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How to Devein Shrimp – Tips for Cleaning Shrimp

Learning how to devein shrimp is a necessary cooking tip for those who love to cook with shrimp. It’s the final step to make sure that your finished dish looks clean and restaurant quality.

Sometimes, this task may have been done for you by the retailer where you purchased the shrimp. Other times, you will need to do the job yourself, especially if the shrimp still have their shells on.

Shrimp don’t actually have veins, since their circulatory system is open. However, they do have a long line down their back that looks like a vein, which is a bit unsightly.

Fortunately for us, cleaning this shrimp vein is easy. Keep reading to find out how to do it.

Wire basket of deveined shrimp.

There is nothing quite like the look of a plate of cooked shrimp with the back open and the vein removed.  

Any good restaurant knows that presentation of shrimp means de-veining them prior to serving. The plate in the photo below would not look any where near as appealing if the dark vein were still showing on the shrimp.

Cooked and cleaned shrimp with basil leaves.

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What is the black line in shrimp?

There are two “veins” in shrimp.  One is a white vein which is on the underside of the shrimp. It is white because a shrimp has clear blood.

There is no real food safety reason to remove the clear shrimp vein (I don’t) but you may do so if it bothers you.

The main “vein” is the one which runs along the top of the body. This is the is the alimentary canal, (digestive track) or the “sand vein,” and is where the body wastes such as sand pass through the shrimp.

You remove the black line on shrimp, partly because it’s unappetizing, but also so you don’t bite down on the sand and grit.

Although deveining shrimp is a common practice, it is not actually necessary. The vein is safe to eat. Many people like to remove it for aesthetic reasons or personal preference.

They make a deveiner for shrimp, but the process is very easy to do at home with tools you already have on hand.

Hands holding a shrimp with vein removed.

Use these tricks to devein shrimp perfectly every time

Deveining shrimp involves removing the  “vein” that runs along the back of the shrimp. To devein shrimp, you’ll need to follow a few simple steps:

Peel the shrimp before deveining them

Start by selecting fresh or thawed shrimp. Choose shrimp that are still in their shells.

Peel the shrimp first and keep them in a bowl of icy water. This keeps them fresh while you work on the other shrimp to remove their veins.

Hold the shrimp firmly with one hand and use the other hand to locate the shrimp’s back where the vein runs. The vein is a dark line that runs along the back curve of the shrimp.

Peeled raw shrimp with a sharp paring knife.

Making the cut 

A sharp knife is essential. I use a very sharp paring knife. I have also done it with a very sharp pair of kitchen shears. The scissor method works best with the extra large shrimp or those with shells still on.  If you have small shrimp, the paring knife is better.

Cut a shallow 1/4 inch deep slit down the back of the shrimp. Be careful not to cut too deeply as you want to avoid cutting the shrimp in half.

Hands making a cut in a shrimp.

Start at the fattest part of the shrimp and cut towards the tail. You don’t have to go all the way to the end. The vein will be easily seen at this stage. Have your cut follow the line of the vein. 

Removing the vein in shrimp

Once you’ve made the initial cut, use the tip of your knife to remove the “vein” and then rinse the shrimp in cold water. The vein should come out relatively easily.

Sometimes, the vein breaks or doesn’t come out completely. If this happens, you can rinse the shrimp under cold water to help remove any remaining bits of the vein.

This picture shows the shrimp when it was peeled, cut and with the vein removed.

Cleaned shrimp with the vein removed.

The whole cleaning took me about 3 or 4 minutes tops once the shells were removed. Although, it seems slow at first, you get better at it as you work your way through the shrimp.

Deveined shrimp on a white plate

A toothpick can also be use to remove the vein if you don’t want to make the cut as long, along the back side. Just make a little slit and push the toothpick under the vein at the last segment area and give it a little pull to release the vein.

Hands using a toothpick to remove a shrimp vein.

How to devein shrimp with the shell on

My photos show peeled shrimp that have been deveined. You can also devein shrimp with shells on.

In this case, use sharp kitchen shears to cut along the shell first so that you can locate the vein. The vein should be visible if you pry open the cut area.

Cutting open a shrimp shell with scissors for deveining.

Then, use the tip of a sharp knife to remove the vein.

You can also remove the body of the shell and leave the tail intact. The choice depends on your recipe and preferred presentation.

I used these shrimp in my new Shrimp Alfredo recipe with broccoli.   You can view the recipe here.

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🍤🔪 Master the art of deveining shrimp like a pro! Learn step-by-step how to remove that pesky vein for a cleaner and more appealing looking shrimp dish. #ShrimpDeveining #CulinaryTips #SeafoodPreparation #CookingTips Click To Tweet

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Cleaned shrimp on a gray slate tile with words How to devein shrimp.

Admin note: this post for cleaning shrimp first appeared on the blog in May of 2013. I have updated the post to add new photos, a printable project card, and a video for you to enjoy.

Yield: Perfectly deveined shrimp

How To Devein Shrimp

How To Devein Shrimp

A dark vein runs along the back of shrimp. Removing this vein (called "deveining") can result in a cleaner, more appealing presentation.

The vein can sometimes contain gritty or sandy residue, particularly if the shrimp haven't been properly cleaned. Fortunately, removing the veins in shrimp is an easy procedure.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Active Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Difficulty easy


  • Raw shrimp in shells
  • Sharp paring knife


  • Kitchen shears can also be used for larger shrimp


  1. Peel the shrimp first and keep them in a bowl of icy water. This keeps them fresh while you work on the other shrimp to remove the vein.
  2. Use a very sharp paring knife. ( I have also done it with a very sharp pair of kitchen shears.  This method works best with the extra large shrimp.  If you have small ones, the paring knife is better.)
  3. Cut a 1/4 inch deep slit down the back of the shrimp.  
  4. Start at the fattest part of the shrimp and cut towards the tail.  You don’t have to go all the way to the end. The vein will be easily seen at this stage.
  5. Use the tip of your knife to remove the “vein” and then rinse the shrimp in cold water.


You can also devein shrimp but not peel them first. A pair of kitchen shears will allow you to cut the shell so that you can locate the vein and remove it.

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Sunday 23rd of August 2020

Why do you and others say the white vein/line under the shrimp by its' legs is "white"? What I see is a black line on the bottom. thank you for your help.


Tuesday 26th of July 2022

@Mike, agree 100%. The ones I buy are already deveined (slit open along the back, vein is gone) but the one "inside the C" shape is always black.

I get that one too, just using a fingernail to pick it out/pull it out under slowly running cold water.


Tuesday 10th of August 2021

@teri, I know what you mean. I've got some already deveined shrimp and the back is clear and opened as expected. Though there is still another 'vein' on the inside and it's definitely black on these, too.

Carol Speake

Tuesday 25th of August 2020

There are two types of vein lines in shrimp. The one most people notice is the black one which should be removed.

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