This zesty, protein-packed shrimp and avocado salad is the perfect winter meal. Whenever you’re craving a light and satisfying dish to get you back on track, make this!
When I need a quick and simple dinner (especially after over-indulging in paleo treats), I turn to this satisfying shrimp and avocado salad. This recipe also happens to be Whole30-compatible, paleo, and low carb—not that anyone at the dinner table will notice!
As evidenced by my Mexican-inspired Paleo Shrimp Tacos recipe, I love the combination of cilantro, lime, shrimp, and avocado—but I might just have found an equally amazing flavor combination. After devouring a Sicilian arugula and fennel salad with orange segments and nuts at a local restaurant, I was inspired to come up with this Mediterranean-inspired recipe.
This salad is a kaleidoscope of textures and flavors: tender arugula and crunchy fennel are balanced with juicy bites of orange and a zingy vinaigrette. All are easy-to-find ingredients in the fall and winter months.
After tinkering in my test kitchen, I ended up with this irresistible California-inspired entrée salad topped with pan-seared shrimp and chunks of buttery avocado. It’ll knock your socks off!
- Shrimp: See below for my recommendations. If you don’t like shrimp, you can substitute 4 cups of shredded cooked chicken.
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Champagne vinegar: Sherry vinegar, lime juice, or lemon juice also work well in the dressing.
- Dijon mustard
- Baby arugula: It adds a peppery bite that contrasts well with the shrimp and sweet orange slices. Feel free to use your favorite lettuce blend or spring mix if you don’t like arugula.
- Fennel bulb: Thinly shaved fennel adds a crunchy and licorice-flavored bite to the greens. Use a Japanese mandolin to get the thinnest slices! Not a fan of fennel? Thinly-sliced cucumber will also add crunch without the anise-y overtones.
- Naval orange: I love adding sweet naval oranges to lend a burst of sweetness to the salad, but grapefruit or tangerine segments also work. If you want to keep this dish keto, feel free to leave out the citrus.
- Hass Avocado
- Pistachios: any toasted and roughly chopped nuts or seeds will add crunch and richness (e.g., hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds)
- Quick Pickled Red Onions: When I originally shot this recipe, I didn’t have any of my zingy red onions in the fridge. However, I have since made this salad adorned with tangy red onions and now I always add them if I have some on hand.
What’s the best shrimp to use for salads?
I always stock frozen shrimp in my freezer for dinner emergencies and that’s what I use in this shrimp salad recipe. I buy frozen large wild shrimp, at least 21-25 per pound.
The best way to thaw the shrimp is to stick them in a covered bowl in the fridge overnight or quick-thaw them under tepid running water for about 5 minutes. You can certainly save time by buying shelled and deveined shrimp, but those can get a little water-logged if you quick-thaw them under the faucet. If you’re feeling really lazy, you can buy pre-cooked shrimp and skip the pan-searing in the recipe—but it won’t taste as good.
For the latest recommendations on the best shrimp to buy, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide.
My favorite type of avocados to use for this recipe are Hass avocados, which provide creamy and buttery richness to the salad. I always ripen them at room temperature on the counter until the flesh yields slightly when I squeeze them. Then, I move them to the refrigerator where they can be stored for up to week. This timely transfer to the fridge is the secret to preserving your pricey avocados so they won’t go from perfectly ripe to black mush in the blink of an eye.
If you’re in need of a ripe avocado right away, head to the store and find one with dark purplish black (and no longer green) skin, and make sure its flesh is slightly soft to the touch. Flick off the stem nub and check that the flesh underneath is bright green and not black and moldy.
How to make this shrimp and avocado salad recipe
Season and pan-fry the shrimp
Pat the shrimp dry with some paper towels and then toss them into a large bowl along with some salt and pepper.
Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add some extra virgin olive oil. Then, arrange the shrimp in a single layer in the pan.
Cook the shrimp for about 1 minute or until pink on the bottom. Then, flip each one to cook for another minute or until cooked through. Don’t overcook the shrimp or they’ll turn rubbery!
Transfer the cooked shrimp to a clean bowl.
Make the dressing for shrimp avocado salad
In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the champagne vinegar, Dijon mustard, Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.
Slowly whisk in the extra virgin olive oil until a uniform suspension forms. Taste and adjust seasoning with more vinegar, olive oil, salt, and/or pepper if needed.
Assemble the shrimp and avocado salad
Spoon some of the dressing over the cooked shrimp and toss well. Set it aside to let the flavors meld and for the shrimp to cool down a little.
In a separate large bowl, add the arugula and shaved fennel. Season with salt and pepper.
Add salad dressing to taste and toss well to combine.
Divide half the salad greens onto four individual plates.
Then, distribute half of the shrimp, orange segments, avocado, and pistachios on each plate.
Divvy up the the remaining salad greens and the rest of the toppings. Garnish with Quick-Pickled Red Onions, if desired. Season to taste with salt, pepper, or extra salad dressing. Serve immediately!
Make ahead tips
If you want to make this salad ahead of time, you can make and store the champagne vinaigrette in the fridge up to 4 days in advance. You can also cook the shrimp ahead of time and store it in the fridge for up to 2 days in advance. However, it’s best to toss the salad immediately before serving. No one wants to eat wilted, soggy greens!
For more paleo salad recipes
- Asian Steak Salad
- Avocado Salad with Garlic Anchovy Vinaigrette
- Bacon Deviled Egg Salad
- Chinese Chicken Salad
- King Oyster Mushroom Salad with Lemon
- Simple Crab Salad
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2021).
PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE CARD
Shrimp Avocado Salad
- 1½ pounds shrimp (21-25 per pound) peeled and deveined
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
- 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 6 cups baby arugula
- 1 medium fennel bulb thinly sliced
- 1 medium naval orange peeled and cut into segments
- 1 medium Hass avocado peeled, seeded, and cubed
- ⅓ cup shelled dry-roasted and salted pistachios or roasted almonds, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup Quick Pickled Red Onions optional
- Pat the shrimp dry with some paper towels and then toss them in a large bowl with ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
- Heat a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Place the shrimp in a single layer in the pan.
- Cook the shrimp for about 1 minute or until pink on the bottom. Then, flip each one to cook for another minute or until cooked through. Don’t overcook the shrimp or they’ll turn rubbery! Transfer the cooked shrimp to a clean bowl.
- In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the champagne vinegar, Dijon mustard, ½ teaspoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper. Slowly whisk in ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil until a uniform suspension forms. Taste and adjust seasoning with more vinegar, olive oil, salt, and/or pepper if needed.
- Spoon 2 tablespoons of the dressing over the cooked shrimp and toss well. Set aside to let the flavors meld and for the shrimp to cool down a little.
- In a separate large bowl, add the arugula and shaved fennel. Season with salt and pepper. Add salad dressing to taste and toss well to combine.
- Divide half the salad greens onto four individual plates. Then, distribute half of the shrimp, orange segments, avocado, and pistachios to each plate.
- Divvy up the the remaining salad greens and the rest of the toppings. Garnish with Quick-Pickled Red Onions if desired. Season to taste with salt, pepper, or extra salad dressing. Serve immediately!