Baked Shrimp with Tomatillos

Some things taste so much better than they look. This is an odd looking dish with the orangey pink shrimp and the light yellow-y green tomatillos, speckled here and there with white Cotija cheese and green cilantro. And you might be thinking, what kind of combination is that?

But hear me out. This odd assortment of ingredients is just a Southwestern riff off a shrimp saganaki, which is typically made with feta and tomato sauce. One of the best received recipes on this site is for baked shrimp in tomato feta sauce. It just works.

The onions and the shrimp provide the sweetness, the tomatillos or tomatoes the acidity, the Cotija queso seco or feta the saltiness, and the cilantro or parsley the bitter. Wrap some in a flour tortilla and you practically have a shrimp quesadilla with salsa verde.

From the recipe archive, first posted 2010.

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Baked Shrimp with Tomatillos Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Shrimp can be cooked either shell on or shell off. Cooking with the shell on will result in better flavor, but can be fussy to eat, as you have to pick off the shells as you eat them. Shelling and deveining the shrimp before cooking can add a good 10 minutes to prep time, but the resulting dish is easier to eat. This is a one pan dish, going from stove-top to oven, so use an oven-proof pan.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
  • 1-2 jalapeno chiles, seeded, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb tomatillos, chopped
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup clam juice OR 1/4 cup water*
  • 1 lb shrimp, cleaned, deveined
  • 1 cup Cotija queso seco cheese (can substitute feta)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • Lime juice
  • Black pepper
  • An oven-proof sauté pan or cast iron pan

*One time we made this we used tequila instead of clam juice, it was good too!

Method

1 Heat oil in the pan you will use for baking. Add the onions and jalapeños, cook for 5 minutes on medium high until the onions begin to brown. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add the tomatillos, reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, until the tomatillos are cooked through, but still hold their shape. Sprinkle salt over the tomatillos as they are cooking.

2 If using clam juice, add to pan, turn up the heat and reduce by half. If using water, just add the 1/4 cup of water without reducing.

3 Add the cheese and shrimp. Cook in a preheated 425°F oven for 10 minutes.

4 Remove pan from the oven. If using a pan with a handle, such as a cast iron frying pan, I recommend cooling the handle with ice for safety; it's so easy to forget that pan has just come out of the oven, and you grab the hot handle by mistake. Right before serving, mix in the cilantro and sprinkle with lime juice and freshly ground black pepper.

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71 Comments

  1. Christina

    This was absolutely delicious! We ate it in flour tortillas with sour cream, and I can’t wait for lunch tomorrow for leftovers. I’m not sure it needed the water, it came out of the oven with plenty of its own liquid. How do you always seem to know what is in my CSA box? I had everything but the shrimp and cheese.

  2. Anna Ruby

    This is exactly the recipe I was looking for. I just moved to a coastal Mexican town and I want to take advantage of the seafood and local flavors. I think I’m going to try a stove-top version of this. Instead of baking do you think I could cover it and let it simmer? Maybe without the added water?

    It’s worth a try! ~Elise

  3. Kevin Hunt

    That was a wonderful recipe to start from! Since my wife can’t eat shrimp, I substituted chicken thigh (I browned and removed it before cooking the onion base), and used 3 homegrown serrano chiles and a bit of orange pepper to add bulk. The flavors were outstanding, and my wife definitely wants this again – I might replace the meat with portabello mushroom and some beans.

  4. Ruth

    Made this last night and it was delicious. I followed the recipe as written but didn’t add the extra liquid and it was so juicy we ate it like stew.

  5. Kay

    I made this Saturday night. Used a little tequila instead of water/clam juice which you had suggested. I served this over rice. Absolutely delicious! My husband and I ate all of it. I used feta because I couldn’t find the cotija cheese.

  6. Candy C.

    Thanks Elise! Made this last night and it was awesome! I used my homegrown tomatillos and jalapenos and homemade goat milk Queso Blanco. Hubby pronounced it an A+!

  7. Linda

    I made this last Friday and my boyfriend and I could not stop eating it. I was apprehensive at first about the different tastes (I had never cooked with tomatillos before), but everything was gorgeous tasting.

  8. ingrid

    Excellent dish. We have an abundance of tomatillos in our berkeley garden, & this was a wonderful way to use them. Thanks!

  9. Marisa

    Whoa, Mama. I’m eating it as we speak. Complex tasting but so easy to make. The bake time gave me time to clean up the kitchen. I used a combination of Queso Blanco and Feta, one jalapeno (I like spicy food but one was enough), and juice from half a lime and a little more cilantro.

    The acidity is so pleasing. Instead of a biting taste, it tastes very fresh and invigorating. Great job, Elise and company! What a fantastic recipe.

  10. Rob

    This was very tasty; thanks for the interesting recipe! I also served it over rice (brown). I made it with shell-on shrimp and put into practice what I learned at a Korean restaurant: shrimp shells are edible.

  11. Elaine

    Hi, Elise. We made this for dinner and oh, my goodness, it was simply delicious! We used tequila instead of the clam juice and ate it on a flour tortilla with sour cream. I am adding this to my repertoire and will be fixing this for my family on a regular basis.

  12. Roxann

    Elise, I adjusted this slightly to work with the Weight Watchers program (reduced the amount of olive oil and cheese a bit) and it was FABULOUS!!! I was cautious due to the odd combination of ingredients (as you noted) but you’re so right! They all work amazingly well together.

    Thank you!

  13. wes

    I made this last night, and it was SO GOOD! Amazing! I used a purple onion instead (all I had), and tequila instead of clam juice.
    This one is a keeper.

  14. panthonme

    What a great recipe! Made it for my girlfriend and we loved it. We like it a little bit more spicey so instead of two jalepenos, I used 1 large jalapeno and two serrano chiles. It was spicey and delicious.Thank you. We look forward to more of your recipes.

  15. Susan

    Thank you for the recipe!! I made this last night and it was delicious!!! This is definitely a keeper for me! Thank you again!

  16. Deb

    I thought we’d really love this as we like everything in it but we found this rather bland. I followed the recipe exactly; we ate it but weren’t wowed. I like this blog and will continue to try recipes here; this one just wasn’t for us.

    If it was bland, it may be that the tomatillos were too ripe. Tomatillos are very tart and flavorful. But if they get a little over ripe, light in color instead of vibrant green, they can lose their intensity. ~Elise

  17. Edith

    Made this last night. Yes, it is an odd combo but the end result was delicious!

  18. Steve Dunham

    We made this for lunch with some small, purple tomatillos that I got from the farmers market. I served it as tacos with Rancho Gordo tortillas. We were really pleased with the results and will definitely make it again. (The cheese even got slightly browned in the oven.)

    The one tweak I made was to simmer the shrimp shells and heads in a little water for 5 minutes to make a broth to use in lieu of the clam juice.

  19. Christina

    This recipe was DELICIOUS!! We had a ton of tomatillos from the garden. I used the feta sprinkled on top along with the cilantro. Leftovers were amazing too. SOOO GOOOOOOD!

  20. Harriette

    Hello, wow that looks good and I really love shrimp. My question is; is there any way to leave out the cheese? I really don’t like cheese (and I really really don’t like feta!)Maybe I’ll just make it for the family and I’ll have something else!

    If you try it without the cheese, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

    • Gary

      Just leave it out then! : / have something else because this is amazing, as is! We enjoy at least twice a month. : )

  21. Anna Ruby

    This was so good, I did manage to successfully convert it to a stove top recipe and I loved it. If you want to check out the changes I made, the link is http://epistolariyum.com/?p=212

  22. Chris

    Made this tonight, and it came out *amazing*! I took your flour tortilla idea, and served it as taco filling, and it was a hit.

  23. katie

    I just made this for dinner and it was great! I added red pepper flakes and had to used queso fresco instead of the cojito. I also made rice and stirred that it.

  24. Bee

    I made this for dinner tonight and also added red pepper flakes at the end and used Queso Fresco. We served ours over low carb linguine.

  25. Kristin

    This was really, really good! We also used the shrimp tails to make a broth which was a great idea, and good use of all parts :) The only thing “wrong” was we used the non-melting kind of Cotija cheese, so it ended up clumping, instead of blending. But that’s okay…we’ll just have to make this again with the right cheese! Thanks for another great recipe, Elise!

    Actually the cotija does clump, it’s not really a melty cheese, but that’s okay in this recipe. ~Elise

  26. Leo

    Simply delicious!
    I think the factor that pushed there dish from an 9/10 to a 10/10 was the last three ingredients added right before serving. I tasted the shrimp/tomatillo right out of the oven and it had a good flavor, but combining that lime juice, cilantro, and pepper took it to another level! It had some sort of orgasmic chemical reaction w/ the shrimp and the results were one tasty, complex concoction. I would never have suspected tomatillo, shrip and cotija to taste this delicious together!
    I highly recommend this dish, especially if u want to make something simple that taste like it took hours to make.

  27. Leo

    … oh i forgot to mention. I substituted the 2 Jalapenos w/ one large one and two serranos. And instead of 1/2 cup clam juice, i used 1/4 cup tequila and 1/4 cup clam juice.
    Very very tasty.

  28. woots

    Made this last night and we really enjoyed it. We used Tequila instead of the water/clam juice. Next time, I’ll use a couple serrano peppers instead of the jalapenos because we wanted a little more kick to it. We served it over rice. Delish.

  29. Sergio

    Just one question before I show it to my wife to try it. Do you use the shrimps boiled or raw?

    You start with raw shrimp. ~Elise

  30. Motyka

    I’m glad to hear that tequila could substitute the clam juice because I am allergic to shellfish! Is there another fish that could substitute the shrimp? Has anyone made this with other fishes? I really want to try this.

  31. Motyka

    Well, I think I may be able to rid myself of some of the jealousy I have for those who can eat shellfish without having to get rushed to the ER :-) because…

    I went ahead and tried this with mahi pieces, tequila, and feta cheese, and it was quite a yummy concoction! I really wanted to make this because I discovered how yummy tomatillos are in salsa, but was skeptical about the cheese and fish combo. But of course, as is with every recipe I’ve tried on this site, it was deelish! I would put in the extra effort and go to the store and buy the Cotija next time… the feta was good, but I think I would have liked the Cotija better.

  32. annah

    can i use cooked shrimp?

    Well then you would essentially have twice-cooked shrimp, making the shrimp overcooked and rubbery. ~Elise

  33. Carla

    This was wonderful. I was afraid it would be too sour (the tomatillos are sour, as is the cheese), but the final product wasn’t sour. I would suggest crumbling the cheese up pretty well before adding it to the dish or you will, as I did, end up with really big clumps of it, as it doesn’t melt well.

    Thanks for this great recipe! We will definitely have it again.

  34. Marsha

    This recipe is awesome! My husband and I loved this. It was so easy to put together and is worthy of serving to company. Thanks!!

  35. Raluca

    Do you know if any one has made this only using a jar of Salsa Verde as in your baked chicken recipe? Just curious if it would work in a similar way. Thanks. :-)

  36. Kristin

    This was GREAT! Made it for a friend and I…it’s healthy and pretty low fat/carb, but tasted so rich and flavorful. My friend, an Italian girl with a cooking flair, was definitely impressed!! Thanks for the great recipe.

  37. Norma Lewis

    Has anyone tried this recipe using olive oil instead of vegetable oil?

  38. Christine Cosner

    Wow, this is just absolutely to die for…thanks!

  39. Meghan

    Dear Lord! This sounds wonderful.

  40. hillbilly willy

    Willy likes tomatillos in anything.

    10-4 Willy

  41. Lynn

    Thanks for re-posting – it was perfect timing! I just got tomatillos in my CSA and didn’t know what to do with them. Made this tonight with halibut and it was very tasty!

  42. Leslie

    whaaaaa? I think this dish is beautiful!!! I can only imagine all of the bright flavors!

  43. Leah

    Our grocery store seldom has fresh tomatillos in their produce section. However, they do carry canned tomatillos. Do you think canned could be a successful substitute in this recipe? If so, would I need to use one, or maybe two, jars?

    Great question. I have never used canned tomatillos so I don’t know how it they would work. If you do give a try with canned tomatillos, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

  44. C.

    This recipe was awesome! But definitely be sure to remember that the handle on the saute pan is DEFINITELY still hot after coming out of the oven. Luckily, even though I burned my hand, I had the tasty food to make up for it!

  45. Denise

    Elise, great recipe idea. I am always at a loss when it comes to tomatillos. I usually roast them up, then chop them up and toss them in a salsa. Definitely keeping this in mind for the next time I need an interesting and quick dinner to make. I even have a pound of shrimp in the freezer!

  46. Zeeona @ Basil and Strawberry

    It looks really nice, even though I don’t know what tomatillos are.

  47. Sally

    I’ll have to try this. More than baked shrimp in tomato feta sauce (which I love!), it reminds me of your recipe for salsa verde chicken (which I also love).

    By the way, I finally tried your recipe for Swedish Meatballs. Delicious! I’ve tried many over the years and none were “right.” Yours were.

  48. Fork and Whisk

    Oh wow. Looks and sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing. YUM!!!

  49. Rocky Mountain Woman

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I have a glut of tomatillos right now that has threatened to take over the whole house!

    I’ve been roasting and freezing them, but this looks far better!

    xxoo,

    RMW

  50. Raven

    We keep canned tomatillos on hand because our local stores don’t carry a wide range of produce. Made this recipe tonight and substituted those for fresh; just had to drain the extra liquid once they were chopped. Also used leftover turkey thigh instead of shrimp, so subbed your tequila suggestion for clam juice. Served it with rice and got rave reviews!

  51. Christian Gehman

    Yum … that looks great. Trader J has a really great all sheep milk feta (in brine, in cans) that works better for most recipes than cow milk feta.

  52. kellypea

    I can’t wait to try this — I love tomatillos and don’t often see great recipes to showcase them in. YUM. Sunday dinner this weekend :)

  53. Zac

    Tried making this for the family and it turned out great! One question though, my family tends to like seafood on the rarer side, a little juicy. The shimp were just a bit more done than we like. Would cooking them seperatly, say on a gas grill compromise flavor from everything stewing together? Would it be better to throw the shrimp in a few minutes after putting in the oven? Thanks! PS this went really well with the jalapeño cheddar biscuits.

    I think you could easily grill the shrimp separately, and toss them in at the end. Sounds great! ~Elise

  54. Jeanie

    Fantastic! I will make this again and again!

  55. Gary Z

    This seems like too much liquid for the suggested tortilla wrap. Enchiladas, maybe? Looks great and will have to try, in any case. Thanks!

  56. Dawn

    Fantastic – just made this with a few changes. First I am on a no fat, no salt diet. So I sauteed the veggies in a little wine. I couldn’t use clam juice (too salty) so I used no salt chicken stock. I omitted the cheese too, for salt and fat reasons. Finally, I finished the dish on the stove top – took about 5 mins for the shrimp to cook through. I have to say that it was totally fantastic. I didn’t even miss the salt or oil. It was spicy, rich, tasty and satisfying. Thanks Elise!

    P.S. Quick comment for Gary Z – my sauce was quite thick, it would have been great in tortillas – it would not have run out of the egdes! We had it over rice, and it was perfect with that too.

  57. Kristin

    Thanks for reposting. This is one of my favorite recipes from your site!

  58. Sarah Koszyk

    This is a timeless recipe and should be re-posted annually. Talk about simple, quick, and exquisitely delicious. We ate it with tortillas and rice and made burritos. All-in-one dinner. So good. Tomatillos seem so daunting to make and use because they are a little more “exotic”, but they are super simple and I treat them just like zucchini when cooking. Thanks for re-posting!

  59. Kathryn Bailey

    Hey Elise, amazeballs. Seriously. Wow.

  60. Grazia

    This dish looks really delicious. I’m making it tomorrow I hope mine too will look as good as yours :)

  61. kgbahama

    Made this last night..absolutely delicious…my kids ate it over rice and in tortillas with a little sour cream… umm umm good… Thanx

  62. Edie

    Would I be able to substitute green tomatoes for the tomatillas? Elise, my family has loved every one of your recipes I have tried. I don’t go anywhere else anymore to look for something new!

    Tomatillos are very flavorful and tart, and are essential to this version of the classic dish. That said, the classic dish uses red tomatoes and feta. So I would look over at that recipe for guidance if you wanted to make it with green tomatoes. ~Elise

  63. Eileen

    This looks lovely and I’d love to try it but I can’t find tomatillos! Is there anything I could substitute the tomatillos with?
    Many thanks

    Sure, make it with tomatoes. See bakedshrimp in tomato feta sauce. Use cotija or feta, they’re similar salty dry cheeses. ~Elise

  64. Arthur

    This was very good, although I think it could use a little less liquid. I used the 1/2 cup clam juice, but I would lower to 1/4 cup. Also good to finish it a bit under the broiler so the cheese is slightly browned.

    Agree with the person above who said unusual collection of flavors, but good. I wonder if it would work with scallops or with a white fish like halibut or tilapia? Overall, very tasty.

  65. Sr.DeLeon

    This is amazing!!..I love tomatillos and this recipe uses them perfectly, i need to get my aunt to serve this in her mexican restaurant!!.

    Saludos.

  66. Ingrid Luke

    Loved this recipe just exactly as written, and so did my husband who tends to be somewhat picky with “new” flavors. Had never tried the Cotija cheese, but it is perfect – aged, mellow yet hearty. Although I enjoy feta, and recipe says it can be used as a substitute, the flavor is SO different. I’m glad I made the small extra effort to find Cotija, and would recommend others to try this dish with it.

    So glad I found this website, and thanks for all the effort to create/update it! I’ll be trying many other great looking recipes!

  67. Sam

    Made it the second time, and it was still amazing. This is one of my favorite dishes!!! YUM!!!

  68. Katie

    I love this recipe! My husband and I both, often crave it. I serve mine over rice.

  69. Sonia E Bergeron

    I haven;t made it yet, but I bet if you marinated the shrimp for like 2 hours, it still be good and tasty cooking without the shells.

  70. Gary

    This recipe is great! We have used it for the past 2 years, being on low-moderate carb diets. It’s simple and delish. I’ve also used tequila instead of broth. Like to serve this with a side of warmed low carb tortillas. I do sprinkle a shredded cheddar mix on each bowl when serving. Thanks for the great recipe!!

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