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Spicy Garlic Shrimp is the most perfect and simple antipasto for all the seafood lovers out there! It is abundant with flavor, but not complexity. With only a few key ingredients and a bit of marinating time, you will have a savory, scrumptious dish, totally worthy of major bread-dipping! It’s great for any special occasion, get-together, or as a complement to your favorite holiday menu. Keep reading for more!
I’ve made this Spicy Garlic Shrimp so many times over the years for friends and family, and it continues to be a top dish requested (along with my dreamy Garlic Bread). So, I don’t see myself eliminating this recipe from my repertoire anytime soon. And, I promise that, once you try it, this recipe will become one of your favorites as well!
Inspired by authentic gambas al ajillo that I had in Sevilla, Spain years ago, Spicy Garlic Shrimp is great on its own as an appetizer with some crusty Italian bread to dip in its delicious garlicky and spicy oil. But, if you’re in the mood for something more hearty, it would be perfect served over some saffron rice or tossed with your favorite long pasta, as well.
When it comes to making this dish, the ingredients are simple, but significant. They include shrimp, lots of garlic and heat in different forms, along with some fresh lemon juice, and that’s about it! With the help of a very hot, cast-iron pan, simple shrimp are transformed into something you can not get enough of.
To make Spicy Garlic Shrimp, we will be using the following ingredients:
- Shrimp: A large to extra-large shrimp is best for this dish, but a medium-sized shrimp, such as a “31 to 36”, which means there are approximately 31 to 36 shrimp in one pound, works great as well. The shrimp must be 100% cleaned (i.e., deveined and peeled), but the tail can remain on.
- Garlic: Garlic shows up in three different forms in this recipe: umami-rich Garlic Confit, which is super-savory, sweet and smashable, its counterpart Garlic Oil, which fortifies the garlic essence of this dish, and sautéed raw, pungent garlic to round out the flavors.
- Calabrian Chile Paste: If you currently don’t have this item in your pantry, run out and buy some! Calabrian Chile Paste (a.k.a., peperoncino paste) is made from, you guessed it, Calabrian chili peppers (from the southern Italy region of Calabria, known for the heat in its dishes) and usually some vinegar, olive oil and salt. Different brands will taste slightly different, but they all add spicy heat, salt and a bit of smokiness to a dish–tons of flavor!
- Crushed Red Pepper: To amp up the heat aspect of this dish even more. Feel free to omit this and just use the Calabrian Chile Paste if you are bit shy when it comes to heat levels in your food. Or, adjust the amount in the recipe up or down, as you wish!
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: Used to sauté the raw garlic and to have more dipping opportunities in the end. Use the good stuff here as it becomes an important part of the final dish.
- Parsley and Fresh Lemon Juice: Both of these ingredients are used in the final step of the recipe–to add both color and a beautiful, bright flavor. The fresh lemon juice really complements the other earthy flavors and should not be omitted.
A complete and detailed list of ingredients with amounts and instructions is included in the recipe below.
Step-By-Step, Pro-Tips included!
Here are the main steps for how to make Spicy Garlic Shrimp:
- Prep and measure all ingredients. Prepare the Garlic Confit and Garlic Oil if you do not have any on hand. (See separate recipe on this website.)
- PRO-TIP: Make extra Garlic Confit and Garlic Oil, as it is such a great ingredient to have on hand! Add it to dressings, vinaigrettes, sauces, soups and so much more for extra flavor. Plus, you can make it a few days in advance and hold it in the refrigerator.
- Whisk mashed Garlic Confit, Garlic Oil, Calabrian chili paste, crushed red pepper and black pepper together to make a marinade for the shrimp. Then, carefully fold shrimp into this mixture and mix until they are well-coated. Cover and transfer the marinated shrimp to the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
- PRO-TIP: In a pinch, you can skip the marinating process if absolutely necessary. But, try to marinate the shrimp for at least 15 minutes.
- When ready to cook the shrimp, sauté the raw garlic in olive oil in a hot skillet (cast-iron is best for this task!), with a little chopped parsley. Be careful not to burn the garlic!
- PRO-TIP: Add the garlic and olive oil together to a cold pan and heat them gently in order to better control the browning of the garlic. When garlic is added to very hot oil, it will almost always burn and turn bitter immediately.
- Once the garlic has lightly browned, add all the shrimp and marinade to the pan, arranging the shrimp in a single layer. Increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until the shrimp has turned pink, 1 to 2 minutes, then turn each shrimp over to cook the other side.
- PRO-TIP: Work quickly! Shrimp does not take very long to cook and will become chewy if overcooked.
- Once fully cooked, turn off the heat, and top the shrimp with the juice of 1 lemon, the remaining parsley and a pinch of salt. Then, toss and serve immediately with lots of crusty bread to sop up all that delicious spicy and garlicky oil!
- PRO-TIP: Serve this dish with ALL the oil! It is an important element in the final experience and you want your guests to have lots of dipping opportunities.
- PRO-TIP: I love making this dish in a cast-iron pan. The shrimp get a nice sear; then, you can serve the shrimp in the pan itself, if you would like.
Recipe Variations for Spicy Garlic Shrimp
Spicy Garlic Shrimp is pretty perfect as is. Still, here are a few ideas for twists on this recipe:
- Not a Fan of Shrimp? You can always use scallops!
- Turn it into a Pasta: Toss the Spicy Garlic Shrimp with some fettucine or spaghetti, add more fresh lemon juice and top it with some toasted breadcrumbs for a delicious, hearty twist!
- Turn it Tex-Mex! Substitute cilantro for parsley and lime for lemon. Then, you’ll have a delicious taco filling, nacho topping or accompaniment to rice and beans!
How to Serve Spicy Garlic Shrimp
Spicy Garlic Shrimp is a perfect appetizer for a special dinner! It doesn’t need much more other than some rustic, crusty bread to sop up all the delicious oil. I love serving this dish on Christmas Eve as part of the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
Incorporate it into a main course! I suggest serving it over rice or tossed with some fettucine and topped with some toasted breadcrumbs.
I also enjoy this Spicy Garlic Shrimp as part of a big entrée salad. I’ll use the flavorful oil as part of the salad dressing with either additional fresh lemon juice or a little white wine vinegar.
Kitchen Tools & Cookware for Spicy Garlic Shrimp
To make this Spicy Garlic Shrimp recipe, you will need the following:
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Multiple bowls to hold prep
- Cutting board with non-slip mat underneath (I use shelf liner)
- Sharp chef’s knife
- Shrimp deveiner
- Garlic press
- Pepper mill
- Cast-iron pan
- Sauté pan or skillet
- Wooden or silicon spoons, tongs
- Large spoon
- Citrus juicer
- Serving utensils
More Great Recipes to Try
If you’ve tried this recipe or any other recipe on the blog, please let me know how it went in the comments below — I love hearing from you!
Spicy Garlic Shrimp
- 1/4 cup mashed Garlic Confit cloves (see separate recipe on this website)
- 1/4 cup Garlic Oil (see separate recipe on this website)
- 1 Tbsp Calabrian chili paste
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper
- Pinch black pepper
- 1 pound raw shrimp peeled & deveined (See Note.)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup thinly-sliced or chopped raw garlic
- 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Pinch salt
- Prepare Garlic Confit and Garlic Oil if you do not have any on hand. (See separate recipe on this website.)
- In a medium bowl, whisk the mashed Garlic Confit, Garlic Oil, Calabrian chili paste, crushed red pepper and black pepper together until well-combined. Carefully fold the shrimp into this mixture and mix until all shrimp are well-coated. Cover and transfer the marinated shrimp to the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
- When ready to cook the shrimp, combine the raw garlic and olive oil in a skillet, then heat them together gently over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally and cook a few minutes until the garlic begins to brown. Mix in half of the chopped parsley. Be careful not to burn the garlic!
- Once the garlic has lightly browned, add all the shrimp and marinade to the pan, arranging the shrimp in a single layer. Increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until the shrimp has turned pink, 1 to 2 minutes, then turn each shrimp over to cook the other side. Work quickly! Shrimp does not take very long to cook and will become chewy if overcooked.
- Once fully cooked, turn off the heat, and top the shrimp with the juice of 1 lemon, the remaining parsley and a pinch of salt. Toss and serve immediately with lots of crusty bread to sop up all that delicious spicy and garlicky oil! Buon Appetito!
- The Garlic Confit and Garlic Oil recipes can be found here. They hold well and can be made several days in advance.
- I left the tail on the shrimp in this recipe, but you could just as easily leave them off if you prefer.
- Regarding shrimp size, that is totally up to you! I used U31-36, which means that there are roughly 31 to 36 shrimp per pound.
- I love making this dish in a cast-iron pan. The shrimp get a nice sear; then, you can serve the shrimp in the pan itself, if you would like.
- Don’t forget the crusty bread! This recipe was designed to have extra oil for dipping. Enjoy it!