RecipeSquare-150x150 Barbecue Shrimp

Barbecue shrimp, one of the four or five best dishes in all of New Orleans cooking, is completely misnamed. They’re neither grilled nor smoked, and there’s no barbecue sauce. It was created in the mid-1950s at Pascal’s Manale Restaurant. A regular customer came in and reported that he’d enjoyed a dish in a Chicago restaurant that he though was made with shrimp, butter, and pepper. He asked Pascal Radosta to make it. Radosta took a flyer at it. The customer said that the taste was not the same, but he liked the new dish even better. So was born the signature dish at Manale’s.


The dish is simple: huge whole shrimp in a tremendous amount of butter and black pepper. The essential ingredient is large, heads-on shrimp, since the fat in the shrimp heads makes most of the flavor. Resist the urge to add lots of herbs or garlic. This recipe is largely based on the new recipe created by Chef Gerard Maras in the early 1980s at Mr. B’s. The butter emulsifies into the other liquids, and gives not only a bigger flavor but a nicer-looking dish.

The amount of butter and pepper in my recipe seem fantastic. Be bold. This is not a dish you will eat often–although you will want to.

  • 3 lbs. fresh Gulf shrimp with heads on, 16-20 count to the pound
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 Tbs. black pepper (or more!)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 sticks butter, softened
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 loaf French bread

1. Rinse the shrimp and shake the excess water from them. Put them in a large skillet (or two) over medium heat, and pour the lemon juice, wine, Worcestershire, and garlic over it. Bring the liquids in the pan to a light boil and cook, turning the shrimp over with a spoon every two minutes or so, until all the brown-gray color in the shrimp is gone. Don’t overcook! At the first moment when you think the shrimp might be done, they will be: lower the heat to the minimum.

2. Cover the shrimp with a thin but complete layer of black pepper. You must be bold with this. When you think you have enough pepper in there, you still need a little more. Add the paprika and salt.

3. Cut the butter into tablespoon-size pieces and distribute over the shrimp. With a big spoon, turn the shrimp over. Agitate the pan as the butter melts over the shrimp and emulsifies into the liquid at the bottom of the pan. When no more solid butter is visible. Remove the pan from the burner.

4. Serve the shrimp with lots of the sauce in bowls. Serve with hot French bread for dipping. Also plenty of napkins and perhaps bibs.

Serves four to six.

12 Readers Commented

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  1. Rusty on October 23, 2014

    Why does the photo appear to have rosemary in the sauce, yet it is not mentioned in the recipe? Is this a photo of another BBQ shrimp recipe or was the rosemary left out of the recipe by mistake?

    • Tom Fitzmorris on October 23, 2014

      It’s just a garnish I had that day. Recipes (other than for baking) admit of less than mathematical rigor. You may add or subtract!

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  2. Ann Duey on October 23, 2014

    Tom, I have found that the term BBQ Shrimp has become as generic a term as Martini. When I order BBQ Shrimp I have a specific dish in mind, the last two places I ordered it (College Inn and Ignatius) were NOT BBQ Shrimp just peeled shrimp in a chef prepared sauce. , it’s very frustrating to have a taste for BBQ Shrimp and get something completely different. Crazy Johnnie’s had BBQ Shrimp, that’s what I expect when I order it, can you please add this to your crusade along with noise, ceiling fans, and table cloths. Thanks! (Do you agree?)

    • Tom Fitzmorris on October 23, 2014

      I am a big believer in asking many questions when ordering in a restaurant. It’s part of the dining strategy I call “defensive dining.” Barbecue shrimp is, as you say, a unique dish whose name, unfortunately, is misleading. There’s no barbecue aspect to it at all. This leaves a wide door open for interpretations. I want to know: Are they heads-on shrimp? What color is the sauce? Do they make it to order? Any tomato in it (let’s hope not)? And there are other issues, which vary from eater to eater. If you know what’s coming, it’s easier to avoid disappointment.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  3. Ann Duey on October 24, 2014

    Thanks Tom…
    My favorite version of peeled bbq shrimp is Drago’s crescent city shrimp, one of my favorite dishes of all time. I had a guest in from Denver he didn’t order BBQ shrimp but I did and both times was disappointed, the dishes tasted good but wasn’t what I wanted at the time. Thanks for the advice…..

  4. Joe on October 24, 2014

    I recently made barbequed shrimp. Pretty close to your recipe. I had some left over. So the next day I warmed it. Most of the re-heated shrimp were mealy. I believe having them soaking in the liquid overnight caused the problem. What is the proper way to handle left over BBQ shrimp?

    • Tom Fitzmorris on October 24, 2014

      We never seem to have any left over, so I haven’t encountered this problem. But my guess is that you are right. Pour off the sauce and bag the shrimp for the refrigerator. Steam them back to warm and add the sauce back in. Or make less to begin with.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  5. Jim LeSaicherre on October 24, 2014

    Your BBQ shrimp recipe call for 2-3 lbs heads on large shrimp in a pan with 1 Tbs. lemon juice, 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup dry white wine ,2 cloves garlic, chopped. I’ve tried this and this is not enough liquid to fill the bottom of the pan much less “boil”. This barely keeps the shrimp from burning on the pan. Why such a small amount? I’ve doubled these quantities and everything turned out great!

    • Tom Fitzmorris on October 24, 2014

      You will note that in the instructions I say to put in the dripping wet shrimp from the sink into the pan. A lot of liquid comes from that. It also makes a difference how big the pan is. Those are the measurements that work for me. . . if you’ve found better, then enjoy!

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  6. Danny on November 9, 2015

    I tried this recipe out a couple of weeks ago and the sauce was delicious, but the shrimp themselves seemed a little bland. Do you let the shrimp soak in the sauce a while before serving? I even peeled the shrimp and poured some sauce on them, but the flavor never seemed to “soak in” the shrimp. I ate half a loaf of French bread myself though dipping it in the sauce.

    • Tom Fitzmorris on November 11, 2015

      This sounds like a case of frozen shrimp, or shrimp that were too large for the dish. I get 16-20 count shrimp for this dish. Larger than that don’t pick up the sauce, as you noted.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  7. Ell on April 5, 2017

    I made the mistake of buying jumbo shrimp (9-12 to the pound) and was disappointed in the final product. The shrimp were so big that they picked up none of the flavoring from the sauce. Won’t do that again.