Spanish Garlic Shrimp Recipe - Gambas al Ajillo

International Food
Sergio Amiti / Getty Images
    20 mins
Ratings (19)

One of the most popular tapas in all of Spain, gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) is quick, easy and FULL of garlic flavor. It's truly a classic Spanish tapa, enjoyed in tapas bars from the north of Spain to the south of Spain.

To make this popular dish, fresh shrimp are sauteed in olive oil and lots of garlic, with a touch of dried cayenne pepper (whole or flakes) and occasionally a dash of Spanish paprika and a splash of brandy. These ingredients all combine to create one of the most popular tapas. The pinch of red pepper flakes gives the sauce a slight bite.

Your guests will be asking for the recipe after the first shrimp, and only you will know how simple it was to prepare. This shrimp dish is always on the menu when we invite friends over, and there are never leftovers.

What You'll Need

  • 1 lb shrimp, 25 count to a pound
  • 10 large cloves of garlic, finely minced (this is a recipe for garlic lovers-- add even more if you dare!)
  • 1 tsp sweet Spanish paprika (optional)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes or 2 whole dried cayenne peppers
  • 2-3 oz (60-89 ml) Spanish brandy (or substitute dry sherry) (this is optional)
  • 4 oz (125 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lemon for juice
  • 1 fresh baguette, sliced (for sopping up extra sauce!) 

How to Make It

This recipe makes four servings as an appetizer. If preparing for the main course, double the recipe.

In a sauté pan or heavy frying pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for about one minute or until they just begin to brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic!

Raise the heat to high and immediately add the shrimp, lemon juice, sherry or brandy and paprika.

Stir well, then sauté, stirring briskly until the shrimp turn pink and curl – about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and transfer shrimp with oil and sauce to a warm plate or serve right from the pan. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with fresh bread.

Notes on Shrimp:

  • This recipe is prepared in Spain with the shells on or off, depending on the cook. So, if you prefer, peel the shrimp before cooking.
  • If you like larger shrimp, purchase shrimp with a fewer count to a pound. However, 25 to a pound are a good size for this tapa.
  • If using frozen shrimp, rinse under cold water and pat dry. Allow for a longer cooking time for shrimp that are not completely thawed, and be sure to cook thoroughly.