Gambas al Ajillo!


Ironically, we tried this traditional Spanish dish in Lisbon a few weeks ago and I finally gave it a whirl here in Barcelona after a visit to the gigantic La Boqueria.  As you can imagine, I was in my element exploring seafood options through the narrow aisles and checking out the fresh and very inexpensive local produce, cheese, spices, etc.  I bought just under a pound of large fresh caught, head-on shrimp for under five dollars – what a bargain!

Even though Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimp) is simple to make and has just eight ingredients, the process of getting the flavorful sauce to taste perfect is all about sautéing the shells beforehand and then lightly browning the garlic slices before adding the shrimp.  Needless to say we devoured the shrimp and sopped up the shrimpy, lemony, olive oily goodness with some crusty torn bread.  So delicious!

I adapted my own version from a few recipes I found online.  I promise it won’t disappoint!

  • 3/4 lb. large fresh shrimp (shells on) – about 13-16 count
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs. unsalted butter
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 tsp. each of S&P
  • 1 tbs. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 inch piece dried guajillo or 1/4 tsp. chili flakes (to taste)
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 5 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic lightly smashed but still in tact

Step 1: peel & devein shrimp – keep the shells and put the shrimp in a bowl with a drizzle of oil, minced garlic and S&P to marinate (set aside or put covered in the fridge if cooking later).

Step 2: heat 1/2 of the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the lightly smashed garlic cloves, guajillo pepper or pepper flakes and all of the shrimp shells – cook until pink (about 5-7 minutes).  Turn off the heat, discard the shells and garlic and keep the oil and pepper in the pan.

Step 3: add the remaining oil, butter and sliced garlic and cook the garlic until lightly golden brown on medium heat.  Make sure to keep an eye on the garlic and stir it constantly – don’t let it burn!  Once the garlic is golden, add the marinated shrimp and cook for 1 minute a side and turn off the heat.

Step 4: add lemon juice and parsley and pour everything into a bowl.

Serve with some crusty bread and a cold glass of white wine!

Tonight we are going out in the Gothic District for Jesse’s birthday and maybe I will find a few more dishes to recreate!





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  1. Elizabeth Kregloe
    July 2, 2016 at 2:32 pm — Reply

    What a yummy sounding shrimp dish. Reminds me of the garlic shrimp we used to prepare with capers. So glad you are having a good time. It takes special people with flexibility and ability to enjoy the moment to enjoy travel like yours. The longest I’ve been abroad is one month. First time to Europe in 1971, and second time to China in 2008. Live free and prosper. Love, Liz

  2. July 2, 2016 at 3:35 pm — Reply

    Yummy, yummy. Your recipe sounds good and authentic. I make them too, but I usually add some paprika for color, and I use smaller shrimp, 24-30 to the lb. You had the best Spanish Chef around today in the Wash DC area, chef Jose Andres, who has a few restaurants there and had a TV cooking show on Create TV. I watched them all! He’s tops, and has 2 (I think) cookbooks out. A nice Rose would be good with it too, nice and dry, maybe from Provence or the Rhone valley. Garlic gets a little overwhelming on the wine palette sometimes. Try some good Rioja wines while you are there. If it smells like leather, it’s Rioja!
    Eat well (and drink) and prosper. Enjoy!
    Tyler & Elana

    • Jesse
      July 11, 2016 at 9:50 am — Reply

      Hey Tyler – for some reason this went into spam so we are just now seeing it. We did try some of the Rioja wine and it was great. We’re drinking plenty of Rose here in Nice, it’s everywhere! Hope all is well. -J&J

  3. Joseph Caruso
    July 5, 2016 at 7:52 pm — Reply

    Hi Jenn – I’m glad to see the two of you are eating well and immersed in the culture – I’m looking forward to hearing about and seeing more of your travels – DAD

    • Jesse
      July 9, 2016 at 8:50 am — Reply

      Thanks, Joe! We are heading to Amsterdam when we leave Nice.

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Gambas al Ajillo!

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