These masala shrimp are briefly marinated in a mixture of ginger, garlic, tomato paste, lime juice, and spices and then pan-seared. Start to finish, just 15 minutes. But the taste would never belie that. Equally adept at being an appetizer or quick weeknight meal.

A person squeezing a lime wedge over a plate of masala shrimp.

Part of the beauty of this versatile and exquisitely spiced recipe is it easily serves as a quick impromptu appetizer for whenever the need arises. The rest of the beauty lies in the fact that it’s so lovely, you’re not going to want to stop at an appetizer portion so it doubles as a done-in-15-minutes supper.–Renee Schettler Rossi

What does “masala” mean?

“Masala” refers to any mingling of spices used in Indian cooking. It can be used as a generic term for any spices, such as “chicken masala,” or it can take on a more specific meaning, such as when referring to garam masala, which is a particular blend of warming spices. So basically, when you see “masala,” know to expect some sort of lovely Indian influence in terms of spices.

A white plate filled with masala shrimp, with lime wedges on the side, and gives sprinkled over, to garnish.
A person squeezing a lime wedge over a plate of masala shrimp.

Masala Shrimp

5 / 3 votes
These masala shrimp are briefly marinated in a mixture of ginger, garlic, tomato paste, lime juice, and spices and then pan-seared. Start to finish, just 15 minutes. But the taste would never belie that. Equally adept at being an appetizer or quick weeknight meal.
Servings4 servings
Calories157 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


  • 1 pound fresh or thawed frozen raw shrimp peeled and deveined, tails left on
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and grated
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons store-bought or homemade tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice plus lime wedges
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives


  • Place the shrimp in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Pat them dry with paper towels.
  • In a large bowl or resealable plastic bag, combine 1 tablespoon of the oil and the garlic, ginger, tomato paste, lime juice, garam masala, cayenne, and cinnamon. Taste and adjust the seasoning if desired.
  • Add the shrimp, season with salt, and coat evenly. Let sit for 5 minutes.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: If need be, you can let the shrimp rest in the marinade for a little longer, but not much. If they sit in the acid too long they’ll turn rubbery.

  • In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the shrimp along with the spice mixture and liquid and cook, stirring and turning occasionally, until they turn pink, 3 to 4 minutes. (The tomato paste and shrimp might make it tricky to determine the pink color, so to test for doneness, cut a piece of the shrimp in half; the flesh inside should be completely tender and white in addition to the outer surface and tail turning pink.)
  • Transfer the shrimp to a platter. Garnish with the chives. Serve immediately with the lime wedges on the side.

Adapted From

The Flavor Equation

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 157 kcalCarbohydrates: 4 gProtein: 16 gFat: 8 gSaturated Fat: 1 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 5 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 143 mgSodium: 706 mgPotassium: 233 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 1 gVitamin A: 449 IUVitamin C: 4 mgCalcium: 70 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2020 Nik Sharma. Photo © 2020 Nik Sharma. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

“Yum!” Thats always a good sound to hear from one’s better half when sharing a meal. As a riff on an Indian meal, where flavors usually take quite a while to meld, this is a very simple meal to pull together quickly and easily.

I made the sauce a few hours ahead of time and let it meld in the fridge. We like ginger, as it’s a bit spicy and has just a hint of sweet too. I’m a rogue, so I used a half pound of 13- to 15-count shrimp (larger shrimp are certainly easier to peel) and a half pound of large scallops for this recipe.

As we all have different acceptable levels of spice heat, this may be spicier for some, so adjust the cayenne accordingly. I used 1/4 tsp for my recipe as we don’t like too much spice, and that was spicy enough for us.

I keep 1- to 1/1/2-inch chunks of ginger root in the freezer so I always have some fresh at hand. The skin also comes off much easier after being frozen simply by using the edge of a spoon to peel it.

I served these over Tarka Dal as a meal. A cucumber raita or even a garlicky tzatziki would make a nice accompaniment as a cooling sauce served as an appetizer.

This is a new weeknight dinner to be excited about. Easy, quick, and great flavor! This doesn’t take a lot of advance planning and you don’t have to purchase a lot of ingredients. This marinade has just enough flavor and spice without overwhelming the delicate flavor of the shrimp and serving with rice helps to sop up more of the marinade.

I found that using a bag to marinade made things easier since the marinade was slightly chunky and really clung to the shrimp.

Serve with rice and double the portion and you can easily make this into an entrée rather than an appetizer.

A white plate with masala shrimp, white rice, and steamed broccolini on a blue placemat.

If you’re running late with getting dinner on the table or having a few friends swing by last minute, pull out some shrimp from the freezer and make this IMMEDIATELY. The final result tastes like you put a ton of time and effort into it, but it couldn’t be more simple or straightforward.

What this recipe truly delivers on is its namesake ingredient. Every bite of the shrimp was perfectly accented with the garam masala’s signature notes, especially the aromatic coriander and cardamom. The warm cinnamon, punchy ginger, and zesty lime mixed in were excellent accompaniments that added additional depth and complexity. The heat from the cayenne was also just enough to leave a tingling sensation on your lips and tongue, but it wasn’t leaving you dashing for a glass of water to cool you off.

The only suggestion I’d make to this recipe is flipping your shrimp along with stirring it to get a little of the marinade caramelized evenly on both sides. Otherwise, what a dreamy dish!

Having never liked shrimp as a kid, I’ve been making up for it in my adult years with an Eleanor Shellstrop-level of enthusiasm and was delighted with this dish. Shrimp + Indian flavors + under 20 minutes = what’s not to love??? Sure, it’s meant to serve four, but that didn’t stop three of us from finishing these off with samosas and drinks.

I used frozen raw shrimp that I thawed in a colander under running water, and had no problems. I’d recommend checking seasoning BEFORE adding the raw seafood, and the next time I make these I’ll increase the garam masala and salt just a smidge. I’ll also make sure my pan is screaming hot to get more of a sear and to reduce the sauce a little more.

A warning needs to be attached to this recipe. *This is not for the faint of heart. It is quite spicy.* However, that being said, this was delicious and full of flavor. This was a very easy recipe to throw together—so much so that it was a weekday lunch at our house.

Perhaps a range of cayenne could be noted, to warn folks who are drawn to the flavors and seasonings used but don’t want quite so much cayenne, which is where the heat comes from.

We ate this with naan bread the first day, and then as a quesadilla the next day. For us, this could feed 4 as an appetizer.

We loved this deceptively simple recipe. I was skeptical that such a short marinating time could produce enough depth of flavor but it really packed a flavour punch! We will make this dish again and again.

Originally published October 28, 2020

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

6 Grilled Chicken Thigh Recipes

When you fire up the grill this summer, put these chicken thigh recipes at the top of your must-make list. You’ll be glad that you did.

1 hr 15 mins

7 Rhubarb Dessert Recipes

It’s Pucker Time again, AKA rhubarb season. Indulge your taste for all things sweet-tart with our creamy Rhubarb Panna Cotta, rustic Rhubarb-Ginger Crostata, or the decadent Rhubarb Brown Sugar Pie.

3 hrs 25 mins

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Fantastic, easy, and QUICK dish that came together with things I always have in my pantry and freezer. I served it alongside some veg takeout dishes from an Indian restaurant, and I daresay it held its own among those (professionally made) classics!

    I subbed a milder dried chile for the cayenne because I can’t handle a ton of heat, and it was still bursting with flavor. I love Beth’s suggestion above about using these to make shrimp and grits. Next time!

    1. Leah, your shrimp looks superb, and it sounds like an amazing meal. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  2. 5 stars
    Be prepared to get gloriously messy and covered in deliciously drippy Indian spices. This simple recipe takes a few ingredients, a little prep yet packs a wallop of flavor. Being a Southern girl my immediate thought, as sauce was dribbling down down my chin, was this would make a fine plate of shrimp and grits. Next time!

    1. Love everything about this, Beth! Thank you for sharing that, and next time, I expect an invitation!D