Shrimp in Garlic Sauce (Gambas al Ajillo)

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce is a “go to” in our kitchen and certainly a key recipe in our low-carb lifestyle. In Spain, it is called Gambas al Ajillo and it is probably the most recognizable tapa in bodegas and restaurants throughout the country. Most definitely a staple in Central and Southern Spain. Many years ago when traveling in Spain I ordered this distinct and flavor-filled dish often. My recipe is traditional and is just perfect every time.

This is one recipe that Joanie leaves to me – she knows I love Spanish food and will never miss a chance to order it in restaurants that feature it either as an appetizer or main dish. The kitchen will definitely have a distinct garlic smell. We do encourage using a low-carb cheesy bread to “sop up” the garlic sauce. It would also be a good idea to enjoy this shrimp dish with a nice glass of sherry or white wine.

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Traditionally, Shrimp in Garlic Sauce features olive oil infused with lots of garlic, sherry, red pepper flakes or chili sauce, and smoked paprika. The smoked paprika should be a sweet variety. Of course, the main ingredient is shrimp. We like to use 16-20 count, peeled and deveined. A garnish of chopped parsley or cilantro is a nice touch.

One tip on the ingredients – use the best quality you can find. Stick with a 100% Spanish extra-virgin olive oil and a fine Spanish sherry. If you have followed our blog you know we also use a lot of La Dalia Smoked Paprika. You can read more about it in our recipe post for Smoky Bacon Deviled Eggs. It is simply the best smoked paprika!

Preparation Tips

To stick with tradition you would use a terra cotta dish or cazuela to cook the shrimp. The finished dish can then be served hot and steaming and eaten right out of the bowl. Terra cotta will also hold the heat longer so you can savor your shrimp that longer. If you do not have terra cotta dishes in your pantry cooking with an iron skillet or even a non-stick skillet will do the trick.

We use 8 cloves of sliced garlic for our Shrimp in Garlic Sauce. You can add more if you prefer a stronger garlic flavor, but we would not go lightly. The blend of olive oil and garlic is the secret to the recipe. A little heat comes from the red pepper flakes. Again, add more if you prefer more heat. The sherry is so important to give a citrus tang and the smoked paprika finishes the appetizer with the perfect smoked flavor. You will have to move quickly once you turn up the heat and add the shrimp. Do not over cook the shrimp. Three minutes should be just fine.

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La Dalia Sweet Smoked Paprika from Spain, 2.469 Oz
  • Estimated Product Size: 2.5 oz
  • Country of Origin: Spain

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce (Gambas al Ajillo) – A Classic Spanish Tapas Dish

As I mentioned, a small glass of sherry or a nice Spanish white wine, maybe some low-carb cheesy bread, and some Spanish guitar music in the background and you will be transformed to Spain as you enjoy our Shrimp in Garlic Sauce. The best part – an appetizer serving is only 2g of carbs – definitely Tasty Low Carb!

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce (Gambas al Ajillo)

Recipe by Joanie and Chris
5.0 from 21 votes
Course: Fish and Seafood, Small Plates, Mediterranean DietCuisine: SpanishDifficulty: Easy


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Shrimp in Garlic Sauce (Gambas al Ajillo) is a classic Spanish tapa dish! Delicious, oozing with garlic flavor, and very low carb! A keto diet friendly recipe.

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  • 1 pound 454 g Shrimp (16-20) peeled, deveined

  • 8 tablespoons 8 tablespoons Olive oil extra virgin

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon Sea salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon 1/4 teaspoon Pepper

  • 8 cloves 8 cloves Garlic sliced

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon Red pepper flakes

  • 1/4 cup 59 ml Sherry

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon Smoked paprika

  • 2 tablespoons 2 tablespoons Parsley finely chopped


  • Heat a sauté pan to medium heat. Add the olive oil. Stir in the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Do not over cook the garlic.
  • Salt and pepper the shrimp and then add to the pan. Add the sherry at the same time. Turn the heat up to high and quickly arrange the shrimp evenly. Cook for 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp and cook for an additional minute. 
  • Sprinkle with the smoked paprika – stir once to combine. Plate immediately, sprinkle with more smoked paprika and garnish of chopped parsley. Serve hot.


Chef’s Notes

  • You can also use butter in place of half the olive oil – be careful not to burn the butter. This will make a more of a scampi sauce. If you have a low-carb cheesy bread use it to “sop up” the delicious garlic sauce.

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories: 271.2kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 2.8g
  • Protein: 0.5g
  • Fat: 28.1g
  • Saturated Fat: 3.9g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 298.4mg
  • Potassium: 58.4mg
  • Fiber: 0.4g
  • Sugar: 0.3g
  • Vitamin A: 365IU
  • Vitamin C: 9.2mg
  • Calcium: 17.4mg
  • Iron: 2.8mg
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