A healthy garlic shrimp dinner idea that is light on effort yet filling and rich in flavors. The leeks add a mildly sweet and onion-like flavor, and a mixture of spices add subtle heat and a lemony touch.
Make it the centerpiece to your healthy easy weeknight dinner. You can keep it low carb with a large salad as a side or turn it into a hearty shrimp pasta dish.
Or dress 'em up with olive-oil-drizzled toasted bread and serve as a shrimp antipasto for casual appetizer parties. Although you don't need bread, they are wonderfully tasty as-is.
Now and then, I love a glass of wine with dinner. Lately, I always have a bottle of Amarone Della Valpolicella in the house, which Trader's Joe sells at a great price. So, if you haven't tried this nicely balanced red wine yet, I hope you'll do – if you are into Italian wine, you'll thank me later.
And that's where this healthy garlic shrimp dish comes in. It takes about 25 minutes to make with prep—you can't beat that as a quick weeknight shrimp dinner with fresh ingredients, and if you can, please share.
But it's the kind of fast olive oil flavor-induced dish that you just need to appreciate those red wine sips and relax away, even if it's just for a dinner's moment. And although I mostly serve it with a green mixed salad (to keep it low carb if you want it to), it goes well over pasta too. Which, I don't mind boiling water for on the side to make everyone in the family happy—mostly my kid.
So, here is what you'll need.
- Large shrimp. Ha, the days that fish was considered a poor man's food are over. Now that I live more inland (coastal cities definitely have their perks), I appreciate a good seafood sale. So, I often grab the large frozen and discounted shrimp bag ( or two) when I need it. For this recipe, I use the wild-caught gulf shrimp. They are quite large, and I have to peel them. But it is so worth it. You can use small, large, extra-large, even make this with or without peel (and let everyone do the peeling work at the table). Just know that the cooking time might slightly differ based on the shrimp's size.
- Extra virgin Olive oil. It's truly all about the olive oil flavors. Don't be skimpy here. It's what makes this dish, especially when paired with the right spices. But I'm still not using as much as in the more classical garlic oil shrimp dish. Go for more if you must pair it with crusted bread to soak up all the juices. There is no wrong way here.
- Garlic. I am using four, but feel free to go wilder if you want to. Six of them is a good number too.
- Leeks. They get a head start in the pan with a pinch of salt until softened and infused with the garlic's aroma. They are mildly oniony, delicately sweet, and well...making this a happy, healthy garlic shrimp dish. This vegetable does absorb quite some oil. That's why I always like to pour an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil onto my finished plate. It's totally optional but highly recommended because it's what you and I deserve.
- Parsley. It's fresh, peppery, earthy, and when tossed together with the rest of the ingredients, it brightens the flavors. Plus, don't forget to use some for garnish, because it looks pretty too.
- Lemon Peel. I don't use this often in my recipes, but it's convenient to add a delicious lemony flavor without the zest's bitterness.
- Dried oregano. Oh, how I love this herb, and here it balances any naturally developed sweet flavors.
- Cayenne pepper. Adjust this seasoning based on taste. I keep my shrimp lightly spicy—because otherwise, my daughter won't eat it—but it's absolutely fine to use a heavier amount and heat things up a little.
- Salt and pepper. The amount is up to you, but I would go a bit heavy on the black pepper.
Note: If you use frozen shrimp, defrost by letting them sit for 20 to 30 minutes in a bowl covered with water. Add 5 to 7 minutes to the prep time if you have to peel the shrimp.
Keep it low carb
This one-pan dish is often served directly on my dinner table. And I love this paired with a green mixed salad that quickly comes together while the shrimp are on the stove (and keeping an eye on them, of course).
If you love a more substantial side dish, then this kale-apple salad with creamy avocado pesto will definitely fit that bill. And during the warmer months, I recommend a more refreshing mango-avocado salad.
And if you should have some leftovers of the Mashed Cauliflower, reheat it and top it off with these healthy garlic shrimp. It might sound like a strange dish to pair it with, but you can tell me later if you like it or not. I love it.
Make it a Garlic Shrimp Pasta Recipe
Is there a more comforting dish than garlic shrimp pasta...paired with a glass of wine? Well, maybe there is, but I think this one is high on the list. It's always heavy on flavor and satisfaction.
We are mostly a gluten-free family—except for my husband, blessed with a stomach that can even withstand mud. Forgive me if jealously creeps in here for a moment.
Any spaghetti will do here, but if you are looking for a good gluten-free brand, I recommend Jovial—their thin capellini pasta pairs well with a light olive-based sauce. Lately, I've also been experimenting with grain-free Cassava flour pasta. It can get mushy quickly if you overcook these noodles even a little, so I always take it out a minute or two earlier with still quite a bite to it, and that works.
Add some salt to the pasta water while cooking and some of that pasta liquid right before tossing the noodles with the shrimp and the extra drizzle of olive oil. And, oh, don't forget that parmesan cheese.
Serve as a hot shrimp appetizer
Garlic shrimp is a luxurious appetizer with the right presentation and, in my experience, makes most guests happy. You'll need small plates—beautiful, simple, square, round, it doesn't matter. But it needs to be the ones you have to wash afterward. And I know nobody likes doing the dishes after a house party but eating shrimp from paper plates just does not taste the same. You know it.
Then, I recommend a generous loaf of crusty or toasted bread and four or five shrimps served per plate. You can go all the way and offer olives, an aged cheese, veggie, and tuna bites on the side with that sip of red wine, of course. I'll come to your party.
It's not your classic shrimp in garlic oil, but then again, I did promise a healthier garlic shrimp recipe, big in flavors and versatile enough to serve it up in different ways. Enjoy!
- 4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 medium-sized leeks, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 pounds (wild-caught) shrimp (about 16-20 large shrimp per pound)
- 1 teaspoon lemon peel
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- A handful parsley, chopped for garnish
- In a large skillet, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.
- Add garlic, cook, and stir for 10 seconds to release its aroma.
- Stir in the chopped leeks. I like to sprinkle the vegetables with a few pinches of sea salt at this point (optional)
- Cook and occasionally stir for 5 minutes, or until leeks are softened.
- Add in the shrimp, then season everything with lemon peel, cayenne pepper, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. I am pretty generous with black pepper in this dish. Let the shrimp cook for a few minutes and let one side becoming pinkish before combining it thoroughly with the leeks.
- Cook and stir until the shrimp are pink on both sides, opaque and cooked through, and the flavors have come together (anywhere from 6 to 15 minutes depending on their size).
- Optional: drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil over the entire dish and stir in half of the chopped parsley.
- Serve with extra parsley for garnish.
Cooking time: Because the jumbo shrimp are mixed in with the vegetables, it might take a little longer to get them to the desired consistency. I usually cook and stir the shrimp with the leeks for about 6 to 15 minutes if they are large in size. But I like my shrimp well done. Check and taste test after 6 minutes.
Cleaning leeks: Cut away the ends and the tough green tops— I usually reserve these to help flavor my bone broth. Then cut the vegetables lengthwise in half, open up the leaves, and thoroughly wash any dirt or sand hidden between them under running water.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 180Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 14gSodium: 89mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 1g
Disclaimer: This nutritional data is calculated using third party tools and is only intended as a reference.
This post was originally published in April 2017 and has been updated with an updated recipe, new pictures, and new information.