Gambas al Ajillo, also known as Spanish garlic shrimp, are large, succulent shrimp simmered in a skillet with garlic oil. This dish is rich with deep, garlicky flavors so serve it with some crusty bread to soak up every tasty morsel. It is made with a few simple ingredients and ready in less than 10 minutes! (This recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free.)
Gambas al ajillo, which you pronounce as gahm-bahs-ahl-ah-hee-yoh, is all about “shrimp with garlic” or simply “garlic shrimp.” And trust me, it’s delish! Picture plump, succulent shrimp bathing in a flavorful, garlicky olive oil sauce. Enjoy it with a hearty chunk of crusty bread for some sauce-dipping fun!
I remember my very first time having gambas al ajillo vividly – it happened in sunny Gran Canaria, Spain, at this super popular tapas restaurant. Just after that initial bite, I couldn’t resist and ordered two more servings because it was just TOO DELICIOUS! I knew it was something I had to have again and make at home! This recipe is now a part of my favorite foods while traveling series!
Reasons This Gambas al Ajillo Recipe Works
- The Perfect Appetizer! If you order this at a Spanish restaurant, it’s considered a tapas which is a small plate. It’s ideal for dinner parties but you can serve them at any party to elevate the menu and impress your guests.
- Quick and Easy! This simple shrimp recipe is ready in less than 15 minutes.
- So Flavorful! Seasoned shrimp is added to pepper and garlicky oil.
What is gambas al ajillo?
Gambas al ajillo, also known as “garlic shrimp” or “shrimp with garlic,” is a shrimp (gambas) dish cooked in a flavorful infusion of garlic and olive oil. It’s a staple tapas dish in Spanish cuisine. When ordered at Spanish restaurants, Spanish garlic shrimp comes out with the oil sizzling in a small cast iron dish or small clay dishes (cazuelitas).
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Shrimp: Use large shrimp or prawns for a more satisfying dish. It’s so mouthwatering that you’ll want as much as possible! Shrimp shrinks as it cooks so smaller shrimp just won’t cut it. Be sure to peel and devein the shrimp. ( I like to leave a few shrimp with the shell intake because the shells help enhance the flavor of the shrimp garlic sauce.)
- Garlic: Garlic lovers rejoice! You can pile on the garlic for gambas al ajillo. Chop them up and cook over medium heat so they don’t burn. Otherwise, the dish will have a bitter taste.
- Extra-virgin olive oil: Use the best quality extra virgin olive oil you can get your hands on. The best part of this dish is sopping up the last bits of garlic-infused oil with a nice crusty bread, so you don’t want to skimp on the quality of your olive oil.
- Fresh Lemon Juice: This brightens the sauce and adds a subtle zest that perfectly balances the savory taste of the garlic. You can also use sherry vinegar or dry white wine:
- Red pepper flakes: Add more or less, depending on how spicy you want your shrimp to be.
- Sea salt: This dish is full of flavor but it is seasoned very simply. All You need is a bit of sea salt to season the shrimp and a touch to finish off the dish to enhance its naturally delicious flavor
- Fresh parsley: Chop the leaves and use them as garnish.
How to Make Gambas al Ajillo
- SEASON SHRIMP. Gently pat the shrimp dry and season them with salt. Set them aside for now.
- INFUSE OIL WITH GARLIC AND PEPPERS. In a small frying pan over medium heat, warm the extra virgin olive oil. Slowly heat the oil and when it begins to sizzle add the garlic and red crushed peppers. Let them cook over medium heat for up to 60 seconds or until the garlic takes on a bit of color (just make sure it doesn’t burn).
- ADD SHRIMP. Next, add in the shrimp. Cook for a short while, giving them a good toss every now and then, and keep an eye out for the flesh to turn opaque with a lovely pearly pink hue. This usually takes around 1-2 minutes, but the exact time might vary depending on your shrimp’s size. Once done, remove the pan from the heat. (I like to cook my shrimp 3-5 minutes on low heat so that the flavors are even more infused into the shrimp)
- FINISHING TOUCHES. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice (or sherry or white wine), chopped parsley, and a pinch of salt. Mix well.
- SERVE AND ENJOY! If you cook this in a cast iron, feel free to serve the dish sizzling hot in the cast iron. Otherwise, transfer your delightful garlicky shrimp and that luscious sauce into a serving bowl. Don’t forget to grab your favorite crusty bread for dipping and enjoy!
Tips To Nail the Recipe
- For the best results, use the freshest shrimp you can find. If using frozen shrimp, make sure to thaw it first.
- You can keep the shell on or remove it. That comes down to personal preference. The best way to serve Spanish garlic shrimp is with the shell removed so that it is easier to enjoy.
- The shrimp cooks quickly in the garlic-infused oil. Be sure to monitor the shrimp while cooking. The shrimp is ready when the flesh is opaque and the shrimp turns pink.
- Do not cook over high heat. Instead, cook the oil over medium heat. It should be simmering, not smoking.
- Cook the garlic for up to 1 minute, making sure not to burn it. Burning it will ruin the flavor of your dish.
- This is traditionally an oily dish. The garlic-infused oil is one of the best parts of the dish and eating the dish with bread to soak up the oil is truly mouthwatering! When making the recipe, my ratio is a full half cup of olive oil for every pound of shrimp.
Where did gambas al ajillo come from?
Gambas al ajillo is a Spanish dish that originated in the Andalusia region, along the southern coast of Spain.
What is the meaning of al ajillo?
Al ajillo means garlic in Spanish.
What goes well with gambas al ajillo ?
A delicious crusty bread pairs perfectly with this. I suggest our crunchy gluten-free garlic bread. Having a tapas party? Serve gambas al ajillo alongside other Spanish small dishes like patatas bravas and gazpacho.
I Hope You Enjoy This Spanish Garlic Shrimp Recipe!
If you try the recipe, don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know what you think in the comments. Leave a quick review & star rating ★ below! Take pictures, tag #goodfoodbaddie, and share them with me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest! I love seeing my recipes come to life in your kitchen.
More Seafood Recipes To Try!
- Best Authentic Maryland Crab Cake Recipe
- Pesto-Crusted Broiled Sea Bass Recipe
- Crispy Gluten-Free Air Fryer Fish
- Honey Garlic Salmon Bites (Air Fryer)
- Garlic, Herb, Citrus-Stuffed Grilled Branzino
Gambas al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp)
- 12 cloves Garlic roughly chopped
- 1 pound Large shrimp peeled and deveined
- ½ cup Extra-virgin olive oil
- Sea salt to taste
- ½ teaspoon Red pepper flakes (more or less as desired)
- 1 ½ teaspoons Fresh Squeezed Lemon (can sub Sherry vinegar or dry white wine)
- 1 tablespoon Fresh parsley leaves chopped
- Gently pat the shrimp dry and season them with salt. Set them aside for now.
- In a small frying pan over medium heat, warm the extra virgin olive oil. Slowly heat the oil and when it begins to sizzle add the garlic and red crushed peppers. Let them cook over medium heat for up to 60 seconds or until the garlic takes on a bit of color (just make sure it doesn’t burn).
- Next, add in the shrimp. Cook for a short while, giving them a good toss every now and then, and keep an eye out for the flesh to turn opaque with a lovely pearly pink hue. This usually takes around 1-2 minutes, but the exact time might vary depending on your shrimp’s size. Once done, remove the pan from the heat.
- Add the fresh squeezed lemon juice (or sherry or white wine), chopped parsley, and a pinch of salt. Mix well.
- Transfer your delightful garlicky shrimp and that luscious sauce into a serving bowl. Don’t forget to grab your favorite crusty bread for dipping and enjoy!