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Easy Spanish Prawn Tapas

This Spanish Prawn Tapas is inspired by classic Spanish gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp). Juicy, marinated prawns swimming in a spicy, garlicky olive oil sauce. Served with crusty baked bread to dip and chopped olives. Perfect for entertaining.

spanish prawn tapas on a blue platter with pan of garlic shrimp in the background

These Spanish-style garlic prawn tapas are made with a handful of bold-flavored ingredients, like fresh prawns, EVOO, garlic, sherry wine, and parsley. And can you say easy peasy? I love when a recipe this flavorful is this easy. You’ll need to do some garlic smashing, mincing and slicing -but, other than that, this light and refreshing appetizer is practically effortless!

Tapas-style hors d’oeuvres and small plates are perfect for bridal showers, picnics, and small get-togethers with friends. I love eating tapas-style, and I love prawns, so making this easy tapas inspired by gambas al ajillo just made sense!

Not to mention, prawns are a fantastic lean protein source, so you can feel good about serving this dish at your next tapas party! Can’t find prawns? That’s okay. You can use shrimp and prawns interchangeably in this dish. Enjoy!

Why You’ll Love this Seafood Tapas Recipe

  • You’ll bring the sweet, savory and spicy flavors of classic Spanish garlic prawns straight to your kitchen.
  • You can serve it as an appetizer or entree.
  • Garlic! If you love garlic, this recipe is for you. Big, juicy prawns marinated in garlic AND cooked in garlic. It’s just so good.
  • It’s a super easy and elegant dish to throw together quickly before a dinner party.
  • Gluten-free adaptable -serve the dish with your favorite gluten-free bread or crackers.

Ingredients You’ll Need

baguette, olive oil, prawns, spices, parsley, and garlic on a wood board
  • Garlic: and lots of it! This recipe is definitely for garlic lovers. The shrimp are marinated in garlic, cooked in garlic and served with garlic.
  • Raw Prawns (peeled and deveined): Large to XL prawns are a good size. As hors d’oeuvres, a pound is a perfect amount for 4 to 6 people. You can use any size; keep in mind they will shrink when cooked. You can also use shrimp instead of prawns if you’d like.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Spanish cuisine showcases the best quality EVOO, and Spanish olive oil is undoubtedly the best. Using Spanish EVOO makes a world of difference.
  • Kosher Salt: enhances the naturally salty flavor of seafood dishes.
  • Baking Soda: This gives the prawn a slight crisp while the insides remain plump and juicy.
  • Bay Leaf: adds a layer of savory, peppery flavor.
  • Dried Red Pepper Flakes (or chili guajillo pepper): for some pleasant heat and smoky flavor. Use more or less depending on how spicy you like it.
  • Sherry Wine: I used sherry wine to deglaze the pan and add a burst of flavor. If you have a bottle of white wine around like pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc, that works too, but I recommend sticking to the sherry for the best flavor.
  • Fresh Parsley: brightens and enhances everything about the recipe.
  • Kalamata Olives (seeded and chopped): Sweet and salty kalamata olives pair perfectly with these garlicky prawns. Feel free to use a blend of green and black olives here.
  • Baguette Loaf (baked and sliced): This dish is traditionally served with crusty bread. I like using the bread as a vessel for the prawns and dunking it into the tasty sauce. This dish is the perfect finger food.

How To Make Spanish Prawn Tapas {Garlic Shrimp}

Step 1: Marinate prawns.

In a large bowl, toss the prawns with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, baking soda, and 2 cloves of minced garlic (about a tablespoon). Coat the prawns well. Cover the bowl and set it aside for 30 minutes at room temperature.

raw prawns/shrimp marinating in a garlic olive oil marinade

Step 2: Cook smashed garlic.

Next, add 6 tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-low heat. While the oil heats, smash 4 of the garlic cloves and then add them to the skillet. Cook until the garlic softens and begins to become lightly golden -the garlic will cook quickly, so keep an eye on it. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a small plate. Turn the heat off. This step is infusing the oil with more garlicky goodness.

smashed garlic cooking in olive oil

Step 3: Cook aromatics.

Once the prawns are finished marinating, this recipe comes together in a cinch. Reheat the skillet over low heat. While the oil reheats, cut the remaining garlic cloves into thin slices and then add them to the skillet with the bay leaf and red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).

garlic, pepper, and bay leaf cooking in olive oil

Step 4: Add prawns.

Raise the heat to medium-low and add marinated prawns. Cook them for about a minute on each side or until they turn pink and are no longer opaque). Larger prawns may need to be cooked longer on each side.

Step 5: Deglaze skillet.

As soon as the prawns are no longer opaque, increase the heat to high and add the sherry and parsley. Cook for 15 to 20 seconds, scraping any bits from the bottom of the skillet. Immediately transfer to a serving dish.

cooked prawns in garlic, olive oil, and spices in a cast iron skillet

Step 6: Serve.

Serve shrimp hot with the smashed garlic, chopped olives, and sliced crusty bread. Sprinkle with more fresh parsley. Enjoy!

spanish prawns with garlic in a cast iron skillet with a tray of sliced bread and olives

Recipe Tips

  • The sauce is truly the star of this dish, so be sure to use bold-flavored quality ingredients.
  • If your prawns are frozen, you can place them in a deep container under cool running water to thaw.
  • Be sure to pat the prawns dry before marinating so they better absorb all of the flavors.
  • Don’t skip the fresh parsley!. It adds peppery citrus flavor and brightens up the whole dish.
  • Before serving, you can squeeze fresh lemon juice over the dish and garnish it with a sprinkling of paprika.
a prawn on top of a crusty baguette slice with olives, garlic, and olive oil

Variations

These garlicky prawns can also be served as a filling meal. Try serving the prawns and spicy olive oil sauce:

  • over pasta: Toss the prawns and olive oil with freshly cooked linguine, angel hair or penne.
  • with rice and veggies: Serve with cooked rice and a simple green salad for a light, refreshing and gluten-free entree.

with gluten-free bread or crackers! The prawns are already gluten-free.

What Else To Serve At A Tapas-Party

Hosting a dinner party tapas-style is one of my favorite ways to entertain. Along with Spanish prawns, I set out a variety of cold and warm appetizers and finger foods. Try a few of my favorites:

Storing & Freezing

Storing: This dish is best served immediately but kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. To reheat, warm a tablespoon of oil in a pan and gently heat the shrimp through without overcooking them. Freezing is not recommended.

Recipe FAQ

Are prawns and shrimp the same thing?

While very similar, no -prawns and shrimp are not the same. Prawns are larger and meatier than shrimp, and the meat is much sweeter. They can be used interchangeably in most recipes.

Can I use frozen prawns?

You can make this dish with fresh or frozen prawns. If frozen, you’ll need to thaw them first. To thaw, place them in a deep bowl under running cool water or thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. Pat well with paper towels before marinating.

How do you know when prawns are done?

When prawns are cooked through, they are pink and white and will have shrunk in size a bit. They should not be gray or opaque.

spanish prawn tapas in a skillet with sliced bread on the side

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close up of Spanish prawn tapas on a blue platter with fresh parsley

Spanish Prawn Tapas

This Spanish Prawn Tapas is inspired by classic Spanish gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp). Juicy, marinated prawns swimming in a spicy, garlicky olive oil sauce. Served with crusty baked bread to dip and chopped olives. Perfect for entertaining.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Marinating Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 360kcal
Author: Amee

Ingredients

  • 14 cloves garlic
  • 1 lb raw prawns or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 dried chili guajillo pepper can sub red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp sherry cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives chopped
  • 1 baguette loaf baked and sliced

Instructions

  • Combine prawns, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt, baking soda, and 2 cloves minced garlic together in a bowl.
  • Toss well to coat, cover and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add 6 tbsp olive oil.
  • Smash 4 of the garlic cloves and add to oil.
  • Cook until garlic is lightly golden, then transfer garlic to a small plate and set pan aside and turn off heat until shrimp has finished marinating.
  • Slice 8 cloves of garlic into thin slices and return skillet to a low heat.
  • Cook garlic slices and add in bay leaf and dried chili.
  • Turn heat up to medium-low and add shrimp, cooking until just pink (about 2 minutes, turning them once)
  • Increase heat to high and add sherry and parsley.
  • Cook for 15-20 seconds and serve immediately with chopped olives and bread.

Notes

  • The sauce is truly the star of this dish, so be sure to use bold-flavored quality ingredients.
  • If your prawns are frozen, you can place them in a deep container under cool running water to thaw.
  • Be sure to pat the prawns dry before marinating so they better absorb all of the flavors.
  • Don’t skip the fresh parsley!. It adds peppery citrus flavor and brightens up the whole dish.
  • Before serving, you can squeeze fresh lemon juice over the dish and garnish it with a sprinkling of paprika.

Nutrition

Calories: 360kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 15g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 95mg | Sodium: 1294mg | Potassium: 169mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 238IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 93mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @ameecooks or tag #ameecooks!

*Posted May 21, 2016. Updated November 30, 2021.

Amee Livingston
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11 Comments

  1. ahh these shrimp photos are making me HUNGRY. I love shrimp, so I must try this out! Great idea for this month 🙂

    xo,
    Sarah Grace

  2. I can say easy peasy!!! I love this and have wanted shrimp for moons! Not to convince the hubby to eat it with me!

  3. I love the simplicity of this! Garlic and shrimp is one of the best combos – you really don’t need much more!

5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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