Jerk Shrimp Pasta
This jerk shrimp pasta recipe has a light sauce, tender sweet onions, and juicy shrimp coated in a sweet and flavorful Caribbean-inspired spice blend. Best of all, it’s easy to make in just about 30 minutes.
Jerk Shrimp Pasta Recipe
Anything with jerk seasoning is a guaranteed hit for me. It’s spicy, sweet, and utterly irresistible, thanks to a simple blend of cayenne, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, and more. We’ve enjoyed jerk-seasoned chicken in the past, but I’ve been thinking for awhile how delicious it would be as a marinade or sauce for plump, juicy shrimp. And in this recipe, it serves as both! (Marinade and sauce, that is.)
You’ll love that this jerk shrimp pasta is:
- Light yet satisfying. No need for a heavy cream sauce, there’s tons of flavor from the marinade.
- Quick and easy. No muss, no fuss.
- A break from the dinner rut. I guess this depends on what you usually eat, but for our family and most I know, we get in a routine of Italian, Mexican, Asian, and sort of all-purpose American flavors. Using a Caribbean-inspired spice blend with pasta is a small, highly welcome variation. Jamaican-Italian fusion, here we come!
Try serving this with a simple arugula salad or sautéed veggies — I love a mix of zucchini and yellow squash.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Here are a few notes and shopping tips about the ingredients you’ll need to make this, as well as possible substitutions. Full amounts are noted in the print-friendly recipe card below.
- Shrimp: Be sure to buy raw shrimp, already peeled and deveined if possible, to save time. Keep reading for tips on defrosting shrimp fast.
- Pasta: I like to use angel hair pasta or another quick-cooking variety here, but really anything will work.
- Jerk seasoning: The star of the show!
- Sweet onion: Substitute yellow or red onion, or even 2 sliced shallots if you like.
- Pineapple juice or lime juice. For the marinade. You can use fresh lime juice, or purchase small cans of pineapple juice. (I keep these on hand because they are my son’s favorite for a kid’s “happy hour.”) You can also simply use the extra juice from a can of pineapple rings or chunks.
- Honey: A little sweetness enhances the spice blend and flavors the shrimp.
- Olive oil and butter.
What is jerk seasoning?
Jamaican jerk seasoning is an incredibly versatile addition to your spice cabinet, one that adds heat, dimension, and complexity to everything it touches.
The basic elements of this blend come from Caribbean cooking, as does the term “jerk”, which may have originally referred to a technique of poking holes in meat so it can absorb more flavor, or simply to the process of slow-roasting meat wrapped in peppers and spices or a marinade.
You can easily purchase jerk seasoning in hot or mild variations.
Can I make my own jerk seasoning?
Absolutely! This recipe for homemade jerk seasoning yields a mild-medium blend.
Making your own seasonings is easy and almost always economical, since you typically already have most of the ingredients sitting in your spice cabinet — and specialty blends can be expensive or wasteful, since you may use them infrequently or in small amounts.
How To Make Jerk Shrimp Pasta
This is a simple recipe that comes together mostly in one pan, with an extra pot for cooking the pasta on the side. Here are the steps and a quick visual overview. You will find full instructions with exact ingredients in the print-friendly recipe card below.
- Marinate shrimp. Do this slightly ahead of time if possible–for the best flavor and texture, the shrimp will have about 20 minutes to marinate in a blend of juice, the spice blend, olive oil, and honey. A little less or more is fine.
- Cook pasta in generously salted water. Reserve a bit of pasta water before draining.
- Cook shrimp in the marinade. The marinade will become the flavor base of the sauce. This is safe because it will all cook together in the skillet!
- Cook onions and finish the sauce. Remove the cooked shrimp, then use the same skillet to sauté the onions until tender.
- Toss it all together. Add the pasta and enough reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce to your liking. Pile the shrimp back in and dig in!
Presentation Tip: A sprinkling of fresh parsley or cilantro leaves adds color to the finished dish! Use whichever you have and prefer. Craving more heat? An extra sprinkle of red pepper flakes does the trick.
Recipe FAQs and Expert Tips
Can I make this creamy ?
Yes! Add 1/4-1/2 cup of heavy cream or coconut milk to the sauce in place of or in addition to the reserved pasta water. This will make this sauce a bit more similar to the one in a traditional “rasta pasta,” a dish developed by chef Lorraine Washington in the 1980s at the Paradise Yard Restaurant in Negril, Jamaica.
For a dedicated shrimp rasta pasta recipe using penne pasta, check out The Dinner Bite.
You can also add 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese to amplify the creamy, cheesy effect if you like.
Can I add more veggies?
Of course! Bell peppers — red, orange, yellow, or green — are another great way to add color, taste, and nutrients to this simple pasta dish. Sauté them together with the sliced onions. You can also toss in some cubed zucchini or summer squash, or thinly-sliced green onions.
Do you remove the tails from shrimp before cooking?
You can remove shrimp tails prior to cooking but you do not have to. Although I often leave them on for looks, it is honestly easier to eat shrimp when the tails are already removed. If you want to encourage kids or other picky eaters to dig in, take off the tails to remove a barrier to dinner consumption. 🙂 You can toss the tails or freeze them in a tightly-sealed zip-top bag to use in shrimp stock.
What’s the fastest way to defrost shrimp?
Place frozen shrimp in a large colander, place in the sink, and run them under cold water for about 5 minutes. Why cold water? Shrimp are so easy to cook that hot water can start doing so prematurely!
You also can defrost shrimp in the refrigerator overnight or during the day. They are truly so easy to defrost right before cooking, though. This makes them a perfect protein to keep in the freezer for last-minute meals.
Storage & Reheating
- Storage: This will keep for 3-4 days. Store leftovers in any airtight container in the refrigerator. These are our favorite meal-sized fridge storage boxes.
- Reheating: Warm in the microwave or over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Add a splash of broth or water to help loosen the sauce and minimize sticking. If warming in the microwave, I recommend using 50% power to reduce the odds of the shrimp becoming overcooked and rubbery.
- Freezing: I don’t recommend freezing this recipe!
Are you pescatarian, or just love shrimp with pasta? Try my bright, fresh lemon shrimp pasta with asparagus and pistachios or shrimp marinara next. Blackened shrimp Alfredo is also a winner, combining a creamy sauce with a similarly punchy spice blend.
Want to keep it as quick and simple as possible? We love an easy sheet pan honey garlic shrimp and broccoli, and you can never go wrong with red Argentine shrimp or garlic butter shrimp that are done in 15 minutes flat!
If you try this Jerk Shrimp Pasta, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.
Jerk Shrimp Pasta
- 2 Tablespoons jerk seasoning
- 1/4 cup lime juice or pineapple juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil divided
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 pound medium shrimp raw, peeled and deveined
- 8 ounces angel hair pasta
- 1/2 medium sweet onion cut into long slices
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- fresh cilantro or parsley optional garnish
- Combine jerk seasoning, lime or pineapple juice, 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil, and the honey in a large bowl. Whisk well to combine. Add shrimp and stir to coat. Let rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes or in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour. (Don’t go longer!)
- While the shrimp is marinating, bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add a generous pinch of salt, then cook the pasta just to al dente. Scoop out a small amount of the pasta water, then drain the rest and set the pasta aside.
- When ready to cook the shrimp, warm remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in the shrimp and the marinade. Cook shrimp for 2-3 minutes per side, watching closely, just until they are opaque and cooked through. Remove shrimp to a plate and set aside.
- Keep the skillet over medium-high heat and add the butter. When melted, add the sliced onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, until tender and lightly browned. Add pasta to the skillet and toss well to combine, adding a few Tablespoons of pasta water as desired to thin out the sauce.
- Return shrimp to the pan, garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, and serve right away.