This Garlic Shrimp Recipe recipe is made with about a pound of shrimp, ten cloves of minced garlic, half a cup of olive oil, and garnished with chopped scallions.
Spanish Garlic Shrimp, also known as Gambas al Ajillo, is a classic Spanish tapas dish that consists of shrimp sautéed in olive oil with plenty of garlic and red pepper flakes, and often finished with a splash of white wine or lemon juice. This dish originated in the southern region of Spain, where fresh seafood is abundant and garlic is a common ingredient in many dishes. It is typically served in small clay dishes with some bread to mop up the delicious garlicky sauce. Spanish Garlic Shrimp is a simple yet flavorful dish that can be served as an appetizer or main course, and it's perfect for seafood lovers who enjoy bold flavors.
This Gambas al Ajillo dish should be served on a crusty bread as Spanish tapas, or you could ever serve over rice. This dish is one of the most classic Spanish tapas and for good reason. I remember eating these at the bars in Spain. I lived in Madrid for four years, and these prawns are usually cooked in a clay pot. This dish takes less than 10 minutes to make from start to finish. By the time you eat it, the shrimp is tender and the combination of oil and garlic makes them so flavorful.
- What are Gambas al Ajillo?
- Why you will love these Shrimp Tapas
- What kind of shrimp to use for this garlic shrimp recipe?
- Gambas al Ajillo Ingredients
- How to make Spanish Garlic Shrimp
- What to serve with Spanish Garlic Shrimp
- Garlic Shrimp Recipe Variations
- How to store Garlic Shrimp
- Garlic Shrimp Recipe Top tips
- Garlic Shrimp Recipe
- Food safety
What are Gambas al Ajillo?
Gambas al Ajillo is a traditional Spanish dish that consists of prawns or shrimp sautéed in garlic-infused olive oil, along with a hint of red pepper flakes, paprika, and sherry. It is a popular tapa (small plate) in Spanish cuisine and is often served as an appetizer or main course with crusty bread on the side for dipping in the flavorful sauce. The dish originated in the southern region of Andalusia but has since spread throughout Spain and other parts of the world, becoming a favorite of seafood lovers everywhere.
Why you will love these Shrimp Tapas
Versatile: Shrimp is so versatile and there are so many ways to cook them. You can eat these shrimp as is, make them into shrimp tacos or serve on crusty bread.
Full of flavor: The combination of the oil and garlic is simply to die for.
Serves a crowd: You can double the recipe and serve with crusty bread, tapas-style.
What kind of shrimp to use for this garlic shrimp recipe?
I like using jumbo or large shrimp or prawns because it is meatier and filling. In Spain, it is more customary to cook them with the shell on, because it gives it more flavor. I like to buy mine already deveined to save me the hassle of peeling them myself. This is a personal choice.
Gambas al Ajillo Ingredients
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
- Large shrimp
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Optional: Scallions & Bread
See recipe card for quantities for this Spanish Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo).
How to make Spanish Garlic Shrimp
After cleaning the shrimp and rinsing, pat the shrimp dry with paper towel and season with salt.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Do not allow for the garlic to overly brown, reduce heat if necessary.
Add the shrimp and cook, flipping once, until pink and opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
Remove the pan from the heat. Serve with crusty bread.
Hint: It is so important to use good quality olive oil as the oil is the key ingredient to making this.
What to serve with Spanish Garlic Shrimp
- Crusty Bread: Serve Spanish Garlic Shrimp with some crusty bread to mop up all the delicious sauce.
- White Rice: Spanish Garlic Shrimp pairs well with white rice. The rice can also help soak up some of the flavorful sauce. Check out my Cilantro Lime Rice.
- Roasted Vegetables: Roasted vegetables, such as asparagus, green beans, or peppers, can add some color and nutrition to the dish.
- Spanish Tortilla: A traditional Spanish dish, the Spanish tortilla is a potato and onion omelet that makes a great side dish for Spanish Garlic Shrimp.
- Grilled Vegetables: Grilled vegetables, such as zucchini, eggplant, or onions, can add some smoky flavor and nutrition to the meal.
- Salad: A simple salad with mixed greens and a vinaigrette dressing can provide a refreshing contrast to the rich flavors of the garlic shrimp.
- Patatas Bravas: Another classic Spanish tapa, patatas bravas are crispy fried potatoes that are usually served with a spicy tomato sauce.
- Sangria: A refreshing drink made with red wine, fruit, and brandy, sangria is a classic Spanish drink that can complement the garlic shrimp well.
- Olive oil: You can substitute with other cooking oils like vegetable oil, canola oil, avocado oil or even butter.
- Garlic: If you don't have fresh garlic, you can use garlic powder instead. Alternatively, you can also use shallots or onions for a milder flavor.
- Shrimp: You can use other types of seafood like scallops, clams, or mussels. If you prefer a vegetarian option, you can use tofu or mushrooms instead.
Garlic Shrimp Recipe Variations
- Spicy Garlic Shrimp: Add red pepper flakes or diced jalapenos to the pan while cooking the garlic shrimp for a spicy kick.
- Lemon Garlic Shrimp: Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the cooked garlic shrimp and top with chopped parsley for a bright and citrusy flavor.
- Garlic Shrimp Scampi: Cook garlic shrimp in butter and white wine and toss with cooked linguine or spaghetti for a classic shrimp scampi dish.
- Garlic Shrimp and Broccoli: Add bite-sized broccoli florets to the pan with the garlic and shrimp for a healthy and delicious one-pan meal.
- Garlic Shrimp Tacos: Serve garlic shrimp in warm tortillas with your favorite taco toppings, such as shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, avocado, and hot sauce. Check out my Honey Jalapeño Shrimp Tacos.
- Garlic Shrimp Stir-Fry: Stir-fry garlic shrimp with your favorite veggies, such as bell peppers, snap peas, and carrots, for a quick and easy weeknight meal. Serve over rice or noodles.
- Garlic Shrimp Skewers: Thread garlic shrimp onto skewers and grill for a delicious and easy summer meal. Serve with grilled veggies and a side salad.
- Garlic Shrimp and Grits: Serve garlic shrimp over a bed of creamy grits and top with chopped bacon and green onions for a southern-inspired meal.
Check out this Pan Tumaca if you love Spanish recipes and tapas.
- Large skillet or frying pan: A skillet to cook the shrimp and garlic in olive oil.
- Cutting board and knife: to chop garlic.
- Wooden spoon or spatula: to stir the shrimp while cooking.
- Serving dish: to transfer the cooked garlic shrimp to.
- Lemon squeezer (optional): to squeeze fresh lemon juice over the shrimp before serving.
- Garlic press (optional): to crush garlic cloves easily.
How to store Garlic Shrimp
Garlic shrimp can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It is important to make sure that the shrimp is fully cooled down before storing it in the fridge. Reheating garlic shrimp can make it tough, so it is recommended to consume it cold or at room temperature.
Garlic Shrimp Recipe Top tips
- Use fresh shrimp: The quality of your shrimp will greatly affect the final dish, so look for fresh shrimp whenever possible.
- Don't overcook the shrimp: Overcooked shrimp can become rubbery and tough. Be sure to only cook the shrimp until it's just cooked through and no longer translucent.
- Use fresh garlic: Fresh garlic will give the dish a much better flavor than pre-minced garlic from a jar.
- Use a good quality olive oil: The olive oil you use will impact the overall flavor of the dish, so opt for a high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Add some spice: If you like a little heat, consider adding some red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to your garlic shrimp.
- Serve with crusty bread: Garlic shrimp is delicious served with crusty bread to soak up all the flavorful juices.
- Add some herbs: Fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro can add a nice touch of freshness to the dish.
- Serve with a squeeze of lemon: A little squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the garlic shrimp can brighten up the flavors and add some acidity.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove