Spicy Southwestern Shrimp Appetizer – a super easy and flavorful alternative to traditional shrimp cocktail for your next gathering!

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Marinated Shrimp Appetizer

I love serving shrimp as an appetizer – because, who doesn’t like shrimp? Shrimp cocktail – chilled cooked shrimp served with a horseradish-spiked cocktail sauce on the side – is always a great, standard appetizer that is sure to please. However, sometimes it’s fun to mix things up a bit and serve something different, something more unexpected. That’s why I love this shrimp appetizer recipe.

Southwestern Shrimp Recipe Ingredients

In this Spicy Southwestern Shrimp Appetizer, the shrimp isn’t sauced up, wrapped up, or chopped up. Whole large shrimp are marinated in a scrumptious spicy mixture then grilled or broiled (I provide directions for both cooking methods below) and served with a colorful garnish. Here are the ingredients:

  • Large (21 to 30 per pound) raw shrimp, shelled and deveined, tails intact
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Sherry or white wine
  • Garlic gloves
  • Ground cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • Red chili flakes
  • Tabasco or other hot sauce
  • Sweet red pepper (for garnish)
  • Fresh cilantro leaves (for garnish)

Many thanks to our neighbor and good friend Edie Landon who shared her version of this recipe with me. (Of course, I can never resist changing it up a bit!)

How to Make Southwestern Shrimp

Here are the easy steps to follow in making this appealing appetizer:

  1. Prep grilling skewers and shrimp.
    Soak 6 to 8 (10 to 12-inch) long wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. Rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towel.
  2. Marinate shrimp.
    In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, sherry, garlic, cumin, salt, red chili flakes, and Tabasco. Place sauce in a medium-size zip-top baggie and add shrimp. Place in refrigerator to marinade for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Don’t leave any longer – or the lime juice will start to cook the shrimp!
  3. Make garnish.
    While shrimp are marinating, make the garnish: in a small mixing bowl, stir together chopped red pepper and cilantro.
  4. Preheat grill or broiler.
    Preheat grill or boiler to high. If broiling, make sure oven rack is 5 to 6 inches from heat element.
  5. Place shrimp on skewers.
    Thread about 4 or 5 shrimp on each skewer, piercing through the head and just above the the tail of each shrimp, so they form a “u” on the skewer.
  6. Grill shrimp.
    Carefully brush grill with vegetable or canola oil and grill shrimp skewers, uncovered, for 3 minutes. When the shrimp no longer stick to the grill surface, flip over. Grill for an additional 2 to 4 minutes or until cooked through (watch carefully so they don’t burn).
  7. Alternatively, broil shrimp.
    Place skewers on a foil-lined cookie sheet and broil for 2 minutes. Turn over and continue cooking until pink and cooked through around another 2 minutes. Watch carefully so they don’t burn or get overcooked.
  8. Serve.
    Remove shrimp from skewers, place on a serving platter or in a shallow bowl and garnish with pepper-cilantro mixture. Can also serve with some/all of the garnish on the side. Serve hot.
White bowl showing Spicy Southwestern Shrimp Appetizer

Marinated Shrimp FAQ

How long will this southwest shrimp recipe last in the fridge?

Once cooked, the shrimp will last up to 3 days in the refrigerator, stored in an airtight container.

Should you marinate shrimp before cooking?

Yes, for this recipe definitely marinate the shrimp first, but no longer than 1 hour. If marinated longer, the acid in the lime juice in the marinade will start to cook the shrimp and make it chewy.

What spices go well with shrimp?

The beauty of shrimp is that it pairs well with many different flavors. Here are a some suggestions (and you can find other shrimp recipes on this site that include one or more of these spices):
cumin
curry
dry mustard
dry ginger
chili powder
Old Bay Seasoning
Cajun (or creole) seasoning

How long can you marinate shrimp?

How long you can marinate shrimp depends completely on the ingredients in the marinade. If the marinade contains an acid (like lemon or lime juice) you shouldn’t marinate the shrimp longer than 1 hour. Even if there is no acid in the marinade, because shrimp are fairly delicate in texture, I wouldn’t marinate them longer than 48 hours.

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White bowl showing Spicy Southwestern Shrimp Appetizer

Southwest Shrimp Recipe

  • Author: By Lee Clayton Roper
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Marinading Time: 45 mins
  • Cook Time: 6 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 6 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6; can easily be doubled or tripled 1x
  • Category: Easy appetizers, Seafood, Gluten free

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 pound large (21 to 30 per pound) raw shrimp, shelled and deveined, tails intact
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons sherry or white wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon red chili flakes, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce
  • 1/2 sweet red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Instructions

  1. Soak 6 to 8 (10 to 12-inch) long wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towel.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, sherry, garlic, cumin, salt, red chili flakes and Tabasco. Place sauce in a medium-size zip top baggie and add shrimp. Place in refrigerator to marinade for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Don’t leave any longer – or the lime juice will start to cook the shrimp!
  4. While the shrimp are marinating, make the garnish: in a small mixing bowl, stir together the chopped red pepper and cilantro.
  5. Preheat grill or boiler to high. If broiling, make sure oven rack is 5 to 6 inches from heat element.
  6. Thread about 4 or 5 shrimp on each skewer, piercing through the head and just above the the tail of each shrimp, so they form a “u” on the skewer.
  7. If grilling: carefully brush grill with vegetable or canola oil and grill shrimp skewers, uncovered, for 3 minutes. When the shrimp no longer stick to the grill surface, flip over. Grill for an additional 2 to 4 minutes or until cooked through (watch carefully so they don’t burn).
  8. If broiling: Place skewers on a foil-lined cookie sheet and broil for 2 minutes. Turn over and continue cooking until pink and cooked through around another 2 minutes. Watch carefully so they don’t burn or get overcooked.
  9. Remove shrimp from skewers, place on a serving platter or in a shallow bowl and garnish with pepper-cilantro mixture. Can also serve with some/all of the garnish on the side. Serve hot.

Lee Clayton Roper

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I’m Lee Clayton Roper, and I’m passionate about making cooking and entertaining easy, elegant and fun. Here you’ll find scrumptious recipes, helpful tips and seasonal menus that will spark inspiration in your kitchen!
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