How Many Shrimp Per Person Should You Serve At A Dinner Party?

There is nothing more versatile for a dinner party than shrimp. You could serve it as an appetizer in the form of a cold shrimp cocktail, or on top of a bed of lettuce for a simple shrimp salad, or serve it as a hot entrée using a recipe for shrimp scampi. There are limitless options, and plenty of tasty ideas to feed a crowd with this popular seafood pick.

Yet, one of the common questions about serving shrimp, besides how to best cook them, is how many shrimp should be portioned per person when you are planning a meal for a dinner party. The answer largely depends on two factors: how large each piece of shrimp is and how you are using the seafood in your meal. A good rule of thumb is to plan for a quarter-pound per person for an appetizer, or a half-pound for a main course. But, the answer gets a bit more specific when it comes to weighing out shrimp.

Counting shrimp by weight is your best bet

Generally speaking, shrimp is sorted and sold by size, and they are often labeled as "colossal," jumbo," "extra large," etc. However, those labels are not always a reliable way to determine the true size or weight of the crustacean, as there are no true labeling standards. Therefore, a colossal shrimp in one grocery store might merely be considered jumbo in another seafood market.

A much more reliable and standardized way to measure shrimp is by its "count," or the exact number of shrimp that makes up a pound. A high count number per pound means the shrimp are smaller, while the lower count means the shrimp are larger. For example, if a 1-pound package of frozen shrimp has a label that says "25-30 count," it means there are somewhere between 25 to 30 shrimp in the package. Conversely, a label for a 1-pound package that reads "8-10 count" would imply the shrimp in that package are much larger in size and weigh more per unit.

Deciding how many shrimp to buy takes a little math

With the "count" knowledge described above, you can then more easily make a decision about the number of shrimp you'll need and the portions you'll provide. If you have a bag of 25-30 shrimp, the quarter-pound rule would mean you have about six shrimp pieces per guest for an appetizer course. If you are preparing a main course, the half-pound guideline would mean you have about a dozen shrimp for each plate.

When considering shrimp portions, you should also consider how you are going to use them in a dish. Small shrimp sizes are best used in salads or mixed with other ingredients, such as this shrimp and lobster burger from The Wayfarer. Medium shrimp are great for cold appetizers such as this classic shrimp cocktail recipe. Large shrimp, of course, are meatier and apply best in recipes where shrimp stands as the main attraction, such as king prawns with pernod, tarragon, and feta cheese