Easy New Orleans BBQ Shrimp

New Orleans BBQ Shrimp is a classic Cajun shrimp dish that’s buttery, flavorful, and takes just 20 minutes to prepare. Shrimp get sautéed in a flavorful sauce made with garlic, beer, Worcestershire, Creole spices and plenty of butter. It’s a delicious, crowd-pleasing recipe that’s perfect for Mardi Gras!

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a white plate with shrimp, lemon and bread

When I lived in Louisiana, I fell in love with a dish called BBQ Shrimp, only these shrimp have nothing to do with barbecue as most people know it. They're not grilled, there's no smoke, there's no dry rub and there's definitely no bbq sauce. Instead, you'll find big, beautiful shrimp simmered on the stove in a rich, tangy, spicy, buttery, almost creamy sauce that will have you licking your plate clean.

In New Orleans, you'll typically get served BBQ Shrimp with the heads still on. It's customary to suck the delicious juices out of the heads, and they give you a bib to wear so you don't get it all over your clothes. My recipe excludes the heads but leaves the shells on to add lots of flavor to the broth.

If you're looking for a buttery shrimp dish without the spice, try my Oven Baked Shrimp Scampi. If you want a classic grilled shrimp, check out these Citrus Herb Grilled Shrimp. Or for a classic Louisiana shrimp dish without the butter, look no further than my Cajun Pickled Shrimp!

Why this recipe works

  • Easy, beginner friendly recipe.
  • Can be made with shell on or peeled shrimp.
  • Make it as mild or as spicy as you prefer.
  • Cold butter is melted in at the end to make a creamy, emulsified sauce that doesn't separate.
  • Makes lots of sauce for mopping up with French bread, rice or grits.
  • Adapted from Mr. B's Restaurant in New Orleans, where they serve the best barbecue shrimp in the city!
close up of a pan with saucy bbq shrimp with a serving spoon

Essential Ingredients

  • Shrimp - Traditional BBQ Shrimp is always served with head-on, shell-on shrimp, but they can be a pain to peel at the table. Shell-on shrimp will give you more flavor, but they aren't necessary. Use peeled or unpeeled - whatever you prefer, but make sure they're on the bigger side - 16/20 count or larger. Frozen shrimp are GREAT if fresh, locally caught shrimp aren't available where you live. Look for wild caught American Gulf shrimp for best results.
  • Worcestershire Sauce - This is absolutely necessary, as it makes up the base flavor of the sauce and cannot be substituted. Use Lea & Perrin's for the best flavor.
  • Beer - A dark or Amber beer is best for this recipe, but a light beer will work too. I prefer Abita Amber since it's brewed in Louisiana and is what most restaurants and home cooks use. If you need to avoid alcohol, replace the beer with shrimp stock, chicken stock, turkey stock, vegetable stock or just plain water.
  • Cajun / Creole Seasoning - Different brands will vary in their level of spice and salt. Try to find one with less salt so you can control the saltiness of the final dish - I like this one. You can also make it yourself. Avoid Tony Chachere's - it's way too salty for this recipe.
  • Butter - It must be unsalted or you could wind up with an overly salty sauce.
  • Hot Sauce - Stick to a basic (preferably Louisiana made!) hot sauce such as Tabasco or Crystal - my favorite. Avoid thick sauces like Frank's or Sriracha, and omit it altogether if you don't want a lot of heat.

Step by step instructions

  1. Add Worcestershire sauce, beer, garlic, bay leaf, rosemary, Cajun seasoning, pepper and hot sauce to a large skillet or cast iron skillet with a lid and bring up to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add the shrimp and lemon wheels, toss to coat, then reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook until shrimp are just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes depending on size.
  3. Remove the lid and add the lemon juice, then turn off the heat and add the cubed butter. Stir continuously until the butter is fully melted and the sauce emulsified. Taste for seasoning and add salt and more lemon juice to taste.
  4. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with scallions and parsley. Serve with lots of crusty bread for sopping up the sauce.
close up of a plate of bbq shrimp

Tips for success

  • Use fresh, coarsely cracked black pepper - not pre-ground.
  • Rosemary is traditional in BBQ shrimp, but if you're not a fan you can substitute thyme or oregano or just leave it out.
  • If you like it spicy, add a few pinches of Cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes and more hot sauce to taste.
  • If you don't like it spicy, use slightly less black pepper, a mild Cajun seasoning and omit the hot sauce.
  • Keep the shrimp in the refrigerator until ready to use so they stay nice and fresh.
  • To keep the sauce from separating, make sure your butter is cold and add it at the very end with the heat turned off. Stir vigorously until it's fully emulsified.

Faq about New Orleans BBQ Shrimp

How to serve BBQ Shrimp?

The classic way to serve BBQ shrimp in New Orleans is with lots of crusty French bread for mopping up all of the delicious sauce and with an ice cold beer or glass of crisp, dry white wine. They're also great served over grits or rice along with a salad or vegetable to round out the meal. You can also try them served over pasta!

Can this recipe be made with less butter?

In theory, yes, but it won't quite be the same. BBQ shrimp is meant to be rich and buttery, and using less butter will make the sauce a lot stronger and more pungent.

Does BBQ shrimp have to be made with the shells on?

No, but the shells (and heads) are traditional, add a lot more flavor and help keep the shrimp moist and tender. It can be a pain to peel them at the table, but I think that's part of the fun. If you prefer to keep your hands clean, just use peeled shrimp and they will still be delicious.

Are Cajun and Creole seasoning the same thing?

While there are major differences between Cajun and Creole, these words tend to be used interchangeably when describing the Louisiana spice blend. Each brand has its own blend of different spices. For this recipe, look for one with less salt.

Why are they called BBQ shrimp if they're not barbecued?

Legend has it that the chef at Pascal's Manale, the restaurant where the dish was created (not Emeril's!), called them BBQ shrimp because of their dark reddish tint.

side view of a plate of shell on shrimp with a pan in the background

Did you make this recipe and LOVE it? Please leave a star ⭐️ rating and/or comment to help other readers. I absolutely love hearing from you and do my best to answer all questions and comments. I love seeing when you make my recipes, so please tag me @ColeyCooks on Instagram and I will repost!

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close up of a pan with saucy bbq shrimp with a serving spoon
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New Orleans BBQ Shrimp

New Orleans BBQ Shrimp is a classic Cajun shrimp dish that’s buttery, flavorful, and takes just 20 minutes to prepare. Shrimp get simmered in a flavorful sauce made with garlic, lemon, beer, Worcestershire, Creole spices and plenty of butter. It’s such a delicious, crowd-pleasing recipe that’s perfect for Mardi Gras!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 5 servings
Calories: 443kcal

Ingredients

  • cup Worcestershire sauce
  • cup Amber beer recommended: Abita*
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun or Creole seasoning*
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
  • Several dashes of hot sauce to taste
  • 2 lbs large shrimp 16-20 count or bigger, peeled or unpeeled*
  • 1 lemon thinly sliced into rounds plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or more to taste)
  • 14 tablespoons (1-¾ sticks) unsalted Butter cold, cut into cubes
  • salt to taste
  • 4 scallions thinly sliced (dark and light green parts only)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • Crusty French bread for serving

Instructions

  1. Add Worcestershire sauce, beer, garlic, bay leaf, rosemary, Cajun seasoning, pepper and hot sauce to a large sauté pan with a lid and bring up to a boil.
  2. Add the shrimp and lemon wheels, toss to coat, then cover and cook until shrimp are just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes depending on size.
  3. Remove the lid and add the lemon juice, then turn off the heat and add the cubed butter. Stir continuously until the butter is fully melted and the sauce emulsified. Taste for seasoning and add salt and more lemon juice to taste.
  4. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with scallions and parsley. Serve with lots of crusty bread for sopping up the sauce.

Notes

  • *If avoiding alcohol, replace the beer with shrimp, chicken or vegetable stock (or plain water in a pinch).
  • *Use a Cajun or Creole seasoning that's lower in salt in order to avoid and overly salty sauce.
  • *Unpeeled head-on shrimp are traditional and will give the best flavor, but peeled shrimp will also work if that's what you prefer. Try to find wild caught American Gulf shrimp for best results.

Nutrition

Calories: 443kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 313mg | Sodium: 1272mg | Potassium: 429mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1423IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 144mg | Iron: 2mg

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5 from 16 votes

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28 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Heavenly…..one of the best! We used head on gulf shrimp. It was so tender better than lobster in my opinion. I used Old Bay as the Cajun seasoning.

  2. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this recipe—I can’t wait to try it. It took a lot of internet digging to find something this authentic and flavorful.
    Thoughts on cooking down some diced onion for the sauce? I think this will add some texture and even more richness to the dish.
    I was also thinking about serving it on top of creamy polenta instead of with bread or traditional Louisiana-style grits. Do you think a parmesean polenta would make this dish TOO rich? I am also worried about salt levels. I would probably add very little salt to the polenta or omit it completely. Might be interesting to char the lemon wheels first as well? Thanks in advance!

    1. I think these shrimp would be absolutely delicious served over top of polenta or grits! I also think adding some onions and charring the lemon would be a nice touch. Have fun and make it your own!! 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    Excellent recipe which tastes better than what I’ve had in restaurants. It’s at the top of my list of my guest menus. I made this with peeled shrimp and followed the main recipe closely only omitting the parsley and scallions. I found a great low sodium content creole seasoning, Geaux Creole’s Creole Dust. Definitely five stars!

  4. 5 stars
    Phenomenal recipe. I made these for a party last weekend and they were such a hit! They taste exactly like the ones I had in NOLA.

  5. 5 stars
    Never had BBQ shrimp in New Orleans so don't really know what to compare this to, but it was one of the best shrimp dishes I've ever had in my life. Incredible flavor and so rich, but so worth it

  6. 5 stars
    These look way better than my BBQ shrimp. My sauce is always separated. I'll follow your directions and work on emulsifying. Then again, it might be that Finlandia buttah.
    Still no response from Yumprint.... dammit.

    1. Okay, I'm here to help! The key to emulsifying and avoiding separation is not letting the butter get too hot. You want to start with cold, cubed butter, add it at the very last minute, off of the heat, and make sure you vigorously stir the whole time. If you add it in the beginning with the other ingredients, you're screwed. Let me know how it works out!

  7. 5 stars
    This looks super simple and crazy delicious. All that butter? O.M.G! Beer? Rosemary? GAWD! This is for sure going on the menu for next week.

    1. Right?! It's seriously THE BEST. What's not to love? I so hope you make it and enjoy the heck out of it. Happy Mardi Gras! 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    Quick question: why do you use Crystal hot sauce in your BBQ shrimp, but Frank's in your Buffalo Popcorn? We are a Crystal family but I specificallybought Frank's for the popcorn recipe. How do you decide which to use when??

    1. That's a really great question! Crystal is my favorite hot sauce, hands down (we pronounce it like the fancy champagne in our house lol). That said, I prefer franks for buffalo sauce because it has a thicker texture and overall just seems to work better. I've always tried to make Crystal work in buffalo recipes and it never quite does the trick. It's too liquidy. Crystal is my go-to for just about every other application of hot sauce, and especially in Louisiana recipes!!

      1. 5 stars
        It's my family's favorite, too, and we also say "CrysTAHL' , of course. Once my brother broke a bottle while we were grilling oysters and it looked like a crime scene, but when we realized it was the Crystal it was even more upsetting.