Jolts of grill flavor and spicy heat can enhance the delicately sweet and briny flavor of shrimp, but it’s easy to overdo it. Most recipes overcook the shrimp and finish them in a bath of mouth-numbing sauce; we wanted juicy shrimp with a smoky crust and chili flavor that was more than just superficial.

To achieve this, we sprinkled one side of the shrimp with sugar to promote browning and grilled this side for a few minutes. Then we flipped the skewers to finish gently cooking on the cooler side of the grill.

We created a flavorful marinade with pureed jalapenos, garlic, cumin, and cayenne to give our shrimp skewers a spicy, assertive kick, and then set some aside to double as a sauce. Butterflying the shrimp before marinating and grilling them opened up more shrimp flesh for the marinade and finishing sauce to flavor. We also packed the shrimp very tightly onto the skewers so they would cook more slowly.

Servings: 4
Start to finish: 2 hours (20 minutes active) You will need four 14-inch metal skewers for this recipe.


1-2 jalapeno chills, stemmed, seeded, and chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 5 tablespoons juice (3 limes)

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt Shrimp:

1 1/2 pounds extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

Process all ingredients in food processor until smooth, about 15 seconds. Reserve 2 tablespoons marinade; transfer remaining marinade to medium bowl.

Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. To butterfly shrimp, use paring knife to make shallow cut down outside curve of shrimp. Add shrimp to bowl with marinade and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.

For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high.

Thread marinated shrimp onto four 14-inch metal skewers. (Alternate direction of each shrimp as you pack them tightly on skewer to allow about a dozen shrimp to fit snugly on each skewer.) Sprinkle 1 side of skewered shrimp with sugar. Place shrimp skewers sugared side down on hotter side of grill (covered if using gas) and cook until lightly charred, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip skewers and move to cooler side of grill (if using charcoal) or turn all burners off (if using gas) and cook, covered, until other side of shrimp is no longer translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, slide shrimp into clean medium bowl and toss with reserved marinade. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Nutrition information per serving: 211 calories; 91 calories from fat; 10 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 214 mg cholesterol; 1110 mg sodium; 6 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 24 g protein.