Garlic Butter Shrimp Recipe

Picture this: it's Friday night, you've been working late, but you just realized you've invited that special someone over for dinner and nothing is even thawed! While you know they probably wouldn't mind if you just ordered pizza, still, you really want to serve up something that's home-cooked and a little more impressive than the omelets that seem to be your only other option. If you've got a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer, you're in luck! Shrimp thaw in just minutes (empty the bag into a colander under cool running water) and, according to recipe developer Molly Madigan Pisula of Vanilla Bean Cuisine, "Frozen [shrimp] can be just as high quality, if not more so [than the fresh kind]."

"This garlic butter shrimp recipe," Pisula tells us, "is regularly on my dinner table for two good reasons." The first one, she says, is because "it's insanely delicious, with perfectly cooked shrimp and a buttery, garlicky sauce that's just begging to be lapped up with a slice of crusty bread." The second one is the fact that, as she assures us, "this recipe is so easy to make that you can have it on your table in 20 minutes!"

Gather the ingredients for garlic butter shrimp

To make this recipe, Pisula uses medium-large shrimp, the kind that come 21 to 25 shrimp per pound. She does note, though, "You can also use pre-cooked shrimp," but in that case you'd skip the steps of the recipe that involve cooking the shrimp and instead go straight into making the garlic sauce.

To cook the shrimp, if you're not using the pre-cooked kind, you'll be using olive oil. The sauce is made with butter, white wine (Pisula suggests sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, or chardonnay.), lemon juice (as per Pisula, "fresh squeezed is always best!"), fresh garlic, and crushed red pepper. Pisula says you can double the amount of pepper given in the recipe if you like, telling us it's okay to use "up to ½ teaspoon if you love spice."

Cook the shrimp

Depending on what kind of shrimp you buy, they may need to be peeled and some even need to be de-veined. After you've done so, rinse the shrimp off, and pat them dry with a paper towel. 

Then, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. (Pisula used a 12-inch nonstick skillet to cook her shrimp.) When the oil is hot, add the shrimp, spreading them out so they form a single layer. Let them cook for one minute, flip them, then cook them for another two minutes or so, stirring all the while. You'll know they're done when they are entirely opaque.

When the shrimp are cooked, season them with salt and pepper to taste. Stir them so the seasonings are evenly distributed, then take them out of the pan.

Prepare the garlic sauce

Turn the heat under the pan down to medium, then add the butter, wine, lemon juice, garlic, and red pepper. Heat the sauce ingredients, stirring, until the butter has melted — Pisula expects this will take about two minutes. She says that at this point, "You should be able to smell the garlic, but it should not be browned."

One note on the garlic: Pisula notes that in this sauce it is only lightly cooked, so it needs to be minced very finely. "Otherwise," she warns, "you run the risk of a big chunk of garlic in your mouth, which is not very appetizing."

Serve the shrimp while it's hot

As soon as the sauce is done, return the shrimp to the pan, and toss it with the garlic butter. Serve this dish right away while it is still hot. You can sprinkle the shrimp with chopped parsley if you'd like, but if a parsley garnish isn't to your taste, Pisula says you may "feel free to substitute chives or thyme instead!"

These garlicky shrimp would be lovely on a bed of angel hair pasta, though you could use rice, polenta, or even mashed potatoes instead. Yet another option would be to serve them in a bowl with chunks of crusty bread to sop up the delicious sauce. As a side, a fresh green salad would be great, and you could also pour the rest of the wine you used to make the sauce.

Garlic Butter Shrimp Recipe
5 from 51 ratings
This garlic butter shrimp recipe is so delicious, with perfectly cooked shrimp and a buttery, garlicky sauce that's perfect with a slice of crusty bread.
Prep Time
Cook Time
plate of shrimp with parsley
Total time: 15 minutes
  • 1 ½ pounds medium-large shrimp (21 to 25 shrimp per pound)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced or grated
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Optional Ingredients
  • chopped parsley, for garnishing
  1. Peel and de-vein the shrimp, then rinse and pat them dry.
  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the shrimp to the pan in a single layer, and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Flip the shrimp and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until they are opaque all the way through, about 2 more minutes.
  5. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper to taste, stirring to coat, then remove them from the pan.
  6. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the butter, white wine, lemon juice, garlic, and red pepper to the pan.
  7. Cook the sauce, stirring frequently, until the butter has melted, about 2 minutes.
  8. Toss the shrimp with the sauce in the pan.
  9. Serve the shrimp immediately, garnishing the dish with chopped parsley if desired.
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