Garlic prawns (gambas al ajillo)

Garlic Prawns (Gambas al ajillo)
It often happens that the simplest recipes are the tastiest ones. Or at least this is the case with today’s garlic prawns or ‘gambas al ajillo’, which is one of the most popular tapas recipe in Spain and for good reason.

This is one of the easiest, quickest and tastiest Spanish recipes you can do. Few ingredients, done in 15 minutes and then served together with a glass of decent sherry for heaven-like status. And yes, this is an oily recipe. It won’t definitely be your number one weapon for high-cholesterol fighting. But hey, it really is delicious and you only live once. Plus all that oil left at the bottom of the dish once you’ve eaten the prawns… it’s the most perfect sopping up liquid to dip your slice of bread in. As close to paradise as you can get while sitting on a table. Fact.

Two little tricks to take this recipe to the next level. First, to infuse the oil with the prawn shells. This will enhance the flavour to levels beyond belief. And a final touch… a splash of dry sherry just before you serve it. These garlic prawns are the best-thing-ever.


Garlic prawns (gambas al ajillo)
Serves: people Print recipe
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Passive time: -
Difficulty: Easy



  1. Thinly slice the garlic and the cayenne pepper. Remove the shell off the prawns, leaving the heads on. Season with salt and reserve.
  2. Heat a skillet with the olive oil and add the prawn shells. Cook gently for around three minutes so that the oil gets infused with an intense prawn flavour.
  3. Strain the oil and add it back to the skillet. Heat it until piping hot and then add the sliced garlic and the cayenne pepper. Cook for under a minute until the garlic becomes golden, being very careful not to burn it or you will get a nasty bitter aftertaste when eating the dish.
  4. Stir in the prawns and take the pan off the hob. Cook for one to two minutes, just enough for the prawns to change colour from pink to orange.
  5. Drizzle with a splash of dry sherry and sprinkle some very finely chopped parsley on top. Serve immediately.

It is very important to slice the garlic very thinly to avoid the garlic getting toasted on the outside whilst still raw inside.

Also very important is to avoid over cooking the prawns or they will be chewy when we eat them. I personally like to cook them off the hob. The residual heat is enough to create a lovely crunchy texture on the outside at the same time that the prawns remain nice and juicy inside. Also, this dish is very hot, so remember that even if you take the skillet off the heat, the prawns will continue cooking slightly even when they are served.