When I was ten years old I started collecting old cookbooks and cooking magazines from the local used bookstore, and I amassed quite a large collection.  I had a fairly complete set of old Gourmet magazines, as well as a strange variety of cookbooks, ranging from spiral-bound, regional fair collections to James Beard and Julia Child.  I read them for fun, experiencing them as travel stories and introductions to exotic places (exotic was pretty broadly defined for me at the age of ten). In the process I comically mispronounced an awful lot of foreign cooking terms, but I wouldn’t know that until I was in college.

Given the fascination with French cooking that dominated the eras of my collection, a great deal of my early knowledge of cooking was based on those flavors and techniques.  Quenelles were one of my first in-the-kitchen experiments, and I still enjoy making savory versions with fish and shellfish.  They are versatile and texturally interesting.

Shrimp Quenelles

A quenelle is essentially an oval-shaped dumpling of some sort, and the savory types are typically made with a mousseline of fish or meat.  The technique of forming the oval shape is fairly simple, but it does take a few tries to get the swing of it.  You use two spoons of equal size to scoop the mixture into football shape.  This video has a good visual illustration.  They are often poached in some sort of broth, and from there you have a lot of options.  I made a double batch and used half for a simple soup with spring vegetables, using the poaching stock as the soup base.  The second half I refrigerated (do not refrigerate them in the poaching liquid for this, or they will be soggy) and I have been using them as a type of seafood sausage for breakfast.  Just toss them in a skillet with some ghee or olive oil and brown them well on all sides.  If you are suffering from breakfast boredom, these will really help.

Shrimp Quenelles

Shrimp Quenelles
Recipe type: Main Dish, Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 pound raw, wild shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream (the solid part from the top of a can of coconut milk), or heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • fish or chicken stock, for poaching
  1. Place all of your ingredients except the stock in a food processor, and pulse until the mixture is fairly smooth. You may have to scrape down the sides once or twice to get an even consistency. Refrigerate the mixture for a half hour.
  2. In a deep skillet or a wok pan, heat about a quart of stock to a simmer--you want at least two inches of liquid to be able to poach the quenelles. When the stock comes to a simmer, use two spoons to form the shrimp mixture into quenelles, and drop them into the stock. Repeat until you have a total of 8 or 9 quenelles. Let them simmer for 6-8 minutes, turning them once. Do not let the stock boil, just keep it at a simmer.
  3. Once the quenelles are cooked through, either drain them well before storing them for another use, or add lightly steamed vegetables to the pot and serve hot as a soup course.

Shrimp Quenelles

While these are slightly fussy to make, it is easy to double the recipe and enjoy them in different ways over the course of a week.  They are also great topped with a mushroom sauce and heated under a broiler.  It’s definitely a fun project when you have the time to play with your food.

Thanks for reading,


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  1. Ann Kitalong-Will

    Yum! Do you have any recommendations for substituting the coconut flour?(gluten-free, preferably).

    1. Ann, you could use a tablespoon or two of cornstarch or arrowroot, or a couple of tablespoons of garbanzo flour. Coconut flour sucks up a whole lot of liquid, but honestly these would work even without any kind of flour, it just helps to stabilize them a bit.

  2. What a nice break from the ordinary. I can’t wait to make these. I have some shrimp in the freezer from the last Whole Foods sale. Yum! I’m excited!

    1. Yay! It’s fun to mix it up.

  3. Wow never heard of it but it looks great!

    1. Thanks, Scarlet!

  4. You are inspiring me to experiment more with seafood!! Love the story!

    1. Thanks, Tina!

  5. That looks like a recipe for this week.

    1. I hope you like them 🙂

  6. These remind me so much of the Filipino style shrimp fritters my MIL makes. You have me drooling! Any idea if these would do okay fried?

    1. Megan I am pretty sure you could fry them and I think they would be delicious–they have a fairly high water content, so they will pop a bit as they fry, so be careful! Now I want to try Filipino style shrimp fritters…will have to investigate.

  7. I have not had these before but they remind me of shrimp matzo balls. I bet they are very yummy!

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