This easy Mexican Grilled Shrimp with Achiote Marinade requires only a few ingredients - large shrimp, achiote paste, citrus, shallot, garlic - and 30 to 45 minutes to make. Serve with black beans, a hearty salad, red or green rice, or in tacos for a quick and healthy Yucatán-inspired meal!
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - About Achiote Marinade
When I think about quintessential Yucatecan ingredients, I think of achiote, citrus (specifically the Seville or sour orange), and the habanero chile. Of course that's just 3 among many amazing ingredients used in the cuisine from the Yucatán peninsula.
These bright red seeds grow inside a prickly pod. Their powerful colour is used as a dye, as well as the seeds being ground and used to make achiote paste for cooking or to be added to spice blends such as recado rojo. Any Yucatecan dish you see that is bright red or orange was likely made with achiote.~~ Yucatan Food & Mayan Food Mega Guide
Seville oranges are - to my knowledge - pretty hard to find in the US. I have had "ugly" or "sour" oranges in Peru, and I believe they're the same variety. When I started cooking Yucatecan-inspired recipes, I found that a combination of citrus gets me a little closer to the flavor of the sour orange. For this achiote marinade, I use 1 lemon, 1 lime, and 1 orange.
To complete this quick marinade, you'll need a shallot or half an onion, and some garlic. Purée until smooth, soak those large beautiful shrimp, and grill them to perfection. These Mexican grilled shrimp are great with grilled veggies or stuffed in tacos with your favorite salsa. Read on!
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- large shrimp - I use 16-20 per pound for this recipe. The big ones are easier to thread on the skewer.
- citrus - As I mention above, a combination of citrus gets me closer to the Seville or ugly orange. If you prefer to use just one, I'd go for the orange.
- achiote paste - Achiote paste is a spice blend based on annatto seeds. You can certainly make homemade achiote paste. However, the commercial brands work fine in this recipe. See "Useful Stuff" below.
- Prepare the marinade - Add all the marinade ingredients to a blender or food processor.
- Purée the marinade until very smooth.
- Marinate the shrimp - Pour the marinade over the shrimp. Soak up to 30 minutes. Any longer, will affect the texture of your shrimp.
- Prepare the skewers - Remove the shrimp from the marinade. Pat dry with paper towel or cloth. Skewer. If desired, reduce the remaining marinade by ⅓, and brush the shrimp (and veggies) as they cook.
- Grill the achiote shrimp skewers - Overcooked shrimp is more like shoe leather than succulent shrimp. Take care to turn them after 1-2 minutes (depending on how hot the grill is). Brush with the reduced marinade after turning. Brush the second side when the skewers are removed. The citrus sugar will burn on a hot grill.
- Serve - Either remove the shrimp from the skewer, or serve it on the skewer. Serve with lime wedges, mint or cilantro sprigs, etc.
- Large/jumbo shrimp are easier to work with when skewering, and they're also easier to cook properly. It's so easy to overcook shrimp; the bigger they are, the more forgiving they are on the grill.
- Don't waste that delicious marinade! Simply reduce it by ⅓ in a small saucepan. Adjust seasoning, and brush it on the shrimp skewers after turning. The citrus is full of sugar, and high heat can cause them to burn.
Can I make my own achiote paste?
YES! While commercial brands get the job done, there is nothing like homemade spice blends. Try this red achiote paste recipe.
What are the best citrus fruits to use?
As shown in the photos, I prefer to use a combination in an attempt to get somewhat close to the tart flavor of a Seville or "ugly orange" like I've had in Peru. Any combination will work, though.
Do I have a preference for the skewers?
Not really. I use both bamboo skewers and metal skewers. If using bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them a minimum of 30 minutes!
🧂 Useful Stuff
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🍷 Pairing Suggestions
On photo day, my husband and I threaded small tomatoes, tomatillos, and red onion on skewers and brushed them with the marinade as well. The veggies were delicious!
For a really (and extremely healthy) special menu, include red rice or cilantro rice, and a fresh tomato and tomatillo salad. Stuffing the Mexican grilled shrimp into a corn tortilla with mango salsa and avocado is another delicious option.
What about beverages? I'm really excited about this agua fresca recipe - passionfruit, strawberries, lime. It's a perfect healthy pairing with this grilled shrimp recipe. If you're looking for a summery cocktail, try one of these tropical margaritas!
This grilled shrimp recipe is so quick, easy, healthy, and versatile. I hope you'll add it to your summer rotation!
🥗 Related Recipes
All 4 of these Mexican-inspired summer salads are great choices alongside your Mexican grilled shrimp.