Nothing makes me happier than a plate of tacos, and these Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Creamy Cilantro Jalapeño Sauce hit the spot every single time! And the tangy slaw and crumbly cotija cheese seal the deal.

Spicy shrimp tacos with cilantro garnish and lime wedge on brown parchment paper.


Editor’s Note: Originally published on July 26, 2018. Updated with new information, photos, and improved recipe on May 2, 2024.

One of the things I love most about tacos is their versatility and simplicity, and these spicy shrimp tacos are both.

They’re simple in that they’re easy to make, and versatile in that you can customize and add what you like to them.

I make these shrimp tacos with a tangy cabbage slaw, fresh cilantro, sliced jalapeño, cotija cheese, and flour tortillas, but you can easily use corn tortillas, and top them with Mexican street corn salad if you prefer.

I probably don’t need to tell you that these tacos are perfect with a cucumber jalapeño margarita!

Recipe Ingredients

All ingredients for this recipe are shown in the pic below and special notes are made in this bulleted list to assist you.

Ingredient shown: olive oil, cilantro, jalapeno, limes, tortillas, garlic, onion, cabbage, mayonnaise, sour cream, spice and chili powder, tequila, and shrimp.
  • Shrimp. I used U40 pink gulf shrimp for this recipe, but use any smallish-sized shrimp you can access. Be sure to peel, devein and remove the tails.
  • Cabbage. For the slaw. You can use all green or all purple, or a blend as I did.
  • Chiptole chili powder. My recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle powder, but if you like it spicier, you can use another 1/2 teaspoon.
  • Tequila. For flavoring the shrimp, but feel free to omit if you can’t have alcohol.
  • Tortillas. I used flour tortillas for the pictures, but you can use corn too!

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. In a large bowl, combine 1 pound of U40 shrimp, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of ancho chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle chili powder, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic and mix well. Allow the shrimp to sit for 10-15 minutes before sauteing. (Photo #1)
  2. Shred 2 1/2 cups of green and purple cabbage and place in a large bowl. (Photo #2)
Spicy shrimp tacos recipe collage group one showing mixing shrimp in bowl, slicing cabbage, mixing cabbage with sauce, and charring of tortillas in griddle pan.
  1. In a blender or food processor, place 1 cup of sour cream, 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, 1/2 cup of packed cilantro leaves, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 large jalapeño (seeds and stem removed), 1/4 cup of roughly chopped onion, 1 teaspoon of Diamon Crystal kosher salt, and 2 ounces of lime juice. Pulse until combined, then taste test and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Place half the sauce into the bowl with the cabbage and save the remaining sauce to serve with the tacos. (Photo #3)
  2. Heat a skillet or griddle to medium heat and toast 8-10 medium sized tortillas on both sides until slightly charred, about 45 seconds, then set aside. (Photo #4)
  3. Heat a cast iron or heavy skillet to medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive. Once the oil is shimmering, add the shrimp and cook for approximately 60-90 seconds per side or until the shrimp are cooked through. Work in batches to prevent overcrowding the pan. (Photo #5)
  4. Add 2 ounces of tequila to the pan and with a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any brown bits. (Photo #6)
Recipe collage two showing sauteing of shrimp, deglazing with tequila, mixing shrimp into tequila mix, and spooning jalapeno cream on top of the tacos.
  1. Return the shrimp to the pan and mix with the tequila to coat. (Photo #7)
  2. Place the charred tortillas on a serving platter and add a scoop of slaw to each. Add a few shrimp to each tortilla and top with a drizzle of the remaining sauce, cotija cheese, jalapeño slices, lime wedges, and fresh cilantro leaves. (Photo #8)

Top tips

  • Warm the tortillas. The tortillas will be more pliable if they’re warmed and less likely to break.
  • Tequila. While I do have tequila as an ingredient in this shrimp taco recipe, you can absolutely omit the tequila if you can’t have alcohol.
  • Garnish. Use any taco garnish you’d like! I love to add cotija cheese, fresh cilantro, and sliced jalapeño, but other great options include sliced avocado, queso fresco, hot sauce, etc.

Three shrimp tacos on parchment paper with jalapenos, lime wedges, and cilantro along with black bowl of jalapeno cream sauce.

More Mexican-inspired recipes

If you enjoy Mexican food, try these other recipes. I think you’ll love them!

  • Chili Colorado – smoky chili with chunks of tender beef.
  • Guacamole – avocado, lime, onion, and cilantro.
  • Paloma with mint – a refreshing blend of grapefruit juice, tequila, club soda, and mint.

If you’ve enjoyed this Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Creamy Cilantro Jalapeño Sauce Recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and tell us about it in the comments below.

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Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Creamy Cilantro Jalapeno Sauce

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Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 4
Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Creamy Cilantro Jalapeno Sauce are the perfect meal for warm weather, taco Tuesday, or anytime you're craving a fresh and spicy dish!

Ingredients 

For the slaw and sauce

  • 2 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 packed cup fresh cilantro leaves and thin stems plus more for garnish
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup onion roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 ounces lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1 large jalapeno stem and seeds removed, plus more for garnish

For the shrimp tacos

  • 8-10 medium tortillas corn or flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil divided
  • 1 pound medium shrimp (U40 count) peeled, deveined, and tails removed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder or regular chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 2 ounces cotija cheese crumbled, for garnish
  • 1 large lime cut into wedges for garnish

Instructions 

For the slaw and sauce

  • Place the mayonnaise, sour cream, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, onion, lime juice, and salt into a blender or food processor and pulse until combined. Taste test and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
  • Place half of the sauce into a large bowl and mix with the shredded cabbage. Save the remaining sauce for serving with the tacos.

For the shrimp tacos

  • In a large bowl, combine the shrimp with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, baking soda, ancho and chipotle chili powder, cumin, kosher salt, and granulated garlic and mix well. Let the shrimp sit for 10-15 minutes before sauteing.
  • While the shrimp are brining, heat a skillet or griddle to medium heat and toast the tortillas until slightly charred. Set them aside.
  • Heat a cast iron or heavy skillet to medium-high heat.  Add the remaining olive oil and once shimmering, add the shrimp and cook for approximately 60-90 seconds per side or until cooked through. Work in batches if required to not overcrowd the pan, then remove the shrimp to a plate and set aside.
  • Add the tequila to the pan and with a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pan to remove all of the browned bits. Remove the pan from the heat and return the shrimp to the pan and mix to coat.
  • Place the tortillas on a large serving plate and add a scoop of the slaw onto each. Divide the shrimp into each taco then top with a drizzle of the remaining sauce. Serve with fresh cilantro, limes, and cotija cheese. Enjoy!

Notes

  • 4-5 shrimp per taco is a good amount which would equate to roughly 8-10 tacos.
  • Flour or corn tortillas can be used
  • Leftovers can be saved in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 406kcal | Carbohydrates: 32.2g | Protein: 10.3g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 4.8g | Cholesterol: 65mg | Sodium: 928mg | Potassium: 333mg | Fiber: 4.8g | Sugar: 3.7g | Calcium: 124mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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This recipe was originally published on July 26, 2018. It was completely updated on May 2, 2024.

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