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New Orleans-Style Cajun BBQ Shrimp

New Orleans-Style Cajun BBQ Shrimp

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Cajun BBQ Shrimp is one of the many unique and ubiquitous foods for which New Orleans is known. The Crescent City has many famous dishes — Jambalaya, Shrimp Creole, Étouffée, and Gumbo, as just a few examples. Seafood really shines here. Crawfish, oysters, and of course, shrimp, play leading roles in Cajun cuisine. 

This barbecued shrimp recipe was created to elevate the flavor of the beautiful, fresh gulf shrimp, giving it just the right amount of Cajun spice. And of course, it has plenty of butter in it, so it’s a true Southern dish.

Cajun Barbecue Shrimp Recipe

Cajun BBQ Shrimp

Cajun versus Creole

Why are we calling this Cajun BBQ Shrimp instead of Creole BBQ Shrimp? What’s the difference between Creole and Cajun? The simplest explanation is that Creoles were migrants who settled in urban areas, whereas Cajuns settled in more rural areas, particularly in the Southwest.

While there are similarities, each group has its own unique cuisine, dialects, and traditions. Echoes from their French, Spanish, African, and American Indian ancestors can be seen and felt in both cultures and cuisines.

The blending of all of that heritage has some delicious results that render the cuisine from the region deservedly world-famous.

There are some distinct differences in the cuisine. Cajun recipes almost never have tomatoes, while Creole heavily relies on their use. Since this recipe doesn’t involve tomatoes, it falls squarely in the category of Cajun cuisine. But, for the spice mix, Creole spice mixes and Cajun spice mixes are interchangeable.

Cajun Spice Mix

Cajun Spice Mix.   Photo Credit

Cajun cuisine itself has a rich history that can be traced back to the Acadian people, French settlers who were expelled from Canada by the British in the mid-18th century. These Acadians, or “Cajuns,” settled in the swamps and bayous of Louisiana, where they adapted their French culinary traditions to local ingredients, including the abundant seafood and native spices.

Cajun spice mix is a reflection of the fusion of French, Spanish, African, and Native American culinary influences in the region. Over time, it has evolved to include a variety of ingredients such as paprika, cayenne pepper, thyme, oregano, garlic, onion, and salt, resulting in a distinctive blend of flavors that is both robust and spicy.

We’ve included our Cajun spice mix recipe, but have a caveat. We typically use store-bought blends of Cajun spices, purely out of convenience. Our absolute favorite is Joe’s Stuff, which we buy every time we pass through New Orleans. You can easily get it online as well.

Cajun BBQ Shrimp

 

One of the benefits of Joe’s mix is that it’s much lower in salt than is typical.  That said, salt is still listed as the number one ingredient.

The benefit of making your own mix is the ability to control the sodium content. If you choose to use a commercially available mix, taste it first and adjust the amount accordingly. This dish can easily get too salty if using the wrong prepared Cajun spice mix blend.

Shell on Shrimp or no Shell?

Traditionally, the Cajun BBQ shrimp are cooked whole, unshelled with the heads intact. I think head-on shrimp actually enhances the flavor of the dish, but it has one drawback. It makes things pretty messy to eat since you need to use your bare hands. Depending on your dinner guests, you may want to peel and devein the shrimp, as we did in this recipe.

Or, it can get messy, so be prepared with lots of napkins!

BBQ Shrimp

 

Pro Tips for Deveining Shrimp

Regardless of whether you are cooking the shrimp shell on or off, deveining them is preferred. There are specialized deveining tools that will simplify the process. But, using a toothpick is a simple and effective method that can be used when a deveining tool is not readily available. To use the toothpick method:

Prepare the shrimp: Rinse the shrimp under cold running water and pat them dry with a paper towel.

Locate the vein: Flip the shrimp over so that the curved side is facing up. Look for the dark, sometimes black, vein that runs along the back of the shrimp.

Insert the toothpick: Gently insert the tip of a toothpick under the vein at the top near the head of the shrimp.

How to devein shrimp

How to devein shrimp.   Photo Credit

Remove the vein: With a slow and steady motion, carefully lift the vein out of the shrimp’s body. You can use the toothpick to pull it out or use your fingers if it’s accessible enough.

Rinse and repeat: After removing the first vein, rinse the shrimp under cold water to clean out any remaining debris. If there’s a vein on the underside, repeat the process on that side as well.

Final rinse: Once all the shrimp have been deveined, give them a final rinse to ensure they are thoroughly cleaned.

No Grill Required for This BBQ Shrimp Recipe

Despite the name of this delicious dish, there is no barbecue or barbecue sauce involved in its preparation. These shrimp are cooked in a savory sauce, in a pan on the stove. It’s actually a pretty quick and simple (and delicious) thing to prepare. Go ahead and give it a try!

Serve the shrimp with a fresh sliced French baguette to sop up all of the sauce along with some extra hot sauce (such as Crystal Louisiana Hot Sauce, which will bring the heat but not overwhelm the dish with too much vinegar).

BBQ Shrimp Po Boy.  Photo Credit

If you want to go true New Orleans style, you can make BBQ shrimp Po-boys by stuffing the Cajun shrimp, drizzled with the butter sauce, into a baguette and adding lettuce and tomato.

Related recipes where fresh shrimp are the star of the dish that you might enjoy:

Shrimp in Garlic Sauce (Gambas Al Ajillo)

Curried Rice and Shrimp Salad

Fresh Spring Rolls with Shrimp and Peanut Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Cajun BBQ Shrimp

Cajun BBQ Shrimp Recipe

This Cajun BBQ Shrimp recipe combines fresh gulf shrimp with cajun flavors and lots of spicy deliciousness. Don't forget the French bread to mop up the sauce.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound (450 g) Jumbo Shrimp or Large Shrimp
  • 4 Teaspoons (7 g) Cajun Seasoning (recipe below, or pre-made mix)
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil or vegetable oil
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons (45 ml) Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Lemon
  • 4Tablespoons (80 g) Butter (cubed, cold)
  • Cayenne Pepper (to taste)
  • One Tablespoon (15 ml) of Sherry*
  • 2 Green Onions
  • Sliced French baguette or other crusty bread for dipping

Instructions

  1. Season shrimp with half the seasoning mix, making sure all shrimp are well covered. Marinate for 10 minutes in the refrigerator
  2. Cut the lemon in half. Squeeze out the juice of one half for the recipe, and cut the remainder into thin rounds.
  3. In a large skillet combine oil, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, sliced lemon, cayenne pepper, Creole seasoning, and garlic.
  4. Cook over moderately high heat for one minute.
  5. Add sherry (if used) or alternatively the stock and the shrimp, and cook until shrimp turn pink. The shrimp cook quickly, requiring only about 1-2 minutes on each side.
  6. Reduce to medium heat and stir in butter, a few cubes at a time, stirring constantly and adding more only when the butter is melted.
  7. Remove the skillet from heat.
  8. Plate the sautéed shrimp and spoon over with the lemony sauce. Garnish with green onion.
  9. Serve with French bread for dipping.

Notes

*If you choose not to cook with alcohol, you can substitute a S 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) of Chicken Stock or Seafood Stock

Nutrition Information

Yield

4

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 329Total Fat 21gSaturated Fat 8gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 270mgSodium 2399mgCarbohydrates 9gFiber 1gSugar 2gProtein 27g

Cajun Spice Mix

Delicious cajun spice mix, perfect for any creole or cajun recipe.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1.5 tsp (9 g) salt
  • 1.5 tsp (9 g) garlic powder
  • 1 tsp (6 g) onion powder
  • 1 tsp (6 g) sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp (6 g) cayenne pepper or other chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp (3 g) dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp (3 g) dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp (3 g) black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp (3 g) white pepper

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the ingredients.
  2. Store in an airtight container.

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