Perfect Gambas al Ajillo Recipe for Tapas Night

gambas al ajillo recipe

Welcome to our guide on creating the perfect gambas al ajillo, a mouthwatering Spanish tapas dish. If you’re looking to wow your friends and family with a traditional Spanish recipe, you’ve come to the right place. Gambas al ajillo, also known as garlic shrimp, is a classic Spanish dish that features plump shrimp cooked in a flavorful garlic-infused olive oil sauce. The combination of succulent shrimp and aromatic garlic creates an explosion of flavors that will transport you to the streets of Spain.

In this article, we’ll take you through each step of the process, from gathering the ingredients to serving up the final dish. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a beginner in the kitchen, our easy-to-follow recipe will ensure you achieve the best gambas al ajillo every time.

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn how to make an authentic gambas al ajillo, a traditional Spanish tapas dish.
  • Discover the key ingredients that give gambas al ajillo its distinct flavor.
  • Follow our step-by-step instructions to prepare and cook the perfect garlic shrimp.
  • Find out the best ways to serve and pair your gambas al ajillo for a delightful dining experience.
  • Explore the history and variations of this beloved Spanish dish.

Ingredients for Gambas al Ajillo

Before we begin cooking, let’s gather all the necessary ingredients for our gambas al ajillo. These simple and easily accessible ingredients are crucial to achieving the authentic taste of this traditional Spanish dish.

Here’s a list of the main ingredients you’ll need:

  • Shrimp: Fresh and peeled shrimp are ideal for this recipe. Approximately 1 pound (450 grams) should be enough for 4 servings.
  • Garlic: You’ll want plenty of garlic cloves to add that aromatic flavor. Aim for around 8-10 cloves.
  • Olive Oil: High-quality extra virgin olive oil will enhance the taste of your gambas al ajillo. Use about 1/3 cup (80 ml).
  • Red Pepper Flakes: If you like a bit of heat, add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes for a spicy kick.
  • Parsley: Fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped, will provide a vibrant and herbaceous element to the dish.
  • Salt and Pepper: Season your gambas al ajillo with salt and pepper to taste.

Pro-tip: For an extra touch of authenticity, you can also add a splash of dry white wine to your gambas al ajillo. It will add a subtle acidity that complements the flavors beautifully.

With these ingredients ready, you’re well on your way to creating a mouthwatering batch of gambas al ajillo. Now, let’s move on to preparing this delightful Spanish dish!

Preparing the Gambas al Ajillo

Now that we have our ingredients ready, it’s time to start preparing our gambas al ajillo. This authentic Spanish recipe is surprisingly easy to make, and with a few simple steps, you’ll have a mouthwatering dish that will impress your friends and family.

Follow these instructions to ensure that your garlic shrimp turns out perfect every time:

  1. Peel and devein the shrimp. To do this, remove the shell and tail, then make a shallow incision along the back of each shrimp to expose the vein. Use a knife or your fingers to lift and remove the vein.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt. Mix well to release the flavors.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic mixture and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
  4. Add the shrimp to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until they turn pink and firm. Avoid overcooking the shrimp to keep them tender and juicy.
  5. Remove the skillet from heat and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley.

Serve the gambas al ajillo immediately to enjoy them at their best. The combination of tender shrimp, aromatic garlic, and a hint of spice is simply irresistible. This dish is perfect as a standalone tapas or as part of a larger Spanish-inspired meal.

Expert Tip:

To enhance the flavor of your gambas al ajillo, consider adding a splash of dry white wine or a squeeze of lemon juice to the skillet while cooking the shrimp. It will complement the garlic and give the dish an extra zing.

Ingredients Quantity
Fresh shrimp 1 pound
Garlic cloves, minced 4
Red pepper flakes 1/2 teaspoon
Salt 1/2 teaspoon
Olive oil 1/4 cup
Fresh parsley, chopped 1 tablespoon

Source: Original recipe by

Cooking the Gambas al Ajillo

Once the preparation is complete, it’s time to heat up the pan and cook the gambas al ajillo. This step is crucial to achieving the perfect balance of flavors that characterize this traditional Spanish tapas dish. Follow our expert cooking techniques to create a delicious, tender, and flavorful dish that will transport you to the streets of Spain.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to cook the gambas al ajillo:

  1. Start by heating olive oil in a pan over medium heat. The olive oil adds richness and depth to the dish, giving it an authentic flavor.
  2. Next, add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan. These ingredients infuse the oil with a delightful aroma and a subtle spicy kick that enhances the overall taste of the dish.
  3. Sauté the garlic and red pepper flakes for about 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic, as it can become bitter.
  4. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes per side until they turn pink and opaque. The shrimp should be cooked through but still tender and juicy.
  5. Once the shrimp are cooked, remove the pan from heat and garnish with freshly chopped parsley. The vibrant green color and fresh flavor of parsley will add a beautiful touch to the dish.
  6. Squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice over the cooked gambas al ajillo to brighten the flavors and add a tangy zing.
  7. Serve the gambas al ajillo hot, straight from the pan. This dish is meant to be enjoyed immediately to fully appreciate the flavors and textures.

“Cooking the gambas al ajillo requires precise timing and attention to detail. The key is to cook the shrimp just until they turn pink and opaque, ensuring they remain tender and succulent.”

Ingredient Quantity
Extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons
Garlic cloves, minced 4
Red pepper flakes 1/2 teaspoon
Large shrimp, peeled and deveined 1 pound
Fresh parsley, chopped 2 tablespoons
Fresh lemon juice 1 tablespoon

Now that you know how to cook the gambas al ajillo, it’s time to savor the mouthwatering flavors of this classic Spanish dish. Remember to serve it alongside some crusty bread, allowing you to soak up the delicious garlic-infused olive oil. Enjoy!

Serving and Enjoying Gambas al Ajillo

With our gambas al ajillo cooked to perfection, it’s time to plate up and enjoy this delightful dish. Discover the best ways to serve and pair your garlic shrimp, and savor the flavors of Spain in every bite.

Once your gambas al ajillo are beautifully cooked, it’s time to present them in a way that enhances the visual appeal and elevates the overall dining experience. Consider using traditional Spanish tapas plates or a rustic ceramic dish to showcase the vibrant colors of the dish. Garnish with a sprig of fresh parsley or a wedge of lemon to add a pop of freshness and brightness to the plate.

When it comes to serving, gambas al ajillo is best enjoyed family-style, allowing everyone to gather around the table and share in the joy of this mouthwatering dish. Place the dish in the center of the table, encouraging guests to help themselves and savor the flavors at their own pace.

Pairing your gambas al ajillo with the right accompaniments can further enhance the taste and experience. Serve with warm crusty bread or baguette slices to soak up the flavorful garlic-infused oil. You can also add a side of steamed rice or crispy French fries for a heartier meal.

Wine Pairing Suggestions

Complement the rich flavors of the gambas al ajillo with a well-chosen wine. Here are a few wine pairing suggestions that perfectly complement this Spanish garlic shrimp dish:

Wine Type Description
Albariño A crisp and aromatic white wine with notes of citrus and tropical fruits. Its refreshing acidity and minerality pair perfectly with the garlic shrimp.
Rioja A medium-bodied red wine from the Rioja region of Spain. The earthy and fruity flavors of the wine beautifully balance the garlic and spice in the dish.
Cava A sparkling wine from Catalonia, Cava adds a touch of celebration to your gambas al ajillo. Its effervescence cleanses the palate and enhances the flavors.

Remember, the key is to choose a wine that complements rather than overpowers the flavors of the dish. Feel free to explore other wine options and experiment to find your perfect pairing.

Tips for Enjoying Gambas al Ajillo

  • Enjoy the shrimp while they are still hot to fully experience the succulent flavors and tender texture.
  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the shrimp just before taking a bite to add a burst of citrusy brightness.
  • Use the warm crusty bread to soak up the leftover garlic-infused oil on the plate.
  • Explore different variations of gambas al ajillo by adding ingredients like sliced chorizo, smoked paprika, or chili flakes for an extra kick of flavor.

Now that you’ve mastered the art of cooking gambas al ajillo, it’s time to gather your loved ones, pour a glass of wine, and indulge in the delightful flavors of this traditional Spanish tapas dish. Buen provecho!

The History of Gambas al Ajillo

Dive into the rich history and origins of gambas al ajillo, a beloved dish in Spanish cuisine. This traditional Spanish tapas recipe has stood the test of time and continues to delight people all over the world.

The roots of gambas al ajillo can be traced back to the southern region of Spain, particularly in the areas of Andalusia and Catalonia. It is believed that this dish originated from fishermen who cooked small shrimp with garlic and olive oil right on their boats, creating a simple and flavorful meal using the ingredients they had on hand.

Over time, gambas al ajillo gained popularity and became a staple in tapas bars across Spain. Today, it is cherished for its bold flavors and the way it captures the essence of traditional Spanish cooking.

The dish’s name itself reveals its key ingredients: gambas (shrimp) and ajillo (garlic). However, the basic recipe extends beyond these essentials. The authentic Spanish recipe typically includes olive oil, red pepper flakes, and a splash of sherry or brandy, which adds a unique depth of flavor to the dish.

The robust flavors of gambas al ajillo, infused with garlic, olive oil, and a touch of spice, make it a standout tapas dish that embodies the true essence of Spanish cuisine. – Chef Maria Torres

Today, gambas al ajillo has become a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Its simplicity and bold flavors have made it a popular choice for those seeking an authentic Spanish culinary experience.

Fun Fact:

Gambas al ajillo is so iconic in Spanish cuisine that it is often featured as a dish in popular films and TV shows set in Spain.

Ingredients Quantity
Gambas (shrimp) 1 pound
Olive oil 1/4 cup
Garlic cloves, minced 4-6
Red pepper flakes 1/2 teaspoon
Sherry or brandy 2 tablespoons
Salt To taste
Parsley, chopped For garnish

Variations and Tips

Looking to put your own spin on the classic gambas al ajillo recipe? Here are some variations and tips to help you elevate this delicious garlic shrimp dish and impress your guests with your culinary skills.

Variations of Gambas al Ajillo

While the traditional gambas al ajillo recipe is already bursting with flavor, you can experiment with different ingredients to create your own unique twist. Here are some popular variations to consider:

  • Add a kick of heat with a pinch of red pepper flakes or a dash of cayenne pepper.
  • Enhance the smoky flavor by grilling the shrimp instead of cooking them on the stovetop.
  • Infuse the dish with a touch of sweetness by including diced bell peppers or caramelized onions.
  • For a refreshing twist, add a splash of citrus juice and zest, such as lemon or lime.
  • Experiment with different herbs and spices like parsley, cilantro, or paprika to enhance the flavor profile.

Tips for Perfecting Your Gambas al Ajillo

Follow these tips to ensure your gambas al ajillo turns out perfectly every time:

  1. Use fresh, high-quality shrimp for the best flavor and texture.
  2. Preheat your pan before adding the olive oil and garlic to prevent the garlic from burning.
  3. Cook the shrimp just until they turn pink and are cooked through to avoid overcooking and making them tough.
  4. For an extra burst of garlic flavor, crush the garlic cloves instead of mincing them.
  5. Serve your gambas al ajillo with crusty bread to soak up the delicious sauce.

“Adding a squeeze of lemon juice just before serving can brighten the flavors and balance the richness of the garlic and shrimp.”

With these variations and tips, you can personalize your gambas al ajillo recipe and create a memorable garlic shrimp tapas dish that will leave everyone craving for more.

gambas al ajillo recipe


In conclusion, gambas al ajillo is a versatile and delicious dish that captures the essence of Spanish cuisine. This authentic Spanish recipe has been enjoyed for generations and continues to be a favorite among tapas enthusiasts around the world. With our easy-to-follow recipe, you can recreate this traditional Spanish tapas in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Gambas al ajillo is all about simplicity and bold flavors. The combination of juicy shrimp, sizzling garlic, and Spanish olive oil creates a mouthwatering dish that is perfect for sharing with friends and family. Whether you’re hosting a tapas night or just craving a taste of Spain, this recipe is sure to impress.

By following our step-by-step instructions, you’ll be able to achieve the perfect balance of flavors and textures that make this dish so special. Serve it as an appetizer or as part of a larger spread of traditional Spanish tapas – either way, it’s bound to be a crowd-pleaser.

So why not transport yourself to the sun-soaked streets of Spain with a plate of authentic gambas al ajillo? Gather your ingredients, fire up the stove, and savor the deliciousness of this iconic dish. It’s time to enjoy the flavors of Spain wherever you are!

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What is gambas al ajillo?

Gambas al ajillo is a classic Spanish tapas dish made with shrimp cooked in olive oil, garlic, and chili peppers. The name “gambas al ajillo” translates to “garlic shrimp” in English.

How do I make gambas al ajillo?

To make gambas al ajillo, you will need shrimp, garlic, olive oil, chili peppers, and salt. Heat olive oil in a pan, add minced garlic and chili peppers, then add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink. Season with salt and serve hot.

What are the best shrimp to use for gambas al ajillo?

The best shrimp to use for gambas al ajillo are fresh, large, and preferably with the shells on. The shells add flavor to the dish, and it’s traditional to eat the shrimp with your hands, peeling off the shells as you eat.

Can I adjust the spiciness of gambas al ajillo?

Absolutely! You can adjust the spiciness of gambas al ajillo according to your preferences. If you prefer a milder dish, use fewer chili peppers or remove the seeds. If you like it extra spicy, add more chili peppers or even a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Can I make gambas al ajillo in advance?

While gambas al ajillo is best enjoyed fresh, you can prepare the ingredients in advance and cook the dish just before serving. This way, you can enjoy the flavors and aromas of freshly cooked garlic shrimp.

What are some serving suggestions for gambas al ajillo?

Gambas al ajillo can be served as a standalone appetizer or as part of a tapas spread. It pairs well with crusty bread for dipping into the delicious garlic-infused oil. You can also serve it alongside a green salad or roasted vegetables for a complete meal.

Can I use frozen shrimp for gambas al ajillo?

While fresh shrimp are recommended for the best flavor and texture, you can use frozen shrimp if fresh ones are not available. Just make sure to thaw and pat dry the shrimp before cooking to avoid excess moisture in the dish.

Is gambas al ajillo a traditional Spanish dish?

Yes, gambas al ajillo is a traditional Spanish dish that originated in the southern regions of Spain, where seafood is abundant. It is a popular tapas dish enjoyed throughout the country and has gained international recognition for its delicious flavors.

Hey there, fellow explorers and enthusiasts! I'm Karina, and I'm absolutely delighted to welcome you to my blog, where we'll journey together through the enchanting world of life's wonders. This online space is a reflection of my passion for discovery, learning, and sharing the delightful experiences I encounter along the way. As an avid adventurer and learner, I'm constantly seeking out new experiences that expand my understanding of the world around me. From uncovering the hidden treasures of my hometown to exploring the intricacies of the latest technological advancements, I find immense joy in delving deep into life's many mysteries.