Use the largest king prawns you can find-–shelled but still raw. The freezer section of Asian supermarkets is a good source. If they’ve not already been deveined and scored, there’s a little bit of work to prepare them but it’s not really that time-consuming and is definitely worth it. 

Excellent as a light meal with flatbreads or rice (to soak up the butter sauce). But arguably better as part of a feast alongside a collection of other dishes–paneer and coriander and mint chutney, a dal, rice, breads, and pickles.–Ed Smith

A pale blue platter, filled with fried shrimp in a deep orange sauce flecked with spices and garnished with fresh cilantro leaves.

Indian-Style Shrimp with Garlic Pepper Butter

5 from 1 vote
There are a few things going on here, but the ‘garlic’, ‘pepper’ and ‘butter’ in the title are at the core of it, taking the lead of memorable prawn and crab dishes eaten in Mumbai.
David Leite
Servings2 servings
Calories334 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time30 minutes


  • 7 ounces raw large king prawns or large shrimp*, peeled
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz) salted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole peppercorns, crushed to a coarse grit
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes
  • 1/2 lime, cut into 2 wedges
  • 1/2 ounce fresh cilantro leaves
  • Cooked basmati rice and/or flatbreads, for serving


  • Use a sharp knife to score the outside curve of each prawn or shrimp, two thirds of the way through, so there’s more surface area to collect the spices. If not already deveined, use the tip of the knife to pull away the black line. Leave the tails on if they’re still there.
  • To a bowl, add the prepped prawns, garlic, turmeric, and 1/2 tablespoon of the oil. Mix thoroughly, then chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  • Ensure the rice (or the rest of your feast) is ready before beginning to fry the prawns – they take just 2 to 3 minutes to cook.
  • Place a wok over high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil then the mustard seeds and cook until the mustard seeds begin to pop, 10 to 20 seconds. Carefully tip in the prawns or shrimp along with all of their garlicky marinade.
  • Fry for 30 seconds without stirring, then add the butter, crushed peppercorns, and chile flakes. Use a spatula to push and toss the prawns and spices in the rapidly melting butter until pink, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Transfer the prawns and sauce to a serving dish immediately.
  • Scrape all the butter and pepper from the wok over the top of the prawns, add a squeeze of lime from one of the wedges, and scatter with cilantro. Garnish with the remaining lime wedge and serve immediately.


*What’s the difference between shrimp and prawn?

In North America, we generally use the word ‘shrimp’ to describe them all. Sometimes, we’ll use ‘prawn’ to describe the big ones. Essentially, that’s pretty close to the truth. However, there is a little more than that going on. They’re both crustaceans with 10 legs but they live in different types of water. Shrimp are found in salt water; prawns in fresh or brackish (partially salt) waters. Shrimp have much more of a bend to them than prawns do, because of the way their shells overlap. Prawns have a slightly sweeter taste, too. But the biggest difference? Prawns can be quite a bit more expensive. Feel free to use either one in this recipe. The author does suggest something bigger–if you go with a smaller shrimp, keep an eye on the timing to ensure you’re not overcooking them.

Adapted From


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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 334 kcalCarbohydrates: 9 gProtein: 22 gFat: 24 gSaturated Fat: 16 gMonounsaturated Fat: 5 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 282 mgSodium: 891 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 1 g

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

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Ed Smith. Photo © 2021 Sam A. Harris. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Absolutely loved this recipe for Indian-style shrimp with garlic pepper butter!  From the pop of the mustard seeds to the delicious pepper garlic butter to scoop up with naan, this was a hit. 

I wasn’t able to find large king prawns so I used large white prawns (shrimp) already deveined with their tales on from Whole Foods and they were delicious.  I’m not sure that 200g would be enough for 4-6 people as part of a feast as I ended up with 240g and that was the right amount for two people served alongside with rice, garlic naan and a Greek salad. If I was to make it again for 4 to 6 people using the same prawns that I purchased, I’d double the recipe.  These prawns were so delicious that I guarantee there wouldn’t be any leftovers. 

The name of this recipe says it all; Indian-style shrimp with garlic pepper butter. All of the flavors come through nicely. The pepper is quite strong–so be prepared for that. It cooks very quickly, so it’s important to have everything ready to go. Once the shrimp are deveined, this meal can be ready in minutes.  I served this with pickled vegetables, rice and grilled naan bread. The rice and the bread ensure that you don’t miss any of the buttery sauce. The fresh cilantro and a splash of lime really brighten the richness of the dish.

This Indian-style shrimp with garlic pepper butter will certainly set the smoke detector off. It really comes together very quickly, so you must have all the components ready to add. I used jumbo shrimps and they turned out nice and crispy on the outside, and soft and succulent on the inside. 

The brief cook in the hot oil didn’t burn the garlic or the butter.  It creates a version of a brown butter sauce when spooned over the shrimp, and could easily be an appetizer, served over rice, or along with some cool side salad. I paired it with some fresh corn salsa and tabbouleh.  

This recipe for Indian-style shrimp with garlic pepper butter is ideal for when you want something quick, easy, yet delicious. It went perfectly well with my seafood feast of fish curry and chile crab along with some flatbread and basmati rice.

The dish is exactly the same as its name – it is garlicky, peppery, and buttery. The chile flakes add a nice touch of heat to this dish. I would suggest making some naan with this dish as it is the perfect vehicle to ‘mop’ the sauce”

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also 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.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Looking forward to trying this! I’ll have to sub cubes of some firm-fleshed fish because my husband won’t eat shrimp but I’m enthusiastic about some non-tomato-based Indian. Mustard seeds will be a plus.

    Any suggestions for a fish choice?

    1. Rainey, as you said, you definitely want something firm, with a mild flavor to allow the garlic pepper butter to really shine. My first choice would be halibut, but any firm white fish should work.