeze the shrimp. Rinse the shrimps and put them on a baking sheet in the freezer until frozen solid. Then transfer the shrimps to a freezer bag and write the date on the bag.

You can leave frozen shrimp in the freezer for up to 6 months. When you are ready to cook them, remove them from the freezer and let them defrost slowly, preferably in the fridge. Then, check that they are still fresh and don’t smell like ammonia before cooking them.

What Can You Do With Shrimp That Smells Like Ammonia?

Unfortunately, there is no way to use shrimp that smells like ammonia. It isn’t worth the risk to cook or eat shrimp that smells of ammonia, and you cannot feed it to pets. Furthermore, rancid shrimp will lure pests and cause a horrid smell when placed in your compost.

Therefore, the only thing you can do with shrimp that smells like ammonia is to throw it out. Because this is an unfortunate turn of events, we recommend using the shrimp while it is still fresh to prevent food wastage.

shutterstock 2182120923


Shrimp that smells like ammonia has started to decompose. A light ammonia smell might mean that the shrimp isn’t fresh, while a more pungent ammonia scent means the shrimp is rancid. Regardless of how strong the shrimp smells of ammonia, you should take it as a sign that it isn’t safe to eat.

Fresh shrimp smells like the ocean. It has a fresh, slightly salty smell. The shells should be wet, glossy, and bright. The meat should be plump. It has likely begun to decay if the shrimp doesn’t look like this when you buy it. Spoilt seafood can make you violently ill, and it isn’t worth risking your health to eat bad shrimp.