Gambas al Ajillo or Spanish garlic shrimp is popular for good reason! Big juicy shrimp, swimming in tasty olive oil and garlic sauce. It is bright, garlicy, spicy and rich in the best way possible. Perfect with some crusty bread!
This garlic shrimp recipe comes together in just 10 minutes. Be sure to read through my tips.
This gambas al ajillo recipe is one of the more popular tapas and the easiest Spanish recipes you'll make!
Gambas al ajillo, pronounced gahm- bahs-ahl-ah- hee-yoh, simply translates to "shrimp with garlic shrimp" or "garlic shrimp." And it totally lives up to it's name: Big, juicy shrimp, swimming in a tasty, garlicy olive oil sauce. It's the perfect little dish to share along with a good loaf of crusty bread to dunk in the sauce!
This spanish shrimp recipe comes together in about 10 minutes and takes two simple components: the shrimp and the sauce.
What kind of shrimp to use for this garlic shrimp recipe?
Larger jumbo shrimp or prawns are better for gambas al ajillo. You can use smaller shrimp, but keep in mind that the shrimp will shrink a bit as it cooks. The result is defintely more impressive and far tastier using larger, more meaty and juicy shrimp.
Should you peel the shrimp? I use peeled and deveined shrimp in this recipe just because it is easier to eat, and I guess I don't want to waste the flavorful sauce on the shell. But, I learned that some Barcelona restaurants serve them with the shell on. Either way.
Cooking tip for the shrimp: In this recipe the shrimp will cook very briefly in the sauce. Even large shrimp will cook quickly, so watch for the flesh to become opaque and the shrimp pink. Remember that even when you turn the heat off, the shrimp will continue to cook in the warm sauce.
The Sauce: Ingerdients and Tips
To me, the sauce is what makes this dish! It's bright, garlicy, slightly spicy, and rich in the best way possible! Quality of the sauce ingredients and how you prepare them makes a difference. Here's what you need and a few prep tips:
- Extra virgin olive oil. This shrimp is typically made with lots of olive oil so that you have enough extra sauce for dipping. For this recipe, you'll need ½ cup of quality extra virign olive oil. Flavor really matters here, and you should only warm up the olive oil over medium heat; you're not looking to cook it too much. (I used Private Reserve EVOO).
- Garlic. Loads of garlic (about 10 to 12 good size cloves). I don't recommend using a garlic press here, it will pulverize the garlic too much and overwhlem the sauce and it can easily burn. Instead, give the garlic a good chop with your knife. And when you cook it, use only medium heat and watch for the garlic to change color just enough but be careful not to burn it (you don't want the sauce to taste bitter).
- Curshed red peppers or dry chilli peppers, torn. I used 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. You can start with less if you're worried about the spice level.
- Sweet Spanish Paprika. Some don't use it, but I think it adds good color and depth of flavor.
- Dry sherry (or white wine) and lemon juice. Together, the citrus from the alcohol and lemon juice adds flavor and brightens the sauce. Spanish brandy is also an option
- Fresh parsley for garnish
How to make this Spanish shrimp
This recipe could not be easier to make. Here's the step-by-step with photos (print-friendly recipe with ingredient measurements below)
- Pat shrimp dry and season with kosher salt. Set the peeled and deviened shrimp aside to marinate a little in the salt, while you work on the sauce. Note: If the shrimp had been frozen, run it under cool water to thaw before using in this recipe.
- Warm up the Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Garlic, and Red Pepper Flakes. Start by warming up the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook for 30 to 60 seconds, tossing the garlic with your wooden spoon. Watch for the garlic to gain a little color but do not let it brown (this is very important or the sauce will taste bitter).
- Cook the shrimp. Add the shrimp and 1 teaspoon paprika in. Toss in the warm oil until the flesh is opaque and the shrimp is pink (about 3 minutes or so). Do not overcook the shrimp; remember, it will continue to cook in the warm oil sauce after you remove it from heat. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Add the sherry (or white wine), lemon juice, and parsley. You'll do this off heat, you do not need to cook down the liquid here.
- Serve! Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with your favorite crusty bread.
How to serve Gambas al Ajillo?
This dish is meant for sharing as a tapa (or small dish). All you need is a loaf of good crusty bread to dunk in the tasty olive oil sauce.
You can slice and lightly toast the bread if you like, but I recently discovered that tearing up a loaf of bread into big chunks is the way to go. Those rough edges of the bread hold on to the sauce so much better!
This recipe will serve up to 6 people as an appetizer (and you can other little mezze or apptizers like caponata or next to it).
And if you want to turn it into a small dinner, why not! Serve the saucy garlic shrimp over a bed of rice, or even next to a side of Spanish rice and beans!
Hungry for more? Browse more Mediterranean shrimp recipes. Shrimp Kabobs and Grilled Shrimp with roasted garlic cilantro sauce are also favorites!
More shrimp recipes
Visit our collection of Mediterranean recipes and our top Mediterranean diet recipes.
Gambas al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp Recipe)
- 1 lb large shrimp peeled and deveined
- Kosher salt
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 10 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (start with less if you don't want it too spicy)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry or dry white wine
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Pat the shrimp dry and season with kosher salt. Set aside for now.
- Heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium heat up to 60 seconds or until the garlic gains some color (be careful not to burn it).
- Add the shrimp and paprika. Cook briefly, tossing regularly, and watching that the flesh turns opaque with a pearly pink color (about 3 minutes or so; this will depend on the size of the shrimp). Remove the pan from the heat.
- Stir in sherry, lemon juice and parsley.
- Transfer the shrimp and sauce to a serving bowl. Serve with your favorite crusty bread.
- This recipe will serve 4 to 6 people as a tapas or appetizer with a side of crusty bread to dip in the sauce.
- Cook's tip for the sauce. Use quality extra virgin olive oil as the flavor is important to the sauce. Do not cook the oil too much and be careful not to burn the garlic or it will make the sauce bitter.
- Cook's tip for the shrimp. Even the largest of shrimp will cook fast, so watch the shrimp carefully. The flesh should turn opaque and pearly pink in color. And remember, even when you take the pan off the heat, the warm sauce will continue to cook the shrimp.
- Visit Our Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils and spices.
Wow...yummy!!! I made this for Christmas Brunch and served it with Crusty White Bread. Instead of using red pepper flakes I used a fresh long red chili, chopped. We love spicy food. This was so good that I'm making it again New years Eve for other family members to enjoy.
This recipe was a hit with my friends! Simple yet so flavorful!!! Can’t wait to try some of your other recipes!
Awesome!! Thanks, Jessica!
Absolutely delicious recipe! I loved every bite! Will cook this again and again . Thank you!!
Yay! So glad you enjoyed it, Pam
Oh my goodness, these were amazing! My husband is from Calabria and loves spicy seafood and he loves it so much we are adding it to our Christmas eve seafood menu. We left the shells on because he prefers it that way and it was excellent.
Thanks, Chantal! So glad you both enjoyed the recipe :).
I made this tonight and served it with quinoa fried rice. It was so delicious! Everybody loved it and the flavors worked really nice together. Thank you!
Wonderful! Thanks, Maki!
I wanted to let you know that I made this recipe. Super easy and super delicious! It's bursting with flavor! Your directions are spot on. I also enjoy your videos. Thank you for sharing your recipes.
That's awesome, Cristina! Thank you!
This recipe is 5 stars. My wife asked me to make it every week. We were in Barcelona last year, and tastes just like it. They added boiled potatoes to the sauce which we added to this recipe. Thank you!
Thank you, Bruch! So glad you both enjoy the recipe.
Spanish Garlic Shrimp is one of my favorite spanish dish. It is very simple yet delicious. Best to eat it with bread.
Thanks, Saif! And YES to the bread!! 🙂
This shrimp recipe looks amazing and super simple to make! I bet this would be even better with some pasta. Pinning for later, thank you!
Hope you give it a try, Genevieve!
This recipe looks so so good! My son enjoys shrimp, so I hope to make this. I love that this recipe takes no time to cook, I may likely exclude wine, but I do have everything else. I hope it won’t affect the flavor?
Hi, Kechi! It might change the flavor profile just a bit, but it should still be tasty :).
One of my favorite tapas! Yours looks absolutely amazing. I love how easily it comes together and definitely perfect for pairing with crusty bread.
This shrimp looks absolutely marvelous! I love the simplicity of this dish and yet it's just bursting with such flavor! Looks so good...saving to make! Also I love the video!
Hope you enjoy it, Tammy!
This was a phenomenal dish, is incredibly easy, and now tops my favorites list! I somehow managed not to eat the whole thing in one sitting so am eagerly anticipating my leftovers today.
I didn’t have bread on hand, so actually tossed in some pasta.
Thank you for this gem of a recipe!
Loved this recipe and indeed all of them. Fresh- easy- and delicious ! Well done !
Thank you, George!
Made this last night -- doubling the recipe to serve it as an entree, with extra crunchy toasted kalamata olive bread. I used a Smoked Paprika and about a half cup of lemon juice and about a cup of dry white wine -- it was so good! I will definitely be making this this again.
That is wonderful to hear, Erin! Thank you!!
That looks delicious!
What if you have shrimp that's already cooked?
Hi, Christine! Don't quote me on this, but I've done different dishes with leftover/cooked shrimp in the past - make the sauce, make your sides, etc. Then, just before serving, add the cooked shrimp - for just enough time to warm them in the hot sauce, but not enough to further cook them and make them rubbery!!! It's worked for me (it's also the method I use for shrimp leftovers; I keep the shrimp separate; reheat the "dish," microwave or however; *then* add the cooked shrimp and allow the heat from the cooked dish to warm them but not further cook them...)
Good luck!!! ~Chrissie
I agree!! Thanks for the advice!
Great dish. I added a little bit more wine. Thank you Suzy for another wonderful recipe.
Thanks, Richard. So glad you enjoyed it!
Looking forward to making this tonight. What can I use instead of white wine or dry sherry?
Are you looking for a non-alcohol option? If so, you'll probably need to omit and use a bit more lemon juice. Different flavor profile but still delicious.
I don't drink and won't buy wine only to waste the bottle. I have heard depending on the application to use grape juice and/or wine vinegar (white or red depending). You use about 1 T per cup and then have the rest be stock. (IN this case I'd just use the vinegar). It works terrifically well. I haven't done this recipe, but I'd use the vinegar. Lemon juice would work but add a different sort of taste. But still would be nice.
I've had this dish at tapas restaurants so many times! didn't think it was this easy to make and just as tasty. Thanks so much for sharing!
I'm so glad to hear it, Bret! Enjoy