Caribbean Shrimp Tapas

Spicy citrus Caribbean shrimp and avocado atop black bean puree and sweet potato with a drizzle of cilantro vinaigrette… summer tapas party food!

Caribbean Shrimp Tapas

The word tapa means lid. It was thought that the plate acted like a lid on top of the mug or glass (to keep out dirt, dust, and insects) in bars that originally offered food, probably to attract customers.

— Tapas,

While tapas originated in Spain, tapas bars have become quite a trend globally. What is a tapa? It is more than a small plate, or an appetizer. Unfortunately, it seems much of the charm and appeal of Spanish tapas bars has been lost in many places. In the broadest sense, tapas can be anything that comes out of the kitchen of a bar on a small plate. They are nibbles that accompany adult beverages. A tapas bar should be an experience – one of lively conversation, relaxation, and adventure. It is not a menu or a restaurant. I believe they are best enjoyed with a good glass of wine or beer, and should not require utensils (although I do make exceptions). The idea is to be able to mingle, converse, eat, and drink with a measure of mobility… a drink with its small plate “lid” and a free hand with which to nibble. Sound like fun?

I love to entertain. Sometimes my menu is focused and somewhat formal but I often enjoy borrowing from the Spanish tradition, and serving tapas-style with great wine and beer paired with a variety of small plates. In creating these Caribbean Shrimp Tapas, I was thinking ahead to a summer party on the patio.
The spicy orange and cilantro flavors of these sweet potato, black bean purée, shrimp, and avocado bites speak of warm summer evenings, and are sure to please your party guests. They are a bit of work, but enjoy the effort with a glass of Spanish rosé, and you’ll scarcely notice as time passes. 😉

Caribbean Shrimp Tapas

I have to confess to having tried this dish initially with thin slices of sweet potato fried in canola oil. They did not hold their shape well, and thus failed the finger food test that makes them suitable for a tapas party. However, my husband and I loved the flavor combination, so I tried doing a roasted sweet potato medallion. This worked perfectly, and in the process, the recipe shed a few calories and grams of fat. That is always a good thing!

Caribbean Shrimp & Sweet Potato Bites
Left to right: cilantro drizzle, Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar, Gourmet Garden Red Chile Paste…

This is a dish with layered flavors that complement one another. I would suggest getting the sweet potatoes in the oven to roast first, as they take 30-45 minutes (depending on method). I use convection roast, which means the temperature is reduced by 25 degrees, and I get them done in 20% less time. I have included both methods in the recipe instructions. While the sweet potatoes roast, whisk the ingredients together in a suitable prep bowl, and marinate the shrimp for 20-30 minutes. When the shrimp are ready to be grilled, the reserved marinade gets incorporated into the black bean purée. The ingredients for the black bean purée go into the bowl of a food processor, and are pulsed until smooth. Lastly, thin-slice your avocado, and begin assembling. You can complete these in under an hour if you are organized. 🙂


Yield: 12 tapas

Caribbean Shrimp Tapas

Caribbean Shrimp Tapas

Spicy citrus Caribbean shrimp and avocado atop black bean puree and sweet potato with a drizzle of cilantro vinaigrette... summer tapas party food!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes


Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled (or not), cut in 3/8" - 1/2" slices (see notes)
  • olive oil (to drizzle)
  • sea salt/ground pepper

Marinated Shrimp

  • 1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined (see notes)
  • zest and juice 1/2 an orange
  • 1 tbsp. orange muscat champagne vinegar (see notes)
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. red chile puree (such as Gourmet Garden)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • ground pepper

Black Beans

  • reserved marinade liquid
  • water to bring it up to 1/2 cup liquid
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. oregano leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Cilantro Drizzle

  • 1 bunch cilantro, rinsed, and most stems removed
  • 1 tbsp. orange muscat champagne vinegar (see notes)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • a pinch of sea salt, or a few grinds

To Finish

  • 1 avocado, skin and seed removed, sliced thin
  • chile pepper puree (such as Gourmet Garden)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (or 375 degrees convection roast).
  2. Toss sweet potato slices with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a few grinds of salt and pepper.
  3. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  4. Cook 15 minutes. Turn. Cook another 15 minutes.
  5. If they are tender and golden brown, remove from the oven and set aside to cool. If not, check periodically at about 5 minute intervals until they are tender and golden brown.This may take 30-50 minutes depending on thickness and convection versus regular oven.
  6. While sweet potatoes roast, prep the shrimp, whisk marinade ingredients together, and combine in a prep bowl. Marinate them 20-30 minutes.
  7. Remove the shrimp from the marinade. Reserve marinade for black beans. Grill on a stove top grill pan or grill them on high heat for about 1 minute on each side. Set aside.
  8. Combine reserved marinade (and water as needed), 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained well, cumin, oregano, salt, and several grinds of pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until very smooth. It should be about the consistency of pancake batter not bean dip. Add water if necessary. Set aside.*
  9. In a blender, combine cilantro, citrus vinegar, olive oil, and salt. Blend until very smooth. It should be a pourable consistency not runny. Set aside until ready to assemble.
  10. Thin slice your avocado.

To Assemble

  1. On a party platter, arrange your roasted sweet potato medallions.
  2. Drop about a tablespoon of black bean puree, and spread over the top.
  3. Top with one grilled shrimp, and one thin slice of avocado.
  4. Drizzle with cilantro mixture, and a tiny dab of red chile puree.


Sweet potato slices should be scrubbed, but you can peel or not. Slice fairly thick - from 3/8" to 1/2" thick. The thickness will determine how long they need to roast.

Medium sized shrimp work well. You only need one on each tapa.

I love Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar. You can substitute any citrus vinegar, or rice vinegar.

You will probably have leftover black bean puree. It is fabulous with tortilla chips or sweet potato fries, and is a healthy snack.

If you can't find red chile pepper paste in your produce department, you can use Fresno chiles (stems and seeds removed) pureed with water until smooth.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

2 tapas

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 164Total Fat: 4gCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 16g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

As I mentioned earlier, I love this with a dry rosé. A sauvignon blanc or viognier would be nice too. Avoid a butter-bomb chardonnay or a heavy red. If you’re more of a beer drinker, try a saison. Saisons pair well with seafood because of their crisp, typically citrus and dry finish.



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