This easy cilantro lime shrimp recipe is a show-stopper, and it’s all thanks to my secret roasted garlic sauce with loads of Mediterranean flavors. Citrusy, perfectly garlicky and just enough spicy, this weeknight-friendly recipe takes just 20 minutes!

A hand holding a single cilantro lime shrimp.
Photo Credits: Suzy Karadsheh

Where I come from in Egypt, fresh herbs, garlic and citrus are three essential ingredients when it comes to flavoring fish. This goes for anything from simple baked cod and to shellfish like steamed clams and shrimp. In this cilantro lime shrimp recipe, we play up the same winning flavor combination but add a few guest-stars.

You can cook the shrimp any which way–cast iron skillet, indoor griddle, or grill–and it takes about 5 minutes. As soon as it's done, you toss it in a delicious sauce made with a whole head of roasted garlic, fresh lime juice, a touch of spicy harissa (or chili paste), and cilantro or herbs of your choice. I have to say, the sauce is out of this world! 

Yes, you do use a whole head of garlic here, but don’t worry! Once roasted, garlic becomes soft, creamy, and delicately sweet. It's not too overpowering–you'll honestly have to stop yourself from eating it its own. The flavor is quite tamed and pleasant. 

This recipe is the perfect appetizer served with or atop crusty bread to make good use of the delicious sauce! But you can also turn it into a quick dinner with your favorite pasta or grain and grilled zucchini on the side. 

Table of Contents
  1. Ingredients and Substitutes for this Cilantro Lime Shrimp Recipe
  2. Ingredient Spotlight
  3. Can I Use Frozen Shrimp?
  4. How to Thaw Frozen Shrimp
  5. How to Make Cilantro Lime Shrimp
  6. Ways to Mix it Up
  7. What to Serve with Cilantro Lime Shrimp
  8. More shrimp recipes to try
  9. Try our Harissa Paste!
  10. Cilantro Lime Shrimp Recipe
Roasted garlic, chopped parsley and a lime half on a cutting board.

Ingredients and Substitutes for this Cilantro Lime Shrimp Recipe

You really can’t go wrong when you pair garlic and citrus with seafood. But I go a step further by adding loads of cilantro and a small amount of white wine and chili paste. We end up with a sauce that has an incredible depth of flavor, with very little work. You’ll need:

  • Garlic: Roasting a whole head of garlic from scratch makes a huge difference in terms of flavor, but you can use store bought in a pinch.
  • Cilantro: If you don’t like cilantro, basil works well with this recipe.
  • Lime: Fresh lime juice adds the perfect zing to balance the sweet and savory garlic flavor. Lemon juice works as a substitute. 
  • Dry white wine: Adds a complexity to the acidic element of the sauce, but you can substitute with more lime juice.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: The base of the sauce, so a high quality extra virgin variety is essential. Our peppery Spanish Hojiblanca would be amazing.
  • Harissa adds to the bright and citrusy flavor while adding smokiness and a good heat (more below). 
  • Shrimp: Wild-caught jumbo shrimp (about 16 to 20 shrimp per pound) are a good option for this recipe; they will remain plump and juicy. 
  • Kosher salt and black pepper are the simple seasonings that give the flavor its full potential! If you food ever tastes flat or bland, you likely need to add a pinch more salt and taste again. 
Harissa paste by Villa Jerada.
Harissa Paste by Villa Jerada

Ingredient Spotlight

If you have yet to discover harissa, North Africa’s famous flavor-booster, you’re in for a treat. This incredibly complex chili paste has layers upon layers of flavor: lightly sweet, spicy, citrusy, with a hint of smoke. 

A close up of cilantro lime shrimp on a plate.

Can I Use Frozen Shrimp?

Most fish and seafood you buy at the fish counter was likely frozen and thawed out. And with advanced flash-freezing technology these days, a frozen bag of wild-caught shrimp may be better and taste more “fresh” than what you’ll find at the fish counter. So it’s fine to use frozen shrimp in this recipe. Just be sure to thaw it out properly first. 

How to Thaw Frozen Shrimp

You have two options to thaw shrimp: 

  • Put the frozen bag of shrimp into a bowl and leave it in the fridge overnight. 
  • Place the (sealed) bag of frozen shrimp in a bowl of water in your sink. Stir every 5 or so minutes to break up any ice. The shrimp should be thawed in about 20 minutes. Be sure to pat it dry thoroughly before cooking.
A close up of the cilantro lime shrimp on a plate.

How to Make Cilantro Lime Shrimp

Cooking shrimp is easy–it takes less than 5 minutes. But the secret to juicy, flavorful shrimp is in the sauce, and this is a particularly good one. Here are the steps:

  • Get ready. Preheat your oven to 400°F. 
  • Roast the garlic. Use a serrated knife to trim the top off the whole head of garlic (about ¼ to ½ inch from top), exposing the cloves but keeping the bunch intact. Set on a large sheet of foil, drizzle generously with olive oil, and close the foil to wrap. Roast in the heated oven for about 10 minutes or until slightly tender and fragrant, then remove from the oven and let cool briefly. 
  • Process the garlic. Once cool enough to handle, peel and crush or chop the roasted garlic as finely as possible.
  • Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the roasted garlic, 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves, juice from 1 lime, 1 tablespoon dry white wine (optional), 3 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, and 2 tablespoons harissa. Whisk together and set aside.
  • Cook the shrimp: Heat a grill, indoor griddle, or cast iron skillet over high heat. Pat 1 ½ pounds of peeled and deveined shrimp dry and season with salt and pepper, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil and toss. Arrange on the preheated surface and cook for about 2 minutes per side, or until the shrimp turns just pink. Even the largest shrimp will be ready within about 5 minutes, so be careful not to overcook it.A close up of shrimp being grilled.
  • Finish and serve. Immediately toss in the delicious sauce. Serve the cilantro lime shrimp immediately. 
A close up of the sauce for the cilantro lime shrimp in a bowl.

Ways to Mix it Up

The beauty of this cilantro lime shrimp recipe is that it can actually go with just about any sauce you like! Try tossing the shrimp in homemade Fresh Basil Pesto or 5-Minute Chermoula for something herby. If you want a more citrusy sauce, go for Ladolemono, aka a Greek salad dressing you'll want to put on everything!

What to Serve with Cilantro Lime Shrimp

This cilantro lime shrimp recipe makes a mean appetizer for a crowd, on its own with toothpicks and a bowl of extra sauce on the side for dipping. 

For a full dinner, serve over Greek Lemon Rice or Couscous, or double the sauce and toss with a pound of cooked spaghetti or orzo. Or, for shrimp tacos with a Mediterranean twist, borrow the slaw and serving suggestions from my Salmon Tacos recipe.

You can also skip the starch and serve this easy shrimp recipe with something green like Grilled Zucchini or Lemon Broccoli.

More shrimp recipes to try

Browse all Mediterranean recipes.

Visit Our Shop.

Try our Harissa Paste!

Slightly sweet, smoky, and tangy with just the right amount of spice. The perfect addition to your Cilantro Lime Shrimp.

Harissa paste by Villa Jerada.
4.90 from 55 votes

Cilantro Lime Shrimp

Suzy Karadsheh of The Mediterranean Dish. In the kitchenSuzy Karadsheh
A hand holding a single cilantro lime shrimp.
All-star shrimp recipe, tossed in the best roasted garlic and herb sauce! Makes the perfect shrimp appetizer or with pasta for dinner. The sauce makes all the difference here, and if you don't like cilantro, simply try fresh basil, parsley, or mint.
Prep – 5 minutes
Cook – 15 minutes
Total – 20 minutes
Cuisine:
Mediterranean
Serves – 6 people (up to)
Course:
Appetizer

Ingredients
  

  • 1 small head garlic
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine (optional), or substitute with more lime juice
  • 3 to 4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for coating the shrimp
  • 2 tablespoon harissa (or your favorite chili paste)
  • 1 ½ pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp (pre-peeled thawed frozen shrimp work well)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Get ready. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  • Roast the garlic. Use a serrated knife to trim the top off the whole head of garlic, exposing the cloves but keeping the bunch intact. Set on a large sheet of foil, drizzle generously with olive oil, and close the foil to wrap. Roast in the heated oven for about 10 minutes or until slightly tender and fragrant, then remove from the oven and let cool briefly.
  • Process the garlic. Once cool enough to handle, peel and crush or chop the roasted garlic as finely as possible.
  • Make the sauce: In a small bowl, combine the roasted garlic, cilantro, lime juice, white wine, extra virgin olive oil and harissa. Whisk together and set aside.
  • Cook the shrimp: Heat a cast iron skillet, grill, or indoor griddle over high heat. Pat shrimp dry and season with salt and pepper, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil and toss. Arrange on the preheated surface and cook for about 2 minutes per side, or until the shrimp turns just pink. Even the largest shrimp will be ready within about 5 minutes, so be careful not to overcook it.
  • Finish and serve. Immediately toss the grilled shrimp in the delicious roasted garlic sauce and serve immediately.

Video

Notes

  • Shop this recipe: Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including the olive oil and harissa paste used in this recipe.
  • To get ahead, roast the garlic ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. See this tutorial for how to roast garlic. You can also use store-bought roasted garlic in this recipe, if you must. 
  • You can cook the shrimp on a sheet pan if you prefer. Leave the oven at 400°F, toss the shrimp with about ¼ cup of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Spread on a sheet pan and roast for 6 to 9 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 169.6kcalCarbohydrates: 2.5gProtein: 23.1gFat: 7.6gSaturated Fat: 1.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.9gMonounsaturated Fat: 5.2gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 182.6mgSodium: 203.7mgPotassium: 347mgFiber: 0.5gSugar: 0.9gVitamin A: 219.6IUVitamin C: 4.9mgCalcium: 80.2mgIron: 0.8mg
Tried this recipe?

*This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2015 and has been recently updated with new information and for readers' benefit.

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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. Bonnie says:

    I have leftover chilled shrimp. Would this work as a cold appetizer?

    1. Suzy says:

      Hi, Bonnie! I have never tried that, but I don't see why not!

  2. Saundra L Forbes says:

    5 stars
    I have never left a review on any recipe so you are the first. Finally found the chili paste today so I finally got to make this. All I can say is OMGoodness. It is amazing. Followed your recipe to the letter, made double and tossed with pasta. Already looking forward to leftovers tomorrow.

    1. Suzy says:

      Wonderful!! Thanks so much, Saundra!

  3. Shelli Martin says:

    5 stars
    I made this tonight and my family LOVED it! By far the best tasting shrimp recipe I've tried so far.
    I made some Linguine noodles with a little olive oil, pesto, sundried tomatoes and capers also. Then added a Olive Garden copy cat salad with dressing. If I could give you more stars, I would.

    1. Suzy says:

      Sounds like a wonderful meal, Shelli!!

  4. Dara says:

    Excellent dish. My teenager devoured it. The sauce is unreal.

    1. Suzy says:

      That's wonderful to hear! Thanks, Dara!

  5. Chantelle says:

    Do you think I could use cilantro stir in paste?

    1. Suzy says:

      You can give it a try, Chantelle. I have not personally used it. Please let us know if it works out.

  6. Nina says:

    Hi, how much pasta do you recommend using?

    1. Suzy says:

      Hi, Nina! There's no exact amount, here. I usually just use a box of what I have on hand to feed my family of 4.

  7. Angela Gagliardi says:

    5 stars
    Made this last night for dinner and it was a hit! This will be added to our dinner rotation!

  8. Phyllis says:

    Do you warm the sauce if used over pasta?

    1. Suzy says:

      If you make a little extra sauce to toss in pasta, you can warm it up a bit before tossing. I personally don't. I rely on the hot pasta to absorb the sauce.

  9. Valerie says:

    Hello,
    I love your recipes, and we are just working through a number of them that we find appealing, and this is one of them. I have to question your nutritional information on this one though. How on earth could this amount to that many calories per serving? The only high calorie ingredient is olive oil and there isn't that much of it, not per serving. Could this be a mistake?

  10. Melinda says:

    Hi Suzy,

    Can I substitute something else for the white wine?

    1. Suzy says:

      You can omit the white wine 🙂

    2. mike Cronin says:

      dont like cilantro what can i use to replace it

      1. Suzy says:

        You can use basil, Mike.

  11. Stephanie says:

    5 stars
    I had to substitute parsley for cilantro and it came out great! I had the chili paste but I chose to use Truff extra hot sauce instead. One of the best dishes I’ve had in awhile! (COVID shut down but still makes me not miss the restaurants!)

    1. Suzy says:

      Thank you, Stephanie!

  12. Heidi Issa says:

    Hi I made this tonight exactly as written with pasta. It was so good. Thanks so much for the recipe. The whole family loved it. I have made a few of your other recipes and they were great. With much love from an American living in Switzerland.

    1. Suzy says:

      So glad to hear it, Heidi! Thank you so much.

  13. Hailey says:

    5 stars
    I have made this twice. I followed the directions exactly the first time. Second time I made it I put the shrimp in the sauce and marinated them for a couple of hours. That made it easier for me to serve to my guests having it all combined beforehand. Both times I served it on whole wheat spaghetti using a little of the pasta water to add to the sauce. It is very flavorful and makes a good scampi style dish.

    1. Suzy says:

      Thanks so much for sharing, Hailey! So glad

  14. Anna Tiedeman says:

    Can i use tomato paste instead of chili paste?

    1. Suzy says:

      Hi Anna. Not quite the same thing here. Chili paste is used here mainly for the kick of spice it provides. Tomato paste is far thicker and is not what we're looking for here. You can use dry chili flakes though.

  15. Leslie Mathis says:

    Can I use Sriracha for the chili paste. Want to make tonight. Looks amazing!

    1. Suzy says:

      That could work, Leslie!

  16. Catherine Billings says:

    I was wondering if I could make this on the stovetop since I don't have access to an outdoor grill. Thanks

    1. Suzy says:

      Sure, Catherine. An indoor griddle or skillet is a great option for this recipe 🙂