Spanish garlic shrimp is an easy to make seafood appetizer and a crowd pleaser. With a quick prep and cooking time it makes a great last-minute appetizer for any occasion!
This popular Spanish tapas can be easily doubled. While it is usually enjoyed hot, you can serve is cold as well. It’s the perfect recipe for sharing!
Traditionally served in a clay dish called cazuela, gambas al ajillo (the official Spanish name of this dish) is literally brought to your table still sizzling in the oil.
If you wanted to use similar dish for cooking, you would need to reduce the cooking time as the shrimp will continue cooking even when the heat is off to avoid overcooking!
- Chopping board and knife – for slicing the garlic
- Skillet/frying pan or pot – for cooking
- Wooden spoon – for mixing
- Wide shallow bowl or a plate with edge – for serving
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Red pepper flakes
- Black pepper
This information is for those who can’t eat certain foods so they can easily see what this Spanish shrimp in olive oil contain:
What to serve with garlic shrimp?
This Spanish appetizer goes so well with fresh French baguette or any artisan crusty bread.
The best part is dipping it in the leftover oil (this recipe is pretty much 2-in1: you get garlicky shrimp as well as bread dipping oil) It is the way Spaniards enjoy their favorite tapas.
You can also sprinkle some fresh parsley over – this is optional but adds a ton of flavor.
Frequently asked questions:
What shrimp should I use?
Any kind of shrimp/prawn will work – fresh or frozen, large or small. If you buy whole shrimp, you will need to peel and devein it first.
How long does it take to cook this shrimp appetizer?
The cooking time will vary, depending on the size of the shellfish as well as the heat.
Now that being said, it will take a couple of minutes. Extremely tiny pieces will only need a minute while the larger may take 3-4 minutes.
What to do with leftovers?
You can keep the leftover shrimp in an airtight container in the fridge and consume within 48 hours.
Or, turn it into a dinner or lunch by reheating it, adding some pureed tomatoes, herbs and parmesan and serve over pasta.
- With large shrimp or prawn, you can leave the tails on, but I personally never leave them on as I don’t see a reason why. Who wants to get their hands dirty by removing it?
- Be generous with garlic here. Using only a few cloves may not give you the garlicky taste we are after!
- Authentic Spanish gambas all ajillo use a whole dried chili pepper – “guindilla”. You can buy them in supermarkets, usually in the seasoning section. However, a simple and easier alternative is using red pepper flakes and that is what I used as well.
- Some recipes call for a splash of white wine or cherry so you can experiment and add some to your shrimp appetizer, if you like.
More easy Spanish appetizers:
- Patatas Bravas – one of the most popular Spanish appetizers.
- Bacon Wrapped Dates
- Almond Stuffed Olives
- Manchego Cheese Tapas – slices of chorizo and manchego cheese usually served on a chopping board or plate separately. I turned them into simple bites.
- Marinated Octopus – another classic snack, usually enjoyed with olives or other marinated foods.
- 14 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp (400 grams), see note 1
- ½ teaspoon salt, see note 2
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
- ½ cup olive oil, see note 3
- 8-10 garlic cloves, peeled, see note 4
- ½-¾ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes, see note 5
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley, optional
- Pat the shrimp dry with paper kitchen towel and season it well with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a pot or skillet/frying pan. Slice all the garlic and add it to the oil, followed by red pepper flakes. Cook on medium heat for about 3 minutes or until the garlic slices turn golden brown, stirring from time to time. Add seasoned shrimp. Cook until the shrimp is ready, about 1-4 minutes (see note 6).
- Transfer preferably into a wide-bottom plate/bowl and serve with fresh baguette or artisan bread (see note 7).
- You will need 14 ounces (400 grams) of peeled and deveined shrimp. I used frozen shrimp that I thawed prior to cooking. Fresh is great if you have such option. It does not matter what size it is, but I recommend either small or medium. If you buy whole shrimp, you will need to buy more - at least 1-pound (450 grams), perhaps 1 and ¼ pound (560 grams).
- I don’t recommend using less salt as the shrimp will taste bland. In fact, slightly more is better. I used regular table salt.
- Make sure to use extra virgin olive oil for this recipe and don’t substitute with other oils. Don’t discard the oil. It has a ton of flavor and it’s perfect for dipping the baguette in. You can increase the quantity of oil to 1 cup and serve it as a bread dipping oil. It’s so good!
- I usually use a whole head of small to medium garlic. It has usually about 8-12 cloves, some larger, some smaller. You need to use quite a lot of garlic cloves to infuse the oil and shrimp.
- You can use more flakes if you like your foods on the spicier side. It’s mostly the oil that will be spicy.
- Cooking time will depend on the size of shrimp as well as the heat you are cooking it on. In general, count with about 1 minute for tiny shrimp, 2-3 for medium and 3-4 for large shrimp. Be careful not to overcook it.
- Cut French baguette into thin slices so that your guests can grab it easily and dip it in the oil.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 167Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 139mgSodium: 804mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 15g