Gambas al Ajillo


Adjust Servings:
350 g shrimps thawed, peeled and deveined
5 pcs garlic cloves finely chopped
1 tablespoon chilli peppers flakes
1 tablespoon paprika
50 ml White wine
20 ml Olive oil
a few stems fresh parsley chopped
a pinch Salt
a pinch Black pepper

Gambas al Ajillo


Gambas al Ajillo is one of the easiest tapas you can make at home, so you don’t have to be in Spain to enjoy this delicacy.

  • 20
  • Serves 4
  • Easy



What’s Gambas al Ajillo?

Pronounced as “gahm-bahs-ahl-ah- hee-yoh” which means “garlic shrimp,” Gambas al Ajillo is a famous Spanish seafood delicacy. It is widely enjoyed across Spain and many restaurants serving Spanish cuisines.

Lovers of seafood will fall in love with Gambas al Ajillo, the tasty and juicy Spanish garlic shrimp. It’s comprised of thick and juicy shrimps marinated with garlic sauce soaking in savoury olive oil. The result is a bright, rich, and spicy dish that tastes great with crusty bread!

Shrimp Types to Use

Gambas al Ajillo is one of the easiest tapas you can make at home, so you don’t have to be in Spain to enjoy it.

Enjoying that rich, smooth, and juicy taste of the garlic shrimp is highly dependent on your choice of prawns. Unfortunately, few Gambas al Ajillo recipes point out the specific prawn types to use. The best prawns for a delicious garlic shrimp are market fresh, raw, and still with the shell on, that is, the king prawns.

But since fresh king prawns can be challenging to find. Therefore, some recipes may recommend carabineros or tiger prawns as suitable substitutes.  If you opt for the substitute prawns, your cooking time will increase slightly.

How to Serve Gambas al Ajillo?

Gambas al Ajillo is traditionally served in the same earthenware dish (cazuela) it was cooked in. However, doing this would mean that the garlic shrimps will still be cooking even after taking them off the heat source.  This is usually unideal with seafood.

Instead, it’s advisable to decant your juicy garlic shrimps into an earthenware dish, but cooking should be on a pan. Do this if you’d like to serve it while still sizzling hot.

If you prefer serving it cold, you can choose to poach the shrimps in highly concentrated salt water instead of frying. The advantage of doing this is that the resulting garlic shrimp will be very juicy. But for a true Gambas al Ajillo, you must soak the prawns in garlicky olive oil in a pan.

Recipe Origin

Garlic shrimp is the Spanish most popular tapas enjoyed in Spain and found mainly in its central and south regions. There are different stories of how this dish came to be, but the exact origin is unknown.

According to Spanish traditions, tapas originally started following Castile’s King Alfonso X’s recovery from an illness. During illness, he was taking small dishes and wine between meals.  After gaining strength, the king issued a decree that serving wine in taverns must be accompanied with “tapas,” small snacks.

An alternate story traces the origin of tapas from the Andalusian taverns. Over there, tapas were regarded as bread slices or meat used by sherry drinkers to cover drink tumblers between sips.  The meat was chorizo or ham, which were highly salty and known to induce thirst.

The practise gave rise to the small snacks where bartenders started to create various snacks. These snacks were served alongside the sherry drinks, resulting in increased sales. Over time, the tapas grew to become as crucial as sherry.

Gambas al Ajillo Recipe Variations

Today, many Spaniards enjoy Gambas al Ajillo in tapas pubs across the country. However, different regions have their preferred variations according to the culinary preferences of the place.

In Seville, Andalusia region, tapas lovers use a favourite local sherry, manzanilla, to prepare their version. Other areas have varying ingredients in their recipes, such as sweet paprika, brandy, hot pepper varieties, and lemon juice.

The variations also come with slight name changes. In some places, they call it gambas al pil-pil, tomato is part of the sauce in other areas.

Similar dishes you can find in other Mediterranean cuisines. For example, in Croatia, where is known as buzara.

The Gambas al Ajillo recipe has grown in popularity, making it an important tapa across Spain and restaurants serving Spanish cuisines. Today, some prepare the garlic shrimp as a main meal at home as well.

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Season the shrimps with salt and black pepper and set aside. You can use shell-on shrimps, but I prefer frozen and peeled.


In a wide skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, and fry the garlic briefly until it starts to get a golden colour. Add a tablespoon of pepper flakes and paprika and fry for another minute. Paprika and pepper flakes should be fried very shortly to release the aroma. If you fry them longer than that, they will burn.


Now add the shrimps and lightly fry them for a few minutes on each side until they start to blush. It is important to arrange them all in one row (as in the picture). Now add the white wine and cook everything for a few minutes until the alcohol evaporates.


Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve. That's it, you Gambas al Ajillo is done. Bon Appetit!

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