Sweet, succulent shrimp bathed in a garlicky olive oil, this Shrimp in Garlic Sauce or Gambas Al Ajillo might just be the best shrimp you’ve ever had! A tapas bar classic, this tapas recipe from Spain couldn’t be easier to make or eat!
Next to Pan Con Tomate, Shrimp in Garlic Sauce or Gambas Al Ajillo may just be the most common Spanish Tapas and one of my favorite Tapas recipes from Spain. After the first bite, I’m sure you’ll understand why. Incredibly tender and juicy shrimp is paired with a garlicky olive oil sauce that you’ll want to lap up with a spoon – or at least some good crusty bread.
I tried quite a few versions of this shrimp in garlic sauce when I was in Spain and I think I’ve hit on the perfect g recipe and technique. This shrimp in garlic sauce or gambas al ajillo is incredibly easy to make with ingredients you can easily find in your local grocery store. So…
Here’s what you need to make Shrimp in Garlic Sauce:
- fresh shrimp
- good olive oil
- lots of garlic
- red pepper flakes
- lemon zest
- Spanish sherry
- fresh parsley
Now for the good part…
Here’s how to make this addictive shrimp in garlic sauce or Gambas al Ajillo!
Step #1: Slice the garlic. This is key – minced or pressed garlic is too small and cooks too quickly! Thin garlic slices will give you a lovely, mellow garlic flavor so don’t be tempted to just press those cloves!
Step #2: Put the garlic in a saute pan with the olive oil and heat over low heat for about 5 – 8 minutes. Cook until the garlic just begins to turn golden brown.
Step #3: Add the chili flakes and cook for a few minutes. Then add the shrimp – but don’t raise the heat! Cook for about 5 minutes until the shrimp just turn pink – they won’t be fully cooked, but that’s ok.
Step #4: Turn off the heat and add lemon zest, sherry, parsley and a large pinch of salt.
Step #5: Give it a good stir and transfer to a warmed serving platter! Don’t leave the shrimp in garlic sauce in the pan to serve – the residual heat will overcook the shrimp!
Other Tapas Recipes from Spain that you might enjoy:
Shrimp in Garlic Sauce: Gambas al Ajillo Recipe:
Shrimp in Garlic Sauce|Gambas al Ajillo
- 1 lb. medium sized shrimp peeled and deveined
- 1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup sliced garlic cloves approximately 1 head
- ½ teaspoon dried chile flakes
- 2 Tablespoons sherry
- ¼ cup fresh parsley minced
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Place the olive oil in a large saute pan and add garlic.
- Heat over low heat for 5 - 8 minutes until the garlic just starts to turn golden brown.
- Add the shrimp and cook for about 3 - 5 minutes just until the shrimp turn pink. Add the chile flakes and cook for another minute.
- Turn off the heat and add the sherry, lemon zest, parsley and salt and stir.
- Remove the shrimp to a warmed serving platter and spoon the garlicky oil over the top.
- Serve with toothpicks and plenty of crusty bread to sop up all that fabulous garlicky sauce.
- I used medium shrimp (20 - 25 count) for this recipe but you could also use large shrimp for this garlic shrimp recipe.
- If you can find a good spanish olive oil, use it - although any good quality olive oil that you like works beautifully. The key is to use one that you like the taste of!!!
- Garlic: Yes, this shrimp in garlic sauce uses a LOT of garlic! However, since the garlic is sliced and cooked low and slow, it doesn't become bitter! Instead it has a wonderful, almost nutty flavor - so honestly, don't skip the amount!
- Sherry: DO NOT USE COOKING SHERRY! Seriously, since there are so few ingredients in this dish, the flavors of each ingredient really stand out so... if that is all you have, just omit it. But I really encourage you to get a nice Spanish sherry - you can find it at well stocked liquor stores. I used the Lustau brand which is generally around $20. If you keep it refrigerated, it will last several months. Not only is it delicious in sauces, but it also delicious served on it's own before dinner or in this Adonis Cocktail! There are many different types of sherry to use - I used an Amontillado which I think is perhaps one of the most versatile sherries - it's delicious served on it's own, in cocktails and of course in this dish!
- This recipe calls for using low heat since you are basically poaching the shrimp in olive oil - like in this Oil Poached Spanish Sherried Shrimp . Don't be tempted to raise the heat!!
- Lastly, don't serve the shrimp in the saute pan! I have seen sooo many recipes that call for you to do that - but don't! The remaining residual heat will overcook the shrimp and you won't get that juicy luscious texture - which is what you want! Instead, gently warm a platter and put the shrimp on that and then ladle on that garlicky sauce!