Delicious spicy cajun shrimp served with sauteed vegetables. It’s a quick and healthy skillet meal ready in under 30 minutes!
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If you’re looking to break out of a boring dinner rut, this cajun shrimp recipe is the solution. 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, then get tossed with the seasoned shrimp. To make it a complete meal, serve over grits, pasta, or with a side of steamed rice.
For a potent cajun spice blend, 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.
I recommend using extra jumbo-sized shrimp that yield two-bite portions. Look for 16 to 20 count, this is 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 more nutrition to the dish. Cut them into small pieces, ¼-inch in size. You want them to cook quickly and cling to the shrimp when serving. The little pieces also deliver more flavor in a shorter period due to higher surface area. To add more vegetables, thinly sliced zucchini or mushrooms make an excellent addition.
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 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
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.
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Spicy Cajun Shrimp
- 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
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ cup white onion, ¼-inch dice
- ½ cup red bell pepper, ¼-inch dice
- ½ cup green bell pepper, ¼-inch dice
- 2 teaspoons minced parsley
- 4 lemon wedges
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 1 ½ minutes. Add the red and green bell peppers, saute for 1 minute. Transfer vegetables to a clean bowl. 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. Quickly flip and cook until pink, translucent, and curled into a loose “C” shape, about 1 minute.
- Add the sauteed vegetables and stir to combine, 1 minute, then turn off the heat. Transfer shrimp to a serving platter. Garnish with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.
- Make it Spicier: Use ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes.
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