Creamy Shrimp Diablo Recipe

There's something that feels gourmet about a perfectly prepared shrimp and pasta dish, despite the fact that both shrimp and pasta are incredibly easy to prepare. So, when you're looking for a way to impress your loved ones without spending hours over the stove, it's an ideal time to try this creamy shrimp diablo recipe created by Michelle McGlinn. Just keep in mind, "diablo" means "devil" in Spanish, and this recipe doesn't hold back on the fire. "This dish is fairly spicy and very rich and warm," McGlinn says. "[It's] inspired by both Italian and Mexican cuisine: I was inspired to make a spicy pasta similar to pasta fra diavolo — a tomato-based, spicy Italian dish made with chilies. To make it diablo, I used chipotles in adobo and cayenne pepper [in this recipe], and serve [it] with cilantro and lime. This gives a smokier, spicier flavor. What is also different in this dish than a fra diavolo is that the sauce is creamy, made in the style of Alfredo." 

If your mouth is watering just from the description, go grab your ingredients and get to cookin'. The whole dish only takes 25 minutes to make. 

Gather your ingredients to prepare creamy shrimp diablo

The main ingredients for this dish should be obvious — you're going to need pasta (McGlinn suggests fettuccini) and shrimp. But, you'll also need a fair number of other items, although all are readily available at the grocery store or even in your pantry. Simply gather 4 tablespoons of butter, a few cloves of minced garlic, all-purpose flour, milk, cream cheese, chipotle peppers in adobo, adobo sauce, cayenne pepper, and Cajun seasoning. If you're inclined, you can also add grated Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste, as well as cilantro and lime for serving.

Cook the pasta

Start by cooking your pasta. Generally, this step is pretty simple, regardless of what type of pasta you choose, but check the instructions on your package, just in case. The goal is to cook it to "al dente," which means the pasta should be cooked through, but still have a slight firmness when you bite into it. Generally, you'll bring your water to boil, salting the water if you're so inclined, then cook the pasta for roughly eight minutes. When the pasta is ready, set aside ½ cup of the water before draining the rest. Toss your pasta with olive oil to keep it from sticking to itself.

Cook the shrimp in a skillet

While the pasta is cooking, heat up a deep skillet to medium heat. When the skillet is hot, add 2 tablespoons of butter. As the butter melts, add the deveined shrimp, and cook it for about a minute before flipping the shrimp and cooking for another minute. Add the garlic after you've flipped the shrimp over. Cook the shrimp until it's opaque, but McGlinn warns against overcooking it. "Overcooked shrimp becomes rubbery and chewy — you want to try to cook the shrimp so they're plump, juicy, and flavorful," she notes. "Shrimp cooks very fast, so I recommend cooking it less than you think you need to — just barely pink and opaque. Remember that the shrimp is re-added to the pasta toward the end, so it will cook further in the sauce." When the shrimp is cooked, remove it from the pan, and set it aside.

Prepare the thick cream

Add 2 tablespoons of butter to your still-hot skillet. When it melts, use a whisk to mix in the flour. It should dissolve completely, leaving you with an off-white paste. Add 1 cup of milk, continuing to whisk constantly to make a roux. "A roux is a mixture of fat and flour that forms a paste — it's used for thickening sauces and soups," says McGlinn. "In this case, the roux is formed with the butter and flour."

As you whisk the roux, the milk starts to thicken. It's important that you don't allow it to boil. "If the milk boils, it will curdle and scorch the bottom of the pan — and taste very bad," says McGlinn. "You can let the milk simmer, but be mindful not to let it get so hot that is starts or curdle or burn." Turn the heat down to medium-low to help prevent the milk from getting too hot, then add the cream cheese, and mix until it's melted down and combined. You'll end up with a thick cream.

Keep in mind with this recipe that you really can't sub in different types of non-dairy milks or cheese for the called-for ingredients. McGlinn says you could use reduced-fat products in place of full-fat ones, but aside from oat milk, she wouldn't suggest trying other non-dairy milks, because they don't cook the same as regular milk. And certainly, she says you should avoid subbing other products for the cream cheese or Parmesan.

Make your sauce a diablo sauce

Now, it's time to give your Alfredo-like sauce a nice kick of high heat. Add in the chipotles and adobo sauce, cayenne, and Cajun seasoning. Use the back of your spoon to press down on the chipotles and break them up, giving them the chance to combine more fully with the sauce.

As you mix, the sauce will turn a light orange color. This is when you want to add the Parmesan, which will cause the sauce to thicken considerably. Add the remaining ½ cup of milk to thin the sauce slightly, and as you continue stirring, it will become smooth and creamy. Give your sauce a taste, and add salt and pepper as you deem necessary.

Add the shrimp and pasta to your sauce

With the sauce creamy, smooth, and seasoned to your liking, go ahead and retrieve your prepared shrimp, and add it to the pan. Stir the shrimp into the sauce, coating each piece completely. Once it's coated, stir in the pasta as well. If you find at this point that the sauce seems too thick, use the reserved pasta water, and add a small splash to the pan. Just keep in mind that you shouldn't add too much! Try a splash, stir the dish to combine, and as needed, add another splash, bit by bit, until you've achieved the desired consistency.

Garnish your pasta, and serve

Your creamy shrimp diablo is now ready to be served. Plate the pasta in equal portions onto four plates, then sprinkle with cilantro, and garnish with a squeeze of lime, if desired. And remember — this dish is spicy! "I'd recommend serving with fresh salads, grilled summer squash and corn, or even a ceviche," says McGlinn. "You'll want mild side dishes that balance out the spice." And as far as beverages go? "I enjoy this dish with white wine since it is very similar to a shrimp Alfredo," she says. So eat, drink, and be merry!

Creamy Shrimp Diablo Recipe
5 from 39 ratings
When you're looking for a way to impress your loved ones without spending hours over the stove, it's an ideal time to try this creamy shrimp diablo recipe.
Prep Time
Cook Time
plate of shrimp diablo
Total time: 25 minutes
  • ½ pound pasta, such as fettuccine
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo + 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, for serving
  • 1 lime, for serving
  1. Cook the pasta till al dente, according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water, then drain, tossing with olive oil to avoid sticking.
  2. In a deep skillet or Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the shrimp, and cook until barely pink on one side, about 1 minute. Flip, add the garlic, and cook until the shrimp is opaque, about 1 minute longer. Remove from skillet, and reserve.
  3. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet and, once melted, whisk in the flour until dissolved.
  4. Once the flour is dissolved, add 1 cup of milk, whisking constantly until the roux is completely dissolved. The milk will begin to thicken — do not allow it to boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
  5. Add in the cream cheese, and press down to melt and combine. Once melted, you will have a thick cream.
  6. Add the chipotles and adobo sauce, cayenne pepper, and Cajun seasoning. Press down on the chipotles with the back of your spoon, breaking the peppers down and combining into the sauce.
  7. Add in the Parmesan cheese, and combine.
  8. Add the remaining ½ cup of milk, and combine. When smooth and creamy, remove from heat.
  9. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Stir in the reserved shrimp, coating well. Stir in the pasta.
  11. If sauce is still too thick, add the reserved pasta water a splash at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  12. To serve, sprinkle with cilantro, and garnish with a squeeze of lime.
Calories per Serving 658
Total Fat 28.9 g
Saturated Fat 17.0 g
Trans Fat 0.5 g
Cholesterol 215.8 mg
Total Carbohydrates 58.7 g
Dietary Fiber 3.6 g
Total Sugars 8.9 g
Sodium 1,867.8 mg
Protein 40.9 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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