Shrimp in Creole Sauce

Sunday, January 19, 2020

I'm so fascinated by the intersection of food from across the diaspora. The recipes I enjoy developing most often take notes from southern Black American, Caribbean and West African food. Thanks to my Cape Verdean background I'm also just as likely to pull in elements of Portuguese cuisine. (The West African islands of Cabo Verde were colonized by the Portuguese.) Today was no exception. I prepared shrimp in a spicy tomato-based sauce which was inspired by Haiti's creole sauce and New Orleans’ bbq shrimp. It also reminded me of Shrimp Mozambique, a Portuguese dish named after its former African colony. (As an interesting aside, Lousiana also has its own tomato-based creole sauce, and Cape Verde's language is called Creole/Kriolu. So, you can see how these jumbled ideas in my head might exist.)

I've been craving shrimp for a while, but held off on attempting this dish until I found some decently sized shell-on shrimp. The shells add a ton of flavor to the sauce and also protect the shrimp from overcooking. If the idea of peeling them at the table really bothers you, I'd take the time to simmer the shells in chicken stock to make a shrimp stock for this recipe first. If you can't find shell-on shrimp, a splash of fish sauce will help. As written, the recipe works for Whole30, assuming your stock and hot sauce are compliant. If I was off Whole30, I'd probably have incorporated white wine or beer in the sauce, but I relied on lime juice and a dash of vinegar for acidity today. Read on for the easy recipe, below!

Shrimp in Creole Sauce

2 lbs shell-on deveined shrimp (size large to jumbo works best)
2 tbsp Kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 cups unsalted chicken stock or shrimp stock
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp clarified butter*
Juice of 2 limes


  • A couple fresh scotch bonnet or habenero peppers can be simmered in the sauce in lieu of scotch bonnet pepper sauce. Pierce the whole peppers with a knife, or slice them if you want even more heat infused in the sauce.
  • Clarified butter or ghee should be used for Whole30, otherwise regular unsalted butter is fine.

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
Special Equipment: Large skillet or saucepan with lid

  1. Be sure to devein the shrimp if not already done for you. This can be done using a paring knife to cut a line through the top of the shell, without removing completely. Pull out the dark-colored vein and rinse with water. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in 2 cups of cold water in a large bowl. Add the shrimp, plus more water if needed to cover. Brine for 15 minutes and then drain the saltwater.
  2. Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions and peppers until softened, about 5 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt. Add the sliced garlic, curry powder, paprika, black pepper, and tomato paste. Cook for another minute, until fragrant.
  3. Stir in the scotch bonnet sauce and thyme. Deglaze the pan with stock, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the vinegar. Allow the sauce to simmer for five to ten minutes, or until it reduces and thickens slightly.
  4. Add the raw shrimp to the pot, arranging in an even layer. Cover the pot and reduce to low heat. 
  5. Allow the shrimp to steam gently until all of the shrimp have turned pink and cooked through. Halfway through the cooking process, give the shrimp a stir to flip them over.
  6. Once all of the shrimp are cooked, stir in the butter and lime juice to finish.

To serve, transfer the cooked shrimp to your serving platter and spoon the creole sauce over the top. Now dig in and get your hands messy!

Off Whole30, crusty bread would be nice for dipping, but twice-fried green plantain (tostones) worked just as well and aligns with the Caribbean vibe. Avocado drizzled with olive oil, lime, and fresh herbs rounded out our vibrant lunch today.

You can check out my Twitter thread from today for notes on the plantains and avocado.

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  1. Angela, this was SO good. I made it tonight and I probably ate way too much of it.

  2. I'm singing like and angel right now! Made this for dinner. I'm 18 days into my Whole30 and I was running low on inspiration after a long week. AMAZING!