Jamaican Pepper Shrimp are fiery marinated shrimp infused with fresh herbs, spices and scotch bonnet pepper. This dish is vibrant and bursting with pure Caribbean flavour. It’s perfect for an appetizer, lunch, or main course at dinner.
Jamaican Pepper Shrimp
Marinated shrimp is stewed in a rich broth of garlic, onions, scotch bonnet pepper and spices to make this beloved Jamaican dish. Red, saucy, and spicy, Jamaican pepper shrimp is a mouthwatering dish that the whole family will enjoy! An overall great recipe.
Here’s Why You’ll Love this Pepper Shrimp Recipe
- Quick & Easy: I love making shrimp recipes because they never take long. It takes just 30 minutes to make this one!
- Beautiful Presentation: Want to impress a group? Serve these at your next gathering. The fiery red colour is aesthetically pleasing so it looks just as good as it tastes. And we avoid artificial food colouring by using annatto instead.
- Versatile: Serve it as an appetizer, or a main course. You can even add it to salads and sandwiches, so it works for different occasions and meals.
What is Jamaican Pepper Shrimp?
Jamaican pepper shrimp is a Caribbean seafood dish inspired by Chinese cuisine. Shelled shrimp is stewed in a scotch bonnet-based stew. Red food colouring is often added to enhance the overall presentation and give it a bright red hue.
In Jamaica, it’s common to see roadside vendors selling pepper shrimp in small, clear plastic bags.
What’s Needed to Make This Recipe (Kitchen Tools and Equipment)
- Mixing Bowl: This contains the shrimp as it marinates.
- Cutting Board and Knife: Use these to chop the fresh ingredients.
- Wooden Spoon or Spatula: For stirring and tossing the shrimp and seasonings in the skillet.
- Large Skillet: Use this to sauté the shrimp and aromatic ingredients.
Ingredients and Ingredient Notes
- Shrimp: Use large shrimp (jumbo) for the best results. Devein and pat dry the shrimp in order to prep. Traditionally, this dish is served with the head intact, but my preference is to have it removed.
- Scotch Bonnet Pepper: This adds a the flavourful, spicy quality to the sauce. It the main ingredient. Alternatively, you can use Habanero pepper or your favourite hot pepper.
- Aromatics: Onions, green onion and garlic (fresh minced garlic recommended not garlic powder) are a delicious base of flavour in this recipe. Sauté them.
- Pimento Seeds: Crushed pimento seeds (allspice berries) emit a warm aroma. Their flavour is both sweet and savoury, with hints of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg, along with a slight peppery kick.
- Fresh Thyme: Use 5-6 sprigs. Remove the hard stems.
- Seasoning: Use sweet paprika, fish or seafood seasoning and black pepper. Combine in a small bowl and set aside. Seafood seasoning can contain salt, so add kosher salt or regular salt if needed, to taste.
- Annatto Powder: Also known as achiote powder, this has a deep orange-red hue and imparts a slightly nutty, peppery taste to foods. It is a natural way to colour the dish. If you can’t find this ingredient, feel free to skip.
- Butter: Use this for the sauté.
- White Vinegar: Vinegar adds a subtle tangy flavour to the shrimp, enhancing its overall taste. It helps balance the natural sweetness of the shrimp.
- Olive Oil/Vegetable Oil: Apply this to the raw shrimp so the seasoning clings to the surface also use hot oil to saute the shrimp. Alternatively, you can use any neutral oil.
How to Make Pepper Shrimp
- Add shrimp to a large mixing bowl and coat with a drizzle of vegetable oil then season with scotch bonnet pepper, onion, escallion, garlic, pimento seeds, thyme, paprika, fish or seafood seasoning, seasoning salt, annatto powder and black pepper. Allow the shrimp to marinate for 15-20 minutes.
- In a large skillet or wok, heat the olive oil over medium heat to medium-high heat. Then add the marinated shrimp, herbs and spices. Cook for a few minutes until the shrimp begins to turn pink and firm up, and until the aromatics become soft, fragrant and release their flavours.
- Add two tablespoons of butter and vinegar to the skillet and continue to cook the shrimp for another 2 minutes to 3 minutes, or until they’re fully cooked and well coated with the spicy sauce. Finally, serve and enjoy!
Recipe Substitutions and Tips
- Red Hue: Some recipes include red food colouring to get the signature hue. For this recipe it is omitted.
- Substitutes for Scotch Bonnet Peppers: Use scotch bonnet pepper sauce, hot pepper sauce or habanero peppers instead.
- Bell Peppers: try adding in finely chopped bell peppers for a nice freshness and flavour.
- Spicy Kick: if you prefer a really good spicy kick, add additional scotch bonnet peppers or use a variety of peppers to kick it up a notch.
Serving Suggestions and Tips
You can enjoy Jamaican pepper shrimp on its own but if you want to make it a meal, here are some tasty suggestions:
- Jamaican Rice and Peas: A classic Caribbean side dish made with rice, kidney beans, coconut milk, and spices. Its rich and savoury flavours complement the spicy shrimp.
- Festival: These sweet fried dumplings are a popular Jamaican side dish, providing a delightful contrast to the spicy shrimp.
- Fried Plantains: Sweet and caramelized fried plantains add a naturally sweet element to your meal, balancing the spiciness of the shrimp.
- Jamaican Hard Dough Bread: This slightly sweet, dense bread is a Jamaican staple and can be used to make sandwiches or served as a side to soak up the shrimp sauce.
Recipe Notes and Tips for the Best Pepper Shrimp
- Remember to devein shrimp before marinating them. Use a toothpick to pierce the dorsal tract and pull it out. This allows you to keep the shells intact while removing that black line.
- Keep the shell on while cooking. Cooking shrimp with the shells on helps retain moisture and flavour. Plus, it provides a protective layer, preventing the shrimp from overcooking.
- You can use frozen shrimp for this recipe, just defrost it first. Do not use cooked shrimp because it will overcook.
- Don’t rely too heavily on the estimated cooking time. Shrimp cooks very quickly so monitor this dish as it cooks. Don’t step away from the stovetop or you risk overcooking the shrimp.
Can I Make Pepper Shrimp Ahead of Time?
Pepper shrimp can be made up to 3 days in advance.
Once the pepper shrimp has cooled to room temperature, transfer them to an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Reheat shrimp gently in the oven or over low heat on the stovetop.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Serve pepper shrimp with rice, festival, plantains, hardo bread, salad or sautéed veggies.
Yes. The shrimp is marinated and then stewed so the shell is very tender and easy to eat. But if you prefer to remove the shells, you can.
Do not marinate shrimp for more than 1 hour. The acid in the marinade can start to break down the shrimp, making them mushy if left for too long. Usually 15-30 minutes is sufficient.
No. This recipe does not call for a cornstarch slurry, the shrimp will release its own juices along with the vinegar but it will not be enough to where you need to thicken.
Yes, you can use peeled shrimp. However, leaving shrimp shells on when cooking can add flavour and protect the shrimp from overcooking. The shells contain flavourful compounds, and they act as a natural barrier, keeping the shrimp moist and preventing them from becoming tough.
Interested in more Shrimp Recipes? Check These Out!
- Pineapple Jerk Chicken and Shrimp Skewers
- Creamy Garlic Parmesan Shrimp (Low Carb/Keto Friendly)
- Scotch Bonnet Orange Glazed Shrimp
- Easy Bang Bang (KaPow) Shrimp
- One Pot Creamy Cajun Shrimp Pasta with Sausage
Honey Jerk Shrimp
Crispy Fried Shrimp
Creamy Tomato Pesto Shrimp Pasta
Jamaican Curry Shrimp
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Jamaican Pepper Shrimp
- Mixing Bowl for marinating the shrimp
- Cutting Board and Knife for chopping the fresh ingredients
- Wooden Spoon or Spatula or stirring and tossing the shrimp and seasonings in the skillet.
- Large Skillet for sautéing the shrimp and aromatic ingredients
- 1 lb Shrimp large, deveined and pat dried
- 2 Scotch Bonnet Pepper
- 1/2 small Onion finely chopped
- 2 stalk Green Onion scallions, finely chopped
- 5 cloves Garlic minced
- 4-5 crushed Pimento Seeds allspice berries, crushed
- 1 bunch Fresh Thyme 5-6 sprigs. heard stems removed
- 1 tsp Sweet Paprika
- 2 tsp Fish or Seafood Seasoning
- 1 tsp Annatto Powder achiote powder, for colour
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 1 tbsp White Vinegar
- 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- Add shrimp to a large mixing bowl and coat with a drizzle of vegetable oil then season with scotch bonnet pepper, onion, green onion, garlic, pimento seeds, thyme, paprika, fish or seafood seasoning, annatto powder and black pepper. Allow the shrimp to marinate for 15-20 minutes
- In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Then add the marinated shrimp, herbs and spices. Cook for a few minutes until the shrimp begins to turn pink and firm up, and until the aromatics become soft, fragrant and release their flavours.
- Add two tablespoons of butter and vinegar to the skillet and continue to cook the shrimp for another 2 minutes to 3 minutes, or until they're fully cooked and well coated with the spicy sauce. Finally, serve and enjoy!
Note, the nutritional information is calculated using a nutrition facts calculator. It is a rough estimate and can vary based on products used.