Make this easy shrimp scampi recipe in just 15 minutes! Garlicky, lemony, buttery, and so good. A real treat for dinner!
Today I’m sharing one of our favorite dinner recipes: Shrimp Scampi!
We make this often, especially on nights when there are a lot of activities to go to or if it’s been a particularly rough day. It’s so quick and easy, it takes barely any effort at all.
This shrimp scampi recipe is bursting with plump, meaty seafood, swimming in a buttery pan sauce that’s infused with garlic and lemon. We like to have it over pasta, to really round out the meal and make it so satisfying.
Table of Contents
- What is shrimp scampi?
- Why this is the best shrimp scampi recipe
- What does shrimp scampi taste like?
- Special equipment
- How to make shrimp scampi
- How to serve
- Expert tips
- Frequently asked questions
- A few more of my favorite dinner recipes
What is shrimp scampi?
The word “scampi” refers to a type of shellfish that’s similar to shrimp, prawns, and langoustines.
But here in the US, it’s come to be known as a dish that’s made by searing shrimp, then simmering them in a buttery pan sauce that’s spiked with garlic and lemon.
Why this is the best shrimp scampi recipe
- Tastes amazing: The seasonings are on point! A perfect balance of savory and citrusy, and there’s plenty of sauce!
- Few ingredients: You’ll only need a handful of basics to make it.
- Easy to make: It’s done in just 3 simple steps.
- Quick: You can have dinner on the table in around 15 minutes.
What does shrimp scampi taste like?
This dish has a really savory blend of ingredients that all come together in a beautifully balanced way.
I’d say garlic is probably the most prominent flavor, balanced by the succulent, ocean-y taste of the shrimp.
Next, you’ll notice the richness of the butter, and finally the bright lemon notes come in. All this is punctuated by just a whisper of heat and fresh, herbaceous parsley.
Shrimp: Look for the largest shrimp you can find! These will have the meatiest, almost lobster-like flavor. I like to buy them frozen and deveined, but I take off the shells myself once they’re thawed. “Extra Colossal” are the best, in my opinion! These are sometimes labeled U/12, meaning there are 12 or fewer shrimp in every pound.
Oil: We are going to sear the shrimp in extra-virgin olive oil. It has a higher smoke point and a really rich flavor.
Butter: Unsalted butter forms the basis of the sauce. I prefer unsalted because different brands of butter may contain different amounts of salt, so this way you get a more consistent result.
Lemon: Both the zest and juice of the lemon “lift” the flavors of the scampi sauce to something really special!
Garlic: In addition to the garlic powder the shrimp are seasoned with, I like to add some fresh garlic to the sauce. It makes it really authentic!
Worcestershire sauce: Worcestershire sauce is a blend of many ingredients that bring a savory umami quality to the sauce.
Crushed red pepper: I like just a tiny pinch to bring some heat to the sauce, but you can leave this one out if you don’t like spicy food.
- Measuring spoons: To measure out the ingredients.
- Paper towels: For blotting the shrimp dry.
- Skillet: Use your largest skillet here, so plenty of air can get around the shrimp. This way they’ll sear and brown rather than steam.
- Tongs: For flipping the shrimp as they cook and for tossing everything together.
How to make shrimp scampi
This easy recipe comes together in just 3 simple steps.
Step 1: Season the shrimp
Thaw and peel your shrimp, then carefully blot them dry with paper towels. This will help the seasonings to stick and prevent a lot of hot oil popping and spraying as the shrimp cook.
Then season the shrimp on both sides with salt, garlic powder, and pepper.
Step 2: Sear the shrimp
Heat the olive oil until it’s shimmering, then add in the shrimp.
Allow them to become golden brown on one side, then flip each one over so it can sear on the other side too.
Step 3: Make the pan sauce
Add the butter, fresh garlic, lemon zest, Worcestershire, and crushed red pepper to the pan, tossing everything together to get it combined.
And let the shrimp continue to simmer in the luscious sauce until they’re done through.
You’ll know your shrimp are done cooking when they curl up into a “C” shape, look pink on the outside, and are opaque white all the way to their centers.
How to serve
We like to make a shrimp scampi pasta bowl when we have this. It makes the meal so satisfying!
So I boil the pasta in salty water for one minute less than what it says on the package. Then I drain it and add it to the pan, so it can finish cooking in the scampi sauce. It picks up all those gorgeous flavors and absorbs them in! So good.
Use a big skillet: The bigger your skillet, the better golden brown crust you’ll get on your shrimp. This not only adds texture but also a really rich, caramelized flavor!
Fresh lemon is the way to go: Nothing beats fresh, so pick up a real lemon if you can! You’ll use both the zest and the juice for a really vibrant sunshine-y flavor.
Grab your garlic press: If you’re lazy like me and you don’t like to chop garlic, get your hands on a garlic press! Just peel the cloves and squeeze them right in.
Garnish with parsley: I like flat-leaf Italian parsley. It enhances the visual appeal but also adds a fresh, grassy note that’s really nice.
Add breadcrumbs: It’s traditional to top shrimp scampi with a dusting of buttery breadcrumbs. They add a subtle crunch and don’t compete with the flavors like cheese could.
Frequently asked questions
For the longest time, foodies held to the belief that seafood and cheese should not go together. It was thought that the funky flavor of parmesan would compete with the delicate taste of the shellfish, and that’s why breadcrumbs were traditionally used instead.
But nowadays, there are lots of fish dishes that taste great with cheese! So I’d say, if it tastes good to you, then go for it!
This meal is so quick and easy to make, I don’t think there’s much reason why you should have to!
That said, you could cook the shrimp and the sauce a few hours ahead of time and just re-warm them in the pan when you add the par-cooked pasta.
If you have any leftovers, transfer them to an airtight container and pop them into the fridge just as soon as they’ve cooled to room temperature. They should keep there for a day or two.
You could also freeze the dish. It will last in the freezer for a month or two, and can be thawed in the fridge and reheated in the microwave or in a pan over low heat until warmed through.
This recipe makes 4 generous servings.
The nutritional information given in the recipe card below reflects a serving size of 1/4th the whole batch. It does not include the pasta.
A few more of my favorite dinner recipes
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- 2 pounds (907.18 g) shrimp, (I prefer frozen super colossal, deveined easy peel shrimp, thawed and shelled)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (9 g) kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g) garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon (0.5 g) ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons (28 g) extra virgin olive oil
- 6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter
- 4 cloves (12 g) garlic, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon (6 g) lemon zest, (zest of 1 lemon)
- 1 tablespoon (17 g) Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon (0.5 g) crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) lemon juice, (juice of 1 lemon)
- parsley, chopped (optional garnish)
- 1/2 pound (226.8 g) thin spaghetti, cooked 1 minute less than the package directions
- Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and season with salt, garlic powder, and pepper on both sides.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- When the oil is shimmering, add the seasoned shrimp and cook until just beginning to turn golden (approx. 5 minutes), turning as needed.
- Turn the heat down to low and add the butter, garlic, lemon zest, Worcestershire sauce, and crushed red pepper,
- Simmer until the shrimp are done through (approx. 5 minutes), tossing.
- Toss the cooked pasta in the sauce.
- Remove from the heat and add the parsley and lemon juice.