Perfect Boiled Shrimp Recipe (Gambas Cocidas)

boiled shrimp recipe
Delicious boiled shrimp.

Spring is in the air and that means I’m in the mood to cook! The local markets are starting to fill up with new goodies (think strawberries, asparagus, peas and the very first cherries– my favorite!) and the longer days mean I have more energy to start making dinner at 8pm (such is Spain!). One of my favorite recipes for warm weather are these simple boiled shrimp; fast, easy and absolutely delicious.

Most Spaniards adore boiled shrimp/prawns (as an American I call them shrimp) and there are plenty of delicious varieties to be found throughout Spain (try the gambas rojas de Huelva— incredible). Depending on which you buy, the cook time may vary slightly, but the technique is the same. The trick is to boil the shrimp until they are just cooked, and place them immediately in ice cold water, so that the shell will pop off but the meat remains super tender.

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Perfect Boiled Shrimp (Gambas Cocidas)
 
Cook time
Total time
 
I learned this easy boiled shrimp recipe from my mother in law, and it makes the most delicious and tender shrimp I've ever tried!
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Spanish
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • About 2 pounds (1 kilo) of raw shrimp (prawns), in Spain both gambas and langostinos (shrimp and gumbo shrimp) will do!
  • Water (pay attention to the amounts below, it's important!)
  • Plenty of ice (at least 2 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons sea salt
  • Slotted spoon
Instructions
  1. First prepare the water bath-- put about 4 quarts of cold water into a big bowl and add ice and sea salt. Stir the mixture until the water is ice cold and some of the salt has disolved.
  2. Add another 4-5 quarts of water to a large pot and bring to a rolling boil.
  3. Add all the shrimp at once and give a slight stir.
  4. Adding the shrimp will stop the boil for about a minute or so, when the water starts to boil again and the shrimp change color and start to float to the top, take them out right away-- don't overcook!
  5. Remove as fast as possible with a slotted spoon and add them directly into the cold water bowl. The water should still be cold even when all the hot shrimp are added-- if not, add more ice!
  6. After 15 minutes drain the shrimp and serve, or put in the fridge covered with a moist paper towel for up to one day.
  7. In Spain we serve as is, sometimes with sliced lemon. People peel them with their hands and don't worry about deveining. If you prefer to shell and devein before serving you certainly can, but it's really not necessary!

If you follow my boiled shrimp recipe and make sure to use plenty of boiling water and plenty of ice water, you’ll end up with the most perfectly tender shrimp you’ve ever tried! I highly recommend using great quality raw shrimp of course (if you happen to be in Spain this should be easy!). Frozen shrimp will never be the same and if using they must be completely defrosted first.

I adore the simplicity of these refreshing shrimp and could snack on them with beer or manzanilla (dry sherry) all day long!

Comments

  1. I wasn’t aware that throwing the cooked shrimp into an ice bath was the key to keeping them tender—thanks for the tip!

    And don’t forget to save the shrimp heads and shells to make broth with later; just dump them into a pot of water with some bay leaves and bingo! you’ve got the foundation for making some amazing rice 🙂

    1. The salt is there– 4 Tablespoons of it! 😉 When the shrimp soak in the ice bath with the salt, the flavor penetrates and in my experience they come out much better than by salting the boiling water. But that’s another way to do it!

      1. appreciate everyone’s advice. Are local Piggy wiggly store had the big Argentine Red shrimp this week only 6.99 a bag. There 16-20 per bag never seen them that cheap or that big that reasonably priced too. So turn to internet for directions so could cook them correctly. Dropped in boiling water 2 minutes and then dropped in ice water with sea salt and served with butter. YUM, Yum-You don’t need shrimp sauce with these they are tender , sweet and do taste a little like lobster. Perfectly cooked shell peels right off you do have to remove the vein but it comes out easily enough with shell.

  2. It is a nice meal and looks easy to cool. All things needed to buy are salt and shrimps. I think it is also healthy because no oil is used. It would spur people to have more beer. I like the meal. I wonder if raw shrimps are available at any time of the year in Spain.

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  4. Thanks for the tip! Now I know what to do with the shrimps to keep them tender. I love that the shrimps are somehow pinkish and orangey in color. Thanks for sharing this! 🙂

  5. This shrimp was very tasty. I had to use this for a Spanish project of mine, but I’m really glad I made it! I had to buy the shrimp from the grocery store, but I never knew it came blue when it was raw! Very tasty shrimp and a quick, good meal.

      1. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to obtain fresh (unfrozen) shrimp in the states unless you happen to live in a shrimping area. Most shrimp is fresh/flash frozen at sea and is almost always previously frozen when you buy them in the fish market. I try to buy it still frozen because I can never be sure how long the thawed shrimp have been sitting in the showcase – it deteriorates fairly quickly once thawed. If it’s wild caught, it tends to be great quality. I’m trying this tonight with Argentine red shrimp.

  6. If boiling with shell on, At what point do you remove the shell? Sounds as though you shell immediately before eating while the prawn is coated in white sauce.
    Messy?
    Nonetheless, tasty.

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