Grilled Prawns finished in an easy garlic butter sauce is the perfect appetizer or light meal for seafood lovers. This simple prawn recipe starts with a savory seasoning and rich garlic butter sauce finish and is ready in minutes.
If you want an elegant yet simple recipe for grilled prawns, this is it. It can be served as an appetizer or as the a main dish. The prawns are seasoned first with our herbal and savory seafood seasoning and then finished with a garlic butter sauce. The whole meal can be done from beginning to end in less than 15 minutes once the grill is ready.
Ingredients for Grilled Prawns
- Prawns in the shell, with heads on. This makes for a great presentation.
- Seafood Seasoning
- Lemon juice
- Red Chili Flakes
- Fresh parsley
Prawns versus Shrimp
Prawns and Shrimp are not the same thing, even if they are both decapods (external skeleton with 10 legs). They both come from different sub-orders of decapods.
You can, however, use the recipe interchangeably between the two, but it’s important to know when you are sourcing the ingredients. If you have shrimp be sure you are using larger shrimp, in the shell, as that is how we recommend you prepare and cook this recipe.
Eater has a useful article that highlights the differences between prawns and shrimp in more detail.
Like shrimp you buy prawns in various sizes. The size references the average number of prawns per pound. So if you see U10 that means on average you get 10 prawns per pound. If you see 22/28 then you get an average of 22 to 28 per pound (these are much smaller).
You may also see them frozen or sold as jumbo, colossal, and super colossal. That is more a marketing term referencing the general sizes.
For this recipe you want large, or colossal, prawns. These are best for grilling. So the smaller the number the better. We purchased 16/20 prawns for referencing these.
- Cast iron sauce pot – We use a Finex quart size pot.
- Grill gloves – For removing the sauce pot
- Long Tongs
Be sure the prawns have been deveined. Often you can buy them already with the shell and deveined. This means the intestinal track has been removed already.
If they weren’t deveined then you’ll want to do it yourself to avoid the texture and grittiness that can come from leaving the veins in.
Using a sharp knife (we use our filet knife), cut a line along the back of the shrimp from the head to the tail. Make small careful incisions. You’ll see the black (or sometimes clear) vein stretch from the head to the tail. Remove it with your finger. You can use the knife blade to carefully pull it out. Discard it. This lets you leave the shells on but have the vein removed.
Seasoning for Grilled Prawns
Once the prawns are deveined add them to a large bowl. Toss in the olive oil and seafood seasoning and then mix it all up with your hands.
Be sure all the butter ingredients are prepped and the lemon cut in half (for grilling).
You need a hot fire and good long tongs to best grill prawns. It saves you from burning the heat off your arms. Also these will cook quickly so you don’t want to walk away from the grill once you put the prawns on.
- Preheat Grill: Prepare the grill for direct grilling using lump charcoal for the best flavor. Target an internal temperature of 500 degrees inside the grill. Place a cast iron sauce pan on the grates to warm up with the grill (or any other grill safe sauce pan).
- Grill Prawns: Place the whole prawns on the hot grill grates. Cook over direct heat for 2 – 3 minutes. The prawns will start to turn a red color. Flip the prawns and grill direct for an additional 2 – 3 minutes. The entire prawn should be red and the flesh should no longer be opaque.
- Make Garlic Butter Sauce: While the prawns are grilling place all the butter sauce ingredients into the pre-warmed pan. Stir frequently and remove once butter is melted. We recommend using a good grill glove (as the pan handle will be hot). Remove the pot from the grill once the sauce has melted.
- Grill Lemons: Add the grilled lemon to the grill at the same time as the prawns. Grill until they brown and then use for the finish. In a large bowl, toss the prawns with the garlic butter sauce.
- Serve on the shell immediately while warm and drizzle with the grilled lemon and sprinkle with parsley.
Other Shellfish Recipes We Love
- Grilled Scallops – Grilled in cast iron in a white wine butter sauce.
- Grilled Lobster Tails – We make a red chili compound butter and serve with the grilled lobster tails.
- Grilled Scallops and Shrimp Platter – This is great for a party. Grill up scallops and shrimp and then serve with a chimichurri.
- Chipotle Shrimp Skewers – Marinated shrimp in chipotle and grilled over a live fire.
Side Dish Ideas
If serving as an appetizer then just plate it with the sauce. But if you are doing this as a main dish you can combine it with your favorite salad like our Grilled Caesar Salad. Or make a rich Prosecco Risotto and top it with the grilled prawns.
Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.
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Arrien Schiltkamp says
Is it dangerous not to devein the shrimp. And, is cooked crispy enough to eat with the shell (like I have done in China many times)?
Sean Martin says
Arrien – It is not a food safety issue to not devein – it’s more a texture issue as it will firm up. So technically if you don’t care I wouldn’t worry about it. As for the shell – if you choose to eat it with the shell on – I would remove the heads, especially the very barbed pointy portion of the head. That is not safe to eat. But the remainder of the shell will be crispy – although not deep fried crispy.