Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)

Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)

Garlic, shrimp, butter, delicious spicy red sauce. What could be better than this colorful, nourishing food? Gambas al Ajillo is perhaps the most famous of Spain's tapas dishes. Traditionally, it is made in a cazuela (shallow earthenware ramekin) either on the stovetop or in a very hot oven, and served as a small plate or appetizer. But why keep it as just an appetizer? To limit yourself to a few succulent shrimp seems wrong, especially given the numerous health benefits of these beautiful real foods.

More Shellfish, Please!

Wild-caught shrimp and other shellfish are excellent sources of protein and a host of vitamins and minerals essential to healthy living. Shellfish play a large role in the diets of some of the healthiest traditional cultures, as studied and reported by Dr. Weston A. Price. Regularly consuming shrimp improves immune function, strengthens bone structure, and facilitates proper production of weight-regulating hormones (thyroid) and sex hormones (testosterone). In addition, shrimp contain selenium, which is both an anti-inflammatory and an anti-oxidant. So, change up your weekly routine and add in some shrimp! Diversity in dietary protein sources is important, and we should emphasize shellfish not only because of their health benefits but because they are some of the quickest and most convenient foods to cook.

Fresh or Frozen Shrimp?

While fresh shrimp is the better option, if you're in a bind you can use a 1-lb bag of frozen wild-caught deveined shrimp. The frozen shrimp usually ends up being cheaper and is great for an impromptu dinner, because you can just thaw them in a colander with cold water running for about 5 minutes until they’re tender.

Peeled vs Peel-and-Eat

The classic Spanish dish is usually made with peeled, deveined, tail-on shrimp. This allows the dish to be a finger food with minimal mess. Plus, the meat of the shrimp will be better-coated in the delicious sauce. But,for those days when you're in the mood for a peel-and-eat dish (as it is featured in the photo above), your prep time will be shortened substantially but the finger food mess will certainly increase. Be sure to suck the shells! Depends on what kind of mood you're in.

Regardless, when you peel your shrimp be sure to reserve the shells and pop them in a freezer bag to keep for seafood stock.

Garlic, a Superfood

It’s true. Google it.

Healthy Fats

Even though this dish is usually cooked only in olive oil, we all know that butter makes everything better. So, as a way of boosting the omega-3 content of this dish we added a good deal of pastured butter. The butter helps to make a thicker, heartier sauce, while the olive oil prevents the butter from burning and lends its bright flavor. Use ghee if you don’t want the dairy bits in butter.


  • 1lb deveined shrimp (optional: peeled)

  • 1/4 cup minced garlic (about 10 cloves)

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1 teaspoon sweet Spanish paprika or smoked paprika (more to taste and as a garnish)

  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry, cognac or dry white wine

  • 1/2 stick pastured butter

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 3 teaspoons Italian parsley, chopped (more for garnish)

  • 1/2 medium lemon, juiced

  • 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)



In a large skillet over medium heat, heat butter and olive oil until you start to hear the butter sizzle.


Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for about a minute, taking care not to burn the garlic.


Turn the heat to high, add the shrimp, paprika, tomato paste, alcohol, lemon juice, and salt to taste.


Sautee until shrimp has turned pink - about 3 minutes on first side, less time on second side.


Add parsley, stir to mix, then remove from heat and transfer to a warmed serving plate, pouring sauce over shrimp. Garnish with freshly ground pepper, and if using serve with slice of baguette.

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