Wonderfully smokey and buttery, camarones al ajillo are Mexico’s perfectly spicy take on garlic butter shrimp. Made with three kinds of chile, every bite is redder and more exciting than the last.
The Best Garlic Shrimp Recipe
Tossed in smokey garlic butter, these camarones al ajillo are the best garlic butter shrimp you’ve had in a while. This is an impressive seafood recipe that’s super easy and requires less than 30 minutes to make, even with our special homemade sauce.
Packed with chipotle, chile de arbol, and guajillo peppers, these shrimp have the perfect level of heat, fruitiness, and depth. Not to mention an irresistible redness that is far from impossibly spicy. Don’t forget a bit of oregano and parsley to round out the flavors.
Sauteed until perfectly soft and buttery, this recipe is an easy appetizer-turned-main that will help you make the best of all the Mexican ingredients in your pantry.
What Are Camarones al Ajillo?
This recipe for Camarones al ajillo is the Mexican version of garlic butter shrimp. It’s a simple recipe consisting of large shrimp sauteed in garlic, melted butter, and chile guajillo for some color. The result is a naturally bright red/orange dish full of smokiness, richness, and spicy fruitiness.
They’re a popular dish in Mexican restaurants and can be served as a main course or an appetizer. However, camarones al ajillo are also popular in Spain and many Latin American countries, all with their own little additions and twists to garlic shrimp.
With three types of chile, you can take these garlic shrimp to the next level. Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for exact ingredient amounts.
- Unsalted butter – Feel free to use salted butter, but reduce the salt in the rest of the recipe.
- Garlic cloves – You won’t get the same flavor, but you can swap them for 3 teaspoons of garlic powder.
- Dried oregano – Try to use Mexican oregano for this.
- Dried parsley
- Chipotle adobo – Don’t leave it out. Most of the dish’s smokiness comes from this ingredient.
- Chiles de arbol – You can leave it out to reduce the heat.
- Guajillo chiles
- Worcestershire sauce – It adds lots of complexity, but you can leave it out.
- Olive oil – Vegetable, corn, and canola oil are good substitutes.
- Medium-large shrimp – Don’t use small shrimp because they dry out faster.
- Salt and pepper
What Shrimp Should I Use?
Medium-large to large shrimp are perfect for this recipe. Any smaller and you won’t be able to appreciate the shrimp’s natural butteriness, and any larger and the shrimp will outshine the sauce. Make your life easier by asking your fishmonger to shell and devein them for you. You can also use pre-cleaned frozen shrimp.
How To Make Camarones Al Ajillo
Blending a sauce is about as hard as this shrimp recipe will get.
- Cook the garlic. Melt the butter in a large pan over very low heat. Add the garlic, stir, and let it cook for 5 minutes. If they brown too quickly, reduce the heat. The mixture should be nice and fragrant.
- Add the chiles. Add the oregano, parsley, chipotle adobo, chile de arbol, and guajillo chiles. Let them cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The guajillo chiles should have softened up a bit.
- Blend the sauce. Remove about half of the chile guajillo slices from the pan and add them to a blender. Add the water and Worcestershire sauce. Blend until you get a smooth mixture.
- Cook the shrimp. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the olive oil to the pan. Let it heat for a minute. Strain the blended sauce in and stir to combine. Add the shrimp and cook for 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until pink and opaque. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve. Remove the chile de arbol and serve the shrimp.
Tips & Variations
Here are some tips to make sure your garlic butter shrimp come out perfect:
- Use frozen shrimp. Make sure the shrimp are completely thawed, and then pat them dry with a paper towel before adding them to the pan to avoid sizzling.
- Raise the heat. Don’t forget to increase the temperature before adding the shrimp; otherwise, they’ll boil rather than sautée.
- Skip the sauce. Making the blended sauce is optional but highly recommended because it packs a lot of flavor. You can skip it if you’re in a hurry. Just cook the shrimp in the butter, garlic, and chile mixture.
- Add pasta. Remove the shrimp from the pan and add some boiled spaghetti with 1 tablespoon of extra butter. Let it melt and mix until well combined. Season with salt to taste. Serve the pasta with the shrimp and you’ve got a whole meal within minutes!
- Use red pepper flakes. If you don’t want to deal with removing the chile de arbol later, substitute them for red pepper flakes to taste.
What to Serve With Garlic Butter Shrimp
These garlic butter shrimp can be the star of your meal or an exciting little appetizer, depending on the serving size. In my opinion, they’re at their best when paired with Mexican or Tex-Mex mains or sides.
How to Store & Reheat Leftovers
- Refrigerate any cooled leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Don’t consume after three days to reduce the risk of food poisoning.
- To reheat, sprinkle the shrimp with two teaspoons of water and then pop them into the microwave for up to a minute or until warm. You can also heat them in the pan over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes.
More Easy Shrimp Recipes
- Shrimp, Chorizo, and Corn Skillet
- Lemon Garlic Shrimp Recipe
- Shrimp Corn Chowder
- Juicy Grilled Shrimp Kabobs
- Baked Batter “Fried” Shrimp with Garlic Dipping Sauce
Camarones al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon dried parsley
- ⅛ teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons chipotle adobo
- 5 whole chiles de arbol
- 8 guajillo chiles, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons water
- ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound medium to large fresh shrimp, shells removed and deveined
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Melt the butter in a large skillet set over low heat.
- Add the garlic, stir, and cook it for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. If the garlic browns too quickly, reduce the heat.
- Add the parsley, oregano, chipotle adobo, chile de Arbol, and guajillo chiles. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The guajillo chiles should have softened up a bit.
- Remove half of the chile guajillo from the pan and add them to a blender. To the blender, add the water and Worcestershire sauce. Blend until you get a smooth mixture.
- Raise the heat to medium-high and add the olive oil to the pan. Strain the blended sauce in. Stir to combine.
- Add the shrimp and cook for 1 to 2 minutes on each side or until pink and opaque. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust.
- Remove the chile de arbol and serve the shrimp. Enjoy!
- Shrimp: Use raw (gray) shrimp, not pink; the bagged pink shrimp are already cooked. You want to use uncooked and thawed raw shrimp.
- Peppers/Chiles: For this recipe, you will need two types of dried chiles and chipotle in adobo sauce. Guajillo Chiles and Chiles de Arbol can be purchased on Amazon or at any well-stocked grocery store. If you’d like to skip the peppers, you can always use a teaspoon or two of ground paprika and a bit of red pepper flakes.
- Serving Garlic Shrimp/Camarones al Ajillo: These can be served as an appetizer or main course. You can add the shrimp atop a bed of rice or serve pasta with the shrimp, and you’ve got a whole meal within minutes!
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.