The Lee Bros.’ Pickled Shrimp with Fennel Recipe

Pickled Shrimp with Fennel from The Lee Bros. “Charleston Kitchen”

Serves: 8

Time: 30 minutes, plus 1 hour cooling

We can hear it now: What? Fennel? Fennel’s not Southern!

One of the more thrilling aspects of delving into the history of agriculture in South Carolina is that you discover vegetables you’ve never heard of—anybody up for roasted tanya?—and you learn about a few others you might not have perceived to be “Southern.”

Eggplant, salsify and, yes, fennel, to name a few, have been grown in the Charleston area since the eighteenth century. History aside, pickled shrimp and fennel are perfectly complementary. After all, we often encounter fennel’s close cousins, dill (or dill seed) and celery (or celery seeds), in many preparations of this classic hors d’oeuvre.

Served in a bowl for self-service with toothpicks, pickled shrimp may also be a passed hors d’oeuvre on a plate if you use the sturdy bamboo picks found in many party stores these days. One of the advantages of this recipe is that the marinated fennel pushes the pickled shrimp into the cold-salad realm: it’s easy enough to strew several of the shrimp and strips or rings of the fennel over butter lettuce to create a pretty appetizer salad.


Photo by Squire Fox

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 pounds large (21 to 25 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 7 lemons)
  • 1 small fresh bird or Serrano chile (green or red), sliced very thinly on the bias
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 small white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds


  • 1. Fill a medium stockpot with 2 quarts of water, add 1 tablespoon of the salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. When the salted water boils, turn off the heat, add the shrimp, stirring them once or twice to distribute them, and cook until uniformly pink-opaque and just done, about 1 minute. With a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to the ice bath. Reserve 2 cups of the shrimp-cooking liquid in a medium bowl.
  • 2. With the slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a plate lined with a double thickness of paper towels. (Don’t dump the ice bath yet!) Add the vinegar, lemon juice, and chile to the bowl with the shrimp-cooking liquid and whisk in the remaining 1½ teaspoons salt and the sugar until dissolved. Set this bowl of brine in the ice bath (add more ice to the bath if needed), and whisk until the liquid cools to room temperature.
  • 3. Dump the ice bath and use the cold large bowl to toss the shrimp, onion, fennel slices, and fennel fronds. Pour the cooled brine over the shrimp. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour, tossing once, until chilled and ready to serve. (Pickled shrimp will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 days.)

Featured Articles

Frogmore Stew and Lowcountry Boil

There are two kinds of social gatherings in coastal Georgia and South Carolina that revolve around shellfish. One is very much like a Louisiana boil, usually involving shrimp, corn on the cob, sausage, and red potatoes, and sometimes ham, and is considered part of Lowcountry cuisine. Known variously as Frogmore Stew, Beaufort Stew, a Beaufort boil, a Lowcountry […]

Recent Videos

Featured Articles

The Great Sea Island Storm of 1893

On Sunday night, August 27, 1893, the eye of the huge, slow-moving Category 3 hurricane landed just south of Savannah, ripping through South Carolina’s coastal islands with a 10- to 12-foot storm surge on a high tide. Estimates of the death toll ranged up to 3,500. No one could count all of the bodies that […]

Dolphin Watching

One of the favorite pastimes of Lowcountry residents and visitors as they walk the beach or cruise the local waterways, is watching dolphins as they play, fish or simply swim on by. Many people don’t realize, however, that they are actually whale watching. Most of us think of whales as large marine mammals, up to […]

Beaufort Named the Most Romantic Spot in South Carolina in 2018

Love is in the air in all year long in Beaufort. Residents of our town have know that for years. And now and have named Beaufort “The Most Romantic Locale” in the state of South Carolina. Along with its Southern charm, Beaufort offers picturesque historic homes, elegant live oak trees, laden with Spanish moss, fine eateries, […]