Italian Barbecue Shrimp

Main Course

Recipe courtesy of Italian Creole Classic

Serves 2

  • 12 raw colossal shrimp,* unpeeled, with heads and tails left on
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1⁄2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper**
  • 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons water, divided
  • 1 lemon, use half seeded
  • 1⁄4 pound (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes warm
  • crusty French bread, for serving

*If colossal shrimp are not available, use the largest you can find.
**To coarse-grind the peppercorns, use a blender or pepper mill. The grind is important to the taste of the finished dish.

Note: This dish is prepared only two servings at a time because increasing the number of shrimp beyond 12 would require increasing the dish’s amount of sauce. Reducing the larger amount of sauce would require more cooking time, resulting in over-cooked shrimp

Italian Barbecue Shrimp 

Italian Barbecue Shrimp

Click image to enlarge


Place the un-peeled shrimp, Worcestershire, coarsely ground pepper, Creole seasoning, garlic, and 1 tablespoon water in a heavy 10-inch, stainless steel sauté pan. Squeeze the juice from the lemon half over the shrimp and add the rind and pulp to the pan.

Over high heat, cook the shrimp while gently stirring and occasionally turning the shrimp. After about two minutes of cooking, the shrimp should start turning pink on both sides, indicating they are nearly half cooked.

If the shrimp are the colossal size, now add 2 tablespoons water to the pan. Otherwise, don’t add water.

Reduce the heat to medium-high and continue cooking as you gradually add the cold pieces of butter to the pan.

While turning the shrimp occasionally, swirl the butter pieces until they are incorporated into the pan juices. The sauce turns light brown and creamy as it simmers, and the shrimp are just cooked through. This will take about two minutes total if the shrimp are extra-large, and about three minutes total if they’re colossal.

Do not overcook the shrimp.


Pour the shrimp and sauce into a heated pasta bowl with the lemon-half turned cut-side down, in the center.

Serve the shrimp and sauce immediately, alongside slices of warm, crusty French bread for sopping up the sauce. 

Note: This recipe is often called just barbecue shrimp although it's not barbecued and not cooked or served with barbecue sauce.

The original version is said to have originated in New Orleans’ Italian community nearly a century ago, to be added to a very long list of the city’s Italian-Creole classics. So in honor of the history we called ours Italian Barbecue Shrimp. There are many variations on the original recipe, but any authentic barbecue shrimp dish worth its name has great flavor, spices and needs bread for sopping up the juices.

Since the shrimp themselves are cooked and served with heads and shells intact, they’re usually eaten as one would eat whole boiled lobster - with a bib and a willingness to use your bare hands. The head and tail are always removed before eating, the shell covering the shrimp meat can be left if it is soft and thin enough to chew properly.

The emulsified sauce’s richness is a result of combining butterfat with the shrimp’s natural juices, black pepper and Worcestershire sauce. The shrimp are cooked just to the point of being done, remaining succulent. And the sauce is a prime candidate for dipping into with crusty bread.


Louisiana Recipes Weekly


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