This authentic gambas al ajillo (Spanish garlic shrimp) recipe is quick and easy to make in just 10 minutes and tastes irresistibly delicious.
¡Hola todos! I’m back today with another authentic Spanish tapas recipe that is one of our favorites to eat here in Spain — gambas al ajillo. Or in English — shrimp with garlic. ♡
These irresistible little gambas can be found on just about any tapas menu in Barcelona. And we especially love ordering them when friends come to visit because these garlicky shrimp are served with quite the dramatic flair, brought to your table in the same piping hot clay bowls in which they have been cooked, bubbling and sizzling all the way. And they taste like pure, garlicky heaven. Also delicious? The slices of toasted bread that usually accompany the shrimp that you absolutely must use to mop up every last drop of that garlicky, herby, rich sauce. Buenísimo.
That said, as fun as this dish is to order out, it’s also incredibly easy to whip up gambas al ajillo on your own at home. All you need are a few simple ingredients, including lots of good-quality olive oil (because — fun fact — Spain is the world’s #1 producer of olive oil). And in just 10 or so minutes, your own piping hot batch of garlicky shrimp can be ready to serve up and enjoy.
Let’s make some gambitas!
Spanish Garlic Shrimp Ingredients:
To make authentic Spanish gambas al ajillo, you will need the following ingredients:
Shrimp: Peeled and devined, with the tails on or off. (Here in Spain, by the way, we have to peel and devein our shrimp by hand. So the photo above is how they look when we bring them home!)
Garlic: We will use 12 large cloves of garlic for this recipe. Or as they say in Spanish, dientes (teeth!) of garlic, which I think is so cute!
Olive oil: This recipe is traditionally made with a lot of olive oil, in order to have extra leftover for that garlicky dipping sauce. But feel free to cut back on the amount if you prefer.
Dry red chili pepper (or crushed red chili flakes): Spanish food is never spicy, much to my dismay. ;) However, Spanish cooks do occasionally add one dry red chili pepper to the olive oil to infuse it with a bit of flavor. Since whole dried chili peppers are harder to find in the States, I have included an option below for how to sub in crushed red pepper flakes instead.
Dry sherry (or white wine): Most of the time, a splash of dry sherry (or any dry white wine) is also added to this dish for a bit of extra flavor. If you don’t have an open bottle on hand or prefer not to cook with alcohol, though, just use a squeeze of lemon juice instead.
Salt and pepper: Sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, for seasoning.
Fresh parsley (optional): Finely-chopped, to add a bit of color and freshness to the dish if you would like.
Lemon (optional): Some restaurants add a bit of lemon juice to this dish in addition to the sherry, and some adamantly do not. So — up to you! I like the bit of brightness that it adds, but it’s completely optional if you don’t have a lemon on hand.
How To Make Gambas Al Ajillo:
This Spanish garlic shrimp recipe moves quickly, so I recommend having all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you begin cooking. To make this recipe, simply…
Season the shrimp. Generously with salt and pepper.
Sauté the garlic and chili. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. (You want it warm but not too hot, otherwise it will burn the garlic and splatter everywhere.) Add garlic and chili pepper and sauté briefly until the garlic starts to turn lightly golden.
Cook the shrimp. Add in the shrimp and sauté until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. (It’s important to avoid overcooking the shrimp, since they will continue to sit and cook in the hot oil as they are served.)
Season. Remove pan from the heat, and add in the sherry, a squeeze of lemon juice (if using) and your desired amount of parsley (if using), and toss to combine. Then give the shrimp a taste, and if they by chance need extra salt and pepper, go ahead and add that in too.
Serve. With lots of crusty bread, because I guarantee you’re going to want to mop up every last drop of that garlicky oil. ;)
More Authentic Spanish & Catalan Recipes:
Here are a few more authentic Spanish (and Catalan, because we live in Barcelona!) recipes here on the blog.
This authentic gambas al ajillo (Spanish garlic shrimp) recipe is quick and easy to make in just 10 minute and tastes irresistibly delicious.
1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp (tails on or off)
fine sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
1 cup olive oil
12 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 dried red chili pepper (or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)
2 tablespoons dry sherry (or any dry white wine)
optional: thick lemon wedge and chopped fresh parsley, for serving
Season the shrimp on both sides with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. (I use about 1 teaspoon salt and about 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.) Set aside.
Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering.
Add garlic and chili pepper and sauté for 30-60 seconds, or until the garlic starts to turn lightly golden.
Add in the shrimp and sauté, stirring and flipping occasionally, until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. (Try to avoid overcooking the shrimp, since they will continue to sit in the hot oil for awhile longer.)
Remove pan from the heat. Add in the sherry, a squeeze of lemon juice (if using) and your desired amount of parsley (if using), and toss to combine. Taste and season with extra salt and pepper, if needed.
I MUST make this! Love garlic and shrimp, it’s a win – win! I made your gazpacho the other day and it is just so good, and easy as well.
Do you use fresh or frozen shrimp?
You can’t go wrong with garlic and shrimp! That is also how we used to buy shrimp “prawns” when we lived in Australia – a little more work but tasted so much better!
Don’t forget the most important part: They must be sizzling hot when they’re served. If the oil-white wine-garlic sauce isn’t bubbling, they’re too cold. At least that’s what my bf says and it’s how I had them served to me every time I had them.
If you don’t want to serve them in the pan, heat the serving plate in the oven. :)
YUM- I’LL BE MAKING THIS REAL SOON!
Loved it! So perfect and easy!!
The only thing I over put the red pepper. To me it tasted delicious but my husband don’t like spicy too much.
Thanks for this great recipe.
thank you for such a delicious recipe! It was a hit at my house, something different and super fast to make, which I appreciate! It’s definitely a keeper!
I never cooked shrimp this way, and have only recently found your web site. It is wonderful and I really trust all your tips and feel assured that the result will be spectacular. Tonight, the shrimp ajillo dazzled my family so nicely during this pandemic. Thank you.
We had a dish like this in Portugal and it was amazing, but I never cook shrimp so I was intimidated. Then my husband and I were talking about it so I decided to see how hard it might be and I found this recipe.
I used frozen, thawed shrimp that was deveined and shelled. I also cheated and just used 1-5 TBS of jarred minced garlic. The recipe came together super quick! I served it with air fryer shishito peppers, green beans, and lightly toasted bread. All together dinner took maybe 20 min including all prep, preheating, and cooking. SUPER yummy and I felt like I was in a restaurant. The sherry and lemon really added a great flavor. This is definitely going into the rotation, thank you!
very easy to make and delicious