Garlic Shrimp Tacos (inspired by Surf Taco)

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We’re big fans of the expression, “You can’t please everyone. You’re not tacos.” We’re also big fans of tacos. These garlic shrimp tacos are inspired by our local Jersey shore restaurant chain Surf Taco, and we’ve amped up the flavors to make them sheer perfection, if we do say so.

Garlic Shrimp Tacos Inspired by Surf Taco | Umami Girl


Small shrimp work perfectly here and are less expensive. We love the bags of wild shrimp in the frozen seafood section at Whole Foods. 

Last month I posted a recipe for crispy potato tacos inspired by one of our favorite local Jersey shore restaurants, Surf Taco. You should make those tacos, by the way. They’re somethin’ special.

Well. I feel like I maybe need to rename my blog Homemade Surf Taco by Carolyn Cope, because guess what. Here’s another taco recipe inspired by Surf Taco. Don’t tell the potatoes, but Garlic Shrimp Tacos are my regular (and I do mean REGULAR) order when we do takeout from the mothership.

I’ve been wanting to create an umami-fied homemade version of these babies for a while now, and it finally happened yesterday. These garlic shrimp tacos are jumping the queue because I just feel like sharing them immediately, and I don’t have a boss to talk some sense into me, so take that.

Garlic Shrimp Tacos Inspired by Surf Taco | Umami Girl

A super-flavorful shrimp taco recipe

These tacos have all the layers of all the goodness with all the flavor packed into all the bites. First, succulent little wild shrimp quickly marinated in a garlicky, smoky bath of happiness. Next, crunchy shredded cabbage tossed with lime and salt. Then a quick and easy pico de gallo, plus the ultimate cilantro sauce drizzled on top of it all. I ate these last night for dinner and already need them again. Damn you, no leftovers! Hi.

Shrimp tacos are quick enough for weeknights

The best part is, they don’t take very long to make. The shrimp cook in a flash, and everything else can be assembled just prior to cooking while the shrimp marinate. All you need is a good, sharp knife. (Can you tell, by the way, that I used my own good, sharp knife to cut down larger tortillas to taco size for the photos? Gotta love those totally visible jagged edges. ALMOST everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten.)

I’m sure YOU will be smart and buy taco-sized tortillas…or just not photograph your dinner. I, on the other hand, will be cutting my losses (along with my tortillas) and cutting straight to the recipe.


Tacos go great with agua fresca.

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Garlic Shrimp Tacos (Inspired by Surf Taco)

These flavorful tacos are inspired by the Jersey shore's own Surf Taco restaurants, where I order the original version practically once a week. The homemade ones are even fresher and more flavorful. Hope you love them.

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 2 minutes
Total Time 27 minutes
Serves Serves 4


For the shrimp

  • 1 pound small to medium wild shrimp (see note below)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • A few good grinds black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon safflower oil for sauteeing

For the slaw

  • 1/4 small green cabbage
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

For the cilantro sauce

  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the pico de gallo

  • 2 roma tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • A few grinds black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

To serve

  • 8 taco-sized soft flour tortillas


  1. First, marinate the shrimp. Place peeled, cleaned, defrosted shrimp in a medium bowl and toss together with olive oil, garlic, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Let sit while you prepare the other elements of the tacos.
  2. Start the cabbage next so it has a chance to marry with the salt and lime juice before serving. Cut a small green cabbage in half from the top through the core, then cut one of the halves into quarters in the same way. Remove the core from one quarter and very thinly slice the cabbage. (Reserve the rest of the cabbage for another use.) Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and lime juice. Toss with your hands, rubbing a bit to help the salt and lime juice tenderize the cabbage.
  3. To make the cilantro sauce, mince the garlic and then use the side of a chef's knife to smash the salt and garlic together into a paste. In a small bowl stir together the mayonnaise, lime juice, garlic-salt paste and pepper. When well combined, gently stir in the chopped cilantro.
  4. To make the pico de gallo, stir together the tomatoes, red onion, salt, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl.
  5. Heat the tablespoon of safflower oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp in a single layer and cook until opaque, about one minute per side.
  6. Bring ingredients to the table and let everyone assemble their own tacos, or plate by filling each tortilla with some shrimp, cabbage, pico de gallo and a drizzle of cilantro sauce.


This is a perfect place to use smaller shrimp (small or medium are great) because they're actually easier to tuck into a taco. I buy peeled and cleaned wild shrimp from the Whole Foods freezer section and defrost them before marinating.

Nutrition information for this recipe does not include tortillas.

Nutrition Information

Amount Per Serving:

Calories:: 404 Total Fat:: 29.8g Carbohydrates:: 11.1g Fiber:: 2.3g Protein:: 25.4g

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