Gambas al ajillo are a super simple Spanish tapas that is one of the best known and best loved. And for good reason - these garlic shrimp are delicious!
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Spanish tapas are a firm favorite for me. That might not be a surprise if you've looked around here before. I have so many memories of eating tapas in various places around Spain, trying local specialties (like Catalan coca, Spanish pizza) as well as the classics (like pan con tomate).
Plus they are fun to recreate at home, and great for when you don't all agree on what to eat.
Unfamiliar with tapas?
If they're new to you, then I'd suggest starting with what are tapas, then try an easy Spanish cheese plate or uncooked tapas as a great place to start. Plus of course these shrimp are an easy classic you need to try soon as well.
Spanish cuisine very much makes use of the foods available locally. So you'll find lots of heartier pork dishes (like fabada Asturiana) in the mountains and interior, and seafood (like this and arroz negro, black rice paella) along the coast.
Gambas al ajillo are often credited with being originally from Andalusia, in the South. These days, you'll find this tapas favorite in taverns all over Spain and in Spanish restaurants around the world.
How to make gambas al ajillo
There's not much to these but there is a little bit of a technique to them in that you cook the garlic and chili over a relatively low heat first, to get the flavor from them, before adding the shrimp and cooking over a higher heat.
If you use a high heat initially, the garlic will burn and give a sour taste to the oil. Also, make sure you use a good quality olive oil as you will want to enjoy it when you eat too.
Variations on Spanish garlic shrimp
I have kept things pretty simple in this recipes but a few easy variations you can make:
- Add some sherry towards the end of cooking (only around 1 tbsp, and with heat at medium).
- Add some lemon zest before serving.
- Squeeze in some lemon juice towards the end.
- Mix in other seafood like calamari/squid.
How to serve gambas al ajillo
One of the great thing about tapas is you can mix and match whatever you like to make a meal. Or, you can have them with a few nibbles like olives and almonds for a lighter snack.
As more of a tapas meal, I often go for a few different hot tapas, and maybe a cold plate. I mix some heavier on the meat/seafood like this, and other more vegetable-based, like patatas bravas, a Spanish tortilla or salt cod stuffed piquillo peppers.
One thing you don't want to forget with these garlic shrimp, though, is some bread to mop up all the delicious garlicy olive oil!
Gambas al ajillo are an easy and delicious Spanish tapas dish that are perfect for any occasion. With only a few ingredients, there's no excuse not to make some soon!
Looking for more tapas ideas? Try these!
- Blistered Padron peppers, pimientos de Padrón
- Spanish cheese plate
- White wine marinated steak with blue cheese
- Plus see more about what are tapas and many more Spanish recipes in the archives.
Gambas al ajillo - Spanish garlic shrimp
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 60ml (4tbsp)
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ chili fresh or dried
- ½ lb shrimp 225g
- ½ tablespoon parsley chopped volume
- Slice the garlic and dice the chili, if using fresh, or break into pieces of dried.
- Warm the oil in a small skillet/frying pan over a medium-low heat with the sliced garlic & chili until the garlic sizzles. Take care not to let it brown or burn.
- Add the shrimp, turn up the heat to medium-high and cook until the shrimp are cooked through, turning as needed.
- Remove from the heat, sprinkle over the parsley and serve.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
Try these other seafood ideas:
- Braised Cod Peperonata for Two by Karen at Karen's Kitchen Stories
- Curried Coconut Citrus Cod by Stacy at Food Lust People Love