Spanish prawns recipe
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- Dish type
- Seafood starters
- Prawn starters
Prawns are cooked with garlic, paprika and cayenne pepper in this simple and flavourful Spanish tapas dish known as 'pil pil'.
7 people made this
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1.3kg medium prawns, peeled and deveined
- 4 tablespoons white wine
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons sweet paprika
MethodPrep:10min ›Cook:5min ›Ready in:15min
- Melt the butter and olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
- Stir in the garlic and cayenne pepper; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to high; add prawns and white wine. Bring to the boil and cook until the prawns are no longer transparent in the centre, about 3 minutes.
- Season with salt, pepper and sweet paprika before serving.
Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(14)
Reviews in English (9)
I am from Spain and Pil Pil in dishes mostly means having parsley. You could just add a tbs of chopped fresh parsley, to see if it's closer to what you enjoyed there.-11 Mar 2011
I would cut the garlic in half next time. I did not have sweet paprika, only regular paprika. I didn't know if this was the same thing so I was afraid to put in 3 whole tablespoons of it. I used a 1/4 tsp of paprika. It made a nice little sauce to add over fettucine. One kid liked it, one definitely did not (too spicy) and I'm sitting on the fence.-05 Feb 2010
Spanish Garlic Prawns (Gambas al Ajillo)
I love eating out in restaurants but I hate deciding what to have! Usually there are 3 or 4 things that I would like to eat and I can never decide what to go for. And whatever I choose, I always find myself wishing I had gone for something else. Consequently, I love eating in tapas restaurants! I don’t have to decide…I can try a little bit of everything!! And all the dishes are so delicious: Patas Bravas, Spanish Tortilla, Chorizo al Vino, Manchego cheese, …but my favourite is always Gambas al Ajillo.
In this delicious dish, prawns are sautéed in oil infused with garlic and chilli, then finished with a squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkled with paprika and parsley. I could happily eat a whole bowlful on my own. And the best thing is there’s always loads of delicious garlic and chilli infused oil left to dip your bread into even after you’ve eaten the prawns.
Making this tapa at home is really easy peasy. It can be made in one pan, in less than 10 minutes and only uses 7 ingredients. It makes a great starter or can be served with a selection of other tapas and crusty bread for a simple but impressive supper. The recipe below serves 2 as a starter or 4 as part of a selection of other tapas. To go with this dish I would serve a Fino Sherry or a Spanish Garnacha rosé.
- ½ cup olive oil, or as needed
- 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 dried red chile pepper, seeded and chopped, or to taste
- 1 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, or to taste
Heat 1/4 inch olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chile pepper and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove garlic and chile peppers with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add shrimp to the hot oil. Cook and stir until opaque in color, about 3 minutes.
Return garlic and chile peppers to the skillet. Season with salt and cook for 2 more minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve immediately.
What you need for Creamy Garlic Prawns
This recipe might call for a few ingredients that others don’t – namely wine, parmesan and chicken stock. But these are the 3 things that gives the sauce extra depth of flavour so it stacks up to great restaurants. So don’t skip them!
Prawns / shrimp – use good quality frozen, thawed, or peel your own (you’ll need 1kg /2lb whole prawns). I used to be a total prawn snob and never used pre peeled frozen ones, but nowadays you can get really good quality ones from the fish markets and good fish mongers
White wine – age old trick used by chefs to add extra complexity into sauces by deglazing pans (ie add wine into hot pan after searing meat/prawns to dissolve the precious gold bits stuck to the base of the pan into the sauce = free flavour!). Use any white wine that’s no too fruity (like some Rieslings can be) or too woody (like some Chardonnays). I use Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris, I buy discount bottles for cooking purposes. I keep them for weeks/months in the fridge!
Chicken or vegetable stock/broth – as with the wine, this adds an extra depth of flavour to the sauce. Use low sodium so you can be sure your sauce won’t end up too salty
Parmesan – in addition to wine and stock/broth, this is the 3rd power ingredient that makes this creamy garlic sauce extra good. Parmesan is a well known source of umami which is the technical term for “savoury” flavour, and in this recipe it also serves the double purposes of thickening the creamy sauce (instead of using even more cream)
Cream – thickened / heavy cream is best because it’s thicker than pure cream which means it needs less reducing to thicken. And full fat is better / thicker than light cream, but this recipe works a treat with low fat too (as well as evaporated milk) and
Garlic – because we’re making a Creamy GARLIC Sauce for the prawns! Some garlic is used to marinate the prawns, some to add flavour into the sauce.
Spanish Garlic Prawns Recipe – Gambas al Ajillo
This is perfect for any time of the year, as a starter or a sharing plate served up with warm crunchy bread – absolutely essential for mopping up all the delicious garlicy oil that the prawns are swimming in. The garlic becomes caramelised and I love spooning the garlic onto my bread as much as I love the prawns!
Ingredients: Spanish Garlic Prawns – Gambas al Ajillo
- 300g peeled, raw prawns
- 125ml olive oil
- 6 large cloves of garlic – sliced
- 1 x dried red chilli (seeds & stalk removed)
Spanish Garlic Prawns with Crunchy Bread for Dipping
Cooking instructions for the Spanish Garlic Prawns – Gambas al Ajillo
How to make the dish:
1. Heat oil in small pan. Add a slice of garlic and when it starts to sizzle, add the rest of the garlic and the dried chilli.
2. As soon as the garlic starts to colour, add prawns and a teaspoon of salt. The salt will prevent any water from the prawns spitting.
3. Stir until prawns turn pink.
4. Optional – add a splash of Fino or Manzanilla and bubble until the alcohol has boiled off.
5. Serve with lots of crusty bread and a glass of chilled Fino or Manzanilla*
Gambas Ajillo – the perfect starter or sharing plate
Other nice to knows…
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 12 minutes
Calories: 270 calories per helping
Sherry or Wine Pairing*
For me, this dish works perfectly with a chilled Manzanilla or Fino. Equally a crisp, chilled white wine would be a delicious accompaniment.
Read my guide to Sherry Or book a Zoom Sherry Tasting and learn why Manzanilla and Fion are perfect with this dish.
Notes I first posted this recipe in 2015
Join me in Spain for a truly authentic taste of Andalucia and t ailor-made f ood & wine travel experiences.
ELAG induction cooktop test for making paella
You don’t need a paella pan to cook paella, a large skillet will do, but I do recommend using one, especially if you are using an induction stove top like mine. This was the perfect way for me to test the infusion zone function for my ELAG cooktop. For both the grill plate and using a 34 cm paella pan which needs quite a big “cooking zone”. ELAG’s “FusionTechnology” allows you to combine two cooking zones to form a continuous surface, creating a large cooking zone. It’s super easy to activate and gives you the ability to use many more sizes and types of pan for use, including grill plates and oven roasting pans (making it really easy to prepare gravy directly in the roasting pan!). And of course, perfect for cooking paella on the stovetop!
What’s also cool about the fusion zone is that it will only heat up the surface area where the pan is placed. And when you remove the pan from the cooking area, the power supply stops immediately. This is a natural energy saver which also makes for easy clean-up of any splatters which never get a chance to bake on to the surface. Easy cleaning is definitely a bonus!
Finely mince 4 garlic cloves and place in large bowl. Smash 4 cloves under the flat side of a knife and place in a large skillet. Thinly slice remaining four garlic cloves and set aside.
Add shrimp to bowl with minced garlic. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and baking soda. Toss to combine thoroughly and set aside at room temperature.
Add shrimp shells to skillet with smashed garlic and add remaining olive oil and pepper flakes. Set over medium-low to low heat and cook, stirring and tossing occasionally, until shells are deep ruby red, garlic is pale golden brown, and oil is intensely aromatic, about 10 minutes. Oil should be gently bubbling the whole time. When ready, strain through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl, tossing and pressing the shrimp shells to extract as much oil as possible. Discard shells and garlic.
Return flavored oil to skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add sliced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until pale golden brown, about 1 minute. Add shrimp and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until shrimp are barely cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add sherry vinegar and parsley and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt. Serve immediately.
Spanish prawn fritters (tortillitas de camarones)
These crisp fritters are a specialty of the Cádiz province in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. Traditionally, a tiny variety of shrimp, or camarón, is used. The small crustaceans are encased in a batter of chickpea flour, parsley and onion before being fried.
- 160 ml (⅔ cup) olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 450 g peeled green prawns, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus fried parsley sprigs, to serve
- 1 tsp paprika
- 180 g (1 cup) chickpea (besan) flour (see Note)
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- sea salt flakes, to sprinkle
- lemon wedges, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time 30 minutes
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until softened. Remove from heat and cool completely.
When cool, place in a bowl with spring onions, prawn meat, garlic, parsley and paprika, and season with salt and pepper.
In a separate bowl, combine chickpea flour, plain flour and baking powder. Gradually whisk in 310 ml water until batter is thick and smooth. Add prawn mixture to batter and stir to combine. Set aside to rest for 20 minutes.
Heat remaining 120 ml oil in a frying pan over medium heat until hot. Working in batches, add 2 tablespoonfuls of mixture per fritter to hot oil. Cook, turning once, for
minutes until golden and cooked through. Keep warm while you cook remaining fritters. Scatter over fried parsley sprigs and sea salt and serve hot with lemon wedges.
• Chickpea (besan) flour is thicker and grainier than refined white flour. It’s available from health food shops, Asian food shops and select supermarkets.
Gambas al Ajillo are a famous Spanish dish served as a starter, the so-called tapas. The prawns are cooked in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and chilies. Wine and lemon help to refresh the palate from the oily texture of the dish.
This recipe is simple and quick to prepare. It is a perfect dish to serve for a seafood menu or along with other tapas for a real taste of Spain. According to tradition, the prawns are cooked in a flameproof terracotta pot but in alternative, you can use a normal frying pan.
We suggest serving the prawns with crispy bread so that you can dip in the garlic-flavored oil. Don&apost miss a spot!
How To Make Gambas Al Ajillo:
This Spanish garlic shrimp recipe moves quickly, so I recommend having all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you begin cooking. To make this recipe, simply…
- Season the shrimp. Generously with salt and pepper.
- Sauté the garlic and chili. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. (You want it warm but not too hot, otherwise it will burn the garlic and splatter everywhere.) Add garlic and chili pepper and sauté briefly until the garlic starts to turn lightly golden.
- Cook the shrimp. Add in the shrimp and sauté until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through, about 1-2 minutes. (It’s important to avoid overcooking the shrimp, since they will continue to sit and cook in the hot oil as they are served.)
- Season. Remove pan from the heat, and add in the sherry, a squeeze of lemon juice (if using) and your desired amount of parsley (if using), and toss to combine. Then give the shrimp a taste, and if they by chance need extra salt and pepper, go ahead and add that in too.
- Serve. With lots of crusty bread, because I guarantee you’re going to want to mop up every last drop of that garlicky oil. )