Try This 15-Minute Appetizer Recipe: Spicy Garlic Shrimp

Inviting some pals over to hang out can quickly turn stressful when you realize they’re going to expect some food. Before you reach for your phone to order delivery, take a few deep breaths. Homemade eats don’t have to be difficult. With original recipes from our Everyday Appetizers series, you can pull off showstopping starters without losing your cool. 

Trying to convince a seafood-averse friend to try any type fish or crustacean typically raises more of a protest than asking them to be the third wheel on an evening out. If there’s one dish with the power to change their mind, it’s a bowl of shrimp swimming in a buttery wine and garlic sauce. This recipe is one of the easiest methods you’ll find for the classic flavor combination, so you can show all your pals how tasty seafood is in a flash. And because a little bit of spice makes everything better, we added a pretty good dose of crushed red pepper flakes.

About this recipe

Spicy Garlic Shrimp 1

Spicy garlic shrimp | Christine Skopec/Culture Cheat Sheet

It’s not hard to guess this recipe is our rendition of shrimp scampi, a favorite at Italian-American restaurants. While the shrimp are often served atop a massive bed of angel hair pasta, it turns the dish into a total carb-fest. We’re more interested in letting the seafood be the star of the show. Though some recipes use the oven to cook the shrimp, your best bet is to use the stove because you won’t be tempted to walk away. It’s also incredibly fast, so have all of your ingredients prepped before you start cooking.

When you’re ready to go, start by heating a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet. Go with a heavy pan here because it will ensure your shrimp cook evenly. Once it’s hot, add the shrimp to the pan and let them sit for a minute before you try to move them so they don’t stick to the pan. Once they’re pink of the first side, give them a flip, then cook just until the second side gets some color and the tails begin to curl.

Next, it’s time for a fast exit. Get the shrimp out of the pan relatively quickly. Don’t worry if any of them seem a touch underdone because they’ll finish cooking through in the sauce. If your pan is completely dry, add a little bit more olive oil to sauté the garlic. Once it smells fragrant, add the chile flakes and stir for about 15 seconds longer. Add the wine, then let it reduce.

Slide the shrimp back into the skillet and let the mixture simmer just until the shrimp are hot and fully cooked, which should only take about a minute. Whisk the pan off the stove, then add the lemon zest, herbs, and cold butter. This part is the key to getting a perfect sauce. Adding the cold dairy to the hot wine allows it to gently melt in and create a smooth, creamy emulsion. If you let it continue to rip over the stove the sauce will reduce too much and break. If yours does separate, you may be able to save it by stirring in a few splashes of water.

One important note here is the absence of lemon juice, which many recipes include. Using both white wine and lemon juice can leave you with a dish that’s overwhelmingly tart, masking any of the shrimp flavor. Sticking with just the zest gives a hint of lemon flavor without all the acidity. But all you need to know is it tastes great.


Spicy Garlic Shrimp

Spicy Garlic Shrimp 2

Spicy garlic shrimp up close | Christine Skopec/Culture Cheat Sheet

If your fish market sells shrimp by count instead of size, go for the ones labeled 20/25. If you can’t find any that large, just adjust the cooking time. This recipe makes enough to serve 4.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled, and deveined
  • Salt
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Crusty bread, toasted

Directions: Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pat shrimp dry with a paper towel and season all over with salt. When pan is hot, add shrimp. Cook, without moving, until first side is pink, about 1 minute. Flip shrimp over and cook on other side until pink and tails begin to curl, about 1 minute longer. Remove from pan and set aside.

If needed, add another drizzle of oil to the same skillet. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add chile flakes and stir for 15 seconds. Stir in the wine and simmer until reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Return shrimp to pan and simmer until just cooked and heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, add butter, lemon zest, and parsley. Stir until butter melts and sauce is smooth. Season with salt. Serve shrimp with bread.

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