Spicy Garlic Shrimp with Coconut Rice

DinnerMexican and Tex MexCoconut MilkShrimp

Camarones al Ajillo garlic shrimp recipe. Garlic and jalapeno marinated shrimp sauteed in coconut milk and served on a bed of coconut white rice.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Throughout the coastal areas of Latin America, you’ll find local variations of “Camarones al Ajillo”, freshly caught shrimp, fried quickly in olive oil with garlic and chiles.

My friend Arturo grew up near the beaches of Acapulco and learned a way of preparing the garlic shrimp classic with jalapeños and coconut milk.

The layers of flavor in this dish are fabulous – chile, shrimp, coconut, lemon grass (or lime). If you get the timing right, this dish cooks up quite fast.

You can use either peeled or unpeeled shrimp. The peeled is easier to eat, but the unpeeled absorbs flavor from the shells while cooking.

Spicy Garlic Shrimp with Coconut Rice Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 3 to 4.


  • 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1 pound, about 20 large jumbo shrimp (peeled with tail on or unpeeled, but veins removed)
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 cup of water
  • Salt
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, de-ribbed, julienned
  • Juice of one lime (or 2 inches of white tender end of lemongrass, finely sliced)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small cans (5.6 ounces) coconut milk
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of red chili powder or red chili sauce (to taste)
  • Cilantro for garnish (optional)


1 Start cooking rice, following package instructions.


2 Pulse garlic, water and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a blender, just a few pulses, so you can still see chunks of garlic. Pour over shrimp to marinate. Marinate for 10 minutes.

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3 Strain the water from the shrimp and garlic mixture. Add the lime juice (or finely sliced lemongrass), jalapeño, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the shrimp mixture.

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4 Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in high heat in large sauté pan. Add shrimp. Cook one minute. Add 1 small can of coconut milk. Cook 30 seconds more. Mix in a teaspoon red chili powder or sauce.

5 Put rice into a large bowl. Mix in the second 5.6 ounce can of coconut milk to the cooked rice.

Serve shrimp on rice. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro (optional).

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Many thanks to my friend Arturo Vargas of Taste for the Senses for sharing his "Camarones al Ajillo" recipe with us.

Showing 4 of 30 Comments / Reviews

  • Leah

    Limey, garlicky, I added a whole whopping heap of the chili paste at the end for perfect amount of spice. I haven’t cooked shrimp in a long time but I was craving it and this recipe hit the spot, amazing! Used coconut oil instead of olive oil and accidentally bought coconut cream instead of coconut milk, but I’m obssessed. Happy and full :)

  • Lisa

    We were out of chili powder so we used smoked paprika instead- yum!!!!!!!

  • Me

    Just made this and it was GOOD! I used Sriracha hot sauce to spice it up.

  • Mari-C

    In Spain, we call this dish “gambas al ajillo”. I have cooked this dish on a weekly basis for many years. But most Spaniards cook a milder dish. In Spain, we use a couple of round, mild peppers (n~oras), and lots of garlic. The latter is what gives it the heat. Here in NA, I saute a large garlic clove and half of a long chilly pepper, cooked in olive oil. I add a bit a lemon to the pot and 6ozs of large prawns. As it is the case with any fish, it is very important no to overcook the shrimps. Serves 2.
    The gambas al ajillo are best when they are served in old Madrid’s bars with some crisp bread. One makes the tours of the bars and orders deep-fried calamares as well. These and other similar snacks are called “tapas” Great evening, but do not expect every bar to know how to cook them.

  • Christine

    Whoa. I read a great many food blogs…and this was the first time I ran home to make something the day I saw it. This was simply divine, plus fast and easy! And will certainly be added to the repertoire here.

    Thank you, Elise and Arturo. It was just fantastic. My rice-hating boyfriend even ate up all rice that the sauce had touched, a miracle of a feat.

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Spicy Garlic Shrimp with Coconut Rice