Gambas al ajillo o garlic shrimp are shelled shrimp cooked in olive oil and plenty of finely diced garlic, a truly ubiquitous tapa all over Spain and a traditional crowd-pleaser with a sauce that calls for lots of bread-dunking.
The name gambas al ajillo literally means shrimp with little garlic, referring to the finely chopped garlic used to season this tapa. In this tapa, one of my favorites as a child, the flavors meld perfectly, with the garlic not overpowering at all the delicate flavor of the shrimp.
Those afraid of the fierceness of garlic, do not fret: the flavor is largely tamed when fried and subsequently stewed in the wine. Give it a try, you won’t regret it.
- 1 pound (500g) shelled shrimp
- 4-5 cloves garlic
- 4 tbsp virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp dry Sherry
- Some rings of Spanish hot dried chillies, guindilla
- 2 sprigs parsley
- First thaw the shrimp if frozen. Shell them if they’re not shelled.
- Peel and finely dice the garlic cloves (see pictures below).
- Pour the oil in a saucepan or an earthenware cazuela and add the garlic. Stir-fry just till it starts to brown at the edges, then add the drained shrimp and the chillies, if using.
- Add the sherry, cover with a lid and cook a few minutes, stirring occasionally, till the shrimp are pink and cooked through.
- Sprinkle with parsley and serve in small tapas-size dishes.
Tips for perfect gambas al ajillo or garlic shrimp:
- Pick the best shrimp you can find, plump and juicy. Otherwise, this is one of the easiest to make tapas around.
- Use a fine Spanish extra virgin olive oil of the milder varieties in this recipe. And enjoy the result.
- Don’t overcook the shrimp; they should release quite some of their juices in the oil, but not so much to the point of getting completely dry.
- You can make this garlic shrimp as fiery as you like by adding more chillies, but the genuine gambas al ajillo are not very hot.
We always end up our recipes recommending to acompany them with a good Spanish wine and some great loaf of bread, and this garlic shrimp or gambas al ajillo are not different. Pair this shrimp with a chilled dry Sherry on a winter noon…