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Trinidad Pepper Shrimp

Make fiery Trinidad pepper shrimp for a quick and easy dinner idea that is ready in less than 30 minutes. The classic Caribbean dish features tender shrimp cooked in a spiced gravy brimming with vegetables, warm spices, aromatics, and fiery scotch bonnet peppers for a one-of-a-kind meal. Happy cooking! 

Trinidad pepper shrimp in a serving bowl.

What is Trinidad Pepper Shrimp?

Chinese influence on Trini cooking is evident through the use of ingredients such as fresh garlic and scallions, as well as some unique culinary methods. As Chinese immigrants settled into their new home, they shared their expertise in spices, sauces, and stir-frying techniques, resulting in a delicious fusion of flavors.  

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Shrimp: Include jumbo or colossal shrimp in the Trinidad pepper shrimp recipe, or you can use king prawns, leaving the heads and tails intact, for a more traditional preparation. 
  • Marinade: Marinate the shrimp in lime juice and apple cider vinegar or white vinegar, depending on what you have. 
  • Butter: Saute the fresh garlic and tomato paste in butter or vegetable oil. 
  • Tomato Paste: Adding a spoonful of tomato paste can intensify the flavor and deepen the color of the gravy the shrimp cooks in. Some recipes call for ketchup, but I prefer tomato paste.
  • Garlic: I use four fresh garlic cloves, but measure with your heart.
  • Onions: Use yellow onions or shallots for the best flavors.
  • Scallions: Saute the white parts of the spring onion and garnish the fish with the thinly sliced scallions greens. 
  • Spices: Flavor the shrimp with smoked paprika, black pepper, all-purpose seasoning, and jerk seasoning.
  • Scotch Bonnet Peppers: Add a fiery flavor using scotch bonnets. Leave the pepper whole or cut them up for even more heat. You can also use another hot pepper, like habaneros or serrano peppers. If you prefer to reduce the heat level, I recommend using a few sweet peppers or a bell pepper instead. 
  • Thyme: Fresh thyme flavors the pepper shrimp with earthy sweetness.

Additions and Substitutions

  • Replace the all-purpose seasoning with a crushed Maggie bouillon cubeMSG, or soy sauce for a similar salty taste. 
  • Include diced carrots or grated ginger with the other vegetables and aromatics. 
  • Add a small amount of annatto powder (or achiote powder) to give the shrimp its signature red color. 

Tools Used to Make this Recipe

Stir fry the shrimp and the gravy ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saute pan, wok, or skillet.

How to Make Trinidad Pepper Shrimp

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Prepare, rinse, and drain the shrimp. Then, toss cleaned shrimp with the lime juice and vinegar in a mixing bowl and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.

Drain the shrimp in a colander and transfer them to a cloth or paper towel.

Shrimp marinating in a bowl.

Step 2: Warm a large saute pan or wok over medium heat. Then, add the butter, tomato paste, and garlic. Saute for one minute.

Tomato paste and garlic in a pan.

Step 3: Layer the shrimp into the pan in a single layer and cook over medium-high heat until the edges turn pink.

Cook for about 1-2 minutes, depending on the size of your shrimp.

Shrimp searing in a pan.

Step 4: Combine the onions, scallion whites, smoked paprika, black pepper, all-purpose seasoning, jerk seasoning, and water in a mixing bowl. Then, pour the mixture over the shrimp and stir to combine.

Trinidad pepper shrimp simmering in a pan.

Step 5: Nestle the scotch bonnets and fresh thyme into the pan. Cover with a lid and simmer for 10-15 minutes on low-medium heat until the shrimp cooks and the sauce thickens.

Trinidad pepper shrimp simmering in a pan.

Step 6: Transfer the cooked shrimp to a serving bowl and finish with thinly sliced green onions. 

Trinidad pepper shrimp in a serving bowl.
Trinidad pepper shrimp in a serving bowl.

Expert Tips

  • If leaving the tails on the shrimp, soak the shrimp in lime juice and vinegar before cooking. Doing so can make it easier to remove the shell while eating.   
  • Smaller shrimp cooks very quickly. Reduce the cooking time to 5-8 minutes after adding the shrimp to the sauce ingredients, careful not to overcook the shrimp.
  • If the shrimp is cooking faster than the gravy, add 1-2 teaspoons of cornstarch to encourage the sauce to thicken more quickly. 

If you enjoy this meal, try one of these seafood recipes!  

Trinidad pepper shrimp in a serving bowl.

Serving Suggestions

What to do with the Leftovers

  • Refrigerate: Store leftovers in an airtight container for 1-2 days.
  • Freeze: Let the shrimp cool. Then, transfer the shrimp to a freezer-safe container or bag. Trinidad pepper shrimp freezes for 2-3 months.
  • Thaw: Defrost the leftovers in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Reheat: Warm leftovers on the stovetop on low heat so you don’t overcook the shrimp, and enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I use tail-on or tail-off shrimp?

 Whether you remove the tails or leave them on is entirely up to you. Leaving the tail on the shrimp adds a layer of flavor to the sauce, but you won’t miss it if you leave them off. However, leaving the tails and heads on the shrimp is a more traditional preparation for Trinidad pepper shrimp.

How do you clean shrimp?

1. Rinse the Shrimp: Add shrimp to a colander and rinse them under cold running water.

2. Remove the Head: Grasp the heads and twist them off, discarding the heads. However, you can leave them on for a more authentic look and preparation. 

3. Peel the Shell: Start at the head and peel away the shell, working toward the tail, but you can leave the tail intact if you prefer. To make this easier, use kitchen shears to cut along the back of the shrimp to split the shell open.

4. Remove the Legs: The legs should easily come off in one motion with the shell.

5. Devein the Shrimp: Use a small, paring knife to make a shallow slit along the back of the shrimp. Using the tip of the knife, lift out the dark vein and discard it.

6. Rinse and Marinate: Rinse the shrimp until cold water and pat them dry with a paper towel to remove excess water. Then, then transfer the shrimp to a mixing bowl with lime juice and vinegar.

More Shrimp Recipes:

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Trinidad pepper shrimp in a serving bowl.

Trinidad Pepper Shrimp

Tressa Jamil
Make Trinidad pepper shrimp, a classic Caribbean dish, for a quick and easy dinner idea that is ready in less than 30 minutes.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Caribbean
Servings 3 Servings
Calories 213 kcal
Ingredients
  
  • 1 pound large shrimp, tail-on, cleaned (see instructions on FAQ)
  • lime juice, 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ medium yellow onion, finely miced
  • 2 scallion whites (spring onion), finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground
  • 1 teaspoon all purpose seasoning crushed
  • 1 teaspoon jerk seasoning
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2-3 scotch bonnets
  • 3 thyme springs
Optional:
  • teaspoon annatto powder
Instructions
 
  • Prepare, rinse, and drain the shrimp. Then, toss cleaned shrimp with the lime juice and vinegar in a mixing bowl and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Drain the shrimp in a colander and transfer them to a cloth or paper towel.
  • Warm a large saute pan or wok over medium heat. Then, add the butter, tomato paste, and garlic. Saute for one minute.
  • Layer the shrimp into the pan in a single layer and cook over medium-high heat until the edges turn pink. Cook for about 1-2 minutes, depending on the size of your shrimp.
  • Combine the onions, scallion whites, smoked paprika, black pepper, all-purpose seasoning, jerk seasoning, and water in a mixing bowl. Then, pour the mixture over the shrimp and stir to combine.
  • Nestle the scotch bonnets and fresh thyme into the pan. Cover with a lid and simmer for 10-15 minutes on low-medium heat until the shrimp cooks and the sauce thickens.
  • Transfer the cooked shrimp to a serving bowl and finish with thinly sliced green onions. 
Notes
Expert Tips: 
  • If leaving the tails on the shrimp, soak the shrimp in lime juice and vinegar before cooking. Doing so can make it easier to remove the shell while eating.   
  • Smaller shrimp cooks very quickly. Reduce the cooking time to 5-8 minutes after adding the shrimp to the sauce ingredients, careful not to overcook the shrimp.
  • If the shrimp is cooking faster than the gravy, add 1-2 teaspoons of cornstarch to encourage the sauce to thicken more quickly. 
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Serving | Calories: 213 kcal | Carbohydrates: 9 g | Protein: 22 g | Fat: 10 g | Saturated Fat: 5 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2 g | Cholesterol: 211 mg | Sodium: 976 mg | Potassium: 428 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 2 g | Vitamin A: 3167 IU | Vitamin C: 5 mg | Calcium: 120 mg | Iron: 2 mg
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