Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chili Lime Marinated Shrimp: For the Grill or the Saute Pan

Do you have plans for Memorial Day weekend?  

Here in San Diego, gloomy skies had taken over the city, but now our sunny, 70 degree weather seems to have returned just in time for the weekend.  In America's Finest City, that means everyone will be celebrating the long weekend with beach parties and barbecues.  If you live in an area of the country where it is not quite summer yet, maybe I can help you kick off the season by sending some sunshine your way... along with a great recipe for grilled Chili Lime Marinated Shrimp.  And guess what?  Even if rain ruins your Memorial Day picnic, you can go ahead and bring the sunshine inside because this recipe is just as good made in a saute pan as it is on the grill.    

Dried Ancho chili peppers.

Some meats or seafood seem to be made for the grill - for instance, a thick seasoned ribeye or a gorgeous swordfish steak just don't seem the same when they lose that dark char - but other things are just as good off the grill as they are on it.  In my humble opinion, shrimp are one of those great grill-to-stovetop transitional foods.  When threaded on skewers and grilled, marinated large shrimp cook quickly and they get a really lovely smoky flavor; they don't dry out and they are the perfect compliment to cool summer salads.  However, marinated shrimp also cook beautifully over high heat in a saute pan, and they can sometimes be even more juicy than when they are cooked on a grill.  

For this recipe, I marinated my shrimp with a classic combination of chiles, lime, and garlic (and of course, cilantro), and the results were fantastic.  For the heat and spicy flavor, I used Ancho chiles plus everyday red pepper flakes, and it worked extremely well.  If you have not used Ancho chiles before, they are extremely common in Mexican cooking and can be found in most grocery chains here in Southern California (check your local grocer).  Anchos are often used in cooked dishes, but I wanted to try them out in a marinade instead of fresh chiles - that way, I would be able to make my marinade at any time using only ingredients from my pantry plus refrigerator staples.       

Rehydrate dried chilis by soaking them in boiling water for 15 minutes.

Perhaps the only difference between making this recipe for the grill versus the saute pan is the size and type of the shrimp.  For grilling, you definitely want to use large shrimp - at least 16-20 shrimp per pound - so they are big enough to thread on a skewer easily.  Plus, since grilled shrimp are often eaten as 'stand alone' items, I really want a big meaty shrimp instead of only a tiny morsel.  (Bigger is always better, don't you agree?)  This is distinctly different from eating shrimp out of a saute pan, where they are usually served with rice or noodles, so size doesn't matter as much.   

For my large shrimp, I prefer to get fresh tiger prawns, but in a pinch I have made this with large deveined shrimp from my local grocer and it seems no one was the wiser.  (Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one who notices these little nuances in flavor and ingredient choice...)   

Love the bright yellow legs on these fresh tiger prawns.

Easy-to-make marinade, with chili, lime, cilantro, and garlic.

If you buy your shrimp and they are not shelled or deveined, don't be scared - it is pretty foolproof, even for first-timers.  If you need some help, check out a YouTube video or two, and you will be an expert in no time.  

Skewered and marinated shrimp, with an orange hue from the ancho chiles.

Marinating the shrimp is also really simple, since you just mix all the ingredients together and then refrigerate it for about 30 minutes.  If I am making them for dinner, I peel and devein the day before, then marinate them when I get home from work - could it be any easier?  Importantly, the acid from the lime juice will start to 'cook' the shrimp if it is left to marinate for too long, so don't refrigerate for more than an hour.

This recipe is a quick and easy way to make a knockout shrimp dish for your Memorial Day weekend parties, but also a fantastic dish for a weeknight dinner served over noodles.  (I don't have any photos here, but serving these shrimp with rice noodles makes for a dinner that is both beautiful and delicious.)  They are spicy, garlicky, and juicy, and just what I want to have when I think of marinated shrimp.  So bring in some sunshine this weekend, kick off your summer and celebrate with these easy Chili Lime Marinated Shrimp! 

And in case you decide not to make these shrimp or just want some additional grilling ideas for Memorial Day weekend and the summer beyond, here is a list of some other great sources for recipes and inspiration

Links to recipes from favorite blogs:

A recipe from a trusted friend:
  • Thai Corriander Grilled Chicken: Toast whole coriander seeds in a dry pan until fragrant.  Let it cool a bit and grind in a spice grinder or mortal and pestle.  Either in the morter and pestel OR food processor, combine ground up coriander, plus cumin, fresh garlic, white pepper, cilantro stems, fish sauce or soy sauce, and a touch of sugar.  Macerate or blend, and add enough fish sauce and some water to keep it liquidy.  The taste should be slightly spicy, salty, and sweet, but not too much of any.
    Use this to marinate boneless chicken thighs or wings.  Marinate at least overnight or 24 hours, and grill when ready.

Summer grilling guides from some of my favorite magazines and sources: 

Simple meatless grilling suggestions from readers:
  • Joy says, "I love love LOVE grilling portobello mushrooms -- I just coat them with some evoo and crushed garlic and throw it on the grill. I like dipping it in balsamic afterwards."
  • Preethi marinates then grills: "Baby corns, Tofu, Cottage Cheese, Bell Peppers, Broccoli - all of these marinated in a mixture of spices + cream/yogurt , for at least 4 hours, and then grilled."
  • Josie's idea would also work well in the oven: "Zucchini boats! halve and stuff with the chopped zucchini, chickpeas, corn, mint, and some cuminesque spices, wrap in foil and get grill crazy!"
  • And Leslie had a fantastic sweet idea, "Fresh pineapple chunks marinated in rum, seasoned with a bit of cinnamon and cayenne pepper, stuck on skewers and thrown on the grill...delicious bbq 'dessert!'"
UPDATE: I just submitted this recipe to Get Grillin’ with Family Fresh Cooking and Cookin’ Canuck, sponsored by Ile de France CheeseRösleEmile HenryRouxbe and ManPans.  Check out their site for more summer kabob recipes! 


Chili Lime Marinated Shrimp
Since this recipe can be used for grilling or for sauteeing, I have included both instructions below.  I am a little partial to sauteeing, mostly because that is the easiest for me, but grilling is perfect for special occasions.  Try to find the largest shrimp you can for this recipe - especially if grilling - and use as soon as possible after purchasing.  

2 lbs large shrimp or tiger prawns (16-20 per pound), shelled and deveined 
2 medium dried ancho chilis, plus boiling water to soften them
2 tsp minced garlic
A handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or more to taste, I added more)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice from 1 large lime
About 1-1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

For grilling: 8-10 wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 2 hours; oil for brushing the grill.

For sauteeing: 1-2 extra tablespoons olive oil; rice noodles cooked according to package instructions; extra cilantro for garnish.

To Grill Chili Lime Shrimp:
First, reconstitute dried chilis by placing them in a bowl and covering them with boiling water.  Let them soak for about 15 minutes or until softened, then drain the water.  Once the chilis are cool enough to handle, remove the stems, slice them in half lengthwise to remove the seeds, and then roughly chop them.  

Prepare the marinade for the shrimp by combining all the ingredients in a large bowl or freezer ziplock bag, and mixing well.  Add the shrimp, toss well to coat, and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and not more than 1 hour.  

Remove the shrimp from the marinade and discard it.  Thread 4 shrimp onto each prepared wooden skewer, being careful not to rip them in half.  Preheat your grill to high, brush the grate with a little bit of oil, and grill the shrimp skewers for just about 2 minutes on each side - they will cook very quickly, and overcooking can make them tough.  When they are done, they should be a pale pink color, but still look juicy.  Remove from the grill and serve immediately.

To Saute Chili Lime Shrimp:
Marinate shrimp as described above.

Heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Add the shrimp to the skillet so they are not crowded (you will likely have to cook them in 2-3 batches) and let them cook on one side for just about 2 minutes, then turn them over and cook for another 1-2 minutes.  Also drizzle a little of the extra marinade into the pan, and it will cook and reduce while the shrimp is cooking.  Once cooked, the shrimp will be a pale pink color, but still look juicy; remove the shrimp from the skillet and serve over the cooked rice noodles, drizzled with the reduced marinade and garnished with a few cilantro leaves.    


  1. What gorgeous flavors! Scrumptious.



  2. This looks like a recipe destined for my hungry belly!!!

  3. That looks gorgeous and delicious!

  4. Now I want shrimp this weekend! Great marinate!

  5. Those shrimp are beautiful! They are huge and look so juicy and perfect. I need to find a place in MN where I can get such amazing seafood (so I can make this, obviously).

  6. Perfect for this weekend, yummm!

  7. These look fantastic! I don't think I'd ever seen raw tiger prawns before--lovely!

    My friend and I grilled out this past weekend and made shrimp kebabs with some sort of mango-chili-lime seasoning. Faaaaan-tastic. :)

  8. Yum this flavor combo on shrimp sounds great! I really need to buy shrimp more often, especially when I see recipes like this! Have a great long weekend!

  9. I'm changing my plans and showing up at your doorstep. For reals.

  10. Those tiger prawns are gorgeous and your photos are absolutely stunning! What a way to kick off the grilling season. Thanks so much for linking to my ribs.

  11. Wow...gorgeous shrimp! The flavors are a perfect combo. Love using ancho chiles in dishes. These are seriously making me wish for the weekend even more so I can get to grilling!

  12. Your recipes are quickly becoming my weeknight staples! Can't wait to try this easy one since I love anchos.
    Were you at the Foodbuzz festival last November? I wish I met you :\ Maybe this year?

  13. What a great looking recipe, love shrimp! Can't wait to try at our next bbq, thanks so much.

  14. All these ideas are wonderful! Thanks for the inspiration - and I surely hope the weather improves in time for Memorial Day grilling. We've been getting so much rain lately. :(

  15. The weather is perfection right now! Love it, great recipe. have a nice weekend.

  16. These shrimp look great even when they are just marinating. I imagine the flavors are just amazing.

  17. Wow! This looks spectacular! My mouth is watering.

  18. Great recipe and lovely photos! Thanks for all the grilling links :) xoxo

  19. I love that wonderful chewy texture of dried ancho chillies. I've never tried them fresh but I'm currently torturing a little ancho chilli seedling with the hope that some day it will tell me what it needs to really flourish...

  20. These shrimp look absolutely amazing. My family & I just returned from vacationing in the FL panhandle and when we go we always bring back pounds of gulf shrimp. I can't wait to try this dish!

  21. These would make my husband a very happy man. :)
    He loves shrimp!

  22. Shrimp on the grill is definitely on the menu for us this weekend, thanks for all the inspiring ideas and info, great post!

  23. Beach parties...ohhhh. No beach parties here in MN, but that doesn't mean I can't make these delicious shrimp! Oh man these are mouth-watering..

  24. well our weekend plan has gone for a toss .. so we will be here in sunny bay area (hoping that it doesn't rain ) :)
    I love shrimp and this is just so perfect for the grill. I have to show his to the husband . he will love it too :)

  25. Gorgeous, darling. This looks too good! I love shrimp - those little yellow legs are beautiful! I've never seen shrimp like that before!

    Jax x

  26. These look so gorgeous! Love the design of your blog. Really looks mouth-watering. I like the idea of using the ancho chile as part of the marinade!

  27. Oh I wish I had seen this earlier! Too late for Memorial Day, but we'll give it a go hopefully this week. :)

  28. I love cooking shrimp (prawns) this way and we do it often. They never fail to please a crowd, do they? Fantastic photos!

  29. What a great and thorough post. I want to try this recipe soon although I am sure I can't get shrimp as fresh as this.

  30. This is a perfect summer party food. Love the marinade.

  31. Wow, this recipe looks fantastic. :D
    My garlic prawn recipe, and this one, with a few other prawn/shrimp recipes would make a great seafood party! :)

    You've got such a great blog and pics.

  32. Wow! mouthwatering, delicious dish. I love it very much. i can have it in breakfast, lunch and in dinner.My mum used to prepare it for me. But alas! now i am away from her.But your easy steps of
    chili recipe to prepare it will help me to make it.

  33. This recipe "surfaced" just in time! I'm having a fight party(Mayweather and Cotto) this weekend. This recipe will be the highlight. I know I will need lots of shrimp.

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