Taste

This Is Why Shrimp Turns Pink When You Cook It

Science is AMAZING.
01/31/2017 06:01am ET
joannatkaczuk via Getty Images

Shrimp, before it’s cooked, is a very unappetizing gray-blue color. This color, it turns out, is the exoskeleton (you know, the shrimp’s external skeleton).

Now, to explain how that exoskeleton turns pink we have to get scientific on you. Here we go: the exoskeleton contains carotenoids (which are pigments) called astaxanthin. It is these carotenoids that are what give salmon its pink color. Before the shrimp is cooked the astaxanthin is covered by protein chains called crustacyanin. The protein chains in fact wrap up the astaxanthin, concealing its lovely pinkish-red color.

But heat loosens the hold these protein chains have on the carotenoids and releases the astaxanthin, turning the shrimp its lovely shade of pink. This is the same reason lobsters turn red when you cook them.

One more fun fact: if you’ve ever heard that flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp, it’s because of this same carotenoid. While flamingos eat shrimp that still appear blueish gray (they don’t have the luxury of cooking them before eating), the crustacyanin protein chain dissolves in digestion ― releasing the carotenoid that makes flamingo feathers more pink.

legna69 via Getty Images
"There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich." Point is, flamingos love shrimp.

Now that you know why, watch the magic happen with these shrimp recipes.

1
Hawaiian Shrimp Truck Special (Garlic Lemon Butter Shrimp)
Half Baked Harvest
Get the Garlic Lemon Butter Shrimp recipe from Half Baked Harvest
2
Shrimp Pasta With Broccoli Pesto
Gimme Some Oven
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3
Big Easy Style Saucy Creole Shrimp
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4
Italian Shrimp And Grits
A Spicy Perspective
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5
Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp
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6
Quinoa Tabbouleh With Lemony Shrimp
Annie's Eats
7
Miso Butter Shrimp
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8
Sweet Chile Shrimp Tacos
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9
Garlicky Grilled Shrimp
The Clever Carrot
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10
Shrimp Scampi Zoodles For Two
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11
Grilled Chiles Rellenos With Chipotle Peach Mojo Shrimp
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12
Coconut-Lime Fried Shrimp With Fiery Mango-Peach Jalapeno Sauce
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13
Roasted Basil Butter Parmesan Shrimp
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14
Shrimp Burgers With Chipotle Cream & Coconut Peach Salsa
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15
Shrimp Cakes
Simply Recipes
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16
Peppery Garlic Prawns
Simply Recipes
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17
Shrimp And Bacon Risotto
How Sweet It Is
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18
Garlic Shrimp In Coconut Milk, Tomatoes and Cilantro
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19
Shrimp Po Boy Sandwich
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20
Fresh Corn Chowder With Bacon + Barbecue Shrimp
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21
Spicy Beer & Butter Shrimp with Cornbread Panzanella Salad
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22
Shrimp Gumbo With Andouille Sausage
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23
Sweet Chili Shrimp Stir-Fry
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24
Thai Firecracker Shrimp
Steamy Kitchen
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25
Aloha Teriyaki Shrimp Burgers
Skinny Taste
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26
Shrimp Dip
Simply Recipes
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27
Smoky Paprika Shrimp Skewers
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28
Ancho Chile, Shrimp And Pasta
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29
Crispy Shrimp Pizza
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30
Cioppino
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