Shrimp Fajitas are light, fresh, and ready in a flash, thanks to my perfected fajita seasoning and easy marinade. Serve it still sizzling with colorful peppers and onions, a stack of warm tortillas, and as many tempting toppings as you can fit on the table.
Few things are better than a sizzling skillet of tender shrimp and vegetables tucked into warm tortillas with all the trimmings. It’s the kind of dinner that seems like it should be saved for a special occasion, but it’s so wonderfully easy, I end up making it at least once a week.
All you need is a few spice cabinet staples, some lime juice, and enough shrimp to feed everyone (plan on about ⅓ to ½ pound per person). Oh, and all the toppings! That stuff is easy. There’s a walkthrough for cooking on the stove top and grill, in case you’re curious.
Homemade fajita seasoning:
I always make extra, because like I said, fajitas are HUGE at my house. Fajita Seasoning is a not-too-spicy, not-too-sweet, simply delicious blend of cumin, chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, salt, and pepper.
Below, I’ve portioned out what you need to make this recipe, so you have just enough. All you have to do is toss the spices together in a bowl or a glass jar.
- Start by making the marinade. Mix together the lime juice, cilantro, and the homemade fajita seasoning. You can do this in a bowl, or a zipper-top bag. Add the raw shrimp and gently mix until the shrimp are evenly coated. Leave out to marinate for 30 minutes, or pop the whole thing back into the fridge for an hour–no longer, otherwise the citrus will “cook” the delicate shrimp and turn it into ceviche! (If you want an overnight marinade, skip the lime juice and toss the shrimp in the seasoning and cilantro; then add the juice to the bowl about an hour before you’re ready to cook.)
- Next, grab your finest fajita pan. Cook the shrimp over high heat using a little oil, but don’t move them around. Let them cook for 1 to 2 minutes until just opaque white and pink on the bottom, then flip them and cook the other side until just opaque and pink. As soon as the shrimp are just barely done, take them out of the pan and set them aside on a plate.
- Add a bit more oil to the pan, if needed, and add the peppers and onions. Cook them until they get limp, with maybe even a little charring at the edges. When they’re ready, push them off to one side and throw the cooked shrimp back into the skillet.
- From there, you can serve the fajitas right from the pan, or pile everything up onto a platter before putting it on the table.
- The high heat of a charcoal or gas grill makes fajitas super easy. You can simply plunk a cast-iron skillet or a grill basket right on the grate and cook everything that way.
- If you don’t have a pan that’s safe to use on the grill, you still have good options. Skewer the marinated shrimp (if using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for an hour before using) to keep them from falling into the coals. Instead of slicing up the vegetables, keep them in larger pieces. Cut the onions into fat rings. Then quarter the peppers, deseed them, and grill the veggies right over the coals until tender.
- Once they’re cooked, slice the grilled vegetables into thin strips and combine with the shrimp on a platter.
Recipe tips and variations:
- What’s the best fajita pan? A cast-iron pan is probably your best bet since it can cook at high temperatures and give you restaurant-quality fajitas. Other great options: carbon steel pans or anodized aluminum pans. Stay away from non-stick, which can’t take the heat.
- Choose good shrimp. I like to buy frozen shrimp, which are reliably the freshest. What size you choose depends on your budget, but with fajitas, anywhere in the 26/30 range should be fine. (In shrimp speak, that’s 26-30 shrimp per pound.) Tails on, tails off–that’s purely up to you.
- Thawing frozen shrimp. Before you make fajitas, you must thaw the shrimp completely. Place the frozen shrimp in a bowl, and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. To quick-thaw shrimp, pour the frozen shrimp into a bowl filled with cold (not warm) water in the sink. Then turn on the faucet and let a thin trickle of cold water run into the bowl. The excess water will flow into the sink, and the shrimp will likely thaw in just a few minutes.
- Don’t overcook the shrimp! Shrimp cook really fast, which means that many people tend to overdo it. I can’t give you exact times for cooking shrimp, since you may choose a larger (or smaller) shrimp for fajitas.
The best tip I can give you is to really watch the shrimp as they cook. As soon as they turn from translucent to just barely opaque white and pink, you know they’re ready to go.
- Use big flavors. Shrimp can take bold spices, so don’t shy away from seasoning.
How to warm tortillas:
Follow this easy method for either corn or flour tortillas.
- Heat a dry skillet over medium or medium-high heat (depending on how closely you plan to watch the tortillas).
- Add a few tortillas in a single layer (try not to overlap) and heat until softened on one side (1-2 minutes).
- Flip and heat on the other side for another minute or so. Then repeat with the remaining tortillas.
- As you go, wrap the warmed tortillas in a towel or foil until serving time.If you’re grilling, you can warm them right on the coals—it only takes 30 seconds or so. You may also grill them over an open flame on the stove, flipping them quickly (and carefully) with tongs.
Great topping ideas:
- Your favorite hot sauces
- Shredded lettuce or cabbage (red or green)
- Flavored mayo, with lime juice, zest, and a few splashes of hot sauce (Valentina!)
- Pico de Gallo
- Diced avocado or guacamole
- Pickled jalapeños or shallots
- Corn salsa
- Minced white onion & cilantro leaves
- Lime wedges
For the fajita seasoning:
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or less to taste
For the marinade:
- 2 pounds raw shrimp peeled and deveined
- 1/4 cup minced cilantro
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice from 2 limes
For the fajitas:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
- 3 large bell peppers (red, orange, yellow, or green) cut into strips for stove method (see notes for grill method)
- 1 large red onion halved and thinly sliced for stove method (see notes for grill method)
- flour tortillas or corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
- avocados sliced, for serving
- fresh cilantro minced, for serving
- sour cream for serving
- Mexican rice for serving
To make the seasoning:
- In a small bowl, whisk together chili powder, cumin, paprika, sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste (I like 1 teaspoon).
To make the marinade:
- To a large zipper-top plastic bag, add shrimp, cilantro, lime juice, and fajita seasoning. Mash gently until shrimp is evenly coated. Marinate at least 30 minutes (room temperature) or up to 1 hour (refrigerated).
To cook the shrimp fajitas on the stove:
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add shrimp and cook, without moving, until opaque and pink on one side, about 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and cook until opaque on the second side, about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate.
- To the skillet over medium-high heat, add bell peppers and onions and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Push peppers and onions to one side and add shrimp back to skillet for serving.
- Serve with tortillas, avocado, cilantro, and sour cream (or your favorite toppings).