Succulent shrimp swimming in a garlicky sauce, this Spanish Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo) is a classic tapas dish that's hard to resist! And did I mention that you can make it in just 15 minutes from start to finish? Be sure to serve this tasty dish with plenty of crusty bread like my Pan Con Tomate to soak up all the delicious sauce.
This Spanish Garlic Shrimp recipe is near and dear to my heart. It brings back memories of the incredible trip my husband Pete and I took to Spain years ago. It was quite an adventure filled with plenty of amazing sites, culture and of course, food.
It's hard to choose, but probably my favorite memory from the trip is of the late night strolls down La Rambla in Barcelona enjoying a wide variety of tapas, or small plates, at casual eateries. Gambas Al Ajillo, or Garlic Shrimp, is one of the most common tapas dishes in Spain and it also happens to be one of my favorites.
Some of my other favorite shrimp dishes are my Shrimp Oreganata, Award-Winning Shrimp Saganaki (Greek Shrimp with Feta) and Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp.
What is Spanish Garlic Shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo)?
Gambas al ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp or Prawns) is one of the most popular dishes in Spain. It's made by cooking shrimp in olive oil infused with lots of garlic and a hint of dried red pepper. A splash of sweet brandy and some smoky paprika add complexity to the dish.
This Spanish shrimp dish can be found on menus all across Spain. It's typically served as an appetizer along with other tapas (small plates).
Shrimp al ajillo are often served sizzling hot in cazuelas (glazed clay dishes) or small metal pans along with crusty bread or pan con tomate (tomato bread) to soak up all the delicious sauce.
Not only is this dish delicious, it's also really easy to make at home. All you need is a handful of simple ingredients and about 15 minutes!
Why You'll Love This Dish
- It's fast- make this dish in just 15 minutes! It's the perfect meal for busy weeknights.
- It's easy- all you need are a handful of basic ingredients and a skillet
- It's healthy- packed with nutrients, this dish fits in well with the Mediterranean diet
- It's delicious- succulent shrimp cooked in a garlicky sauce- kids and adults will love it!
This dish is packed with beneficial nutrients as well as flavor! Olive oil provides heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Shrimp add plenty of protein, iron, Vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.
This quick and easy Spanish tapas recipe fits in well with the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is a healthy-eating plan that incorporates the traditional flavors and ingredients of the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea.
Numerous studies have shown that a Mediterranean-style diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, certain types of cancer, depression, and cognitive decline.
- It emphasizes plant-based foods such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices. Olive oil, which is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, is the main source of fat.
- Lean protein from fish, seafood and poultry is consumed in moderation. Seafood is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and should be eaten 2-3 times a week. Red meat and sweets are eaten only sparingly.
- The Mediterranean lifestyle also involves regular physical activity, sharing meals with others and enjoying life!
Ingredients for Spanish Garlic Shrimp
Recipe Notes and Substitutions:
- Shrimp- I use large shrimp that have been peeled and deveined; you can leave the tails on or take them off.
- Olive oil- you want to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil since it is the main ingredient in the sauce
- Garlic- lots of fresh garlic infuses the sauce with flavor
- Chili flakes- add a bit of heat; adjust the amount to your liking
- Sweet Spanish paprika- some recipes don't include paprika but I like the flavor and color it adds to the dish
- Dry sherry- adds depth of flavor; you can substitute dry white wine
- Lemon juice- for bright acidity
- Parsley- adds a pop of fresh flavor and color
How To Make This Dish
- Slowly heat the olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes in a skillet. As the pan heats up, the oil will get infused with the flavor of the garlic and chili. You want the garlic to get some color but don't let it brown too much. This dish is traditionally cooked in cazuelas, glazed clay dishes that are placed directly on the grill. However, any skillet will work just as well.
- Add the shrimp and season them with paprika, salt and pepper. Cook the shrimp about 2 minutes, until they just turn pink.
- Add the sherry and lemon juice and cook another 2-3 minutes until the liquid is reduced and shrimp are cooked.
- Sprinkle the parsley on top. Serve with Pan con Tomate (Spanish tomato bread) or other crusty bread to soak up all the delicious sauce.
- Make sure you have all your ingredients gathered before you start cooking- this dish cooks in a matter or minutes!
- Heat the oil slowly to infuse it with the garlic and chili flakes; you don't want to burn the garlic.
- Don't overcook the shrimp. The shrimp will continue to cook in the warm oil.
- Serve this Spanish garlic shrimp with pan con tomate (Spanish tomato bread) to soak up all the delicious sauce!
This dish is classically meant for sharing along with other tapas (small dishes). Serve it with my Pan con Tomate (tomato bread) or any crusty bread to dip in the sauce. If you like, you can serve this Spanish shrimp as an entree on a bed of pasta or rice.
Gambas al ajillo is made with shrimp that are cooked in olive oil with lots of garlic and a hint of dried red pepper. Some recipes also add a splash of brandy and a dash of Spanish paprika for complexity.
Gambas al ajillo originates from Spain. It's a classic tapas dish served as an appetizer in Spanish tapas bars.
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Spanish Garlic Shrimp
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- ½ teaspoon sweet Spanish paprika (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry
- 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Pan con Tomate (Spanish tomato bread) or crusty bread, for serving
- Pour the oil into a large sauté pan (or cazuelas) and add the garlic and chili flakes. Turn the heat up to medium high. As the pan heats up, the oil will slowly get infused with the flavor of the garlic and chili (do not let the garlic brown).
- Once the oil is hot and the garlic is fragrant, add the shrimp to the pan. Season them with the paprika, salt and pepper. Cook the shrimp about 2 minutes, until they just turn pink, stirring often.
- Add the sherry and lemon juice and cook another 2-3 minutes until the liquid is reduced and shrimp are cooked. Sprinkle the parsley on top. Serve with Pan con Tomate (tomato bread) or crusty bread for soaking up all of the delicious sauce.
Wow! Thanks Sonali
Perfect for summer dinner!
Yes, it is- thank you!
Definitely a great shrimp recipe! Especially with fresh bread to soak up the delicious sauce!
Thank you! Yes, gotta have the sauce!
I love shrimp and this is the perfect recipe! I’ll definitely be making this more often!
Awesome! Let me know how it goes if you make it!
Sue Craig says
I could enjoy shrimp all day... every day! This looks delicious and so easy! I really cannot wait to try it! As always I look forward to more recipes, Sonali.
Me too! Thanks, Sue! 😘
This looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it!
I made this yesterday and it was absolutely fantastic. I am going to try substituting other seafood and maybe even chicken and see how it turns out.
Jessica Levinson says
How funny we went to Spain and San Sebastián for our 5th anniversary last year! Great minds 😉
Katie Serbinski says
I took a trip to Spain as a high school senior--- and all I remember is getting a loaf of crusty bread with every meal lol! That was more than 10 years ago... I definitely need to go back to truly appreciate the cuisine [or make this delicious recipe at home]. Can't wait for your tomato bread recipe!
Big Rigs 'n Lil' Cookies says
This sounds so delicious. I LOVE that you used Wild Caught Gulf Shrimp, in my opinion they have so much more flavor. And, that kind of shrimp is not always easy to find where I live, so I will be checking out Sizzlefish.
I love this recipe, Sonali! Brings me back to Barcelona and one of my favorite tapas dishes! And do I spy tomato bread in the background?! YUM!
Ben Maclain | Havocinthekitchen says
Shrimp, garlic, lemon, and parsley (or other herbs) - that's perfect marriage! With a piece (better two or three) of delicious fragrant bread, that's just divine! Good job, Sonali!
It is a great combination. Thanks for stopping by, Ben!
Shashi Charles says
YUM! I adore this simple shrimp dish Sonali - the sherry and paprika combined with everything else must have made this so delicious!
Thanks, Shashi! The combo is really good- we soaked up every last bit of the yummy sauce with crusty bread!
Love this simple dish! I don't make shrimp nearly enough, but I'll be trying this recipe soon! Pinned 🙂
Thanks, Anne! I like making shrimp because they cook so quickly- perfect for busy weeknights!
Meal Makeover Mom Janice says
Wow, I just got some shrimp on sale at Whole Foods and it looks like this will be what I make! I lived in Cadiz, Spain for a semester in college and returned this year. I can almost taste the amazing shrimp!
That must have been an amazing experience! I hope you try my version of the dish!
I've heard such amazing things about Sizzlefish! :] This sounds delicious, and the fact that they were already peeled definitely helps with prep time! :D!
They are terrific! Thanks, Farrah. It's a quick dish to make and using peeled and deveined shrimp makes it even faster!