New Orleans BBQ Shrimp
March 09, 2020 | Updated October 18, 2022
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So, for those of you who are not familiar with New Orleans BBQ shrimp, this dish might seem confusing. After all, it’s not, strictly speaking, barbecue. But it is amazing, and easy to make when you find yourself with good Gulf shrimp.
Legend has it that BBQ shrimp was invented in the 1950s at a NOLA restaurant Pascal’s Manale when a guest, who’d returned from a trip to Chicago, described something like this to the chef at the time. The chef then created what was to become one of the iconic dishes of the city; it had little to do with whatever it was the guest had in Chicago, but it was, and is, amazing.
Couple funny things about New Orleans BBQ shrimp: Although its origins are in an Italian restaurant and it calls itself barbecue, it’s really neither. The dish is deeply, intensely Creole-French.
The only real connection with barbecue sauce is that this sauce hits the same notes: spicy (but not too much), sweet, salty, tart, rich. Just like a good barbecue sauce. I’ve also heard tell that this sort of BBQ sauce as we know it now was not universally known until the 1970s, two decades after this sauce was invented.
My recipe for New Orleans BBQ shrimp is based off my friend John Currence’s recipe in his excellent book Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey, which is well worth your money if you like Southern food.
This is something of a “restaurant” version of the dish, with the shrimp peeled before you serve it, making the whole thing easier to eat. Feel free to leave the shells on if you want a more authentic experience, and if you can get your hands on head-on Gulf shrimp absolutely use them and leave them whole.
There are no “weird” ingredients in this recipe, although I will warn you that you need a lot of Worcestershire sauce, though: A full cup, not just a few dashes. And trust me, the finished sauce really works.
You get that zing from the Worcestershire and Creole seasoning, some herbal notes, body from a full-on, French-style reduction, all rounded out with heavy cream and, well, a slightly obscene amount of butter. Do not skimp on the butter or cream in this recipe, or else the sauce will be too sharp, almost unpleasant.
Once made, your New Orleans BBQ shrimp can be reheated, but it won’t be as good. Better to gorge yourself and regret it later. If you do somehow have leftovers, very gently reheat them and eat with bread.
If you are looking for some other great Southern shrimp recipes, try my Lowcountry shrimp perloo, Cajun jambalaya, or make yourself a batch of Gulf pickled shrimp.
If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.
New Orleans BBQ Shrimp
- 1 to 2 pounds shrimp, with the shells (and heads if you can get them)
- 3 tablespoons bacon fat or olive oil
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 lemon, sliced into rounds
- 1 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (optional)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon Creole or Cajun seasoning
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken or shrimp stock
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 4 to 5 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- Peel the shrimp and remove the heads, if you have them, and set them aside. Devein the shrimp with a paring knife and salt the shrimp lightly. Set them aside.
- In a saute pan or sauce pot, heat the bacon fat over medium high heat. When it's hot, add the shallots, garlic and shrimp shells and heads. Saute, stirring often, until the shrimp shells turn pink and the shallot is translucent.
- Add the pepper, lemon, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, Creole seasoning, wine and stock. Bring this to a boil, then drop the heat to a simmer and reduce the mixture for about 15 minutes. Strain it, moving the liquid to a wide saute pan that will fit all the shrimp.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and let it roll for 2 to 3 minutes. You ultimately want this to be a glaze, but you still need to cook the shrimp without overcooking them, so you'll need to use your judgment; the shrimp typically need about 3 to 5 minutes in the pan, maximum. So when the sauce just barely leaves a trail when you run a spatula through the middle of the pan, add all the shrimp and toss to combine.
- Keep the shrimp moving in the sauce until it is syrupy, then turn the heat to its lowest setting. Stir in the heavy cream until it's well mixed. Now, one tablespoon at a time, swirl in the butter. Add the parsley, toss to combine one more time, and serve at once with rice, grits or bread.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Exactly what I was looking for. Tart, rich, creamy with just enough heat. The crusty bread is a must. We ate it “family style”, seated around the iron skillet. Best ever!!
PS. Watched the James Beard episode of American Masters last night-before I knew I was making your dish.
The rosemary is a must. Takes it to the next level!
This recipe is a far cry from Paul Prudhomme’s version in Louisiana Kitchen. I’ll have to try this one out but it looks soooooo different. I used to live across the street from Pascal’s Manale and have had their dish countless times. The Prudhomme recipe hit the nail on the head, it is exactly like Pascal’s Manale and Mr. B’s. This one looks far more complicated and like it would cost an arm and a leg more than Prudhomme’s. I started making my own because the dish costs $30 in a restaurant, and only $5 – $6 a plate homemade. And it’s so easy you can cook it in a snap, especially if you premeasure the spices.
Excellent. Tastes very authentic. We ate almost a whole baguette with the sauce. Did use fresh head on Gulf shrimp. I liked this recipe because it used only 1/2 a stick of butter rather than 3. Tasted just as rich with the judicious use of cream. 5 stars!
Mack: Awesome! Glad you could get head on shrimp!
Here in Thailand we ain’t got no Creole seasoning. Searched for a recipe here but…
Been burned by some truly awful recipes (not here!) so want to get a Creole seasoning recipe from the source!
Eric: There are many variations on it, but in terms of homemade, this is one I trust: https://www.southernkitchen.com/recipes/condiment/virginia-willis-homemade-creole-seasoning
Very good… the worcestershire sauce isn’t subtle and I don’t think it’s meant to be. I had to sub milk and more butter for the cream but I would get cream in the future
Hank Shaw you dirty dog you’ve done it again! Here I am in NOLA visiting my ladies extended family to catch the parade (unfortunately cancelled) & your dynamite recipe drops with epic timing (well, for us).
We were skeptical about the amount of Worcestershire as well (we bought 5lbs head on shrimp). But you know what? We served it over grits w/french bread & a green salad. Sauce was….as my old man would have said (RIP Hankster we love you big guy), OUT OF SIGHT!
Kudos Shaw, kudos.
5 pinche estrellas cabron.
I am reading this correct? One cup of Worcestershire sauce? I can’t wait to try this.
Scott: Yeah, I know, right? I was blown away by it, too. It really works, though. You do need the cream and butter to smooth it out!
This looks amazing! Where do you buy your gulf shrimp? Do you have them shipped?
Cynthia: You can buy Gulf shrimp in most supermarkets. They will be identified as American shrimp. And I brought these back from a trip to southeast Texas.
Wow Hank, another amazing recipe! Next time I have to double the sauce so I can eat it by the spoonful as well as have it on the shrimp.
I always leave the head and shell on but I remove the eyeballs, the sharp spine and the feelers as per Chef Paul Prudhomme’s recipe.
Ell: Awesome that you can get head-on shrimp where you are, but it’s very, very difficult in most parts of the United States. As for the shell off, those shells don’t go to waste — they’re used in the sauce to add flavor.
My parents were friends with Pascale Radosta’s brother Jake in the 60’s, and I grew up in Metairie with the original recipe, which was simply large shrimp with the heads on (the fat is essential), water, margarine, salt & REX black pepper. Simple but so good! I love this modernized version and will definitely give it a try! Thanks!
Are the heads and shells not left in in most bbq shrimp recipes?
Jason: In some, yes, but not all. And besides, it is very hard to get head-on shrimp outside of the Gulf.
You don’t peel them before you cook them! Part of the goodness of this dish is licking the sauce off your fingers while peeling to eat.. And copious amounts of French bread is needed to sop up the sauce and eat that too.. Oh man I could go for some right now, and it’s 6:45 in the morning as I write this!