Okoy or ukoy is a lightly battered, crispy fritter made with shrimp and vegetables. It is delicious and even better when paired with a spicy vinegar dipping sauce.
It is ideal to use tiny shrimps if they're available. Squash, sweet potatoes, and bean sprouts are some vegetable options. They crisp up so well and pack so much flavor.
What makes a good okoy or ukoy
A good okoy or ukoy (shrimp and vegetable fritters) should be crispy and not greasy. A thin batter allows the flavors of the shrimp and vegetables to pop.
This dish is inspired by Chef Tom Cunanan of Washington D.C.'s Bad Saint, a traditional Filipino restaurant. He uses cilantro that adds a punch of flavor and color.
I used rice flour in place of cornstarch. Baking powder was substituted for club soda, making the fritters light and crunchy.
Ingredients you'll need
Notes and substitutions
- Shrimp: It is best to use tiny shrimps. For larger sizes, remove the heads and shells as they could be unpleasant to eat.
- Squash: Winter squashes, like calabaza (kalabasa in Filipino) and kabocha (or Japanese pumpkin), are sweet and smooth when cooked. Their skins are edible, so you don't have to peel them.
- Vegetables & herbs: Sweet potatoes and bean sprouts can also be used instead of squash. Use other herbs, like parsley or chives, if you don't like cilantro.
How to make this recipe
Prep the dipping sauce
(1)Combine the vinegar, sugar, minced shallot, and chopped chilies in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir them together.
Prep the vegetables
Rinse the kabocha squash and remove any bumps on the skin. (2)Cut about a third or half — you will need about a pound.
(3)Remove the seeds with a spoon. Refrigerate the unused portion or make pinakbet with crispy pork belly.
(5)Cut the carrots the same way.
PRO TIP: Cut the vegetables roughly the same size, so they cook evenly.
(6)Thinly slice the onion. (7)Roughly chop the cilantro.
(8)In a large bowl, combine the squash, carrots, onion, and cilantro. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss them together.
Prep the shrimp
(9)For tiny shrimps, rinse them multiple times and remove any foreign bodies. They are sharp on both ends, so be careful when cleaning them.
If you're using regular-size shrimp, peel them and remove the vein. Feel free to slice, chop, or cut them.
(10)Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Toss them together in the bowl.
Make the batter
(11)Combine the rice flour, baking powder, fish sauce, and ¾ cup of water in a cup. Mix them well. It will be thin and smooth, like a slurry.
The batter will lightly coat the shrimp and vegetables, just enough to hold them together. (12)Pour it over the vegetables and toss them together.
Fry the fritters
(13)Set a skillet over high heat and add about an inch of oil. To test if the oil is ready, dip a wooden spoon handle or a chopstick. It should steadily bubble around it.
(14)Scoop about ½ cup of the mixture, flatten it on a large spoon or turner, then slide it into the hot oil.
Fry each side for about 2 minutes until golden brown. Drain them on paper towels.
PRO TIP: To prevent greasy or soggy fritters, keep the oil hot. When the temperature drops too low, they absorb more oil.
How to serve
Okoy or ukoy (shrimp and vegetable fritters) are best served immediately. Pair them with the spicy vinegar dipping sauce. They can be eaten as an appetizer or a snack.
Some people might enjoy eating it with rice, while others might prefer to have it with a more savory dish like Filipino pork adobo. Experiment a little and see what you like best!
How to store and reheat
Let the okoy or ukoy cool completely after frying. Store in an airtight container or wrap with plastic or aluminum foil. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 days or freeze to extend their shelf life.
You can reheat them in a toaster oven or an air fryer to make them crunchy again. You can also re-fry them, though it may make them greasy.
Frequently asked questions
Yes. This recipe is gluten-free. Rice flour, cornstarch, and potato starch are all gluten-free and ideal for frying.
Preheat the oil until it is hot enough and keep it that way, so the fritters don't get soggy or greasy. Don't overcrowd your pan, so the temperature doesn't drop and make them absorb more oil.
Too thick a batter can also make them less crispy. You can add baking powder to the batter or use carbonated water instead of plain water. It will produce a lighter and crispier okoy.
The most common method is to fry okoy or ukoy in a skillet or a wok. You can use a deep-fryer if you prefer. If you want to cut back on oil, bake them in the oven.
It is not recommended to use an air fryer with wet batter. You can, however, reheat the fritters in it.
More about okoy or ukoy (shrimp and vegetable fritters)
Here are more frequently asked questions about okoy or ukoy (shrimp and vegetable fritters) including extra tips, troubleshooting, and other information.
Watch how I make it here
Other appetizers and sides you may like
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Okoy or Ukoy (Shrimp and Vegetable Fritters)
- Julienne Peeler or Julienne Slicer (Mandoline with julienne blade attachment)
For the dipping sauce:
- ¼ cup cane or white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon shallot or red onion minced
- bird's eye chilies to taste, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
For the fritters:
- 8 ounces shrimp deveined and peeled, if big
- 1 pound kabocha or calabaza squash julienned
- 1 medium carrot julienned
- 1 small onion sliced thinly
- 1 cup cilantro stems and leaves, chopped
- salt to taste (I used a total of 1 teaspoon kosher salt; use less for table salt)
- pepper to taste
- 1 cup rice flour sub: cornstarch or potato flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- ¾ cup water
- canola or other vegetable oil for frying
- Combine the vinegar, sugar, minced shallot, and chopped chilies in a bowl.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix them together.
- Combine the squash, carrots, onions, and cilantro in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
- If you're using tiny shrimps, wash them multiple times and remove any foreign bodies. They are sharp on both ends, so be careful when cleaning them.
- If you're using regular-size shrimp, peel them and remove the vein. Feel free to slice, chop, or cut them.
- Combine with the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.
- Combine the rice flour, baking powder, fish sauce, and ¾ cup water in a cup. Mix them well. The batter will be thin and smooth, like a slurry.
- Pour it over the shrimp and vegetables. Toss them together.
- Set a skillet over high heat and add about an inch of oil. To test if the oil is ready, dip a wooden spoon handle or a chopstick. It should steadily bubble around it.
- Scoop about half a cup of the mixture, flatten it on a large spoon or turner, then slide it into the hot oil.
- Fry each side for about 2 minutes until golden brown. Drain them on paper towels.