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.

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.



  • 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!


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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Showing 4 of 72 Comments

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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