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Discover the Spanish Secret: Gambas al Ajillo, a Shrimp Scampi Delight!

Gambas al Ajillo or garlic shrimp scampi is a popular Spanish dish for its simplistic yet delightful nature. You can find this classic dish at any authentic Spanish restaurant, but now you will be able to enjoy this delectable meal in the comfort of your own home with our gambas al ajillo recipe!

Gambas al ajillo is one of the traditional dishes of Spanish gastronomy.
Gambas al ajillo is one of the traditional dishes of Spanish gastronomy.

Unraveling the Mystery: What is Gambas al Ajillo?

Gambas al ajillo is essentially a Spanish shrimp scampi that can be served as a tapa or an entire meal. It is true to the Mediterranean diet as it contains simple yet powerfully tasty ingredients when prepared with attention to detail and selection of the finest elements.

Due to Spain’s proximity to the ocean and sea, the cuisine incorporates a wide variety of seafood options. And shrimp or gambas are a crowd pleaser especially when paired with garlic. There’s really no mystery at all— garlic shrimp is a humble dish bursting with flavor!

A delicious tapa, perfect for any weekend or even as an appetizer for a celebratory lunch or dinner.
A delicious tapa, perfect for any weekend or even as an appetizer for a celebratory lunch or dinner.

A Taste of Spain: Gambas al Ajillo and its Shrimp Scampi Connection

The connection of gambas al ajillo to shrimp scampi is very straightforward. Both recipes call for the use of fresh shrimp, garlic, and a white wine sauce. But that is where the difference lies as traditional shrimp scampi prefers a butter-based sauce while garlic shrimp adds a Spanish flair to the recipe.

Garlic Shrimp Scampi with a Spanish Flair: Gambas al Ajillo

So, what does an authentic gambas al ajillo recipe have that makes it different than normal shrimp scampi? Well, for starters Spanish cuisine prides itself on cooking everything in Extra Virgen Olive Oil or EVOO. It should come as no surprise that the shrimp are soaked in a garlic-infused olive oil mixed with paprika and a touch of sherry.

The ingredients pair so well together that you’ll immediately switch from your normal shrimp scampi recipe to follow the not-so-secret recipe the Spanish population has been enjoying for years. Because if anything the Spanish are proud to share their easy shrimp scampi recipe with the world as an invitation to experience their wonderful gastronomy and cultural traditions. Plus, no matter where you go within Spain, be it the coast or inland, you will be able to find garlic shrimp on any menu. 

Step-by-Step: The Perfect Gambas al Ajillo Recipe

Here we will share with you a step-by-step recipe for shrimp scampi in order to recreate this wonderful delight at home. As mentioned before, there are not a lot of ingredients to this recipe but the quality of the shrimp does matter. We highly recommend incorporating fresh large jumbo shrimp so the result is a meatier and juicier shrimp.

This will provide you and your guests with a delightful experience. However, if you are in a hurry and need a quick dinner option, then frozen shrimp can be an easy solution. Just be aware that the outcome may not be as authentic and delicious. However, this can be remedied with the preparation of the sauce.

Next, is the sauce, which is arguably the star of this dish that is bursting with flavor. All you need is Extra Virgin Olive Oil, tons of fresh garlic, Spanish paprika, sherry, and fresh parsley as a garnish. You can also make the shrimp scampi recipe without wine and substitute it for lemon juice. Either option provides a slight tartness to the sauce. This sauce will have you licking your fingers for more!

Garlic shrimp with a touch of parsley
Garlic shrimp with a touch of parsley.


  • 1 lb. shrimp
  • 12 large garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of Spanish paprika
  • ½ cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 large shot of sherry or white wine
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley for garnish
The garlic cloves are finely chopped and fried.
The garlic cloves are finely chopped and fried.

How to make gambas al ajillo shrimp scampi:

First, you will need to peel and devein the shrimp. Pat the shrimp dry and marinate with salt. While the shrimp is marinating in the salt, peel and cut the garlic into thin slices. Combine the garlic and olive oil. You should not allow the garlic to turn brown as the taste will not be quite right. Add the shrimp to the garlic and olive oil as well as the paprika. This should cook for around 3 minutes.

Then you will flip the shrimp. At this time, you can add the sherry. Once the shrimp are cooked, remove from heat, and add the parsley garnish. You can serve the shrimp as is or add fresh bread to soak up every last drip from the sauce.   

We hope this recipe makes its way into your cookbooks as a delicious way to enjoy the freshness of shrimp in a scrumptious garlic sauce. We know it’s a staple dish in our kitchen in the warmer months as we try to thoroughly enjoy fresh seafood options. Please let us know what you think of this recipe!

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