Jamaican Pepper Prawns – This delicious island-style prawn dish is full of lots of flavour and has a spicy kick. Cooked with scotch bonnet, shallots, garlic and fresh thyme this an impressive Jamaican dish to serve guests. And it can be cooked in just 10 minutes.
Over the summer, I had peppered prawns at Original Flava restaurant in Brixton. The prawns had a delicious peppery flavour without being overpowering. When I got home, I just knew I had to make it at home.
Prawns are juicier and tender when they are cooked with their shells intact. The shells bring out their full sweet flavour and protect the prawns from overcooking quickly.
Let's get into the key ingredients for the Jamaican Peppered Prawns
Prawns: You can use either fresh or frozen shelled king, jumbo or tiger prawns for this recipe. They are so much meatier and so juicy. Be sure to wash and devein the prawns before cooking.
Scotch Bonnet or Habanero Peppers: Finely chop 2-3 peppers. You can increase or decrease the quantity of chilli. It all depends on how much heat you can handle.
Garlic cloves: Finely chop some garlic cloves. It turns sweet when cooked and adds flavour to the prawns.
Shallots: They are milder and have a sweet flavour when cooked.
Fresh thyme: This versatile herb adds a delicate flavour to the prawns
Seasoning: Old bay, onion powder, allspice, garlic granules or powder, black pepper and paprika add flavour to the prawns.
Oil: Add a tablespoon or two of neutral-tasting oil to sauté the prawns.
Butter: It adds rich flavour.
How to prepare the Prawns
If you are using frozen prawns, thaw them before using them. De-vein the prawns, using a small scissor or a paring knife to cut through the prawn shells along the top, slicing into the flesh at the same time to expose the vein. Make a long incision down the back and use the tip of the knife or a toothpick to lift out the vein. I find eyebrow scissors are handy for de-veining prawns. Wash the prawns and drain well.
How to cook the Jamaican pepper prawns
- Add clean prawns, smoked paprika, garlic granules, onion granules, black pepper, salt and chopped scotch bonnet to a mixing bowl.
- Rub the ingredients into prawns, cover and leave to marinate for an hour.
- Heat oil in a sauté or frying pan. Add shallots, garlic, 1 minced scotch bonnet, thyme and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add prawns. Rinse out the mixing bowl with water and pour over the prawns. Stir well to coat.
- Cover and leave to simmer for 6-7 minutes. Add in butter, toss and cook for another minute. When the prawns turn bright pink they are ready.
- Garnish with parsley and serve with lemon wedges.
Fresh or Frozen Prawns
Many people are under the impression that fresh seafood is better than frozen seafood. However, I have always wondered how fresh is fresh seafood. Especially if you take into account the time from catch till it reaches your table.
Nowadays, seafood is flash-frozen at sea, locking in freshness, texture, flavour and nutrients.
I have fresh and frozen prawns and when it comes to taste they tie.
Fresh and frozen are equally good. When buying frozen prawns, check to see if they flash-frozen straight after harvesting. If they are, then you are ok.
Substitutes for scotch bonnet chillies
If you can’t find scotch bonnets, you can use habaneros or chillies native to your region.
Tips for making these Jamaican Peppered Prawns
Although traditionally made with scotch bonnet peppers, you can use chillies which are native to your region as an alternative.
Use raw shell-on prawns or shrimp. The shells add so much flavour. However, if you don’t like shells remove them.
Adjust the amount of scotch bonnet to your taste. Use more if you want more heat or less for a less spicy dish.
You can use fish seasoning in place of old bay seasoning
These peppered prawns are finger-licking delicious. Don’t just take my word for it. Try the recipe for yourself 😉.
For more prawn recipes, check these out:
Jamaican Peppered Prawns
- 1 kg prawns
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic granules
- 2 teaspoons old bay seasoning
- ½ teaspoon all spice or ground pimento
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 scotch bonnet, diced
- 2 shallots, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- sprigs, fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 60 ml (¼ cup) water
- lemon, sliced into wedges
- De-vein the prawns using a small scissor or a paring knife to cut through the shrimp shells along the top, slicing into the flesh at the same time to expose the vein. Make a long incision down the back and use the tip of the knife or a toothpick to lift out the vein. Wash the prawns with lemon and water. Drain and pat dry. Place in a large mixing bowl.
- Add onion powder, garlic granules, old bay, paprika, black pepper, allspice, 2 chopped scotch bonnet and fresh thyme to the prawns, Rub into the prawns. Cover with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for an hour.
- Preheat 2 tablespoons of oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add shallots, garlic and 1 diced scotch bonnet and sauté for 2-3 minutes, Toss in prawns, stir to combine and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently,
- Rinse out the mixing bowl with 60 ml (¼ cup) water and pour over the prawns. Add in butter. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer over low heat for 6-7 minutes.
- Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with a lemon wedge.