Spicy Garlic Shrimp with Coconut Rice

DinnerCoconut MilkShrimp

Here's a classic recipe for Camarones al Ajillo, a.k.a. spicy garlic shrimp! The shrimp gets quickly sautéed with garlic and jalapeno, then mixed with some coconut rice. Serve with coconut rice for a full meal.

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.

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What Shrimp to Buy

Look for jumbo shrimp (about 20 count per pound) for this recipe. Fresh or frozen shrimp are fine. If you use frozen shrimp, defrost the shrimp by putting them in a large bowl of ice water for 20 minutes or so.

You can also use either peeled or unpeeled shrimp. You can choose to remove the tails, or leave the tails on for a more dramatic presentation. Peeled shrimp is easier to eat, while unpeeled absorbs flavor from the shells while cooking so has better flavor.

If you want to devein your shrimp (it’s not necessary but many people prefer deveined shrimp), you’ll need to cut the peels to reveal the veins if you are using unpeeled shrimp.

Spicy Garlic Shrimp

How to Serve Garlic Shrimp

We serve this shrimp with a simple coconut rice made by mixing cooked long-grain rice with coconut milk.

This shrimp dish is best the day it’s made, though leftovers will keep for a day or two in the fridge. The shrimp may be slightly tough upon reheating.

Love Shrimp? Try these other shrimp recipes!

Spicy Garlic Shrimp with Coconut Rice Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3 to 4

The shrimp can either be peeled and deveined, with or without the tails left on, or for more flavor, you can leave the peels on.


  • 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1 pound (about 20 large) jumbo shrimp
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 cup of water
  • Salt
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded, ribs removed, julienned
  • Juice of one lime (or 2 inches of white tender end of lemongrass, finely sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 small cans (5.6 ounces) coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of red chili powder or red chili sauce (to taste)
  • Cilantro for garnish (optional)


1 Cook the rice: Put 1 1/2 cups of long-grain rice, 2 1/2 cups of water, and 1 teaspoon of salt into a medium-sized, thick-bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and lower the heat to the lowest setting and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes.

While the rice cooks, continue with the recipe.

2 Marinate the shrimp: 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.

garlic water in blender

3 Strain and season the shrimp: 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.

Spicy Garlic Shrimp - Marinate the shrimp Julienned Jalapenos

4 Cook the shrimp: Heat 1 tablespoon 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.

Spicy Garlic Shrimp - cook the shrimp Spicy Garlic Shrimp - add the coconut milk

5 Make the coconut rice: When the rice is done cooking, transfer it to a large bowl. Mix in the second can of coconut milk to the cooked rice. Taste and add additional salt if needed.

6 Serve: 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.

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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37 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Ken

    Fantastic! Easy, quick and delicious!


  2. Denise

    Made this tonight for dinner. Not bad. Followed the recipe pretty close to the T. There is NO spice at all :( . That’s what I get for following the recipe. What I did different was jasmine rice and I did add the coconut milk to the rice to cook. (We were afraid of it being soupy adding it to the cooked rice) and the final part we changed was to add “chinese chili garlic sauce ” instead of chili powder.
    When we started eating we decided it needed more so we both added a lot of extra chili garlic sauce and extra salt and garlic. It helped, but I don’t think I’ll make this again


    Show Replies (1)
  3. Elena

    What can I say?!!
    All your recepies are very,very good!
    Thank you very much!

  4. Leslie B.

    I’m curious why you don’t cook the rice in the coconut milk!

    Show Replies (1)
  5. Liz

    I love this recipe! I have made it many times and always come back to it. I have added a few modifications since I have made it several times now. I like to add some coconut milk to the rice while it cooks, as well as about a tablespoon of sugar to help bring out the coconut flavor. I use brown rice for a little added health benefit (plus it tastes yummy). I also add cumin, which changes the flavor to more of a curry, but I am obsessed with cumin.


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