Garlic Prawns Recipe

Gambas al Pil Pil

Garlic prawns served in tapas bars and restaurants all over Spain are usually called Gambas al Ajillo. Visitors to Madrid should make a point of ordering this classic dish in Casa del Abuelo (Calle Victoria, 12). This famous tapas bar remains largely unchanged since it began serving sizzling dishes of garlic prawns back in 1906. In the south of Spain, garlic prawns are often called Gambas al Pil Pil which is a very similar dish to Gambas al Ajillo but uses paprika in its sauce.

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Whole, dried cayenne peppers would typically be used in this recipe but if you can’t get them then you can use a little cayenne or chilli powder. The quantity you use of either of these ingredients simply depends on how spicy you want the dish to be. Gambas al Pil Pil would typically be cooked in an earthenware dish sitting directly on a gas flame, however, when this isn’t possible it can simply be prepared in a hot frying pan.


Serves 4 as a tapa

  • 20 or 24 peeled prawns
  • 4 – 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 – 4 dried whole cayenne peppers, leave whole or roughly chopped.
  • Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika powder
  • Salt
  • Parsley (optional)

Cooking Method

Put enough olive oil in your earthenware dish or frying pan to make sure the bottom is well covered and put it onto a medium heat.

Once the oil is hot add the cayenne peppers and once they start sizzling add the garlic, paprika, a little salt and fry for 2 or 3 minutes.

Garlic Prawns Recipe - Gambas al Ajillo

Turn the heat up to ensure that the prawns are going into hot oil, add the prawns and fry for 3 or 4 minutes until the prawns become pink. You can sprinkle a little chopped parsley over the prawns at this stage if you like.

Serve with some crusty bread which you will want to dip into the delicious sauce. It’s debatable whether the prawns or the sauce are the best part of this dish.

Hint: Make sure the dish that you use is not too small and that the oil lies quite low in the dish or it will spill over the edge when you add the prawns.

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