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Camarones a la Diabla or Mexican deviled shrimp or “shrimp of the devil,” is one of my all-time favorite Mexican foods. Plump, tender shrimp are seared in a skillet and then tossed in a rich, fiery sauce made from dried chiles.
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: chiles 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 peppers 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 a combination of guajillo chiles and chiles de árbol 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, chile de arbol peppers, New Mexico chiles, or even chipotle peppers 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
- Garlic cloves
- Olive oil
How do you make this shrimp diabla recipe?
Making this Diablo Shrimp 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 large skillet over medium-high heat.
- 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.
- Use jumbo shrimp or extra-large shrimp if you can find them.
- Regulate the spice level of this delicious sauce by using more or fewer of the de arbol and ancho chiles. I like a very spicy sauce, 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 fiery red 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.
If you love shrimp and you love spicy food, try this Szechuan Shrimp, Camarones al Moje de Ajo, Sopa de Camaron, or Garlic Shrimp Scampi, too! If you love fish, you’ve got to try these Blackened Fish Tacos or this Beer Batter Fish Recipe.
Camarones a la Diabla
- 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
- 1 tablespoon butter optional
- 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, if using, and stir until it is fully melted and incorporated.
- Serve immediately.