Recipe Review

I Tried 4 Popular Shrimp Scampi Recipes and the Winner Was Buttery, Garlicky Perfection

published Sep 24, 2022
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Four pans, each with a different shrimp scampi recipe, shot from above.
Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen; Headshots: Getty
The Best Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp scampi is a classic, and for good reason: It’s simple, delicious, and stress-free. You just sauté some shrimp; hit it with aromatics like garlic, spicy red pepper flakes, white wine, and lemon juice; and then toss with pasta. The dish comes together quickly, bursts with flavor, and makes any meal feel like a celebration. Make shrimp scampi for dinner and watch how quickly people’s eyes light up; it just feels special.

But there are countless variations on the dish. Some recipes use butter, some add shallots, some use lots of wine, and others skip the wine altogether. Depending on whom you ask, the recipe can be made with as little as five ingredients — or as many as 20.

That’s why I decided to test four popular shrimp scampi recipes in a head-to-head battle to see which one is the best. I tested one without wine, one that took more than an hour to make, one that uses thyme and shallots, and one that doubles down on the butter. At the end of the seafood-filled day I found a new scampi recipe that has become a new go-to weeknight dinner.

Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Meet Our 4 Shrimp Scampi Contenders

For this showdown I decided that any shrimp scampi recipe — regardless of if it was served on pasta or not — was fair game. I would be tasting each scampi on its own, then with pasta, and judging them accordingly. From there I searched the internet for some of the most popular and beloved recipes I could find.

Ina Garten: Unlike most shrimp scampi recipes, Ina skips the white wine and subs in extra lemon juice. She adds slices of whole lemons and tosses the saucy shrimp with linguine. With more than 1,000 reviews and a five-star average rating, I was excited to try out her unique approach.

Basics with Babish: Babish (the Youtube celebrity known for his viral cooking videos) has two recipes for scampi on his site: a simple version and a more complex one. His complex version is made with shrimp shell-infused wine, fresh herbs, toasted breadcrumbs, and a handful of other clever upgrades. The recipe looked like a lot of effort, but I was excited to see if the results would be worth the work.

Cafe Delites: This is one of the most popular scampi recipes online. The recipe is super simple and comes together in no time. It calls for fewer than 10 ingredients and requires no special equipment or extra steps. The recipe looked exactly like what I imagine when I hear shrimp scampi — lemony, buttery, and rich — so I knew I needed to give it a try.

Lidia Bastianich: Lidia is a beloved expert of Italian cuisine and I fully trust any recipe she writes. Her recipe calls for a few unique additions, like fresh thyme, shallots, and a hefty amount of white wine. The recipe sounded like it would be packed with flavor, so I was excited to see how it would rank.

How I Tested the Shrimp Scampi Recipes

Each shrimp scampi recipe was made exactly as written. Each scampi was made on the same day, tasted as is, then tossed with pasta and tasted once more. I judged the recipes based on flavor and ease of preparation. At the end of the day one scampi stood out among the recipes and was crowned the winner.

Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

1. The High-Effort, Medium-Reward Recipe: Babish’s “Complex” Shrimp Scampi

While this recipe was delicious, it was a lot of effort compared to the other recipes — and I’m not sure that the results were worth the work. The recipe called for a laundry list of ingredients and it took me about an hour to make it. The addition of toasted panko breadcrumbs added a nice pop of texture that I loved, but other than that the pasta didn’t wow me. Don’t get me wrong, I would happily eat this any day of the week — but I’m just too lazy to make this again and would probably make his simpler scampi recipe next time.

Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

2. The Delicious (but Slightly Untraditional) Shrimp Scampi: Ina Garten’s Linguine with Shrimp Scampi

While I loved how this recipe tasted, it didn’t feel like a traditional scampi to me. The pasta tasted more like a lemony shrimp linguine than a classic scampi. By omitting the white wine, you remove a lot of the bright complexity that usually comes with scampi. And the addition of whole lemon slices and lemon juice added a double hit of lemon flavor that overwhelmed the pasta a bit. I didn’t dislike this pasta at all — in fact, I ate most of it — I just don’t think it tastes like a classic scampi.

Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

3. The Super-Simple Runner-Up: Cafe Delites’ Shrimp Scampi

If you’re looking for a quick, no-fuss shrimp scampi recipe, this is for you. It has all of the classic, bright flavors of shrimp scampi without a laundry list of ingredients. It takes just 30 minutes to make and is garlicky, rich, and perfect for tossing with pasta. A generous amount of butter adds richness, while white wine cuts through the fat and makes it shine. When I think of a classic shrimp scampi recipe, this is exactly what I think of.

Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

4. The Clear Winner: Lidia Bastianich’s Shrimp Scampi

This recipe was absolute perfection. It was bright, acidic, and bursting with flavor, thanks to shallots and thyme. The recipe takes slightly more effort than most, but can still be made in about 30 minutes and without much fuss. Lidia has you make a shallot and garlic paste that you cook down after searing the shrimp. That extra step gave the scampi a savory foundation that took the recipe to the next level. It was garlicky, slightly sweet, and complex. I also loved that this recipe made a lot of sauce. The shrimp are practically swimming in the buttery white wine sauce that’s perfect for tossing with pasta or dipping bread into. I could happily eat this every day of the week.

Do you have a favorite shrimp scampi recipe? Let us know in the comments!