The first time I tried gambas al ajillo I was blown away by the flavor. How could something so simple taste so good?!
It was a simple tapa, just a clay pot with a few large shrimp, more garlic than seemed necessary, and a couple of small, hot peppers. (Well, hot by Spanish standards). They all sat swimming in golden oil that was still sizzling and shimmering when the plate landed on the table. The smell was hypnotic.
The prawns were tender and juicy, and the garlicky oil that was left in the pot was perfect for mopping up with crusty bread. I couldn’t get the flavor (or the garlic breath) out of my head for days. It’s remained one of my favorite tapas dishes ever since!
Luckily for me, it’s also a dish that you can find all over Spain. While most tapas are region-specific, and you won’t see many overlapping recipes in Andalusia, Madrid, or the Basque Country, garlic prawns are an exception.
These garlicky shrimp seem to have won over the entire Spanish audience, and you can find a good plate of gambas al ajillo in almost every city in the country!
Get the original recipe: Gambas al ajillo
How to Make this Pintxo
In the Basque Country, where pintxos reign supreme, gambas look a little different.
Pintxos are smaller than tapas, usually skewered to bread with a toothpick or eaten like a shish kebab. To assemble my recipe for garlic shrimp pintxos, all you’ll need to do is skewer some of the gambas and serve with a chunk of crusty baguette to soak up any leftover garlic oil!
You might also see this recipe called a brocheta de gambas or a pincho de gambas.
They’re easy to prepare and taste deceptively complex. It’s the perfect recipe to go to when you need to get food ready for guests in a hurry. My recipe makes twelve pintxos, but you can halve or double the quantities to scale down or up. Alternatively, why not combine it with my other pintxos recipes to create a grazing platter of pintxos that’s sure to impress?!
Gambas Al Ajillo Pintxo Recipe
Gambas al Ajillo Pintxo Recipe
- 36 large shrimp ideally whole (with heads and shells on) or at least with the tails still on. If you can't find shrimp this way, however, no problem!
- 5 cloves of garlic
- 6 tablespoons of olive oil
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
- Parsley chopped, to serve
- Sea salt flakes to serve
- 12 long metal skewers
- If you have whole shrimp, remove the shrimp heads, shells, and legs, leaving the tails on. To prepare for cooking, add three raw shrimp to each of your skewers by piercing them at each end (once at the tip and once just above the tail. They should look like the letter C on the skewer).
- Meanwhile, place a large skillet (large enough to fit your skewers) over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, and when hot, the garlic. When the garlic is aromatic (about 1 minute), place the skewers, 3 at a time, in the skillet. Saute for 3-5 minutes on each side or until golden and cooked through. (You can add a bit more oil to the pan if the shrimp start sticking).
- Remove from the pan and place on a plate, dressing with lemon juice. Garnish with parsley, flakes of sea salt, and serve with crusty bread.