Shrimp Pili Pili


Pili pili (bird's eye peppers) and cilantro are prominent seasonings in Kenyan cooking. Here, Hubert Des Marais uses both in a fiery spiced butter he brushes onto grilled shell-on shrimp; Thai chiles are an excellent substitute for pili pili. Use the largest shrimp you can find, though they probably won't measure up to the one-pounders he gets from the Indian Ocean. "They're monsters!" he exclaims. More Delicious Shrimp Dishes

Shrimp Pili Pili
Photo: © Lisa Linder
Total Time:
35 mins
4 1-course servings


  • 1 ¼ pounds shell-on large shrimp

  • 1 stick unsalted butter

  • 4 Thai chiles (chopped)

  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

  • ½ cup finely diced red bell pepper (from about 1/4 pepper)

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika

  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice

  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. With kitchen shears, cut down the backs of each shrimp shell, keeping the shells intact. Remove the dark intestinal veins, then thread the shrimp onto 4 metal skewers.

  2. In a medium skillet, melt the butter. Add the Thai chiles, garlic, ginger, red bell pepper, ground cumin and smoked paprika and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a mini food processor, add the lime juice and puree. Stir in the cilantro and season the spiced butter with salt and pepper.

  3. Light a grill. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, both outside the shell and inside the cut-open back. Grill the shrimp over high heat, basting with the flavored butter and turning often, until just cooked through, about 2 1/2 minutes per side. Spread any remaining butter on the shrimp and serve right away.

Make Ahead

The flavored butter can be kept in the refrigerator overnight. Let soften before using.

Suggested Pairing

Bright, lemon-scented Pinot Gris.

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