|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 33g||42%|
|Saturated Fat 5g||26%|
|Total Carbohydrate 89g||33%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||15%|
|Total Sugars 8g|
|Vitamin C 5mg||25%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
Gambas al ajillo (pronounced GAHM-bahs ahl ah-HEE-yoh) is one of the most popular tapas in all of Spain. The Spanish take on garlic shrimp or prawns, this appetizer is a favorite in tapas bars and has a complex taste and rich garlic flavor. Requiring just 10 minutes to cook, the recipe is quick and simple to make at home, too.
Gambas al ajillo is also called camarones al ajillo—gambas means "prawn" and camarones means "shrimp." The names are used interchangeably for this dish, and it's often made with shrimp because they're more common than prawns.
To make gambas al ajillo, fresh shrimp are sautéed in olive oil and lots of garlic with a touch of dried red pepper, which gives the sauce a fantastic bite. Although optional, the dash of Spanish paprika and splash of brandy lends an authentic flavor. It is sometimes traditionally served sizzling hot in a little metal pan or clay bowl and always with a nice crusty bread for sopping up the sauce.
Click Play to See This Gambas al Ajillo Recipe Come Together
"Any recipe that calls for 10 cloves is a garlic lover’s dream, and this recipe does not disappoint. It’s quick and easy, and deliciously spicy—and can easily become a go-to shrimp appetizer. When cooking it for milder palates, it would be best to cut the red pepper flakes to 1/2 teaspoon or so." —Colleen Graham
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound shrimp (about 25), deveined, shells left on
2 tablespoons lemon juice, from about 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup Spanish brandy, or dry sherry, optional
1 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika, optional
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 baguette, sliced, for serving
Steps to Make It
Gather the ingredients.
In a large (12-inch) sauté pan or heavy frying pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat.
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, lower the heat, and sauté for about 1 minute or until the garlic just begins to brown. Be careful not to let it burn.
Raise the heat to high and immediately add the shrimp and lemon juice, along with the brandy and paprika, if using. Stir well to coat the shrimp and sauté until the shrimp turn pink and start to curl, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Transfer the shrimp to a warm plate and pour over the sauce, or you can serve straight from the pan. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve with slices of fresh bread. Enjoy.
- As the sauce is a vital part of this recipe, it is important that you do not overheat the oil or burn the garlic, which will impart a bitter taste to the dish. Adjust the heat to make sure you are simply warming the oil and garlic.
- In Spain, gambas al ajillo is prepared with the shells on or off, depending on the chef. This recipe calls for keeping the shells on, but you can peel the shrimp before cooking if you prefer. If you do, consider leaving the tails on, as this makes the dish more attractive and easier to pick up the shrimp with your fingers.
- If you are using frozen shrimp, rinse under cold water and pat dry. Allow for a longer cooking time for shrimp that are not completely thawed and be sure to cook thoroughly.
Instead of the red pepper flakes, use two whole dried cayenne peppers; leave them whole for a subtle heat or cut them up for a spicy kick.
How to Store
Store any leftovers within 2 hours in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Are There Regional Preferences for Gambas al Ajillo?
Gambas al ajillo is a classic Spanish tapa enjoyed in tapas bars all over Spain. There are slight variations found throughout the country that reflect the culinary identity of each region. In Seville (in the Andalusia region), gambas al ajillo is prepared with manzanilla, a favorite local sherry. In other parts of Spain, you will find brandy, sweet paprika, different varieties of hot peppers (or none at all), or lemon juice on the ingredient list. The dish is called gambas al pil-pil in some regions, and some versions add tomato to the sauce.
What's the Difference Between Gambas and Camarones?
Gambas is Spanish for "prawn" and camarones is the word for "shrimp." Shrimp and prawns are both crustaceans and very similar in look and taste but also distinctly different animals. Generally, shrimp are smaller than prawns and have a curled body, while prawns are straight. Just as the two names are often used interchangeably, they tend to work as substitutes for one another in most recipes.