Take the classic flavors of Italian-American Shrimp Scampi to the grill for easy summertime cooking! Marinated shrimp skewers are grilled shell-on, lightly-charred, and served with warm lemon-garlic butter for dipping.
Peel them at the table for a casual, heavy hors d’oeuvre with a glass of wine, or peel and serve over rice or pasta for a main course. This flavorful, versatile grilled shrimp dish is sure to become a favorite.
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Why “Grilled” Shrimp Scampi?
My family has served Shrimp Scampi as a part of our Christmas Eve dinner for generations. The platter of tender, broiled shrimp, bathed in a buttery, lemon-garlic sauce is never long for the table.
As someone who loves outdoor cooking when the weather’s warm, I decided to try adapting my mother’s Scampi recipe for the grill. It’s since become one of our favorite summertime dishes.
Coming off of the grill, the lightly-charred shells gave way to luscious marinated shrimp. Instead of tossing the shrimp in the sauce as per Mom’s original Scampi recipe, we dipped them one at a time into warm, scallion-studded Lemon-Garlic Butter.
A light sprinkling of red pepper flakes gave the dish a subtle pop of heat to complement the grilled flavor. I’m getting hungry all over again writing about it!
What Kind of Shrimp Should I Buy for Grilled Scampi?
I love to use meaty U15 shrimp for these grilled shrimp skewers (fewer than 15 shrimp per pound), but I’ve also used 16/20 with success (16-20 shrimp per pound). Since shrimp cook within minutes on the grill, I find that smaller counts are more prone to overcooking.
Buy the shrimp raw, with the tail and shell on. Deveined, shell-on shrimp still pick up great flavor from the marinade and the char of the grill, but the extra layer between the meat and the grates allows the meat to remain amazingly tender and juicy.
Heading to the market? Check out my Shrimp Sizing Guide for help navigating the selection.
Deveining the Shrimp
To save a few minutes of prep, ask your seafood market or counter at the grocery store to devein the shrimp. It’s also simple to do at home.
Using a paring knife or a pair of kitchen shears, carefully make a shallow cut along the back of the shrimp (the curved side), in the middle, from the tip to where the tails begin. Use the tip of your knife or shears to remove the dark vein (grit from the shrimp’s digestive tract).
While I leave the shells on the shrimp for grilling, I like to slightly loosen them so that the marinade can more easily find its way to the meat.
Marinating the Shrimp
The marinade for this recipe uses classic flavors inspired by Shrimp Scampi: fruity olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, shallots, and parsley. Simply whisk the marinade together in a bowl or a zip-top bag, toss in the shrimp to coat, cover, and let them mingle for 45 minutes in the refrigerator.
I like to take the shrimp out of the fridge and let them stand at room temperature (around 70 degrees F) for 15 minutes before grilling. I don’t recommend marinating much longer than an hour, as the lemon juice can start to cook the shrimp.
Grilling the Shrimp Skewers
I’ve found that threading the shrimp onto BBQ skewers is essential to avoiding tough, rubbery, and overcooked shrimp. Being able to flip 6-7 shrimp at a time allows you to move quickly and cook the shrimp evenly.
I prefer to use stainless steel skewers for grilling, as they’re sturdy, easy to flip with a grilling glove, and don’t run the risk of catching fire. If you prefer to use bamboo skewers, remember to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes, up to a couple of hours, before threading the shrimp and heading to the grill.
The only exception to this has been when I’ve used my outdoor propane griddle. With certain skewers in my collection, the shrimp didn’t come in total contact with the surface, so I didn’t get an even char. When using an outdoor griddle, I prefer to cook the shrimp off of skewers, tossing them with two griddle spatulas.
Whether using the grill or griddle, cook the shrimp over medium-high heat for 2-4 minutes per side. Cooking time will depend on the size of the shrimp you’ve used. When the shrimp are cooked, their shells will turn pink, and the meat will be white and opaque.
Serving Grilled Shrimp Scampi
Right before grilling the shrimp, make the butter sauce for dipping–it takes less than 5 minutes! Just melt together butter and olive oil, and stir in fresh garlic, lemon juice and zest, scallions, parsley, and salt. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes for a little kick, if desired.
Tip: If you have a propane grill with a side burner (we have a 6-burner Weber Summit), you can prepare and keep the butter sauce warm at the same time you’re grilling the shrimp.
We love serving Grilled Shrimp Scampi with a rustic presentation as a heavy hors d’oeuvre. Peeling the shrimp at the table is a little messy, but part of the fun. Provide a separate bowl on the table for discarding the shells, break out the moist towelettes, and dig in!
For a more sophisticated, entrée-style presentation, peel the shrimp for your guests after they’re grilled. Serve them over a bed of rice or pasta, drizzled with the Lemon-Garlic Butter. You can’t go wrong either way, especially with a slice of crusty bread on the side to catch butter drippings.
Grilled Shrimp Scampi pairs well with a chilled bottle of dry Pinot Grigio to complement the rich butter sauce. These shrimp are a great addition to any summertime gathering, for something a little bit different from the usual picnic fare.
More of our Favorite Shrimp Recipes
- Coconut Shrimp (Fried, Air Fried, or Baked)
- Roasted Shrimp Cocktail with Two Dipping Sauces
- Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with Bourbon Glaze
- Grilled Shrimp and Grits
- Shrimp Lo Mein
Grilled Shrimp Scampi
- 1-1/2 pounds raw shrimp , shell on (U15 or 16/20 count)
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
- 1 tablespoon finely-chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)
- 2 tablespoons finely-chopped shallots
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1-1/2 teaspoons finely-chopped garlic (about 1 large clove)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 to 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (to taste)
- 1 tablespoon thinly-sliced scallions
- 1 tablespoon finely-chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Prep the Shrimp
- Devein shrimp: Using a paring knife or a pair of kitchen shears, carefully make a shallow cut along the back of the shrimp (the curved side), in the middle, from the tip to where the tails begin. Use the tip of your knife or shears to remove the dark vein. Leave shells on the shrimp, loosening them just slightly so that the marinade can seep between the shells and meat.
Marinate the Shrimp
- In a medium bowl, whisk together extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, shallots, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate, refrigerated, 45 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator 15 minutes before grilling, and let stand at room temperature (approximately 70 degrees F), for a total marinating time of an hour.
Grill the Shrimp
- When you remove the shrimp from the refrigerator, preheat grill over medium-high heat and lightly oil the grates.
- Remove shrimp from marinade, shaking off excess, and thread onto stainless steel grilling skewers.* Discard marinade. Grill shrimp 2-4 minutes per side, until shells are pink and meat is white and opaque. Do not overcook.
Make the Dipping Sauce and Serve
- In a small saucepan, melt together butter and extra virgin olive oil. Remove from heat, stir in garlic, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add salt, lemon juice and zest, scallions, parsley, and red pepper flakes, if using. Keep warm until ready to serve.
- Carefully remove shrimp from skewers to a serving platter. Serve, allowing guests to remove shells and dip shrimp into the lemon-garlic butter, alongside slices of crusty bread. Alternatively, you can remove the shells for your guests after grilling and serve, drizzled with the lemon-garlic butter, over a bed of rice or pasta.
This recipe originally appeared on Striped Spatula on September 2, 2015. We updated it in 2021 with new photos and additional article copy to enhance our readers’ experience.