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Spicy Grilled Shrimp in Adobo

spicy grilled shrimp adobo

Bright citrus, packed with heat, quickly charred.

spicy grilled shrimp adobo

Spicy Grilled Shrimp Perfection

There’s something so magical about these spicy grilled shrimp in adobo. Is it the glowing red colors of the sauce? Once you’ve cooked these you’ll realize it’s actually the smells: The fresh citrus and burst of spicy chiles, wafting towards you with wood-fired warmth for just a few moments. These shrimp cook quickly, enjoy those moments.

How Do I Get that Glow?

It’s hard to scroll through the recipes and pass by the glowing red shrimp. The secret is really not-so-secret, it’s the same technique that I use for my glowing Pollo Asado Rojo Wings: achiote paste.

That fruity paste of chiles, seeds and herbs happens to have a bold pigment that passes on to the food. The annatto seeds are packed with a natural red pigment, used in many types of foods globally. Let’s just take advantage of it for our delicious, spicy grilled shrimp in adobo!

You can pick it up on Amazon, most brands are very similar:

Shrimp and marinade, ready to go on skewers

Making the Adobo Marinade

So you’ve got the chiles, and achiote paste, the citrus and spices. Now what?

There’s a few steps, and I do recommend making the adobo marinade ahead of time. The sauce needs to cool (can’t pour that on hot shrimp) and the flavors also develop more with a little time.

Hydrating the chiles: If you haven’t tackled this before, it’s incredibly easy. Toast the chiles on low until you can smell them, and take them off the heat and pour boiling water. They are ready to go after about 10 minutes.

Blending, and cooking: The rest of the ingredients can be tossed together in a blender, along with the hydrated chiles, and pureed perfectly smooth. Once you have your velvety sauce you’ll toss it in a pan and cook it down for a few minutes to enhance the flavors and bring it all together.

Cool and wait: You can make this sauce a few hours ahead of time, or the day before if you’d like. Shrimp do not need long to marinade (30-45 minutes) which helps you get them onto your plate much sooner.

Adobo shrimp, grilling and smelling delicious

How Should I Eat This?

I recommend buying sweeter shrimp, like Argentinian Red Shrimp. Omaha Steaks carries them, and they are so buttery sweet like little lobsters. These huge shrimp also cook in almost half of the time as normal shrimp. If patience is a problem for you, then you’re all set.

Don’t overcook!

Serving tough, rubbery shrimp will be such a disappointment! Did you know you can cook them to temperature, just like a steak? I recommend 120°F. I use a Dash or the ThermoPop from Thermoworks. The thinner probe makes sure you’re not destroying the shrimp.

Shrimp never last long enough in my house. I’d recommend pairing it with anything that involves Mexican flavors you are familiar with. We like to gently stuff the spicy grilled shrimp in adobo in burritos with rice, black beans, crema, and cilantro. Don’t forget that lime!

grilled shrimp burrito with a squeeze of lime
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grilled shrimp in spicy adobo

Spicy Grilled Shrimp in Adobo

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The fresh citrus and aroma of chiles, wafting towards you with wood-fired warmth for a few moments. These spicy grilled shrimp are calling you!

  • Total Time: 1 hour 8 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


  • 1 lb Red Argentinian Red shrimp
  • 8 dried guajillo chiles
  • 5 dried arbol chiles (more for extra heat)
  • 1 Cup Mexican beer
  • 1/4 Cup sour orange juice, (or 50/50 lime and orange)
  • 2 Tbsp achiote paste
  • 1 Tbsp Mexican oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil


  1. Toast the chiles in a dry skillet on low heat for a couple of minutes on each side. Once you smell the aroma, take them off and cover them with boiling water for about 10 minutes. I use an electric kettle to boil water while the chiles toast. Remove the seeds and stem afterward, and place in the blender.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients besides the oil into the blender. Blend until very smooth. The paste can be smoothed out more with an additional splash of beer, just don’t add water!
  3. Heat up the oil in a saute pan with raised sides on medium-low. Pour in the chile mixture, carefully, as it may splatter. Cook the marinade for just a few minutes to incorporate all of the flavors. Salt to taste. 
  4. Allow it to cool completely before adding to the shrimp. The marinade can be made hours before, or even the day before.
  5. Add the cleaned, raw shrimp into a large plastic bag or container. Pour in the marinade and allow the shrimp to absorb the flavors in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, no more than 45. The acid in the marinade can tenderize the shrimp too much if you allow it sit too long.
  6. Heat up your grill for direct, high searing. Skewer the shrimp as desired and grill for a few minutes on each side, flipping as needed. Shrimp is the juiciest around 120°F, so don’t overcook it!
  7. Enjoy!


Marinade the shrimp without the shells, or the flavors will not penetrate the shrimp very well. The shrimp barely take any time to cook, 5-7 minutes usually.

  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 60
  • Cook Time: 8
  • Category: Seafood
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Mexican
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