Gambas al Ajillo is one of the most popular tapas in Spanish food. Recipes for this garlic shrimp often call for dried whole red chile and red pepper flakes in the mix to add some spiciness. We’ve added dried pequin chile pepper to our recipe—because of its slightly smoky, nutty quality—and added a bit of ground Thai chili to serve as red pepper flakes. These spicy reds add color and round out the sour flavors in our lemon and dry sherry sautéing sauce.
The shrimp is sautéed just long enough to turn pink and then poured into a bowl for sharing. You can serve gambas al ajillo with crusty bread for soaking up all the tasty juices, along with other sides or appetizers. Alternatively you can spoon this spicy garlic shrimp over rice or couscous, or use in your next batch of shrimp tacos.
Using a mortar and pestle, grind dried pequin pepper and dried lemon peel into a fine powder. Transfer into a small prep bowl and set aside.
Wash the shrimp under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels. Remove shells from the shrimp if they aren’t already de-shelled. To devein shrimp, gently cut along the back of each shrimp lengthwise. Use tip of knife to carefully remove the black vein. Set aside.
Peel and chop the garlic.
Juice the lemon.
Chop the parsley (if using for garnish).
Set all aside for later.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Sauté garlic and Thai chili until aromatic (about 1 minute), and then add the following:
ground pequin pepper
sweet Spanish paprika
Cook sauce for 1 minute and then add the shrimp. Continue sautéing over medium-high heat, stirring shrimp to cook evenly. Sauté shrimp until cooked through and pink (about 2 – 3 minutes).
Transfer the shrimp into a serving dish for sharing. Pour sauce over top and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with crusty bread. Optionally, garnish with freshly chopped parsley.