Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa

published Jun 24, 2021
Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa

Spicy, smoky shrimp and a homemade tomatillo salsa combine in these flavor-packed summer tacos.


Prep40 minutes

Cook15 minutes

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grilled shrimp tacos on a plate with garnish
Credit: Photo: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

One of the greatest things about being raised 50 miles from Baja (besides all the sunshine and beaches) is the Mexican food. I didn’t realize how good I had it until I left! To this day, whenever I make tacos at home, I always try to channel the flavors and textures of the ones I grew up eating in California. Case in point: these grilled shrimp tacos, which will make you yearn for your favorite Baja beach. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Photo: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

What’s the Best Way to Flavor the Shrimp?

This shrimp’s flavor profile is inspired by two of my favorite shrimp recipes: Kitchn’s shrimp scampi pasta and this garlicky shrimp with beans. Both of these recipes have you toss the shrimp in minced garlic to start building flavor, and here, I’ve added lime zest and chipotle chili powder for additional zing and some smoky heat.

After tossing the shrimp in the spice rub, you’ll let it sit in the fridge to soak up all the flavor while you prepare the toppings for the tacos. Slice up green cabbage, red radishes, red onion, and serrano peppers, then arrange them on a platter with lime wedges and cilantro leaves. These ingredients add crunch and layers of flavor and balance to the tacos. 

Credit: Photo: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

A Tomatillo Salsa That Starts on the Grill

Because we’re already heating the grill for the shrimp, I created a homemade tomatillo salsa that starts on the grill, too. You’ll cook the tomatillos, onion, jalapeños, and garlic directly on the grill grates until charred and tender, then transfer to a blender, add cilantro and seasonings, and blend it all together. While you’ll of course want to spoon some over your tacos, this salsa also tastes great as a salad dressing, on top of nachos, or drizzled over eggs. I love to make extra and have it ready for whatever I want to put it on.

While grilling the salsa brings in some nice smoky flavors, I’ve also included an option for cooking the veggies under the broiler. This is a great route to take if you want to make the salsa ahead of time.

Credit: Photo: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Grilling and Serving the Tacos

When you’re ready to grill, thread the marinated shrimp onto skewers and cook on a hot greased grill until lightly charred and just cooked through. No grill? No worries! You can cook the shrimp in a cast iron grill pan or skillet.

Just before serving, I like to quickly heat the tortillas over the grill until they’re pliable, then load them up with the salsa, some crema, the shrimp, and all the toppings.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa

Spicy, smoky shrimp and a homemade tomatillo salsa combine in these flavor-packed summer tacos.

Prep time 40 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


For the tacos:

  • 7


  • 2 cloves

    peeled garlic

  • 1

    medium lime

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    chipotle chile powder

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    extra-jumbo raw shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled and deveined

  • 1/4

    small head green cabbage

  • 1/4

    small red onion

  • 4

    medium red radishes

  • 2

    serrano peppers

  • 1/4 bunch

    fresh cilantro

  • 2 tablespoons

    vegetable oil, plus more for the grill

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 8

    (6-inch) corn tortillas

  • 1/4 cup

    Mexican crema or sour cream

For tomatillo salsa:

  • 12 ounces

    tomatillos (about 6)

  • 1/2

    large yellow onion

  • 1 1/2

    medium jalapeño peppers

  • 3 cloves

    unpeeled garlic

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    vegetable oil, plus more for the grill

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper


  1. If using wooden skewers, soak 7 skewers in water for 30 minutes.

  2. Mince 2 peeled garlic cloves and place in a large bowl. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lime into the bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder, and stir to combine. Pat 1 1/2 pounds peeled and cleaned extra-jumbo shrimp with paper towels. Add them to the bowl and toss to combine. Refrigerate while you prepare the toppings and salsa.

  3. Prepare the following toppings, placing them all on a serving platter or in separate bowls: Thinly slice 1/4 small head green cabbage until you have about 2 cups. Thinly slice 1/4 small red onion (about 1/2 cup). Thinly slice 4 radishes (about 3/4 cup) and 2 serrano peppers into rounds (about 1/4 cup). Cut the zested lime into wedges. Pick 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves from 1/4 bunch cilantro. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Pick 1/2 cup more cilantro leaves and tender stems and add to a blender for the salsa.

Make the salsa:

  1. Heat an outdoor grill for direct, medium-high heat. Meanwhile, prepare the following, adding them to the same large bowl: Peel any papery husks from 12 ounces tomatillos, then rinse and pat dry. Peel 1/2 large yellow onion. Trim and cut 1 1/2 jalapeños in half lengthwise so that you have 3 pieces. For a less spicy salsa, cut out and remove the membranes and seeds. Add 3 unpeeled garlic cloves and 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil to the bowl and toss to coat. Thread the garlic cloves onto one of the skewers.

  2. Thread the shrimp onto the remaining skewers, threading each one in two places and arranging them so they are just touching. Place on a baking sheet. Brush the shrimp on both sides with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

  3. When the grill is ready, scrape the grates clean. Oil the grill grates with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Place tomatillos, onion, jalapeños, and garlic skewer on the grill (reserve the bowl). Cover and grill until dark grill marks appear, about 4 minutes. Flip, cover, and grill until dark grill marks appear on the second side and the tomatillos start to soften, 4 to 6 minutes more. Transfer everything to the reserved bowl.

  4. Transfer the tomatillos and jalapeños to the blender. Peel the garlic and chop off the root of the onion. Add both to the blender, add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, and blend until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl.

  5. Scrape and oil the grill grates again. Place the shrimp on the grill, cover, and grill until lightly charred on the bottom, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Flip the skewers and grill until the shrimp are just cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a clean plate or baking sheet.

  6. Place 8 tortillas in a single layer on the grill and grill until tender and pliable, 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. Stack on a plate and cover with a kitchen towel or aluminum foil to keep warm. Remove the shrimp from the skewers.

  7. Place the toppings, salsa, tortillas, shrimp, and 1/4 cup Mexican cream on the table. To assemble the tacos, spoon some salsa and crema onto a tortilla. Add 3 shrimp and top as desired.

Recipe Notes

Grill pan: If using a grill pan, no need to skewer the shrimp, just cook directly on a hot, oiled grill pan over medium-high heat.

Broiling the salsa: The salsa can be made ahead in the broiler. Toss the tomatillos, onion, jalapenos, and garlic with the oil. Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer (no need to skewer the garlic). Broil about 6-inches from the broiling element until charred in spots and tender, flipping the tomatillos halfway through, 7 to 8 minutes total. Proceed with blending the salsa. Refrigerate until ready to use.