These Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Creamy Cilantro Sauce are packed with flavor and make the perfect summer dinner! All components except the shrimp can be made ahead which makes these tacos really easy to put together!
Why This Recipe Works
- Quick and easy - A lot of the components of this recipe can be prepared ahead. This makes these tacos super easy to throw together for a quick dinner or lunch. Make the sauce, pickled onions, cabbage slaw, and pico de gallo the night before and just cook the shrimp before serving!
- Great both grilled and sauteed - To cook the shrimp on a grill, thread them on skewers and grill for 2 minutes per side. I usually sautee them to have extra sauce I can drizzle on the tacos but both ways are delicious!
- Green Goddess Dressing - This is the creamy cilantro sauce I use for the tacos. It's super versatile and quite thick so it can double as a dressing and a sauce, or even a dip! It's made with avocado, greek yogurt, lime, lots of fresh cilantro, fresh parsley, garlic, and sea salt. I like adding it to a squeeze bottle to make it easier to drizzle over the tacos. Try it on this Quinoa Chickpea Salad with Avocado Dressing!
- Pico de Gallo (Salsa Fresca)- This is a salsa made with chopped tomatoes, red onion, fresh cilantro, jalapeno, and fresh lime juice. What makes it different from regular salsa is that the ingredients are chopped, not blended. If you're in a pinch, you can always use store-bought salsa, both regular and fresh work great in this recipe.
- Quick Pickled Red Onion - Pickled onion adds a nice tang to the tacos and really brightens everything up so I highly recommend adding some! It takes about 10 minutes to make and it's ready to eat in 30 minutes! You can store the pickled onion for up to two weeks in the fridge so it's best to make it ahead to save time.
- Tortillas - I'm using corn tortillas here which are gluten-free but soft flour tortillas are usually my go-to. Hardshell tortillas also work great if you prefer those.
- Shrimp - I highly recommend using raw shrimp. I always buy them frozen because it's an easy way to keep them fresh as I usually don't use all of them right away. You can tell the shrimp are raw and not precooked if they're almost translucent and white. Cooked shrimp are more opaque and pink. Cooking precooked shrimp could cause them to shrink and become tough due to overcooking.
- Taco seasoning - The seasoning is super simple. It's a mix of sea salt, dried thyme, onion and garlic powders, chili powder, ground cumin, and smoked paprika. If you like your tacos extra spicy, add some chipotle powder or cayenne.
Variations and Substitutions
- Tortillas - Use any kind you like. Corn, soft, hardshell, gluten-free, they all work great! Alternatively, you can serve the toppings on lettuce as lettuce wraps.
- Shrimp - If you don't like shrimp, chopped fish like salmon, or some chicken could also be delicious! To keep it vegan, use extra firm tofu cut into cubes.
- Creamy cilantro sauce - The sauce is made with yogurt but you can use any plain vegan yogurt or sour cream to make it dairy-free. Alternatively, you can omit it and add more avocado and lime juice to add some of the tang the yogurt adds back.
- Roasted veggies - You can add some roasted or sauteed veggies for more toppings or instead of any you don't like. Try the roasted bell peppers and red onion from this Veggie Burrito Bowl.
Step 1: Prep all your toppings. I recommend doing this the day before to save time. Shred your cabbage (or buy a coleslaw mix to save even more time), blend the creamy cilantro sauce, make pickled red onion, and prep pico de gallo (salsa fresca). All of this shouldn't take more than 30-40 minutes.
Step 2: Toss the shredded cabbage with the creamy sauce and set aside while you cook the shrimp.
Step 3: Wash the shrimp, and pull on the tails to remove them. Make sure they're also peeled and deveined. Toss the shrimp with avocado oil and seasoning in a bowl.
- On a pan: Sautee on high for 2 minutes on each side. Lower the heat to medium and slowly pour in ¼ cup of water to deglaze the pan and make a sauce.
- On a grill: Thread the shrimp on skewers and cook them on a grill for 2 minutes per side.
Step 4: Ready to serve. Warm-up your tortillas in a preheated oven at 300F (150C) and top them with the cilantro slaw, pico de gallo, pickled onion, and spicy shrimp. Drizzle on some of the sauce from the pan and more creamy cilantro sauce.
Serving and Storing
Most components of this dish can be made 1-2 days ahead which will make putting these tacos together and serving them a breeze.
What you can make ahead: Creamy cilantro sauce (aka green goddess dressing), pickled red onion, pico de gallo, and shredded cabbage slaw.
Make right before serving: Toss shredded cabbage in green cilantro sauce and saute the shrimp.
You can definitely also store cooked shrimp leftovers in the fridge for 1-2 days but they won't be as delicious as they are right from the pan. The cabbage does well tossed in the dressing and stored in the fridge for about 2 days but I still recommend tossing it right before serving to keep it extra crunchy and fresh. I only recommend storing it for 2 days because the dressing contains yogurt.
I use a basic homemade taco seasoning mix made with sea salt, garlic, onion, chili, cumin, smoked paprika, and thyme. You can add cayenne or chipotle for extra heat.
Substitute the shrimp with extra firm tofu cut into cubes and sauteed with the seasoning. There is yogurt in the cilantro sauce but you can use vegan yogurt or sour cream to keep it vegan.
Raw shrimp are slightly translucent and have a grey-blue color. Cooked shrimp are opaque and pink. I always recommend using raw shrimp, not precooked, to avoid overcooking them.
These spicy shrimp tacos are packed with flavor and perfect for the summer! Everything except the shrimp can be made ahead so they're super easy to put together!
- 1 cup Green Goddess Dressing (see notes)
- 1 cup Pico de Gallo (see notes)
- ½-1 cup Quick Pickled Red Onion (see notes)
Green Goddess Slaw:
- 2-3 cups shredded cabbage
Spicy Shrimp Tacos:
- 1 lb raw shrimp, defrosted if frozen (approx. 26 shrimp, I prefer using peeled and deveined)
- 1 tbsp avocado oil (or other cooking oil, plus more as needed)
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- ½ onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ¼ cup water (plus more as needed)
- approx. 6-10 tortillas (depends on the size, I used 8 smaller corn tortillas)
- Start by prepping all the toppings before you cook the shrimp. You can make the dressing, pico de gallo, and quick pickled onion the day before to save some time.
- See the 3 linked recipes for instructions on how to make those or see notes.
Green Goddess Slaw:
- In a big bowl toss together shredded cabbage with about ¼-½ cup of the Green Goddess Dressing. Set aside until ready to serve.
Spicy Shrimp Tacos:
- Preheat your oven to 300F (150F) (for warming up the tortillas).
- Defrost, wash, and dry your shrimp. If they still have the tail on, I recommend removing it to make the tacos easier to eat. Gently pull on it to remove it.
- In a medium bowl, toss together the shrimp and avocado oil. Add onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin powder, smoked paprika, sea salt, and toss to coat well.
- Preheat a large pan over medium-high heat and add a splash more of the cooking oil if not nonstick.
- Add seasoned shrimp in a single layer and cook for 2 minutes. Flip and cook for 2 more. They should turn opaque and pink when done.
- Slowly pour in ¼ cup water a minute after you flip the shrimp to deglaze the pan and make sauce. Add more if needed. Take off heat.
- Warm up your tortillas in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Keep them in a closed baking dish in the oven to keep warm without drying out.
- Top your tortillas with the slaw, pico de gallo, quick pickled onions, spicy shrimp, and more green sauce on top.
Keywords: shrimp tacos, corn tortillas