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Whole30 Shrimp Scampi

This exquisite, Italian-inspired shrimp dish is Whole30-friendly and bursting with flavor!

Whole30 Shrimp Scampi

For the printable recipe click here.

What's in a name?

When I was in culinary school, one of my instructors was super-bothered by the term "shrimp scampi." He argued that scampi was the Italian word for shrimp, so the name of the dish was basically shrimp shrimp.

This assessment, however, is not entirely accurate.

The Italian word for shrimp is gamberetto. Scampi is actually the Italian word for a different crustacean which also goes by the names langoustine and Norway lobster. Scampi are plentiful in places such as the Mediterranean, but not in the Americas. For more on scampi, see Britannica.

The term shrimp scampi is a lot like the term chicken-fried steak--steak prepared in the way of fried chicken.

When Italian cooks came to America and couldn't find scampi, they could still prepare shrimp in the way they traditionally prepared scampi.

One of the most traditional Italian ways to prepare scampi was with a simple sauce of lemon, garlic, and oil. So now, in the mind of most Americans, scampi refers to a scrumptious lemon garlic shrimp dish. Shrimp, scampi-style.

Whole30 Shrimp Scampi

Fancy yet approachable

This easy meal is impressive enough for a special occasion, but comes together quickly enough to easily put together on busy weeknights.

If you buy easy-peel, already deveined shrimp, you can even peel the shrimp shells and make a quick shrimp stock quite easily. If you already have some shrimp stock on hand (it freezes beautifully), you can purchase peeled and deveined shrimp to make things even quicker.

Raw shrimp cook super fast in the sauce, and the sauce itself is just a few simple ingredients that also come together super quickly!

Whole30 Shrimp Scampi

Not-so-noticeably missing . . .

One thing absent from the ingredients list in this easy shrimp scampi recipe is vino. Traditionally shrimp scampi has a white wine sauce, featuring a dry white wine like a pinot grigio or a sauvignon blanc.

In this Whole30 shrimp scampi recipe, we'll be omitting the wine. In it's memory, we add a splash of apple juice to help replace just a little of the acid, brightness, and slight touch of sweetness. It's too small an amount to make things appley, but just enough to restore the balance and complexity of this delicious dish.

While Italian cooks everywhere might think it's crazy to leave out the crisp white wine, we don't think you'll miss it.

A garlic butter sauce?

Often shrimp scampi will be made with a combination of olive oil and butter. In place of butter, our version is mostly olive oil, with just a touch of ghee for that buttery feel. Ghee is technically a dairy product, but it is considered Whole30-friendly because the problematic dairy solids have been removed. Still, if you have a severe dairy allergy, feel free to make the recipe with all olive oil and no ghee just to be safe.

Either way, you will sauté a bunch of deliciously zesty garlic in this oil or oil-and-ghee mixture, infusing the oil with all that garlicky goodness!

Whole30 Shrimp Scampi

But wait, that's not all!

What makes this recipe a little different isn't just what we subtract or substitute. It's also what we add!

Don't worry, we're keeping it simple and true to the spirit of the dish, just adding a little red, orange, and yellow diced bell peppers for a subtle color and flavor boost. Bell peppers are also full of vitamins and healthful things, so BONUS!

Another bonus? It's not just a little different, but a little more delicious, too.

We use a little something we like to call bell pepper pestata pucks (red, orange, and yellow bell peppers all blitzed up in the food processor and frozen into perfectly portioned pucks in silicone muffin pans) to keep this easy shrimp recipe extra easy, but 2 T each finely diced red, yellow, and orange bell peppers would do the trick as well. Just be sure to discard the seeds, as they are not what you want in your dish.

If you do go with the frozen pestata puck approach, use caution if adding frozen pucks to an already-hot enameled product such as Le Creuset--this could cause thermal shock and potentially fracture the enamel. When I choose to use this kind of cookware for this or similar recipes, I will often either let the pestata thaw on a small dish for an hour or two before I need it, or I might start the pestata in a cold dish instead of heating the oil first.

preparing the shrimp scampi sauce with bell pepper pestata

If you wanted to add even more vitamin-rich produce, cherry tomatoes could be added whole or halved, at any point in the preparation, depending on how cooked you prefer them to be.

What size shrimp should you use?

I prefer large shrimp in this recipe, though you are welcome to use whatever size you prefer. I just feel like I get the best flavor, most juicy shrimp, and overall best results when I stick with something in the neighborhood of "large."

In general, the larger the shrimp, the longer they will take to cook, so if you go with jumbo or colossal, they will take a little longer to turn completely pink.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you are buying 1/2 pound of shrimp for this recipe, you'll get about 13 jumbo shrimp, or about 17 large shrimp, give or take. You could go a little over 1/2 pound if desired, but you just don't want to overwhelm your pan.

cooking the raw shrimp in the scampi sauce

This article from Fulton Fish Market provides a size chart and good info on what to expect in terms of size and count per pound.

What to serve with your Whole30 Shrimp Scampi?

If you were ordering classic shrimp scampi from your local Italian-American restaurant, it would likely come on a bed of angel hair pasta--maybe with a side of crusty bread for dipping up all the shrimpy, garlicky goodness. And if you're not on a whole30, perhaps that's the route you'll take tonight!

But for those of us looking for some paleo/Whole30 alternatives to traditional pasta or bread, I got you covered!

Whole30-friendly options:

  • zoodles (the more-fun way to say zucchini noodles)

  • pretty much any other type of spiralized veg-oodles

  • spaghetti squash

  • angel hair Palmini (pasta made from hearts of palm, available at many grocery stores--I just got some at Costco! I'm a little on the fence as to whether Palmini falls under the Pancake Rule since it does involve a bit more fenagling to pasta-fy hearts of palm than it does to spiralize a zucchini or slice open a spaghetti squash, but I'm gonna give it a thumbs up until I hear otherwise.)

  • potatoes, any variety: chopped and roasted, baked whole and split open, steamed, mashed, you get the idea

  • cauliflower: mashed, roasted florets, cauliflower rice, etc.

  • Any large mound of veggies! You could even use a slotted spoon to remove the shrimp from the sauce, toss in some kale or blanched broccolini or asparagus, and give those veggies a quick sauté in the delicious, shrimp-infused sauce. Plate up that healthful goodness and top with the shrimp!

  • Serve on top of steak for an incredible take on surf and turf!

Other paleo options:

Other delicious gluten-free options:

  • polenta or grits

  • steamed rice or risotto

  • chickpea pasta or any gluten-free pasta or bread (I do NOT recommend red lentil pasta; it always turns to a goopy mess for me)

We hope you will adore this paleo shrimp scampi recipe as much as we do!

Whole30 Shrimp Scampi

Here's what you'll need:

  • 1/2 lb fresh shrimp (with shells on if making shrimp stock; peeled is fine if you don't need to make shrimp stock)

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 T ghee

  • 1 bell pepper pestata puck (or about 2 T each chopped red, yellow, and orange bell peppers)

  • 5 large fresh garlic cloves, peeled and very finely minced

  • 1 tsp kosher salt

  • 10 cranks black pepper

  • 1/4 cup crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1 T apple juice

  • 1/2 cup shrimp stock (recipe in steps 1-2) or chicken broth

  • zest of 1 lemon, juice of 1/2 lemon

  • 1 T chopped fresh parsley

Here's what you'll do:

  1. Make the shrimp stock: (If not making the stock, skip to step 3) Peel (and devein if needed) the shrimp, leaving the tails in place if desired. Any junk from deveining can be discarded, but KEEP THOSE SHELLS! Place the peeled shrimp in a small bowl or dish, cover, and stash in the fridge for now.

  2. Add the shells to a medium-large (at least 4-quart) stockpot and cover with 3 qts water. Add a little coarsely chopped onion, celery, carrot, and a bay leaf if desired. Bring just to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer for at least 30 minutes, but preferably about 2 hours. Strain the shrimp stock into a clean vessel and discard the solids. Set aside 1/2 cup of the shrimp stock for the shrimp scampi recipe. The remainder can be frozen in ice cube trays and transferred to zip-top freezer bags as easy additions to recipes such as Zuppa di Pesce.

  3. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 T ghee over medium heat for about one minute. Add the bell pepper pestata and sauté till soft and beginning to turn golden in spots, 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally (if frozen, this will take longer).

  4. Stir in the minced garlic, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes, and cook an additional 2-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, till the garlic is soft, fragrant, and just beginning to turn golden in some spots. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

  5. Stir in the apple juice and shrimp stock, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and bring to a simmer. Add the peeled shrimp, cooking just till pink all over, about 1-2 minutes per side.

  6. Remove from heat, stir in the lemon zest and juice, reserving the other half of the lemon to squeeze a little extra fresh lemon juice on the finished dish tableside, if desired. Top with fresh parsley, and serve with whatever your diet desires!

Whole30 Shrimp Scampi

For the printable recipe click here.

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Hey Y'all!

I'm the Monster Momma.

I'm a Christ-follower, wife, mother to five sweet paleo monsters, writer, and

paleo food fiend.

Join me and my family on our paleo journey!

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