Camarones a la Diabla or Mexican-style “shrimp of the devil,” is one of my all-time favorite recipes. Plump, tender shrimp are seared in a skillet and then tossed in a rich, fiery sauce made from dried chiles.
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I first discovered my love for spicy camaron a la diabla in Santa Cruz, California. I’ve always loved spicy food, the hotter the better, and this dish fits the bill.
My husband and I (way back before we were married) used to drive down the coast from San Francisco to Santa Cruz frequently and one of our favorite stops was at a Mexican restaurant called La Mission. They made the best Camarones a la Diabla.
The diabla sauce at La Mission was always rich, ruddy, earthy, and SUPER spicy, just the way I like it.
We haven’t been to Santa Cruz much in recent years, but whenever I see Camarones a la Diabla on a Mexican restaurant menu, I order it. I’m always hopeful that it will live up to my memory of this recipe, but it rarely does.
Some shrimp diabla recipes are too tomato-y, too dry, or, most often, just plain not spicy enough.
This Camarones a la Diabla perfectly matches my memory of La Mission’s version. It is made with a few different types of dried chiles, giving it layers of earthy flavor. I make mine very spicy, but you can adjust the spice level to your own taste.
What kind of chiles do you use in Camarones a la Diabla?
The classic Camarones a la Diabla recipe usually includes two types of chile peppers: guajillo and chiles de arbol. I use three to four types because I like the depth of flavor you get using different chile peppers.
The guajillo chiles provide lots of fruity, earthy flavor with only moderate heat. Chiles de arbol are much spicier, so they provide the spicy kick.
I also like to use ancho chiles or pasilla chiles. These are two different chiles, but they are so often mislabeled here in the US that I am never sure which one I am using. The peppers in the photo came from a bag labeled “pasilla,” but they may actually be ancho chiles based on the color and shape.
Ancho chiles and pasilla chiles are similar in appearance and both have mild to moderate heat levels. Ancho chiles tend to be a bit sweeter and milder.
New Mexico chiles, like the pasilla and ancho chiles, are a bit sweet and have a fruity flavor. They are hotter than pasillas or anchos, but not as hot as de arbols.
My recommendation is to use guajillos and de arbols for sure since they are the most traditional chiles used in this recipe. If you want to level up, a combination of guajillos, pasilla/anchos, de arbols, and New Mexico chiles will give you great depth of flavor.
What ingredients do you need?
One of the greatest things about this Camarones a la Diabla recipe is that you don’t need a ton of ingredients. I can buy all of them, including the dried chiles, in my usual supermarket. If your supermarket doesn’t sell a selection of dried chiles, you can find them in a Mexican market.
- Dried chiles (guajillo and de arbol, plus pasilla, ancho, and/or New Mexico if desired)
- Crushed tomatoes
- Olive oil
How do you make this shrimp diabla recipe?
Making Camarones a la Diable is easy:
- Stem and deseed the chiles then cover them with boiling water.
- Remove the chiles from the water and put them in a blender or food processor with the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and salt and process until smooth, adding a bit of water or the reserved chile soaking water as needed.
- Sear the shrimp in a skillet.
- Add the sauce to the shrimp in the skillet, toss to coat, and then simmer until the sauce is bubbling and thickens a bit.
Tips for success
- Wear gloves when handling the chiles. If you don’t have gloves, be careful to wash your hands well and not to touch your face, especially your eyes, after handling the chiles.
- Buy your shrimp already peeled and deveined if you can to save time.
- Regulate the spice level by using more or fewer of the de arbol and ancho chiles. I like it very spicy, so I tend to use 4 or 5 de arbols and at least 2 anchos, but you can use of each if you want a much milder version. Use the other chiles to give the sauce flavor and substance.
- If your sauce is too spicy after blending, add more crushed tomato.
What to serve with shrimp diabla
I usually serve this shrimp diabla over rice so that I don’t lose any of that delicious sauce. Try this easy Instant Pot Spanish rice, this Green Mexican Rice, or this Keto Mexican Cauliflower Rice. This Nopales or Cactus side dish is also great with it.
If you like beans, these Instant Pot refried beans or Instant Pot Mexican black beans are easy to make and delicious. And of course, you must have tortillas! Try homemade corn tortillas or homemade flour tortillas.
More great Mexican recipes you’ll love
- Camarones a la Diabla
- Easy Enchilada Sauce
- Instant Pot Refried Beans
- Instant Pot Mexican Black Beans
- Mexican Street Corn Salad
- Homemade Tamales
- Homemade Corn Tortillas
- Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa Verde
- Homemade Flour Tortillas
- Homemade Chicken Enchiladas
- 6 dried ancho, guajillo, or pasilla chiles (or a combo), stemmed and seeded
- 3 to 5 dried chile de arbol chiles, stemmed and seeded
- ½ cup crushed tomatoes
- ½ onion, cut into chunks
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp
- Place the chiles in a medium, heat-proof bowl and then pour boiling water over them to cover. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes, until the chiles are very soft.
- Remove the chiles from the soaking water using tongs or a slotted spoon, reserving the soaking water. Transfer the chiles to a blender.
- Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and salt to the blender with the chiles. Add ½ cup of the soaking liquid (or use water) and process until smooth. Add additional soaking liquid or water as needed to get a saucy consistency. If the mixture is too spicy, add additional tomatoes.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, turning over once, until they are pink and opaque, about 3 minutes total.
- Add the sauce to the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the sauce is hot and bubbling. Add the butter and stir until it is fully melted and incorporated.
- Serve immediately.
Amount Per Serving Calories 244Total Fat 9gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 7gCholesterol 239mgSodium 1667mgCarbohydrates 12gFiber 2gSugar 5gProtein 28g
Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and manner of food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin, freshness of ingredients, and other factors.