Gambas al Ajillo – Simplest Garlic Shrimp Tapas

Gambas al Ajillo - Spanish Garlic Shrimp

Simplicity is not always synonymous with traditional when it comes to recipes, but with gambas al ajillo, a handful of choice ingredients is enough to recreate one of Spain’s most famous tapas. Fresh shrimp is cooked briefly with garlic, dried red pepper flakes, bay leaf, and extra virgin olive oil in a preparation equally at home in minimalist and traditional recipe collections.

Paprika, parsley, and lemon juice are not even mentioned, but hopefully this serves as a good starting point for your own variations. Just don’t forget the crusty bread — gambas al ajillo is as much about the shrimp as the garlic-infused oil.

recipe adapted from Penelope Casas’ The Foods and Wines of Spain

Gambas al Ajillo
Garlic Shrimp Tapas

makes 1 tapas-sized serving

1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced thinly
pinch dried red pepper flakes
1/2 bay leaf
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces small fresh shrimp, shelled

pinch coarse sea salt



  1. In a room temperature earthenware pot (cazuelas) or small skillet, place the garlic, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, and extra virgin olive oil. Heat over medium-high until the garlic is sizzling and pale golden.
  2. Add the shrimp and cook while stirring, about 2 minutes.
  3. Season with coarse sea salt.

To Serve:

Serve sizzling in the cazuelas or in a shallow warmed bowl with crusty bread.

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28 Responses to “Gambas al Ajillo – Simplest Garlic Shrimp Tapas”

  1. Rosa says:

    this dish is maybe simple, but I bet it tastes awesome!



  2. MyKitchenInHalfCups says:

    ;) we mustn’t forget those juices! or the garlic! So good!

  3. Haley W. says:

    I love to order this at a wonderful tapas restaurant nearby. Now I feel confident in making it! Thanks for the recipe!

    On a side note, glad you like the green tomatoes. When I fry vegetables, I often use that same batter. It’s a family recipe, and I love the corn meal flavor.

  4. kat says:

    There is a tapas place in San Francisco called Cha Cha Cha & this is one of the most popular things they have. The most important part & the sauce with bread for dipping

  5. Mike says:

    As simple as it is, it sounds delicious and the photo is beautiful

  6. robin @ caviar and codfish says:

    Shrimp’s not deveined in Spain? Weird. But will have to try it that way being that it would save so much time if the flavors not bad. :)

  7. maris says:

    I love gambas al aijillo! There is a tapas restaurant in NYC that I go to all the time and my friends and I always order these with crusty baguette to soak up the olive oil. I’ve never made them myself before though!

  8. Manggy says:

    Ah, this is one of those must-orders for my family at the resto :) They usually use sliced green chilies, for some reason. I don’t really care as long as it’s really spicy!

  9. Natashya says:

    I love shrimp done this way – the bay leaf is new to me though. It’s all about soaking up the juices though, eh? Pass the rustic bread!

  10. Soma says:

    Love the picture!! such a simple recipe, but I bet it must taste great. will give it a try soon.

  11. [eatingclub] vancouver || js says:

    I’ll eat the shrimps and then drink the oil. Looks awesome!

  12. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) says:

    I never go to a tapas bar without ordering this dish. Love it.

  13. Katie says:

    Now if only I had access to fresh shrimp!

  14. Andrea says:

    Lovely recipe, Jude! It looks delicious. I love the minimalist idea, especially as the semester starts to kick my butt. I have that cookbook, but haven’t made much out of it. (I feel like I’m always saying that on your blog!) You’re very inspiring!

  15. Caroline says:

    Can’t go wrong with this dish, simply delicious!

  16. HoneyB says:

    This looks so delicious!

  17. Peter says:

    These are a simple delight and the best part is dunking the bread in the oil!

  18. Lori Lynn says:

    Simple yet sublime. I think I am going to try my own version, I have some shrimp. What are we drinking?

  19. Jaime says:

    wow, that looks so delicious. i love garlic :)

    and yes, i used a nordic bundt pan for my kugelhopf :)

  20. Eileen says:

    This garlic shrimp looks delicious! I’m in search of recipes for my annual New Years Day brunch and I’m certain everyone would love this.

  21. Haley – Got your recipe bookmarked.

    Robin – I noticed that the they usually serve shrimp whole on the shell. I’m sure it won’t anyone

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  24. Magaret Vanartsdalen says:

    Outstanding summary, this is very similar to a site that I have. Please check it out sometime and feel free to leave me a comenet on it and tell me what you think. I’m always looking for feedback.

  25. Mary Anspach says:

    This looks like it’s worth trying. Hope it doesn’t take too long.

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  27. Carl Bailey says:

    Thanks that was a great read. I can’t believe it myself, but my wife and I will have been married 10 years next month. We met in Italy, and had the most delicious shrimp salad in this little cafe in Rome. I’ve been looking all over the net for decent recipes to see if I can make something myself to surprise her, and I even found a whole shrimp salad recipes site dedicated to them!

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