Camarones al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)

Camarones al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)

Delicious Camarones al Ajillo, Garlic Shrimp, with tender shrimp cooked in a spicy garlic sauce served with fresh lime juice and parsley. An easy, restaurant-style dish that you can make in less than 15 minutes.

Buttery, garlicky, spicy shrimp that are ready in less than 15 minutes! These Camarones al Ajillo will be your new favorite way to make garlic shrimp.

Lately I have been slightly obsessed with making Mexican shrimp recipes like these Camarones Rancheros, Camarones a la Diabla, and Camarones al Mojo de Ajo.

They are quick, easy, and so full of flavor. It’s the definition of the perfect weeknight meal in my opinion since it tastes like a fancy restaurant meal but couldn’t be easier to make.

Now the thing about Camarones al Ajillo is that there are so many different versions. Each country, and even region, has its own version of garlic shrimp. Today I am going to share three of the most popular versions – Spanish, Mexican, and Caribbean.

They are all very similar with tender, juicy shrimp cooked in a slightly spicy, garlicky olive oil and butter sauce. And they are all delicious!

What are Camarones al Ajillo?

“Camarones al Ajillo, or ‘Garlic Shrimp,’ refers to various recipes for sautéed shrimp cooked in garlic sauce.” It’s a popular dish in Spain, Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

While each country has its unique take on the recipe, the dish is typically prepared by sautéing garlic and chili peppers in olive oil and sometimes butter. Shrimp is then cooked in this flavorful sauce, which is both garlicky and mildly spicy, before being finished with a splash of lemon juice or white wine and a garnish of fresh parsley or cilantro.

Camaromes al ajillo is usually served with crusty bread, rice, or pasta to soak up all that delicious garlic sauce.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Here is everything you need to make these delicious garlic shrimp.

  • Shrimp: Since shrimp are the star of this dish, use medium to large shrimp with shells and veins removed. If you are using frozen shrimp, make sure they are fully defrosted. Leave the tails on or off.
  • Olive oil and butter: Using a combination of olive oil and butter creates a rich, delicious sauce. If you prefer, use just olive oil and skip the butter.
  • Garlic: This recipe is all about the garlic. Adjust the amount to suit your tastes, using at least 3-4 garlic cloves and up to 10 cloves for a super garlicky sauce.
  • Dried guajillo peppers: For the Mexican version of this recipe, remove the seeds from the dried guajillo peppers, which are slightly smoky and have a medium spice level. Then slice the peppers into thin strips. Feel free to swap in red pepper flakes (Spanish version) or for a non-spicy option, use paprika.
  • Acid: Make the garlic sauce pop by adding some acid to the sauce. Use fresh lemon juice, lime juice, sherry wine, or dry white wine.
  • Fresh herbs: Finish the dish with chopped fresh parsley, fresh cilantro, or fresh basil.

Spicy garlic shrimp in a cast iron skillet with parsley and lime juice.

Three Ways to Make Camarones al Ajilllo: Spanish, Mexican, and Caribbean

There are hundreds of different ways to make garlic shrimp from Italian shrimp scampi to Hawaiian garlic shrimp and more.

Today I want to share the three most common versions of Camarones al Ajillo, which are from Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean. The main difference in each recipe is in the sauce.

1. Spanish Garlic Shrimp (Camarones/Gambas al Ajillo al Estilo Español)

To make these spicy and garlicky Spanish garlic shrimp, start by heating up about ¼ cup of good quality olive oil in a large skillet. Add 8-10 chopped garlic cloves and about 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute until it’s nice and fragrant.

Then add one pound of peeled and deveined shrimp and sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of Spanish paprika. Cook the shrimp for 1-2 minutes per side or until they are opaque and cooked through.

Add two tablespoons of dry Spanish sherry (or dry white wine), the juice of ½ lemon, and a handful of chopped parsley. Serve with crust bread.

2. Mexican Garlic Shrimp (Camarones al Ajillo al Estilo Mexicano)

To make these smoky, spicy Mexican-style garlic shrimp (full recipe below), start by sauteing a combination of olive oil and butter in a large skillet, 1-2 tablespoons of each. Once hot, add 3-4 cloves of minced garlic and cook for 60 seconds until nice and fragrant.

Then add thin slices of seeded dried guajillo chile peppers to the pan and cook for another 60 seconds, stirring often so the garlic doesn’t burn.

Add the prepared shrimp and cook for 1-2 minutes per side until they are opaque and cooked through. Finish the dish with fresh lime juice and a small handful of parsley or cilantro.

3. Caribbean Garlic Shrimp (Camarones al Ajillo al Estilo Mexicano)

To make this Puerto Rican garlic shrimp, start with finely chopped 6 garlic cloves with about 1 ⁄ 4 cup chopped cilantro, 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, salt, and black pepper.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of butter and 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Once melted, add the garlic and cilantro mixture to the skillet. Cook for about 2 minutes until it is nice and fragrant.

Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes per side until cooked through. Finish the dish with fresh lemon juice and more cilantro if desired. This dish is normally served with rice, salad, and plantains or tostones.

Sauteed garlic shrimp in a bowl with minced garlic, guajillo peppers, parsley, and lime juice.

Can I use frozen shrimp?

This shrimp works great with frozen shrimp, just make sure to defrost them first. The best way to defrost shrimp is by placing them in the fridge the night before you plan to cook them.

If you have an hour, place the frozen shrimp in a waterproof bag. Submerge in cold water and let defrost for 30-60 minutes, changing the water after about 20 minutes.

If you only have 10-15 minutes, place the raw shrimp in a large bowl in the sink. Cover them with cold water. Let a small stream of cold water continue to run into the bowl to keep the water cold. After 10 minutes, check to see if the shrimp are defrosted. The drain and dry well.

Do not try to cook frozen shrimp because they will end up overcooked on the outside and raw in the middle.

Ways to Serve Camarones al Ajillo

There are so many different ways to serve up these tasty shrimp, here are some favorites:

  • Pasta or rice: You won’t want to waste a drop of the delicious garlic sauce, so serve these shrimp with white rice, brown rice, cooked pasta, or quinoa.
  • As an appetizer: Turn this into a delicious appetizer, serving these tasty shrimp cold instead of shrimp cocktail. Or serve them on mini tostadas with avocado, chopped and served on garlic bread or garlic chips, or skewered with tomatoes with fresh mozzarella.
  • Crusty bread or tortillas: Make a big green salad and then serve the shrimp with some nice crusty bread or warmed corn tortillas.

Ways to Use Leftover Garlic Shrimp

These shrimp are so good and they keep well in the fridge for 2-3 days. Plus there are so many ways to use them.

  • Make shrimp pasta by combining cooked pasta with garlic shrimp and marinara sauce, alfredo sauce, or a quick lemon butter sauce.
  • Make shrimp tacos by adding leftover shrimp to warm corn tortillas with a crunchy slaw and salsa.
  • Make shrimp salad by combining chopped garlic shrimp with a combination of mayo, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, celery, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper.
  • Make easy shrimp bowls with cooked rice, black beans, your favorite veggies, and a drizzle of vinaigrette or creamy dressing.

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