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Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp

Hawaii shrimp trucks are famous for garlic shrimp. It’s easy to make and super garlicky. Squeeze lemon all over and serve with rice (which soaks up the garlic-butter sauce, so good!)

Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp, ready to eat!

It’s saucy and savory and even thinking about this makes me salivate…

Waiting in line for garlic shrimp at Giovanni’s (Oahu)

What Is Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp?

Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp is a famous local dish in Hawaii. The shrimp trucks parked on the North Shore of Oahu made this dish extra popular.

It’s made of fresh local shrimp (or prawns) tossed with flour-paprika-cayenne, then pan-fried and mixed with a garlic butter sauce. The finished dish is always served with rice and a lemon wedge.

Nice crisp shell and lots of garlic butter alllll over ^_^

Why Is It Called Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp?

This is not a Hawaiian dish. This is a local dish. Here’s the difference between Hawaiian food and local food.

In Hawaii we call this dish, Garlic Shrimp. On the mainland people call it, Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp. People vacationed in Hawaii, tried this dish, went home and told their friends about Hawaiian garlic shrimp. The name took hold.

That’s where the mistake was made. Garlic shrimp is from Hawaii, but that doesn’t make it Hawaiian food. Garlic shrimp is local food.

Local food is unique to Hawaii. It is the category of food that came from blending different cultures that exist in Hawaii. These cultures include Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and many more. Examples of local food include shave ice, saimin, loco mocospam musubi, and manapua.

Note: I titled this post Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp, not to further reinforce the name but in the hopes that people will find this post and realize that Hawaiian garlic shrimp is in fact, just garlic shrimp! Mainly, I’m just hoping everyone enjoys the food in Hawaii.

So what’s the correct name for this dish? Just call it “garlic shrimp from Hawaii.”

Waiting in line for garlic shrimp at Romy’s (Oahu)

Shrimp in Hawaii

We’re lucky to get fresh local shrimp in Hawaii. Once you taste Hawaii shrimp (and the many kinds of fresh Hawaii seafood), other shrimp just can’t compare ^_^

Have you heard about the shrimp trucks of Hawaii? That’s what most people think of when you mention shrimp in Hawaii. The most famous of these shrimp trucks are on the North Shore of Oahu.

There are two “main” trucks and people are forever comparing which one is better. Honestly, they are both delicious and I could never pick one favorite:

Garlic shrimp plate at Romy’s (Oahu)

Romy’s Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp
I order the classic butter and garlic shrimp. Comes with two scoops rice and a spicy shoyu dipping sauce. Don’t forget to order the li hing pineapples for dessert! Cash only.

Note: Romy’s is across the street from Kahuku Farms (a working farm that also makes and sells lilikoi butter mochi, grilled banana bread topped with vanilla-haupia, and acai bowls made from their own acai).

Garlic shrimp plate at Giovanni’s (Oahu)

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
Giovanni’s has three locations. Visit the one at 56-505 Kamehameha Highway. (This location is just a few minutes drive from Romy’s so you can hit up both). I order the shrimp scampi plate, very garlicky. Comes with two scoops rice and garlic lemon butter sauce all over. Cash only.

Giovanni’s recently opened a new location in town (this was a very big deal because before you had to plan a whole day trip around going to the North Shore). It’s nice having a town location for when the craving hits, but definitely visit the North Shore original location for the full experience.

Tips on visiting the shrimps trucks: locals and tourists love these two shrimp trucks and they are always super packed and busy. There’s often an hour long wait for the food. Most time efficient strategy is to go early, right when they open. That way you might have time to eat at them both!

Make sure to cook the minced garlic in butter until it’s golden and crisp. 

Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp Method

The formal recipe is at the bottom of the post, but I always include this “method” section where I can go into a little more detail on the recipe. I hope it is helpful.

First, get all the ingredients together:

  • Shrimp (deveined, shell-on) – Using shell-on shrimp is key!
  • Mochiko flour – I like this recipe best with mochiko flour (we also use mochiko flour for butter mochi and mochiko chicken), but you can substitute regular flour.
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne pepper – Can skip if you like no heat, but I looove it with cayenne. You can also use black pepper instead.
  • Salt
  • Garlic, minced – Feel free to use even more garlic!
  • Butter
  • Olive oil

Now we start cooking!

First you clean and pat dry the shrimp. Get it as dry as possible and set it aside.

The dry mix (mochiko flour, paparika, cayenne pepper) for the shrimp coating

Then combine the mochiko flour, paparika, cayenne pepper, and salt in a mixing bowl.

Do your best to get an even coating on the shrimp shells

Add the shrimp and toss so that each shrimp is evenly dusted in the flour mixture. Set this aside.

Melt butter first and then add garlic.

Now get a pan, put it on the stove and turn it to medium heat. Put in the butter. Once the butter is melted, add in the minced garlic. Saute the garlic for about 3 minutes, till it’s all toasty and nice.

Your kitchen should be smelling amazing right about now. Once it’s ready, turn off the stove and pour all the garlic and butter into a bowl.

Put the shrimp in a single layer only.

Add the olive oil to the pan and turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the shrimp in a single layer. Don’t overcrowd the pan, you can do this in two batches if needed.

Note: If you overcrowd the shrimp, they will start to steam instead of browning nicely (we want that deep golden, crisp shell).

Cook the shrimp for about 2 minutes on each side.

Now pour the garlic butter back into the pan, and saute the shrimp with the garlic butter for one more minute until everything smells amazing and is nicely combined.

You are finished! Slide it over a big bowl of rice. Squeeze some lemon all over and enjoy!

Substitutions

  • The recipe calls for mochiko flour. You can substitute this with regular flour.
  • The recipe calls for deveined, shell-on shrimp. Devouring the crisp garlic bits and butter sauce all over the shells is part of the whole experience, but if you must, you can also make this with peeled shrimp. It’s less “work” in the end, but please give it a try with shell-on shrimp at least once!
  • Can substitute black pepper for the cayenne pepper.
  • I use one head of garlic for every 12 ounces of shrimp. Feel free to increase the garlic as much as you like (we’ve even made this with two heads of garlic). This is a case in which you can never have too much garlic. The rice soaks up all the garlic butter and it is super onolicious.

Tips

  • Make sure you remove garlic butter from the pan (pour it into a bowl) before cooking the shrimp. It’s tempting to add the shrimp right in the pan (because it saves time)…but if you do this, the garlic will burn by the time the shrimp is done cooking.
  • Dry the shrimp real good before dusting with the mochiko flour, paprika, cayenne, salt mixture. Otherwise it will get clumpy and you don’t get that nice crust.

Time to eat!

Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp Recipe

See below ^_^

Plate of Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp

Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Hawaii shrimp trucks are famous for garlic shrimp. It's easy to make and super garlicky. Make sure to eat with rice (it's amazing with the garlic-butter sauce!)

Ingredients

Instructions

    1. Pat the shrimp dry and set aside.
    2. Combine mochiko flour, paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the shrimp, toss to coat, and set aside. 
    3. In a large pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the garlic and cook till toasty and golden brown (about 3 minutes). Pour the garlic and butter out into a bowl. 
    4. Add olive oil to the skillet. Once the oil is warm, add the shrimp (single layer only, do this in two batches if needed). Cook the shrimp for about 2 minutes on each side, till it's nicely crisp and browned.
    5. Pour the garlic butter back into the pan, and mix with the shrimp. Cook for another minute, and then you're done! Squeeze lemon all over and eat with rice.

Amy D

Sunday 27th of June 2021

Does anyone know how to make the vinegar hot sauce they serve with the shrimp?

Jennifer

Tuesday 30th of March 2021

Aloha! Do you have any tips for the spicy shoyu sauce and the spicy version of this dish? I will be making this recipe this weekend but have a friend who loved Romy’s Spicy shrimp and wanted to see if I could give her some of that spice in hers! Thanks for sharing!

Kathy

Friday 2nd of April 2021

Aloha Jennifer! Good question! Have been working on recipes for those...coming soon hopefully ^_^ - Kathy

Matt

Monday 1st of March 2021

Our friends from Iowa, who have visited us several times here on Oahu, have been trying to find a Giovanni-worthy recipe to make at home. They found this and just made it and said that it was fantastic. Just wanted to share that your recipe has fans in the Midwest!

Kathy

Monday 1st of March 2021

Aloha Matt - Super cool! Thank you very much for the kinds words :) So neat to think of our local shrimp recipe being made in the Midwest! - Kathy

LEO

Friday 19th of February 2021

Made this for dinner tonight. ONOLICIOUS. I could not find Mochiko except at Amazon but didn't have time. Regular flour was fine (but will try Mochiko one day). Used a whole garlic (yes, the more the merrier for me). Awesome. The lemon (used limed) was the perfect touch. You need it. Didn't bother with shoyu sauce because I served it with Hot Sesame Oil Tofu. Thanks Kathy!

Kathy

Saturday 20th of February 2021

Hooray! So glad you enjoyed it, Leo! Love all that extra garlic, good move ^_^ - Kathy

Natalia

Tuesday 2nd of February 2021

It was delicious! Just one question. Do we eat the shell? I did cause the whole sauce was on it and it turned crispy. Now I’m sitting here like ugh was I supposed to?

Danielle

Friday 9th of April 2021

@Natalia, If the skin is crispy enough you can! If it’s a little soggy not so pleasant.

Kathy

Thursday 4th of February 2021

Aloha Natalia! You can definitely eat the shell. I don't love eating the shell, but I have many friends who do (I've been told there is a lot calcium in the shells! :) - Kathy

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