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.

Spanish garlic shrimp with a side of bread and hot red pepper flakes

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.

Spanish shrimp in the pan with garlic and olive oil 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
ingredients for gambas al ajillo

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). warmed olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes
  • 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. cooked shrimp in the oil
  • 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.
Spanish gambas al ajillo with a side of toasted bread and red pepper flakes

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.

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.

4.80 from 125 votes

Gambas al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp Recipe)

Suzy Karadsheh
Gambas al Ajillo Spanish Garlic Shrimp
In just 10 minutes, you can make this easy gambas al ajillo recipe with extra juicy shrimp swimming in a garlicy olive oil sauce. Just add your favorite crusty bread to dunk in the sauce!
Prep – 5 mins
Cook – 5 mins
Cuisine:
Spanish
Serves – 6 people
Course:
Appetizer

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Notes

  • 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. 

Nutrition

Calories: 249.5kcalCarbohydrates: 2.4gProtein: 16gFat: 19.2gSaturated Fat: 2.6gCholesterol: 190.5mgSodium: 982.2mgPotassium: 115.8mgFiber: 0.4gVitamin A: 634.8IUVitamin C: 11.3mgCalcium: 125.6mgIron: 2.2mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious I used a Pinot Grigio for the wine and used hot smoked Spanish paprika. My husband and I are still licking our lips is was so good. We had it with crusty bread and I cut up some tomatoes with EVOO and Balsamic and other fresh veggies. Spot on recipe 👍 Thank- you!

  2. Hello! I ordered this the other night at a Spanish restaurant and they served it in a small cast iron skillet (I’m assuming they cooked it this way). Would you recommend cooking it in a skillet or something else? Thank you.

  3. 5 stars
    So good and so easy! Add salt to shrimp before cooking and let sit for 15 mins. Also make sure to pat shrimp dry before you do anything. Added bay leaf to the oil along with dried chili pepper. Also added a couple tsps of Chinese chili oil for color and more robust flavor.

  4. Hi, I had a question. I'd we substitute white wine with white wine vinegar, how many tsps or tbsps do we have measure? It would a be a great help if you answer me.

    1. Hi, Rumaisa. I've never made this one with white wine vinegar in the place of the wine. It would probably work, but I'm not sure on the measurements. Are you looking for a non-alcohol option? If so, you can also just omit the wine and use a bit more lemon juice. Different flavor profile but still delicious.

      1. yeah, I was trying to make a non-alcohol one. Thanks a lot for your suggestion! It helps a lot.

  5. 5 stars
    Love love love this!! It was perfect. I did add some butter for a creamier sauce. Other than that I wouldn't change a thing. My husband who orders this at every spanish restaurant said we are only eating at home from now on..lol
    Thank you!

  6. 5 stars
    I have made this a few times and it’s one of my favorites! I love to serve it with naan and avacado.

  7. Tried this for the first time and it was so delicious! My kids who don’t really care for shrimp came back for more. I did substitute non-alcoholic wine instead of the sherry. Have made a few times since and each time is a hit! This is definitely a restaurant quality recipe!

  8. 5 stars
    I’ve made this before and loved it. I’m having a spanish dinner party catered and honestly I like this recipe better than what we got from the caterer. Is there any way o can make this at least partly ahead of time and just finish in time for company? I don’t want to be cooking while my guests are here.

  9. I ordered this dish for the first time at a restaurant the other night and it was AMAZING!!! As soon as I got home I searched for a recipe and found Suzy's version. I chose this particular recipe because I love garlic and this called for TEN cloves. It was every bit as good as the upscale restaurant version and I will DEFINITELY be making this again for the guests coming this weekend. Thanks so much!!

  10. 5 stars
    We have made many of your recipes and have liked them all, but this is definitely one of our favorites! It was delicious and not at all difficult to make. We had it for dinner with a baguette for dipping. We could not stop slurping up the amazing sauce! We served a veggie on the side, but we didn’t really need it as we absolutely stuffed our shrimp. Will absolutely make again!

  11. This sounds so delicious. I tend to overcook shrimp if I cook it on the stove top, so I bake mine in the oven. Do you have any recommendations how I could make this recipe oven-friendly?

    1. Hi, Rochelle! Honestly, I think the oven will dry out the shrimp in this case. My advice would be to follow the recipe and tips shared in the post. The shrimp will take just around 3 minutes or so to turn opaque pink, so watch for that and remove it from the stovetop, at which point, it will continue to cook in the hot oil some more.

  12. This has been a staple for us all winter! I cook up whole wheat penne pasta and toss it in the skillet when the shrimp is cooked. Split it between two bowls, set some steamed broccoli in there as well. Serve with a big chunk of bread and a bottle of wine! Good recipe, Suzy! So glad I found your page on Instagram!

  13. 5 stars
    I made it last night, it was delicious! I used Avocado oil and about 1/4 cup butter instead of olive oil (I don't have olive oil) -very easy and yummy!

  14. I am so excited to prepare this tonight. Would you recommend smoked or regular paprika. I have both. Thank you!

    1. Hi, Georgi! I used Sweet Spanish Paprika for this recipe, which is more like regular paprika. You could certainly try the smoked paprika, though. Another reader did so and loved it. Enjoy!!!

      1. This will be tomorrow nights dinner. Tonight I did your Italian baked chicken, lemony roasted broccoli and balela
        salad. My family loved everything. They liked the broccoli so much they asked for it again tomorrow to go with the shrimp. Your recipes are so easy and your tips make my dishes turn out good every time. I’m hooked!