Spicy Cajun Shrimp

4.70 from 39 votes
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Delicious spicy cajun shrimp served with sauteed vegetables. It’s a quick and healthy skillet meal ready in under 30 minutes!

cajun shrimp in a cast iron skillet

This cajun shrimp recipe is a quick and easy solution if you’re looking to break out of a boring dinner rut. Delicate crustaceans cook in a hot skillet with bold seasonings that instantly add intense flavor to each succulent bite. I combine the dried spice blend with olive oil to help the seasonings stick to the surface.

Chopped bell peppers, onions, and garlic add fresh Louisiana-inspired flavors to the dish. The vegetables briefly saute until crisp-tender and then tossed with the seasoned shrimp. To make it a complete meal, serve over grits, pasta, or with a side of steamed rice.

small bowl of cajun seasoning mix

Cajun seasoning

To make a homemade cajun seasoning, use various concentrated dried seasonings like smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, and oregano. This mix yields a delightful grilled flavor without having to step outdoors.

To add a pop of spiciness, use a trio of ground cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. You can easily adjust the heat level to your liking or make it even more intense by adding fresh, minced hot peppers. The recipe has a pleasant lingering heat but not burning hot.

Recipe Resources

mixing the seasonings and shrimp together in a bowl

Shrimp selection

I recommend using extra jumbo-sized shrimp that yield two-bite portions. Look for 16 to 20 count, which means the number of pieces per pound. Peel and devein the shrimp before cooking to remove the digestive tract and make eating easier. I often leave the tails on as insulators so that the smaller sections cook slower, preventing a rubbery texture.

Saute the vegetables

Chopped bell peppers, onions, and garlic add flavorful aromatics and nutrition to the dish. Cut them into small pieces, about ¼-inch in size, so they cook quickly and will cling to the shrimp when serving. The tiny pieces also deliver more flavor in a shorter period due to higher surface area. Thinly sliced zucchini or mushrooms make an excellent addition to add more vegetables. 

Sear the shrimp

A cast iron skillet retains heat very well and sears the shrimp in just minutes. Add the pieces in a single layer and let them sizzle, undistributed. After about 2 minutes, flip and cook them until opaque and pink in appearance. This process ensures even cooking and prevents overcooking. 

Add the vegetables back to the pan of cooked shrimp to warm, and enjoy immediately garnished with parsley. I like to serve lemon wedges to squeeze on top. The citric acid naturally enhances the flavors in the seasoning with bright citrus notes.

What to serve this with

Shrimp with cajun spice and vegetables

Use two types of dried red peppers

Cajun dishes often use cayenne peppers to bring heat and a distinctive flavor. Red pepper flakes tend to be a mix of chilies and hot seeds with a majority composed of cayenne. The fine particles coat the shrimp and deliver an instant kick while the larger pieces give a lingering heat since it needs chewing to release the capsaicin. Cayenne peppers are higher on the heat scale with 35,000 to 50,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), so a little can pack a fiery bite.

Spicy Cajun Shrimp

Delicious spicy cajun shrimp served with sautéed vegetables. It's a quick and healthy skillet meal ready in under 30 minutes!
4.70 from 39 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time7 minutes
Total Time22 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 pound shrimp, 16/20 count, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, or sweet
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup white onion, ¼" dice
  • ½ cup red bell pepper, ¼" dice
  • ½ cup green bell pepper, ¼" dice
  • 2 teaspoons minced parsley
  • 4 lemon wedges

Instructions 

  • Defrost the Shrimp – If using frozen shrimp, place them in a colander and run cold water until no longer icy, about 3 minutes. Alternatively, set in a bowl and fill with room temperature water until defrosted. Thoroughly drain and pat dry using paper towels.
  • Cajun Seasoning – In a medium bowl, combine shrimp, 1 tablespoon olive oil, paprika, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, oregano, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  • Saute the Vegetables – Heat a 12-inch skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once hot, add the garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds.
    Add the onion, saute for 90 seconds. Add the red and green bell peppers, saute for 1 minute. Transfer vegetables to a clean bowl.
  • Cook the Shrimp – Melt the butter in the pan. Add the shrimp in a single layer. Cook without moving until they turn pinkish on the bottom and start to curl, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until curled into a loose “C” shape, about 1 minute.
  • Combine Ingredients – Add the sauteed vegetables and stir to combine, 1 minute, then turn off the heat. Transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

Notes

  • Make it Spicier: Use ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 229kcal (11%)Carbohydrates 7g (2%)Protein 24g (48%)Fat 12g (18%)Saturated Fat 3g (15%)Trans Fat 1gCholesterol 293mg (98%)Sodium 1177mg (49%)Potassium 241mg (7%)Fiber 2g (8%)Sugar 3g (3%)Vitamin A 919IU (18%)Vitamin C 55mg (67%)Calcium 186mg (19%)Iron 3mg (17%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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10 Comments Leave a comment or review

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Absolutely! You can stir them in when cooking the sauteed vegetables if you like them softened (cheery tomatoes cut in half would be lovely), or stir them in at the end for a more fresh flavor.

  1. Ronald Seto says

    I have used frozen, cooked shrimp in similar recipes and they turn out OK. Saves the time to devein, peel and cook raw shrimp. I have seen Vietnamese shrimp vendors here in Mississippi peel $20 worth of shrimp (about 3-1/2 lb) in a minute. It takes me about a 1/2 to 3/4 hour to do it. That is why I prefer frozen, cooked shrimp.