This shrimp scampi recipe makes easy appear elegant with large shrimp bathed in a garlicky, lemony butter sauce dished up as an appetizer or served as a main with pasta, zucchini noodles, or over rice.
At first glance, this shrimp scampi dish looks downright decadent. But in reality, it’s the poster child for simplicity, because the best shrimp scampi made from scratch literally takes just minutes to prepare. Just like my pasta puttanesca, easy chicken piccata, and spaghetti alla carbonara, this shrimp scampi is elegant but effortless and is a no-brainer for a quick and delicious dinner. Whether you serve it as shrimp scampi pasta for a super quick weeknight meal or serve it to company for a chic nod to your faux fancy cookery, I love this recipe because the ingredients can always be stocked in the pantry and freezer for a sizzling bite any time. Plus, it’s a versatile dish that can be served over rice, pasta, zucchini noodles, or just with some crusty bread (the perfect vehicle for all of that luscious buttery garlic sauce).
What is Shrimp Scampi Sauce Made of
For what many eaters view as a fancy dish, shrimp scampi is totally easy to pull off for any level of cook and requires very few ingredients to do so.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this shrimp scampi:
- Frozen shrimp. For the best flavor, choose wild-caught shrimp when possible. I prefer the large 21/25 Key West pink shrimp for its sweet flavor. Choose a frozen shrimp with the shell and tail still on, then shell and devein yourself. You can keep the tail or remove it. Shrimp still in the shell have more flavor and are cheaper. To ensure you’re getting the freshest shrimp possible, skip the seafood counter’s ice rink of thawing shrimp (it was originally frozen too, and how long have they been sitting there??) and go for a bag of flash-frozen shrimp so you can thaw yourself by soaking in a bowl of cool water for about 10 minutes.
- Garlic. Choose fresh garlic over the jarred stuff. I prefer to press mine instead of mincing.
- Red pepper flakes. Red pepper flakes deliver a balanced heat.
- Extra-virgin olive oil. A fruity extra virgin is my choice.
- White wine. Choose a drinkable wine that’s on the drier side such as a sauvignon blanc or even a chardonnay.
- Butter. Salted or unsalted work equally fine and thicken the sauce.
- Lemon juice. Always use fresh lemon juice in this recipe.
- Kosher salt. Kosher salt isn’t as strong as table salt.
- Parsley. Use flat-leaf or regular parsley. Mince it fine for just the right bits of brightness.
How to Make Shrimp Scampi
Shrimp scampi is deceptively easy to make, and it’s all about the sauce. The sauce for this shrimp scampi thickens and concentrates in flavor when cold butter is added to the warm wine and lemon juice, then simmered to reduce.
Here’s how to make it:
Prep the shrimp. Thaw the shrimp in cool water and remove the shells then devein the shrimp. Discard the shells, rinse and drain the shrimp then transfer them to a small bowl.
Marinate the shrimp. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, half of the garlic, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and the red pepper flakes. Toss to coat and set let sit for 20 minutes for flavors to build.
Cook the shrimp. Heat some olive oil over medium heat and add the shrimp and garlic mixture to the skillet. Cook for 1 to 1 ½ minutes then flip the shrimp over when they begin to become opaque. Cook for 1 more minute or so, watching so the shrimp turn golden but don’t brown too much and the garlic doesn’t burn.
Make The Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce
Melt the butter and add the remaining garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant then stir in the white wine and lemon juice. Cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens and reduces by half, stirring occasionally.
Whisking the cold butter into the warm sauce emulsifies the sauce and thickens it as the butter melts. It’s a French technique similar to the classic beurre blanc, and creates a satiny-smooth, velvety textured garlic butter sauce you’ll be licking with a spoon.
Toss it all together. Add the shrimp with any juices back to the pan and stir in the remaining butter and some more salt. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, stir, and cook for 1 more minute. Serve warm with sourdough bread for dipping, or over pasta or rice.
The Best Wine for Shrimp Scampi
Can you make shrimp scampi without the wine? Adding white wine to this scampi’s olive oil, butter, and lemon juice sauce gives it a depth of flavor that won’t ever leave you boozy woozy. See, the wine’s alcohol cooks out and evaporates while simmering, making it perfectly okay for kids or those who abstain to eat.
But if you prefer skipping the wine, substitute half chicken broth and half water in lieu of the wine.
What Makes Scampi a Scampi?
“Scampi” is the Italian plural for “Scampo,” which is a larger type of langoustine (a shrimp-like crustacean native to Scotland that’s actually in the lobster family. Most American versions of shrimp scampi just use shrimp, as I do here.
How to Add More Flavor to Shrimp Scampi
Layering flavor makes simple dishes sing, and this shrimp dish is no different.
- Steep the shrimp in a drizzle of olive oil and pressed garlic with a pinch of heat from red pepper flakes. This method infuses extra flavor into the shrimp before cooking.
- Gain extra flavor by allowing the shrimp to sit in the flavored oil for at least 20 minutes on the countertop or up to overnight in the refrigerator.
- Avoid using acids like lemon juice or vinegar in the shrimp marinade. Similar to ceviche, these ingredients will “cook” the shrimp. Sitting in an acid-based marinade for too long could also make the shrimp mealy.
What to Serve With Shrimp Scampi
- Any long pasta noodle will work for shrimp scampi pasta such as angel hair pasta, linguine, spaghetti, or fettuccine
- Zucchini noodles, or a combination of pasta and zucchini noodles
- Steamed white rice
- Creamy polenta
- Gnocchi or risotto
- Turn them into appetizer bruschettas
- Crusty bread
What is a Good Side Dish for Shrimp Scampi?
- Easy Lemon Rice Recipe
- Caesar Salad with Garlic Croutons
- Arugula Salad With Shaved Parmesan Three Ways
- Avocado and Tomato Salad
- Easy Parmesan Buttered Noodles
- Creamy Polenta
- Garlic Bread
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
How to Make the BEST Shrimp Scampi
- 1 pound wild caught large shrimp with shells
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil , divided
- 4 cloves garlic , pressed or minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ⅓ cup white wine or chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice , or ½ lemon
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
- Thaw the shrimp in cool water and remove the shells then devein the shrimp. Discard the shells, rinse and drain the shrimp then transfer to a small bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, half of the garlic, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and the red pepper flakes. Toss to coat and set let sit for 20 minutes for flavors to build.
- In a large skillet, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp and garlic mixture to the skillet, spacing evenly in the pan. Cook for 1 to 1 ½ minutes then flip the shrimps over when they begin to become opaque. Cook for 1 more minute or so, watching so the shrimp turn golden but don't brown too much and the garlic doesn't burn. Transfer the shrimp to a small bowl or plate. If you have browned bits of garlic, move the skillet from the heat and remove the browned garlic as it will be bitter.
- Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in the skillet over medium heat and add the remaining garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant then stir in the white wine and lemon juice. Cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens and reduces by half, stirring occasionally.
- Add the shrimp with any juices back to the pan and stir in the last tablespoon of butter and ½ teaspoon kosher salt or to taste. Sprinkle with the minced parsley, stir, and cook for 1 more minute. Serve warm with sourdough bread for dipping, or over pasta or rice.
More Shrimp Recipes to Try Next
- Easy Shrimp Cocktail
- Peel ‘N Eat Beer Steamed Shrimp
- Citrus Shrimp And Avocado Salad
- Saucy Greek Baked Shrimp
- Pan-Seared Citrus Shrimp Recipe
- Shrimp In Thai Coconut Sauce
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