This authentic gambas al ajillo (Spanish garlic shrimp) recipe is quick and easy to make in just 10 minutes and tastes irresistibly delicious.
¡Hola todos! I’m back today with another authentic Spanish tapas recipe that is one of our favorites to eat here in Spain — gambas al ajillo. Or in English — shrimp with garlic. ♡
These irresistible little gambas can be found on just about any tapas menu in Barcelona. And we especially love ordering them when friends come to visit because these garlicky shrimp are served with quite the dramatic flair, brought to your table in the same piping hot clay bowls in which they have been cooked, bubbling and sizzling all the way. And they taste like pure, garlicky heaven. Also delicious? The slices of toasted bread that usually accompany the shrimp that you absolutely must use to mop up every last drop of that garlicky, herby, rich sauce. Buenísimo.
That said, as fun as this dish is to order out, it’s also incredibly easy to whip up gambas al ajillo on your own at home. All you need are a few simple ingredients, including lots of good-quality olive oil (because — fun fact — Spain is the world’s #1 producer of olive oil). And in just 10 or so minutes, your own piping hot batch of garlicky shrimp can be ready to serve up and enjoy.
Let’s make some gambitas!
Spanish Garlic Shrimp Ingredients:
To make authentic Spanish gambas al ajillo, you will need the following ingredients:
- Shrimp: Peeled and devined, with the tails on or off. (Here in Spain, by the way, we have to peel and devein our shrimp by hand. So the photo above is how they look when we bring them home!)
- Garlic: We will use 12 large cloves of garlic for this recipe. Or as they say in Spanish, dientes (teeth!) of garlic, which I think is so cute!
- Olive oil: This recipe is traditionally made with a lot of olive oil, in order to have extra leftover for that garlicky dipping sauce. But feel free to cut back on the amount if you prefer.
- Dry red chili pepper (or crushed red chili flakes): Spanish food is never spicy, much to my dismay. 😉 However, Spanish cooks do occasionally add one dry red chili pepper to the olive oil to infuse it with a bit of flavor. Since whole dried chili peppers are harder to find in the States, I have included an option below for how to sub in crushed red pepper flakes instead.
- Dry sherry (or white wine): Most of the time, a splash of dry sherry (or any dry white wine) is also added to this dish for a bit of extra flavor. If you don’t have an open bottle on hand or prefer not to cook with alcohol, though, just use a squeeze of lemon juice instead.
- Salt and pepper: Sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper, for seasoning.
- Fresh parsley (optional): Finely-chopped, to add a bit of color and freshness to the dish if you would like.
- Lemon (optional): Some restaurants add a bit of lemon juice to this dish in addition to the sherry, and some adamantly do not. So — up to you! I like the bit of brightness that it adds, but it’s completely optional if you don’t have a lemon on hand.
How To Make Gambas Al Ajillo:
This Spanish garlic shrimp recipe moves quickly, so I recommend having all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you begin cooking. To make this recipe, simply…
- Season the shrimp. Generously with salt and pepper.
- Sauté the garlic and chili. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. (You want it warm but not too hot, otherwise it will burn the garlic and splatter everywhere.) Add garlic and chili pepper and sauté briefly until the garlic starts to turn lightly golden.
- Cook the shrimp. Add in the shrimp and sauté until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. (It’s important to avoid overcooking the shrimp, since they will continue to sit and cook in the hot oil as they are served.)
- Season. Remove pan from the heat, and add in the sherry, a squeeze of lemon juice (if using) and your desired amount of parsley (if using), and toss to combine. Then give the shrimp a taste, and if they by chance need extra salt and pepper, go ahead and add that in too.
- Serve. With lots of crusty bread, because I guarantee you’re going to want to mop up every last drop of that garlicky oil. 😉
More Authentic Spanish & Catalan Recipes:
Here are a few more authentic Spanish (and Catalan, because we live in Barcelona!) recipes here on the blog.
- Authentic Gazpacho
- Shortcut Spanish Tortilla
- Catalan Tomato Bread (Pa Amb Tomàquet)
- Catalan Chickpeas and Spinach
- Spanish Gin Tonics
This authentic gambas al ajillo (Spanish garlic shrimp) recipe is quick and easy to make in just 10 minute and tastes irresistibly delicious.
- 1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp (tails on or off)
- fine sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
- 1 cup olive oil
- 12 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 dried red chili pepper (or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)
- 2 tablespoons dry sherry (or any dry white wine)
- optional: thick lemon wedge and chopped fresh parsley, for serving
- Season the shrimp on both sides with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. (I use about 1 teaspoon salt and about 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.) Set aside.
- Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until shimmering.
- Add garlic and chili pepper and sauté for 30-60 seconds, or until the garlic starts to turn lightly golden.
- Add in the shrimp and sauté, stirring and flipping occasionally, until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. (Try to avoid overcooking the shrimp, since they will continue to sit in the hot oil for awhile longer.)
- Remove pan from the heat. Add in the sherry, a squeeze of lemon juice (if using) and your desired amount of parsley (if using), and toss to combine. Taste and season with extra salt and pepper, if needed.
- Serve immediately with crusty bread, for dipping.