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How to Make Perfect Spanish Tapas- Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Prawns)

Updated on October 19, 2010

Garlic Prawns or Gambas al Ajillo are another one of the most popular Tapas dishes in Spain. This quick and easy dish is so simple to prepare and is bursting with some wonderful flavors and aromas! If you are love prawns and you love garlic and have never tried Gambas al Ajillo before then you are in for a treat. If you have tried this dish before and are looking for a more authentic way to cook it, then read on.

The best place I ever ate this dish was when I lived on the Canary Island of Lanzarote. There was a beachfront restaurant near my house that was famous for its garlic prawns. All day long 7 days a week this restaurant sold plate after plate. The smell was so amazing that it got to point that I found it difficult to even walk past outside without stopping in!

I will give you a couple of tips for eating this dish though: Firstly don’t eat it if you are attending a business meeting or attending a party later that afternoon. Second, if you are on a first date, then don’t have this unless your date is eating it as well! This dish is call Garlic Prawns for a very good reason!

The most important thing for great garlic prawns is, of course, buying great prawns. There are a couple of things that you need to avoid at all costs to get the best out of this dish. Firstly never buy fresh pre cooked prawns. They just don’t taste the same. I’m always disappointed that here on mainland Spain some very good restaurants cut corners by adding pre cooked prawns to hot garlic oil and expect their customers not to notice the difference. Second don’t buy frozen raw prawns. When defrosted you will find that they halve in size and then halve again when cooking in the hot oil. Also they will leave behind slight foam that will discolor the oil and look unpleasing to the eye. To get this recipe perfect buy fresh raw, medium sized prawns and take the time to peel them. Yes it’s less convenient, but the final product will be far superior.

Another thing that you would be an ideal investment is an earthenware pot such as the ones below. These are fantastic as they can go on the stove top and this means that the prawns can be cooked and served in the same dish.


So let’s have a look at the list of ingredients:

6 to 8 Prawns per person

5 to 10 large cloves of Garlic, minced. (I prefer 10)

1 teaspoon sweet Spanish paprika

2 Gundillas, or dried cayenne chillie peppers.

A large glug of dry sherry

Enough Olive Oil to completely cover the prawns. (Any kind will do, but extra virgin works best)

2 teaspoons of chopped parsley

Juice squeezed from half a lemon

French stick to serve


1: Peel and devein the prawns

2: In the earthenware dish, heat the oil over a medium heat and then add the chillis and garlic. Fry the for a couple of minute taking care not to burn. If the garlic burns, then discard the oil and start again.

3: Turn the heat up to high and add the prawns, Lemon juice, paprika and dry sherry. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the prawns turn pink.

4: Remove from the heat and sprinkle with parsley. Splash the oil with some iced water causing the prawns to sizzle and immediately cover with and upturned dinner plate.

5: Serve immediately; you will impress your guests with sizzling prawns when you remove the dinner plate at the table.

6: Allow everyone to help themselves and ensure that there is plenty of bread to mop up the leftover garlic oil.

Wash down with lots of chilled white wine or ice cold beer.


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    • profile image

      ian gibbons 

      2 years ago

      What was the restaurant love Lanza.and my favourite food :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      wonderful recipe and method closed our eyes and thought we were in gran canirea lovely gracias


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