Gambas al Ajillo

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Servings: 4

A popular tapa in Spain, gambas al ajillo means “garlic shrimp,” and this version lives up to its name. Three garlic cloves infuse the cooking oil, and then three sliced cloves are sautéed along with the shrimp. Red pepper flakes add a spicy kick. Cooking the shrimp with the heads and tails on adds lots of flavor, but it also makes the dish messy to eat, so serve with a bowl for diners to discard the tail and heads and provide plenty of napkins.


  • 1 1/2 lb. (750 g) large shrimp
  • 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz./180 ml) olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves (3 smashed and 3 thinly sliced)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish
  • Crusty bread for serving
  • Lemon wedges for serving


Using a sharp paring knife or kitchen shears, cut along each shrimp’s shell above the vein line and then remove the vein. Leave the shell and tail intact.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the smashed garlic, bay leaf, thyme and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the very aromatic and the garlic is lightly golden, being careful not to burn the garlic, about 2 minutes. Strain the olive oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, discarding the contents of the sieve.

In the same sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the strained olive oil. Add the sliced garlic and shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are pink and opaque, about 4 minutes.

Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and parsley and serve immediately with crusty bread and lemon wedges alongside. Serves 4.

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