How to make Gambas al Ajillo

On a balmy evening, while wandering through the vibrant streets of Spain steeped in history and culinary tradition, I was captivated by a dish that embodies the essence of Spanish cuisine: Gambas al Ajillo. This dish, a delectable symphony of flavors, features succulent shrimp, spicy Spanish Chorizo, and a generous splash of dry sherry, creating a harmonious blend that tantalizes the taste buds. The shrimp, cooked to tender perfection, pairs splendidly with the bold flavors of the chorizo, while the dry sherry adds a layer of complexity, elevating the dish with its subtle sweetness and depth.

Motivated by the unforgettable impact of this culinary delight, I embarked on a journey to recreate the magic of Gambas al Ajillo in my own kitchen. Through avid experimentation and a deep passion for sharing the rich tapestry of Spanish flavors, I have honed a version of this recipe that captures the vibrant spirit and rustic charm of its original inspiration. It is with great excitement that I share this cherished Gambas al Ajillo recipe with you, inviting you to indulge in a culinary adventure that not only celebrates the rich heritage of Spanish cuisine but also brings the warmth and joy of Spain’s sun-kissed shores to your table. Let us revel in the art of cooking and the pleasure of sharing exquisite meals, one delectable bite at a time.

Gambas al Ajillo

Gambas al Ajillo is an iconic Spanish dish, renowned for its simplicity and depth of flavor, capturing the essence of Spanish culinary traditions. It features succulent shrimp (gambas) sautéed in a fragrant garlic (ajillo) oil, spiced with slices of potent Spanish chorizo, and enriched with a splash of dry sherry, which adds complexity and a hint of sweetness to the dish. This delightful combination of ingredients results in a harmonious blend that tantalizes the taste buds, offering a spicy kick from the chorizo that perfectly complements the tender sweetness of the shrimp. The dish is typically served with a generous portion of the rich, garlicky oil for dipping bread, turning each bite into a flavorful experience. Discovered during travels through Spain, its preparation has been perfected and is now shared as a cherished recipe, inviting others to enjoy a taste of Spanish culture and the joy of simple, yet beautifully crafted meals.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Spanish
Servings 4 people
Calories 856 kcal


  • 1 pan


  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound shrimp
  • 4 cloves garlic


  • Finely cut garlic. Paprika and sea salt are used to season the shrimp. To coat, mix it.
  • In a pan, cook the garlic and oil on moderate flame.
  • Cook for about two minutes or until the garlic begins to turn translucent.
  • Increase the heat to the extreme and add the shrimp.
  • Toss and rotate the shrimp with tongs for around two minutes or until they start to curl but are still uncooked.
  • Pour the sherry in. Heat, constantly stirring, for 1 minute more, or till sauces come to boiling and shrimp is fried through.
  • Remove the pan from the heat. With a spoon, fold in the parsley.
Keyword dry sherry, Italian parsley, shrimp

Cooking tips about Gambas al Ajillo

Gambas al ajillo (Spanish Garlic shrimp)

  • Quality of Ingredients: The success of Gambas al Ajillo relies heavily on the quality of its ingredients. Choose fresh, high-quality shrimp, as it is the star of the dish. Large, succulent shrimp are preferred for their texture and flavor.
  • Garlic Preparation: Garlic is a central component of Gambas al Ajillo, so it’s important to slice it thinly or mince it finely to ensure it infuses the oil without burning. Some chefs prefer to use a combination of minced and whole cloves to vary the intensity of the garlic flavor throughout the dish.
  • Choosing the Right Oil: Olive oil is traditional and imparts a distinct, authentic flavor to the dish. Use a good quality extra virgin olive oil for cooking; its fruity notes complement the garlic and shrimp beautifully.
  • Balancing the Heat: The key to perfect Gambas al Ajillo is controlling the heat. You want the oil hot enough to cook the shrimp quickly while allowing the garlic to infuse the oil without becoming bitter. A medium-high heat works best, adjusting as necessary to prevent the garlic from burning.
  • Spanish Chorizo: Adding slices of Spanish chorizo introduces a smoky depth and a hint of spice that contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the shrimp. Pan-fry the chorizo slightly before adding the shrimp to release its oils and flavor into the dish.
  • Dry Sherry: A splash of dry sherry towards the end of cooking adds a layer of complexity and slight acidity that brightens the dish. Allow the sherry to simmer briefly with the shrimp and garlic to cook off the alcohol while retaining its essence.
  • Serving Suggestions: Traditionally, Gambas al Ajillo is served sizzling directly from the pan with plenty of crusty bread on the side to soak up the flavorful oil. It makes for an impressive presentation and ensures none of the delicious sauce goes to waste.
  • Garnishing: Finish the dish with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley for color and a burst of freshness that complements the rich flavors of the shrimp and chorizo.
  • Watch the Shrimp Closely: Shrimp cook very quickly and continue cooking in the residual heat after being removed from the stove. To keep them succulent, remove them from the heat as soon as they turn pink and opaque.
  • Experiment with Spice: Depending on your taste preferences, you can add crushed red pepper flakes or finely chopped fresh chili to introduce a bit of heat that plays off well against the richness of the other ingredients.

Serving suggestions about Gambas al Ajillo

Gambas al Ajillo Recipe (Spanish Garlic Shrimp)

  • Crusty Bread: Serve your Gambas al Ajillo with slices of warm, crusty bread. This is essential for dipping into the rich, garlic-infused oil, ensuring you savor every last drop of flavor. A fresh baguette or artisanal loaf would be perfect for this.
  • Spanish Olives: Offer a bowl of mixed Spanish olives as an appetizer. Their salty, briny flavor contrasts beautifully with the spicy and garlicky notes of the Gambas al Ajillo, awakening the palate for the main dish.
  • Green Salad: Accompany the dish with a simple green salad dressed lightly with olive oil and sherry vinegar. This adds a refreshing, crisp component to balance the richness of the shrimp and chorizo.
  • Patatas Bravas: Consider serving Patatas Bravas, a beloved Spanish tapas featuring cubed potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce and aioli. Their hearty texture and bold flavors make them an excellent side dish for Gambas al Ajillo.
  • Spanish White Wine: Pair your meal with a chilled glass of Spanish white wine, such as Albariño or Verdejo. These wines, with their crisp acidity and citrus notes, complement the seafood wonderfully and help to cleanse the palate between bites.
  • Manchego Cheese: As a closer or an additional side, slices of Manchego cheese could offer a creamy, nutty contrast to the spicy and garlicky flavors of the dish.

Top 5 FAQs about Gambas al Ajillo

Gambas al Ajillo aka Spanish Garlic Shrimp - DeSocio in the Kitchen

  • What are the key ingredients in Gambas al Ajillo? Gambas al Ajillo is a traditional Spanish dish that celebrates the simplicity and depth of flavors using key ingredients such as succulent shrimp (gambas), fragrant garlic (ajillo), spicy Spanish chorizo, a splash of dry sherry, and olive oil. These ingredients come together to create a dish with a harmonious blend of flavors that is both tantalizing and satisfying.
  • How do I prevent the garlic from burning while cooking Gambas al Ajillo? To prevent the garlic from burning, it’s essential to sauté it over medium-high heat and keep a close eye on the pan. The garlic should be thinly sliced or minced to ensure it infuses the oil without burning. If you notice the garlic browning too quickly, reduce the heat and remove the pan from the burner momentarily to allow the temperature to decrease slightly before continuing.
  • Can I use any type of shrimp for Gambas al Ajillo? While you can technically use any size of shrimp, larger, high-quality shrimp are preferred for their succulent texture and flavor. Fresh shrimp are ideal, but if only frozen shrimp are available, ensure they are thoroughly thawed and patted dry before cooking to achieve the best results.
  • What is the role of dry sherry in Gambas al Ajillo? Dry sherry adds a layer of complexity and slight acidity to the dish, enhancing the overall flavor profile. It is added towards the end of cooking to allow the alcohol to cook off while retaining the essence of the sherry. This addition elevates the dish with a subtle sweetness and depth that beautifully complements the shrimp and chorizo.
  • How should Gambas al Ajillo be served for the best experience? Traditionally, Gambas al Ajillo is served directly from the pan it was cooked in, sizzling hot. It’s accompanied by slices of warm, crusty bread for dipping into the rich, garlicky oil left in the pan. Serving it this way ensures that the flavors are enjoyed at their peak and that none of the delicious sauce goes to waste.

In the end, Gambas al Ajillo stands as not just a dish, but a celebration of Spanish culinary tradition, a testament to the power of simple ingredients coming together to create something extraordinary. With its symphony of succulent shrimp, spicy chorizo, and the nuanced touch of dry sherry, it captures the soul of Spanish cuisine in every bite. This dish is more than food; it’s an experience, evoking memories of vibrant Spanish streets, laughter-filled dining tables, and the joy of sharing good food with loved ones. Through the shared secrets of its preparation, Gambas al Ajillo invites us into a world where cooking is an act of love, where each ingredient is a whisper of stories untold, and every meal is a journey. As you embark on this culinary adventure, let the rich flavors and aromas guide you to discover not just the taste of Spain, but the very essence of conviviality and celebration that defines its culture. Here’s to the journey, the discovery, and the sheer delight of bringing a piece of Spain into your kitchen. Buen provecho!


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