Gambas al ajillo

I have often spoken about the pintxos, so let me talk today about the tapas for a change.

Gambas al ajillo are one of those tapas that if the ingredients are fresh, they will put a smile on your face. They are simple to prepare and can be enjoyed within minutes, therefore you may cook these for your next dinner party, just as your guests arrive.

Traditionally this dish is cooked and served in a shallow terracotta dish. My grandmother used to cook in it and I like it too, however, you can use a normal pan too.

If you ever buy a terracotta dish, please read the instructions from the potters as many of them require to be submerged in water prior to been used and failing to do so might cause cracks… I have just warned you.

Cooking time: 15 minutes
Quantity: This mix makes a starter size portion for 4


1. Only use raw prawns.

2. If you buy frozen ones, make sure that you defreeze properly prior to cooking. I normally take them off the bag, place them in cold water and let the ice melt. Keep an eye on them as the ice will only melt for as long as the water is “warmer” than 0 degrees Celsius (freezing temperature). Change the water as required until fully defrosted. Pat them dry in a paper towel to avoid splashing of oil.

3. Do not be tempted to use warm or hot water. Do not use the microwave either. (By the way, I might just come clean now: I do not use microwaves ever. I simply do not believe in them. So apologies to those who rather cook that way)


250 gr of peeled raw king prawns
4 large cloves of garlic sliced thinly
3 Birdseye chillies
5 spoons of olive oil
Maldon salt

Cooking Instructions:

Place the oil, the garlic and chillies in a pan and heat in medium heat.

When the garlic turns light gold, add the prawns.

Make sure that you turn them regularly to coat them with the oil and avoid any side to be overcooked.

As soon as all prawns are pink rather than grey, turn the heat off and move continuously in the pan as you shake the pan for half a minute. This will make the oil mix a bit thicker.

If you have cooked on the terracotta pan, you can serve on it, if not, place on a serving plate and add a touch of Maldon salt.

Photograph by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Recipe by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate

Please feel free to use this recipe for your own personal use, not commercially. All images and recipes are property of the author/s as specified and all rights are reserved. If you wanted to share any of the information provided, send a link to the website but do not extract/copy the information without prior permission.