Prawn stock – getting the best value out of crustaceans.


The better part of the ingredients. A good bag-full of fresh Dublin Bay Prawns

It seems like every day somebody asks me “How do you make prawn stock, Conor?” or “I was thinking of making some prawn stock, how would you do it?” Given that I am a pretty average type of guy, I know that you too must be harassed on a regular basis with prawn stock conundrums. So I am going to tell you how to do it.

First, you need a decent quantity of big fresh Dublin Bay Prawns. I have mentioned these previously. The last time, I cooked them and we ate them. This time, we need the prawns for their heads and shells only. While I bought the prawns from my favourite fishmonger in the world, Lisa at George’s Fish Shop she gave me a bag of additional heads and claws and bits and pieces.

Prawn heads

The extra muscle to get even more flavour. Lots of prawn heads.

Side note of honesty: Lisa has been a little irked that I don’t give her enough blog credit for the excellent fish that I get from her. The above mention should get me out of trouble, don’t you think?

For this recipe you will need the following:

  • Nice fresh prawns
  • A bag of prawn bits
  • Bay leaf
  • Black peppercorns
  • The patience of Jobe for shelling the prawns

FIrst, pull the heads off the prawns and then put the bodies in the freezer for 30 minutes. This makes it much easier to get the meat out of the shells. To do this, squeeze the shell on the open end until the shell cracks or your finger bursts and you start to bleed. Bandage up the fingers and get the rest of them done.

Prawn shelling

This is the hard bit. Trying to not injure yourself while shelling the prawns.

When you are finished, you should have a pile of prawn meat. This has no place in the stock recipe so discard this and place the shells, heads, legs, claws and other bits into a pot and fry them in batches, in some butter and oil until they change colour somewhat.

Prawn stock

A big knob of butter and a little oil. Just enough to bring out the flavour of the prawn.

Next, add them to a big stock pot and cover them with water, adding the peppercorns and bay leaves. Simmer (don’t boil) this for a couple of hours, removing any scum that rises to the surface.

Prawn stock

Heads, claws, shells, bits and pieces all simmering in the pot.

Strain it all through kitchen paper in a sieve to leave an intensely prawn flavoured stock. I got four and a half pints from my endeavours. This will make an excellent basis for a bisque or for making a seafood risotto.

You didn’t throw out the prawn meat, did you? I was joking! Here’s a recipe to use up those beautiful prawns.

You will need:

  • 16 big fresh prawns (Fish them out of the bin, if you threw them out.)
  • Beautiful top quality olive oil
  • Three cloves of garlic
  • Thai fragrant rice for two people
Garlic from Lautrec

One of the benefits of a trip to France. One of the remaining bulbs of Lautrec garlic. Good enough to eat on its own.

Top quality olive oil

One of the other benefits of a trip to France. A bottle of superb olive oil. Good enough to drink on its own.

Here’s what to do:

Warm the olive oil in a wok until medium hot, not smoking. Add the garlic.

Garlic oil

Garlic oil does not get much more garlicey or oily than this.

When the beautiful garlic aroma is rising out of the wok, add the prawns and stir fry them until they are nearly done.

Prawns in a wok

Prawns in a wok. Just before I took them out. That’s as close to a cooking lesson as I can give.

The fresher they are, the less cooking you need to give them. I took them off just after they had changed colour.


With good garlic and good olive oil, it’s all you need for a fantastic dish.

Add them to the rice in a bowl and pour the garlic olive oil over. Add a small bit of parsley and serve.


And you thought I was going to throw them out……

Enjoy this while you either think of the beautiful seafood dishes you will prepare with the stock or while you chastise yourself for throwing those prawns in the bin!

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Latest comments
  • Good recipe. Great garlic. And I love that you cooked the prawns just the right amount of time 🙂

    • Thanks Rosemary, always a close call. If they are fresh, there is little danger from being a little under. If not, you should not bother eating them anyway.

  • Great to see the whole animal being used to make a fine stock, and your simple treatment of the langos with top ingredients is just right. I almost stopped at the harbour for some langos on the way back home from the airport today. Now your post is making me regret that I didn’t! Thanks, Tracey

  • I love the incredible boost of flavor you can get by making prawn stock. I always make it for my Thai Shrimp Soup.

    • Thanks Connie, this one is all about intense flavours.

  • Those prawns are huge and look great! I like the simplicity of the stock. I knew a guy that used to boil everything and then blend it together in a food processor before straining in order to really pump up the concentration of flavor. Yours seems like an easier choice though. Great follow-up recipe for all of that pesky prawn meat.

    • The blended or even crushed prawns would deliver more flavour but, with so much raw materials, I have got 4and a half pints of intense prawn flavour. More than that, I can’t ask for.

  • Great ingredients simply prepared. Ain’t that nearly always the best way. Why use 20 ingredients when you actually want to taste the really good quality product. A lesson to be reminded of regularly. Kiss is the acronym and that’s what this deserves. Happy Valentines!

    • Thanks Adam, the intensity of the prawn stock is quite amazing. I can’t wait to try a risotto on it.

  • 2 great recipes for Valentine’s Day. You’re such a romantic, Conor!
    I was just about to volunteer my services for kitchen trash removal and then read that you did, indeed, use the prawn meat. So, it’s on to Plan 2.
    What time shall I arrive for dinner?

    • John, any time you are in Ireland, there is a place at the table and a pillow to rest your head.

  • My husband always goes into our Chinatown District so that he can buy prawns with the heads still on. Then he makes a stock from the heads and shells. Which later becomes the base for his shrimp stew. This stuff is so good it ought to be against the law! Takes all damn day, but worth it!

    • Hi Steph, you have a good one there. Look after him. That is as long as he bins those shells after making the stock. They can be rich and not in a good way.

      • We make compost out of nearly everything we can’t get another drop out of. I love my dirt as much as my food 🙂
        Well, around here anyway, they are nearly one and the same.

  • Fantastic!
    I had a mad Scottish flat mate at college, who insisted fish should be scolded before and during cooking. I came home one day and he was grilling a fish and literally telling it off, with the words, “Bad fish, naughty bad fish,” while wagging his finger at it. I can’t say that it makes a difference, but it doesn’t seem to do any harm!

    • As I started reading this comment MD, I thought that was a typo. On reflection, I might have to give it a go. As you say, can’t do any harm…

      • It does make people laugh 😉

  • Guess what I’m having for dinner tonight? Dublin bay may be a challenge but I nip down to Fremantle and see what I can grab. Lovely stuff!

    • Wes, you appear as Anonymous when you comment here. That is, if it is Wes. It has to be. Mail me a Fremantle shrimp to prove it!

  • Oops! Don’t think the Dublin Bay prawns and Sydney Harbour prawns are at all related 🙂 ! The Crusaders to the Holy Land v Vestal Virgins! Ours are a breeze to clean: no sharp edges [OK: messy!]. Love your KISS principle in preparing the two dishes . . . the only way methinks!!

    • Thanks Eha, the hard work yields tasty reward.

  • I am literally salivating as I write this. Now I’m dreaming of garlic prawns and a beautiful stock for seafood suppers, your last photo is truly lovely.

    • Thanks Alice, I tis probably the simplest dish I have cooked in a long time. Wonderfully tasty though.

  • Great stock and great dish. Love the simplicity of the stir fry allowing those beautiful prawns to be the star of the show. We don’t get prawns very often in DFW but we get a lot of shrimp out of the Gulf of Mexico. When we make shrimp dishes I always save the shells and make shrimp stock. It always comes in handy for my cajun dishes, not to mention shrimp bisque. I also noticed you have now taken to hiding the hen. 😉

    • Thanks Richard, a decent stock puts one ahead of the competition, for sure.

      On the hen, I thought you took her! She must be hiding someplace around here…

  • Prawns stir fried with garlic is my all time favourite! Supreme yumminess here Conor!

    • Thanks Sanjiv, they were pretty tasty, even if I smelled of garlic for a week after…

  • Amazing recipe Conor!

  • I am not brave enough to cook something that still has eyes to look at me! But I sure had a fun time reading about how to do it if I did have the guts. 😉

    • Thanks Mrs W. I don’t eat whitebait because I hate being watched by my dinner.

  • My goodness. Those are some beautiful looking prawns.

  • The best seafood there is in my humble opinion. Looks delicious. I did a similar thing with a big bag of crabs legs and claws recently. Dirt cheap, but really tasty.

    • The extra heads and tails really made the difference. Very powerful stock.

  • It’s sad that even though Newfoundland has so many fisheries around it’s that much hard to find a fresh catch. We grew up eating fresh prawns and shrimps, cooked with heads on for full flavour. I miss that. I absolutely love this stock and the way you serve up at the prawns with garlic on rice. I think I’m getting hungry 🙁

    • Daft that you cant’t get fresh up there. It probably does not suit the Wal Mart model to do anything fresh…

  • Beautiful, Conor. I did the same thing w/ lobster shells last week, and made a risotto. Whenever I’ve got crustaceans — lobster, crab, shrimp — I do this. I have MAJOR envy of your Dublin Bay prawns, BTW…

    • They are pretty tasty, even though they don’t actually come from Dublin Bay any more.

  • This looks so simple, Cornor. My maid always cleaned and threw out the shells and head and would prepare yummy prawn fry or pulao. Today I have bought prawns and trying out your recipe for the stock…..OMG to think we threw away the heads and shell all this time 🙁

    • Hi Penny,
      Fire the maid. Or teach her the way of the stock.
      Thanks for stopping by,

  • It took me a long time to learn that Dublin Bay prawns are called scampi in Australia and they are quite different from ‘australian prawns’ most of which are imported from Vietnam.The Italians call their prawns scampi and i think they call Dublin Bay prawns langostini.
    For my money Dublin Bay prawns have the most subtle flavour.Thanks for the recipe!

    • Hi Ralph,
      There is no doubt about it. Dublin Bay prawns have loads of flavour in the heads and shells. They are called langostini or langoustine and also called Norwegian Lobster, just to confuse the issue. A lot of the Eastern farmed shrimp have little or no flavour built up in the shell, given the process employed to grow them in the first place.

  • Thank you so much, that was awesomely simple. I added a bit of onion before the garlic and some sliced snow peas with the prawns, plus fresh sliced chilli of course. Mmmmmmmm

    • Kate, that sounds delicious. It really is very simple and very tasty.

  • Do you need to wash the shells/heads before boiling?

    • I couldn’t advise not to. Though we are blessed here with getting very clean, fresh from the sea, prawns. The boiling will ensure safety but one may want to be sure by giving them a quick rinse.
      Thanks for visiting,

  • Get your Prawns from Meylers in Wexford, Linda or Karen, or the real boss. Best you can get in the world🏍, believe me, I know. Best Fish products in Ireland. All will advise you on cooking any fish or crustacion that you buy. Really good value, fresh as a daisy. Fresh all year round. Joe.😷

  • They are langoustines, not prawns…

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