Gambas Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)

Gambas Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp) has a huge, bold, well-balanced flavor, combining fragrant, spicy olive oil, delicate shrimp, warm garlic and hot, smoky chiles. And you’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t try it!

It looks impressive when served, makes a great appetizer, and the cooking oil is phenomenal for dipping.

1.5 Lb Raw, shell-on, 21-25 Shrimp. “21-25” refers to the size of the shrimp, not the type. It means that there are “between 21 and 25 shrimp in a pound.”
Buy raw, shell-on shrimp and peel them yourself. They taste much better.
1/2 C (approx) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Chipotle Chile, finely chopped including seeds, without stem (I actually use about 3/4 of it)
2 Large Cloves Garlic, sliced very thin
1 Pinch Kosher Salt (optional/to taste)
1 Tablespoon Parsley, chopped fine
Good, crusty bread

Shopping Tip:
Unless you can see shrimp boats from your bedroom window, buy the shrimp individually quick-frozen. Any non-frozen shrimp you see in the store are just frozen shrimp that the store thawed. There’s no reason to thaw them before you’re ready to cook, since the “spoilage clock” start ticking as soon as they get much above 0°F.

Never buy pre-cooked shrimp, since you’re going to cook it. Twice-cooked shrimp are terrible.

The night before, if frozen:

  • Snip the corner off the bag and place the bag in a bowl, cut corner facing down to allow draining. Place in the refrigerator in a bowl to catch the water.


  • Clean the shrimp! Remove the legs and all of the shell except for the tail and. If the seafood processor hasn’t done this for you, remove the “vein.” (actually the digestive tract) You want to eat the shrimp, not what it ate.
  • Select a cast iron pan just large enough to hold the shrimp. Add the olive oil to a depth of about 1/3″
  • Add the garlic and chile, and set the heat to medium.
  • Cook until the garlic just barely starts to turn translucent.
  • Quickly add the shrimp to the pan in a single layer. As soon as the shrimp changes color on the bottom, turn the shrimp over.
  • When they turn color on the second side, they’re done. Sprinkle on a pinch of salt, all of the parsley and serve right in the pan, along with a good, crusty bread to dip in the beautiful slightly-smoky, spicy, garlic-pepper-shrimp oil

Serves about 3 for dinner, or 6 as an appetizer.


Before sautéing the shrimp, toss a 1/2 box of thin spaghetti (capellini) into boiling, salted water. When the pasta is about half cooked, start the shrimp, then when the pasta is done, drain well, dump into the pan of shrimp, gently toss and serve immediately.