A Spicy Perspective

Famous Gambas al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp Recipe)

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission.

Gambas al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp Recipe) – Classic Spanish recipe and popular dish from Curate Tapas Bar in Asheville, North Carolina.

Gambas Al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp) - Top view of this shrimp recipe from Curate in Asheville NC

Gambas Al Ajillo

I’m thrilled today to share with you a recipe from nationally renowned Chef Katie Button. Katie started Asheville’s famed restaurant Curaté, and shared not one but two recipes Gambas Al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp) and Pan con Tomate.

This simple Spanish Garlic Shrimp recipe is certainly more than meets the eye. Packed with garlic, arbol chile, and sherry flavor, it is the perfect protein dish to adorn a traditional tapas feast.

These big juicy shrimp kissed with spicy oil can be served as an appetizer, piled over potato puree, or even tossed with pasta.

This recipe served alongside some pan con tomate and mushrooms

About Katie Button

Katie Button’s culinary journey started in a curious place. She finished her undergrad at Cornell, then moved to Paris to get her Master’s in Biomedical Engineering. Although she excelled in math and science, Katie’s educational pursuit left a void in her life. Engineering offered her praise and potential prestige, but no real fulfillment.

While studying in Paris, Katie lived in a little apartment around the corner from Rue Mouffetard, famous for its glorious food markets. Fascinated by the Parisian way of savoring ingredients and giving proper respect to the foods they prepared, she spent endless hours practicing cooking techniques and experimenting in her tiny kitchen.

After returning to the states, Katie was accepted into a Ph.D. program for Neuroscience. Yet, two weeks before she was due to arrive,  Katie quit something for the first time in her life. She had a deep resolve that this was not the path meant for her. To the astonishment of friends and family, she took a wait staff position at Café Atlántico in Washington DC.

From a certain career in Neuroscience to a first-time waitress? Had Katie lost her compass? No. 

Katie looked at this as another opportunity to learn. Café Atlántico is no run-of-the-mill restaurant. It is one of several celebrated restaurants from renowned Chef José Andrés, one of the most respected chefs in the US. It should be noted that José Andrés trained in Spain under famed Chef Ferran Adrià of El Bulli, a Michelin 3 star winner, and considered the world’s BEST restaurant for 5 years. (Ferran Adrià is also thought of as the father of molecular gastronomy and culinary deconstructionism.)

Behind the scenes look at the kitchen at curate

A Long Journey To Gambas al Ajillo… And Other Spanish Recipes

Although Katie wasn’t allowed to work in the kitchen at Café Atlántico, for lack of formal training or experience; she would take her days off to come into work, simply to watch and learn. Interest became fortitude; fortitude became passion.

During this time, Ferran Adrià sent several of his employees to Washington DC to help his friend José Andrés with training. At this party came Felix Meana, El Bulli’s “Chef de Rang” or head of the dining room. Katie and Felix developed a strong bond and when it was time for Felix to return to Spain, it was decided that Katie would go with Felix and work at El Bulli. She still was not allowed in the kitchen, due to lack of experience, but she was the first American to ever serve at El Bulli and was able to study Chef Ferran Adrià’s flawless technique and ingenuity.

When Katie left Spain, she had the approval and recommendation of Ferran Adrià and was finally able to work in a professional kitchen, first at José Andrés’ The Bazaar in Los Angeles and then at Jean Georges in New York. To Katie’s delight, now that she had experience, she was offered a position back at El Bulli. There she finalized her “education” as a line cook in one of the most sought-after restaurants on the planet.

Gambas Al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp) - A few pieces of shrimp in a black bowl topped with a red chili pepper

Curate Tapas Bar

So what is she doing now, you ask? Katie Button and Felix Meana are in ASHEVILLE! When they returned to the states, they searched for the perfect place to open their first restaurant together. After a long road trip down the east coast, they decided Asheville, North Carolina had just the right feel and food culture in which to birth their dream.

With the help of Katie’s family, Curate Tapas Bar opened its doors on March 4th, 2011 and is feverishly making its mark on Asheville. Katie and Felix focus on high-quality ingredients, simple authentic Spanish preparations, and painstaking attention to detail. This casual eatery, serving rustic dishes, exudes elegance in every way. 

If you aren’t a local but plan to be in Asheville this spring, Curate Tapas Bar is definitely worth checking out!

Gambas Al Ajillo Ingredients
Raw seafood with some spices alongside it for seasoning

What Ingredients You Will Need

  • Whole Garlic Clovewith peel on
  • Garlic Clove sliced thin, this is in addition to the other garlic clove
  • Dried Arbol Chilior you can substitute with a pinch of chili flakes
  • Bay Leaf
  • Shrimpcleaned, peeled and butterflied with the tail left on
  • Light Olive Oilor an olive oil blend will work as well
  • Dry Sherry
  • Salt
Gambas Al Ajillo Recipe (Spanish Garlic Shrimp)
Cook the seafood in a hot pan to saute it to perfection

How To Make Gambas al Ajillo 

  1. Saute. Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat with the whole clove of garlic skin on, just until the skin on the garlic starts to brown.
  2. Slice Shrimp. Meanwhile salt the shrimp with a half a teaspoon of salt. Once the whole garlic clove has started to brown, add the sliced garlic, and as soon as the sliced garlic just barely begins to brown, add the arbol chili, bay leaf, and the shrimp.
  3. Add and Saute Again. Toss everything together in the saute pan cooking the shrimp. When the shrimp is halfway cooked (still raw in the center), remove from the heat and add the sherry, mix well, and return to the stove over medium heat.
  4. Remove Shrimp. As soon as the shrimp is just cooked through, remove the shrimp from the pan with tongs and place on the serving dish. Return the sauce to the stove and reduce a little bit, tasting and adjusting the seasoning for salt.
  5. Plate and Serve. Pour the hot sauce over the shrimp and serve immediately.

Get the Complete Printable Gambas al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp Recipe) Below. Enjoy!

Gambas Al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp) - Side view of this finished recipe ready to share with the table tapas style

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can I Store Leftover Garlic Shrimp In The Fridge?

Yes you can! Make sure to store it in an airtight container after it has fully cooled down, and just like other seafood leftovers you would want to eat it within 48 hours. 

Can I Freeze This Spanish Garlic Shrimp? 

Yes, again make sure that it is completely cool before putting it in a small airtight container with all the oil in the recipe. It can last for up to 3 months in the freezer.

Finished tapas recipe for the whole table

Other Great Spanish Recipes

Famous Gambas Al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Gambas al Ajillo from Curate Tapas Bar in Asheville, North Carolina.
Servings: 2


  • 1 clove garlic whole, with peel on
  • 1 clove garlic sliced thin
  • 1 dried arbol chili (sub. pinch of chili flakes)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 shrimp cleaned, peeled and butterflied with tail left on
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil or an olive oil blend
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • Salt


  • Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat with the whole clove of garlic skin on, just until the skin on the garlic starts to brown.
  • Meanwhile salt the shrimp with a half a teaspoon of salt. Once the whole garlic clove has started to brown, add the sliced garlic, and as soon as the sliced garlic just barely begins to brown, add the arbol chili, bay leaf, and the shrimp.
  • Toss everything together in the saute pan cooking the shrimp. When the shrimp is halfway cooked (still raw in the center), remove from the heat and add the sherry, mix well, and return to the stove over medium heat.
  • As soon as the shrimp is just cooked through, remove the shrimp from the pan with tongs and place on the serving dish. Return the sauce to the stove and reduce a little bit, tasting and adjusting the seasoning for salt.
  • Pour the hot sauce over the shrimp and serve immediately.



Serving: 1serving, Calories: 165kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 60mg, Sodium: 188mg, Potassium: 19mg, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 65IU, Vitamin C: 1.9mg, Calcium: 35mg, Iron: 0.5mg
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Seafood
Cuisine: American, Spanish
Author: Sommer Collier

Making this recipe? Follow us on Instagram and tag @ASpicyPerspective so we can share what you’re cooking!

Share This Recipe With Friends!

Comments are closed.

58 comments on “Famous Gambas al Ajillo (Spanish Garlic Shrimp Recipe)”

  1. Rope makers are inclined to enjoys confusing us with science
    and/or extraordinary polysyllabic names. I can try to cut through the guff a little.

  2. Good day! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m
    undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

  3. Wow, what a story..I wish Austin, TX had the food that Asheville has….

  4. Very much enjoyed reading this post and all the great pics! I have family in Asheville & surrounding areas and get up there quite often. My father in law is right in the historic area of downtown AVL. This restaurant is on my MUST TRY list now!! Thanks for sharing!!

  5. I been dying to look at this recipe but life’s kept me hopping for the last few weeks so it’s sat in my box. But now I’ve seen it and printed it and can’t wait to make it. I also look forward to heading to Asheville sooner than later so I can visit the restaurant myself. Thanks for sharing the story of Katie (and Felix).

  6. Mmh, can I say I love you right now? Not only you have 12 Bones Corn pudding recipe. But now the gambas al ajillo. We ate at Curate last night and had the pan con tomate (could have had more garlic for me but it was a good filler), the eggplant dish (oh so tasty) and the gambas, so good that I drank the broth and ate all the garlic.
    So thank you, thank you, can’t wait to try it at home and can’t wait to go back to curate.

  7. Great post – makes me want to visit Asheville!

  8. Would go read the rest of your blog posts now.

  9. Would go read the rest of your blog posts now.

  10. This is a wonderful story. It takes real guts to leave a solid career to follow your passion. These dishes remind me of my trip to Spain and look delicious.

  11. Wow!! What an interesting life story..It encourages me, that am trying to change my life too..
    And the photos are great! Thanks for sharing the experience!!

  12. What a great way of saying “follow your heart”! I love reading Katie’s story and will definitely visit the restaurant next time I am in Asheville – which I hope is soon!

  13. That is a really great story! I know quite a few people (including myself) who have gone down one path only to come back on another, following another passion altogether. It’s great to know it can result in success! And what fortune that she opens her restaurant in your town!!

  14. I LOVE Katie’s story! I feel inspired, in fact. Thank you for sharing this with us, Sommer!

    That tomato bread and I will be hanging out this afternoon….yum!

  15. By the way, I’ve given you an award today over at Deep Dish :)

  16. What an inspirational story about life’s turns and curves, not knowing what is round the corner and opening oneself to new possibilities. Love it!

    Coo Ra Tay – Fabulous! I love your foodie scene in Asheville.

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  17. What a wonderful and inspiring story. Those shrimp are making me salivate.

  18. Great story Sommer. I love all the neat people, and place you find. Thanks!

  19. Such an interesting read, I am often curious about what brings people from other career paths to cook professionally. I love the simplicity and the flavors of both recipes, thanks for sharing Sommer;-)

  20. Hi There, This is looking absolutely delightful. Very nicely made and presented. Have a great day !!!

  21. how lucky you are to have so many wonderful foodies in Asheville! I do need to come visit, perhaps a good place to retire…..sigh
    did I tell you that my favorite place to stay is right off the Rue Mouffetarde….what a glorious place!


  22. as always, great camera work to go with the captivating story. happy easter and cheers!

  23. What an inpiring story. Thanks for sharing!! I hope you have fun making the marshmallow cakes and frosting this weekend! I confess to eating the frosting straight from the spoon!!! It was tasty! lol ♥- Katrina

  24. It’s a great story, to which I will add only that in addition to offering tasty bites in the style of Seville (It is said that “tapas” was invented at El Rinconcillo, a bar in that city), Cúrate has a truly wonderful all-Spanish wine list. Escalivada con anchoas (eggplant salad with anchovies) with a glass of manzanilla (crisp, dry sherry) is an experience not to be missed. There are also several wonderful red wines by the glass, reasonably priced. Try the Peique Mencia Bierzo–soft, easy-drinking, and appropriately food-friendly.

  25. I loved this story! And of course the recipe too…but the story…I love when passion prevails….I am little biased maybe ’cause I also dropped out of my phd to follow a completely different life but Katie’s success is astonishing! Very inspiring.

  26. Wow, I didn’t realize how lucky we are to have this restaurant in our little city in the mountains! Thanks for the background information and the fabulous pictures. Food (and local beer too :-) is our passion in Asheville and its no wonder why we call ourselves a “Foodtopia.”

  27. What an amazing story! I am hoping to get to Asheville sometime this summer!

  28. Felix!!! q pasa???? me encantaría trabajar allí una temporada cuando cierre el bar, que dius???? un abrazo y cuídate!!!!

  29. Katie & her story had me hooked ! thanks for sharing sommers !

  30. It was so nice to read about Katie .. very inspirational! Thanks for sharing her recipes too :)

  31. This really looks wonderful! Great post – very interesting!

  32. What a great story. I think life is too short to take just one path. Katie is an inspiration. She really embodies Capre Diem!

  33. Oh, my…I want to hop in my car and head to Asheville right now! But since I have to go tux shopping with my teenager, I will just have to print off these fabulous recipes and keep my fingers crossed that I can make them. Gorgeous photos…and fun story.

  34. Thanks for sharing such a great story, and congrats to Katie for following her passion and opening up Curates Tapas Bar. Both dishes look delicious!

  35. What a wonderful story. You gotta do what you love in life, I’m glad she had success.
    I so wish I lived nearer I adore Tapas!

  36. What a great post and story…sounds like a wonderful cafe. Love the Gambas al Ajillo recipe, fantastic!

  37. A fascinating story about Katie. I love that tomato bread :-)

  38. What a fantastic story…and a fantastic recipe to go with it!

  39. Wonderful story, great photos, awesome recipes! I should have waited until after lunch to read this, I’m so hungry now! Next time we’re in Asheville we’ll be visit Curate. Thanks!

  40. Oh what a great post. I loved all the pictures and the next time we come to Asheville I am visiting this restaurant. Looks fabulous!

  41. Your article was very enlightening. Thanks.

  42. Thank you Sommer for such a wonderful article! Come visit us again soon.

  43. Fascinating story! Its always so inspiring to hear about someone who takes a chance and does something extraordinary. Well done. Love the recipes as well. When we were in Spain, we proly ate our weigh in Pan con Tomate.

  44. I love this story of someone listening to her heart and not her head and following her dreams! Looks like a magical place to dine. And your shrimp look mouthwatering!

  45. Look forward to checking this one out soon!

  46. Thank you for the behind the scenes story, I heard a little about them but this makes me even more curious. I’ve been thinking about trying it because it looks like real spanish food. I love Zambras but they are more spanish inspired than spanish.
    I love pan con tomate, we used to make it at home every summer and my mom would get us this soft chorizo (soubresade) from Andorra that we would add to it. MMh. Can’t wait for tomatoes to start popping, with some bread from the farmer’s market.

  47. OMG that tomato bread looks amazing! I can’t wait for tomato season here in NY.

    What an inspiration Katie is. Thanks for telling us her story.

  48. very much enjoyed reading her story. If someone who trained at El Bulli now has a restaurant in Asheville…definitely worth the trip! You folks in Asheville are sure lucky. Many thanks for your research and work on this post–thanks for sharing, Spicy!

  49. What an incredible story!! So inspiring – and definitely one to try!

  50. What awesome photos! I have never seen tomato bread and oh have I missed out!

  51. How fun! I studied abroad in Spain for about 5 months… so it is really fun to see all these familiar foods. :) Loving your blog!

  52. Can’t wait to try it. Have been dying for authentic tapas. Spoke with Eberhard at Asheville Wine Market a week or two ago and he said Curate is the real deal.

  53. Fantastic story…you had me eagerly reading every word! The restaurant looks fantastic…thanks for sharing these stories and recipes :)

  54. What a truly inspiring story, it really drives home the importance of following your passion.

  55. I love Spanish food and both dishes look fabulous!

  56. I’m so impressed. tomato bread is yummmmmmm I feel like I’m looking at a picture in a food magazine. thanks for sharing ur amazing expirense.

  57. I loved reading Katie’s story, and honestly, sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t have taken her path instead of being in my PhD program! ;) Both of those dishes from their restaruant look fantastic, but I am really drooling over that tomato bread.. mmmm…

  58. Both dishes look amazing. I’ve always been a fan of tomato bread since I visited spain. Thanks for sharing your amazing expirence!