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.
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.
You can see, the recipe is simple, traditional, and without deviation. The only change that I often make is to use half butter and half olive oil. This will produce a creamy scampi style sauce. You just have to be careful not to allow the butter mixture to brown too much.
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!
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.
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!
- 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.