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.

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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. Morgan says:

    Just tried this recipe tonight and served it over your Greek Lemon Rice. Overall it was delicious, but going forward I'm going to roast the garlic for 30 minutes rather than 10 to bring out its sweetness.

  2. Lee S says:

    5 stars
    I made cilantro lime shrimp tacos with this recipe and the slaw recipe from the salmon tacos recipe! Delicious and healthy!!

    1. TMD Team says:

      What a great idea! Thanks for sharing, Lee!

  3. Sharon Perry says:

    What is chili paste? Can't find it at my local markets. What would I sub

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Sharon. You can click here to find harissa, the chili paste we recommend for this recipe. Enjoy!

  4. Joseph says:

    4 stars
    cooking shrimp to perfection ?? no timing. just watch center cut mi9ddle as its almost opaque flip them and again watch center as it approaches opaque color remove from heat. its done and will continue to cook with residual heat to perfect. ya can't use minutes. heat varies cooke to cooker. size of shrimps vary , I promise this works ..Been cooking shrimps langoustine and lobsters conch scungile for 70 years !!!!

  5. sharda says:

    5 stars
    Love this, thanks for all the tips about humus.

  6. Valerie says:

    5 stars
    Hi Suzy,
    I love your recipes, and I come back to your blog again and again to find new ideas. This is a great dish, we've made it numerous times, usually over pasta. My husband loves it over orzo.

    I'm planning to double the sauce and spoon the shrimp (will be cast iron stovetop cooked) over a fresh green salad this time, and use the extra sauce as a dressing- do you think that will work? Do you have any suggestions for that?

    Thanks for everything and I really, truly, enjoy your work!

    1. Suzy says:

      Hi, Valerie! I haven't tried that myself with this recipe, but it sounds yummy!!

  7. Meredith says:

    5 stars
    I have served this as an appetizer several times and it always gets rave reviews! Mmmmm!

    1. Suzy says:

      Awesome! Thanks, Meredith!

  8. Cathy says:

    Terrible! Making for Easter and 1 cup of cilantro is way too much. If you look at the video it’s about 1/4 cup!

  9. Susie Riccio says:

    How long will this sauce keep in the refrigerator?

    1. Suzy says:

      Hi, Susie. It can be stored in a tight-lid container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

  10. Denise Biedron says:

    5 stars
    I have made this a few times for family and and friends. They all love it. Going to make it again, but wanted to know if I can make the sauce the day before and if yes, do I still add the cilantro or wait and mix it the next day?
    Thanks

    1. Suzy says:

      Hi, Denise. I've never tried making the sauce too far ahead, but I imagine it would be okay up to two days in advance. And, yes, I would wait to add the cilantro in at the last minute.

  11. Nancy Williams says:

    This recipe sounds amazing! I don't have lime, can I use lemon instead?

    1. Suzy says:

      Sure! That'll work!

  12. Susan says:

    5 stars
    Oh my word was this delicious! I think the heat and spices were perfect! We made this a meal with angel hair pasta and all of us loved it!!!!!

    1. Suzy says:

      Yum! Thanks for sharing, Susan!

  13. Jenna says:

    Is this recipe spicy? It sounds really good, but I’m not a fan of spicy food and I see “chili paste” listed. I can do a touch of spice though. 🙂 I like healthy, flavorful food! Thank you.

    1. Suzy says:

      Hi, Jenna! This is not overly spicy, but it does have a nice little kick :). I hope you give it a try!