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Close up of gambas al ajillo

Gambas al Ajillo Recipe (Spanish Garlic Shrimp)

My mother-in-law's gambas al ajillo recipe is one of Spain's best. Piping hot garlic shrimp, smothered in olive oil with a slightly spicy kick!
5 from 10 votes
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Course: Appetiser
Cuisine: Spanish
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 168.39kcal


  • About 1 pound a little less than 1/2 kilo of small, raw shrimp (shelled or unshelled)
  • Extra virgin olive oil Spanish brands preferred!
  • Minced garlic about 1 tablespoon per person, you can put less or more depending on your love for garlic
  • A splash of dry sherry I generally use fino or manzanilla (this can be omitted or substituted for a very dry white wine)
  • A touch of butter to finish off each serving
  • 1-2 small cayenne peppers per serving
  • Sea salt for seasoning


  • My mother-in-law makes these in individual sized clay dishes (cazuelitas) that you can put directly on the stove to cook in. Here I'll assume most will make the dish in one large pan and then plate separately.
  • If the shrimp haven't been shelled, remove the shells
  • Completely cover the bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil and slowly heat along with the garlic and cayenne pepper pods.
  • When the garlic begins to sizzle add the shrimp and sauté a moment.
  • Once everything starts to sizzle again, add a splash of sherry and a sprinkle of salt.
  • Simmer for about a minute until the shrimp are cooked through (don't overcook!)
  • Remove from the heat and divide into four servings.
  • Top each serving with a touch of butter, and give it a quick stir before serving.


  • Serve sizzling if possible, and always with crusty bread to mop up the sauce. Remember to only cook the shrimp for about one minute, they can overcook in no time and will keep cooking once off the heat if kept in the same dish!
  • Remember that olive oil is a major part of this dish so use the best quality extra virgin olive oil you can get your hands on! 


Calories: 168.39kcal | Carbohydrates: 2.77g | Protein: 23.68g | Fat: 6.1g | Saturated Fat: 1.34g | Cholesterol: 288.45mg | Sodium: 955.55mg | Potassium: 122.8mg | Fiber: 0.17g | Sugar: 0.13g | Vitamin A: 31.24IU | Vitamin C: 7.51mg | Calcium: 178.91mg | Iron: 2.55mg
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