Gambas al Pil Pil is a super quick and easy tapa that can be made in minutes at home. This is a dish not for the faint hearted, because it is spicy, it is sooo garlicky and it is full of oil! And so delicious! Some crusty bread to mop up all that delicious oil is a must! It is one of my favourite tapas dishes and I can never resist ordering it when in Spain.
Many regions in Spain claim credit for this beautiful dish of prawns cooked in a hot, garlicky sauce, but whether it originated in the Basque country or Andalucia, it is a dish found all over Spain.
The term “pil pil” is certainly Basque in origin. And while it is synonymous with dishes cooked this way (oil, garlic and chilli), it is also onomatopoeic. Pil pil sounds like the sizzling that takes place when the garlic and prawns are cooking away in the hot oil. It is also a term that refers to anything that is red hot. That sums up the dish, doesn’t it?
This is a super quick recipe and can be made while your guests are sat at the table, as the perfect starter, when entertaining. You can adjust the amount of chilli you use to suit your taste, and the type of paprika, whether hot or mild. I’ve had this dish in so many guises, every region seems to have its own take: which just some whole red peppers, with and without paprika.
I give you an option of 1 – 2 tsp paprika. I love the deep, almost bitter flavour that a generous amount of paprika gives to a dish. If you’re not sure what I mean, or are not a big fan, then I suggest going for 1 tsp the first time you make it.
The last time we were in Spain, I filmed some cooking classes and had a jolly old time with the Spanish neighbours all giving me different bits of advice – it was hilarious! Here’s a picture of me after the Paella shoot.
The best prawns (shrimps) will be the largest you can find. I personally like to cook them in their shells, after removing the heads and cleaning them. Cooking prawns in shells result in prawns that are tastier and plumper. But that is a matter of choice, lose the shells completely if you prefer. And don’t wear a white shirt!
This is one of the dishes I teach in my Summer Tapas classes and my aprons never come back clean!
Do you have a favourite tapa dish? Have you been to Spain? I’d love to know.
- 12 large prawns (shrimps/gambas)
- 3 Tbsp EV olive oil
- 3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 - 2 tsp hot, smoky paprika
- half tsp red chilli flakes
- half - 1 tsp salt, to taste
- 4 Tbsp water
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 4 sprigs parsley, finely chopped
- Clean the prawns by removing the heads and squeezing any gunk out. Leave the shells on.
- Gently tug the veins out. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil on medium-high heat and fry the garlic, paprika and chilli flakes for 30 seconds.
- Add the prawns and salt and coat well.
- Pour in the water, mix and cook for 3 - 5 minutes, until the prawns are done.
- Drizzle the lemon juice all over, stir and take off heat.
- Scatter the parsley and serve immediately.