Gambas al Ajillo


This classic shrimp recipe is a total keeper. The shrimp is tender and flavorful, and mopping up the garlicky, herby oil with bread is a must. Slideshow: More Shrimp Recipes 

Gambas al Ajillo
This three-ingredient miracle of shrimp simmered in garlicky olive oil is one of Spain’s most castizo (rootsy) tapas, made to order at countless rustic taverns countrywide but most appreciated in Madrid and the south. The dish is so simple, Spanish home cooks can make it blindfolded, but it helps to keep an eye on a few rules. Commandment numero uno is a lavish amount of your most fragrant olive oil that’s not too heavy in texture. Equally crucial: letting the garlic slowly release its full fragrance (some experts start with cold oil), so the bitterness doesn’t overpower the shrimp. Finally, give the  gambas the most gentle of baths in that oil—not a full sizzle—until just heated through and still  jugocitas (super juicy) inside. Some cooks add a handful of finely diced  jamón or chorizo along with the garlic; clams, too, do insanely well in this sauce. To serve, plenty of crusty bread is a must, because you’ll want to mop up every drop of that garlicky oil. Where to eat it: La Casa del Abuelo , an atmospheric 1906 tapas bar in Central Madrid, is known as a shrimp shrine, whether cooking  gambas in  cazuelitas that continue to bubble right at your table, or preparing them  a la plancha. Get the recipe: Gambas al ajillo. Photo: Christopher Testani
Total Time:
30 mins


  • 1 1/2 pounds shelled and deveined large shrimp, tails intact

  • Kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic

  • 1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 small dried hot red chile, seeded and crumbled

  • 1/2 cup minced parsley

  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry, such as manzanilla

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

  • Crusty bread, for serving


  1. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and let stand for 10 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, in a 9- to 10-inch enameled cast-iron skillet, combine the garlic and olive oil and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is very fragrant and just starts to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chile and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds.

  3. Add the shrimp to the skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring and turning the shrimp occasionally, until barely pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley, sherry, lemon zest and a generous pinch of salt. Remove from the heat and let stand until the shrimp are cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve in the skillet, passing crusty bread at the table.

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