Cooking Shrimp the New Orleans Way – Barbecue Shrimp

by Pamela

barbecue shrimp, cooking shrimp, spicy shrimp recipe

Rich, indulgent, succulent and spicy….While I’d like to think that’s a great set of descriptors for me, in this case it’s describing the barbecue shrimp of your dreams. And if you’ve never found yourself dreaming about shrimp before, I can promise you that those dreams of lounging around with Brad Pitt or taking Sophia Vergara around for a spin will soon be replaced by visions of sauce covered shrimp dancing in your head. Or maybe Brad and Sophia will still be there, ya’ll just be eating barbecue shrimp and sucking da heads.

No, I didn’t just make up some euphemism for sex. ‘Suck da head’ is Cajun speak for….well….suck the head of a crawfish, but is also said about shrimp. Here’s why. When you make up a crawfish boil, or this New Orleans barbecue shrimp recipe, you leave the heads on the little bugs. After cooking them, you pull off the heads first and suck on them. All those good juices and seasonings hide up in there and you don’t want to miss out on any of that tasty stuff.

You probably aren’t too familiar with head on shrimp, as they aren’t commonly found in the grocery store (something about the beady little eyes and long antennae tend to freak people out, we call those people wimps – and yes, Craig is one of those people…see lobster recipe for further explanation. Head on shrimp are more frequently found in ethnic markets. Here in LA I can find them at Asian and Mexican markets. But I’m guessing that the further south you get, in the US, the more likely you are to be able to find them.

I haven’t been to New Orleans in a really long time, although I still have a gigantic bag of beads from my Mardi Gras trip, but I can still remember the food.  From the po’ boys to the etouffee, I can taste those spices and flavors every time I think about it. I never did get to eat any barbecue shrimp when I was there that would come later in of all places, Las Vegas. I had seen Emeril Lagasse on TV making barbecue shrimp on his show, went through the torture of making it at home, and finally tasting it at his Vegas restaurant. It.was.delicious. I haven’t had it since but all of a sudden, I saw those shrimp, I knew I had to make it again.

New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp Recipe

Emeril’s barbecue shrimp recipe is a long and involved process ( it’s really good), but I just wasn’t going to go through all of those steps, including peeling the shrimp and cooking their shells then finally straining it all through cheesecloth. Then I remembered my shrimp and grits recipe and thought I could combine the flavors of both recipes into a much simpler barbecue shrimp recipe.

I’ve come to understand that cooking shrimp is something that freaks some of you out. So a lot of you buy your shrimp already cooked. Don’t do that! You’re missing out on adding tons of flavor to them and your final dish. Cooking shrimp is one of the easiest things to do because they cook so fast (and that’s probably why cooking shrimp is such a scary thing for some of you). Shrimp practically have a built in thermometer to tell you when they’re done. Basically, when they are curled and turn pink….it’s time to eat.

Here’s a little rule of thumb when cooking shrimp: regardless of whether or not they have their shell on (but you should leave it on when you cook them because it helps to give them a stronger flavor as well as helping to keep them from drying out) medium shrimp should cook for 3-4 minutes, large shrimp 5-8 minutes and jumbo shrimp 7-8 minutes. Turning them over, halfway through cooking, helps them to cook more evenly.

These barbecue shrimp are a perfect spicy shrimp recipe for those nights when you want something a little decadent, but don’t want to spend the money to go out to eat. It’s also a great recipe to make up in bulk when you have a group of friends coming over for a casual get together. You can easily bulk up this recipe and when serving it, pour it out of the pan onto a large sheet of butcher paper and let everyone dig in. But since it’s a spicy shrimp recipe, make sure that you’ve got plenty of chilled rosé and beer on hand. Oh, and you’ll also need a big stack of napkins, some bibs and a few loaves of crusty french bread to sop up all that deliciously buttery and spicy sauce.

Have you ever been to New Orleans? What was your favorite dish?

Relationship Advice

See what I mean? Food and sex are a lot alike.

Food and sex are a lot a like


Recipe: New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp

Summary: Makes 4 Appetizers or 2 Main Course Servings


  • 1 Pound Head-On Shrimp
  • 1/3 Cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 1/2 Ounces Bourbon
  • 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 2 Teaspoons Garlic (minced)
  • 2 Teaspoons Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Basil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Parsley
  • Dash of Cayenne Pepper
  • A Good Pinch of Kosher Salt
  • 1 1/2 Sticks of Butter (cut into cubes)
  • 4 Slices of Fresh Lemon


  1. Combine the shrimp with all of the ingredients, except for the butter and lemon slices, into a large saute pan.
  2. Heat the pan over medium high heat and cook the shrimp just until they turn pink. (Cook the shrimp for about 1 minute per side.) Gently stir the ingredients while the shrimp are cooking.
  3. Slowly add the cubes of butter. Only add a few at a time and let them melt completely before adding the next batch of butter.
  4. Continuously stir the ingredients so that the butter incorporates with the other ingredients.
  5. After you have added the first stick of butter, add the lemon slices to the pan and continue to add the remaining cubes of butter the same as before.
  6. Take the pan off of the heat and remove the shrimp form the pan and place them in a bowl or deep platter.
  7. Pour the sauce over the shrimp and serve.

Quick notes

If you want even more buttery sauce, you can add the other 1/2 stick of butter (so your recipe would then have 2 sticks of butter in it).

If your shrimp still have the long antennae on them, just snip them off with scissors.


This recipe can be made with headless shrimp as well as already peeled shrimp. Just don’t use pre-cooked shrimp in this recipe because they will be overcooked.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Diet type: Pescatarian

Diet tags: Gluten free

Number of servings (yield): 2

Culinary tradition: USA (Southern)

Recipe by Pamela Braun.[/print_this]

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Grace December 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm

This dish was so yummy! Hubby and I made it (less the bourbon) and yum yum yum. There was an underlying sweetness to it that I really enjoyed. Hubby requested that I peel the shrimp next time kekeke. Will make again. 🙂

Julia September 15, 2012 at 10:05 pm

This shrimp looks so fresh like it was just caught!

Pamela September 17, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Julia, considering the market I got this from, it was probably only 2-3 days out of the water by the time I cooked it. The flavor of it was outstanding.

Charlie September 14, 2012 at 8:13 am


Well here is the #1 WIMP!

I will not suck on the head of anything…….but I will use them to make an awesome fish stock.

Your recipe sounds delicious and I will be trying it.

Have a Joyful Day :~D

Pamela September 14, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Thanks Charlie!

You’re really going to like this recipe. Enjoy!!

Jennifer September 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm

These look great! I never had BBQ’d shrimp on my visit to NOLA either. But they remind me of the shrimp from Killer Shrimp which were waaaaay too spicy for me. I think I’d just have to cut back on the chili powder. Thanks for the recipe.

Pamela September 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Hi Jennifer,I’m not usually a spicy food eater, but the little kick from these is just what they need.

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