Skip to Content

Garlic and Chilli Gambas (Prawns) Pil Pil

Gambas pil pil is a classic Spanish tapas dish that features spicy prawns cooked in olive oil, garlic, chilli, parsley & smoked paprika.

It is gloriously easy and will go from your freezer to your table in right around 30 minutes, and that includes defrosting your prawns!

Spanish gambas (prawns) pil pil served with fresh parsley, bread and lemon wedges.

Spanish Garlic and Chilli Spicy Prawns

I adore cooking with prawns (or shrimp for my US-based readers). They appear in everything from my king prawn bhuna to my Szechuan prawn stir fry and pea and prawn pasta to my guide to cooking whole prawns on the BBQ.

My latest offering is my take on a classic Spanish tapas dish, gambas pil pil, big juicy prawns cooked in olive oil with garlic, chilli, paprika and parsley.

It’s gloriously quick and easy to make at home. It also brings a splash of Spanish sunshine to the table no matter what the weather is doing outside.

Even if your prawns are frozen this dish can be on your table in just 30 minutes, and that includes preparation.

You need no special skills or equipment, although if you want a true Spanish feel a couple of cazuellas go down a storm.

My version cooks the prawns in the oven because earthenware pots do not play well with induction hobs.

I also have instructions for cooking on a gas hob and a single frying pan in my Frequently Asked Questions section below.

Close-up overhead Spanish gambas (prawns) pil pil served with fresh parsley, bread and lemon wedges.

Frequently Asked Questions

What size prawns do you use?

As far as I am concerned you should go big with this recipe, these prawns are size 8-12, which references how many you get per pound.

What is the best way to devein the prawns?

I favour using a toothpick because it helps the prawns keep their beautiful form.

Start at the head end of the prawn, slide the toothpick under the vein and pull, then move a little further down and repeat until it is all gone.

You can also make a shallow incision and pull it out, this method is much quicker.

Do I have to de-vein prawns?

It is not essential to devein prawns and I will often skip this step.

Most people do this because of the “ick” thought of eating the intestinal tract of another animal. But it does not impact the flavour, although if it is particularly pronounced it can introduce a little grittiness.

Can I cook this all the way through on the hob/stovetop?

Yes, this is a particularly good technique if you are using a single pan.

Heat the oil, add the garlic, chilli and parsley and cook until the garlic just begins to change colour. Then throw in the prawns and stir for 2-3 minutes. Finally, add the paprika, stir, cook for a final minute and serve.

Can I cook with a cazuella on the hob/stovetop?

Yes, but you will need to ensure that you have a gas hob.
Heat the oil in the cazuella, add the garlic, chilli and parsley and cook until the garlic begins to colour. Toss in the orawns and cook for 2-3 minutes, sprinkle over a little paprika, stir and cook for a final minute.

Close-up Spanish gambas (prawns) pil pil served with fresh parsley, bread and lemon wedges.

Serving Suggestions

Gambas (prawns) pil pil is a classic tapas dish, and when it comes to sides all it needs is a little crusty bread as far as I am concerned.

I’ve used some small ciabatta rolls in these pictures, but anything is fine, and it is essential to mop up all of that deliciously spiced olive oil.

I tend to stick with the small plate vibe when I serve this dish and will often have two or three dishes.

A bowl of delicious chilled gazpacho is the perfect way to kick off the meal.

Then I go in with the pil pil prawns, and finish off with something a little more meaty. Pinchos morunos (pork skewers) are ideal, although I have a real weakness for chorizo in red wine.

If I am feeling particularly greedy I’ll even add some patatas bravas into the mix, you can’t go wring with some spuds!

Overhead Spanish gambas (prawns) pil pil served with fresh parsley, bread and lemon wedges.

Equipment Used

I only mention brands of equipment if I think they make a material difference to a recipe. But, if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below the recipe.

  • Oven.
  • Stovetop.
  • 15cm or 6″ saucepan.
  • Two 13cm or 5″ tapas dishes (cazuella) or a 24cm (10″) oven-proof frying pan.
  • A sieve if you need to defrost the prawns.
  • Chopping board.
  • Kitchen knife.
  • A combination of weighing scales, measuring cups and spoons.
  • Stirring spoon.
Spanish gambas pil pil spicy chilli and garlic prawns served with bread, parsley and lemons.
Yield: 2 Servings

Gambas Pil Pil Recipe with Prawns, Garlic and Chilli

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

The spiritual home of "small plate" dining is Spain and gambas pil pil is the archetypal tapas dish that rocks spicy prawns quickly cooked in olive oil, dried chilli, smoked paprika and fresh parsley.


  • 350-400g (12-14) Large King Prawns
  • 125ml (½ Cup) Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley (Plus extra for garnish)
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Lemon
  • ½ Tsp Coarse Sea Salt
  • ½-1 Tsp Dried Chilli Flakes
  • 1 Tsp Sweet Smoked Paprika


  1. If you are using frozen prawns begin by defrosting them by running them under cold water for 4-5 minutes, then dry them thoroughly and de-vein them (if you wish).
  2. Divide the prawns between two 13cm (5") terracotta bowls, you can also do this in a single 20cm or 8" oven-proof frying pan if you wish.
  3. Finely chop the parsley.
  4. Peel and slice the garlic cloves as thinly as you can.
  5. Cut the lemon into 4 wedges.
  6. If you are cooking this in individual bowls, pour the olive oil into a 15cm (6") saucepan and heat the olive oil until it is hot.
  7. Add the sliced garlic, chilli flakes, coarse sea salt, and parsley and stir until the garlic begins to turn golden.
  8. Remove the oil from the heat stir in the smoked paprika, then immediately divide this between the two bowls of prawns.
  9. Transfer to a hot oven and cook for 7-10 minutes at 200°C or 400°F (fan mode) or 220°C or 430°F if your oven does not have a fan mode.
  10. Allow your diners to squeeze over fresh lemon juice and garnish with more parsley at the table.


If you want to cook this in a single pot see my Frequently Asked Questions section further up the page.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 734Total Fat: 58gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 48gCholesterol: 396mgSodium: 2373mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 44g

Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

Did you make this recipe?

If you made this recipe, I'd love to see what you did and what I can do better, share a picture with me on Instagram and tag me @krumplibrian and tell me how it went!

Skip to Recipe