Grilled Apricot Shrimp with Harissa Aioli

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From week to week I toil—probably longer than I should–over which recipes to share on this page. The decision becomes more difficult when a challenge is issued (in this case by The Lancaster Sunday News, for which I write a biweekly column) and I have to choose among a collection of delicious-looking reader recipes.

Occasionally, there is a “recipe” that is too clever, funny, or offbeat to not pass along. One that caught my attention in this grill-themed challenge was for “grilled pizza.” Though many delight in throwing homemade dough on a hot grill for a thin-crusted treat, one reader commented that the typical take-out pizza is greatly enhanced when crisped over hot coals!

Many enjoy grilling vegetables, brushed lightly with olive oil or marinated in a simple vinaigrette. Others can’t get enough of sweet, juicy peaches, sprinkled lightly with brown sugar and cooked until nice grill marks appear. A spoonful of mascarpone cheese, whipped cream or ice cream is an optional finishing touch.

Some mentioned that recipes are often not needed where grilling is concerned. Cooking without measurements is, indeed, a wonderful approach, especially when starting with fresh, local ingredients.


‪Shabnam Arora Afsah’s shrimp dish initially intrigued me because it used harissa, an ingredient that is appearing more frequently on restaurant menus yet is still somewhat uncommon in home kitchens. Shabnam’s creation, which she fashioned after a much-loved restaurant meal, ultimately won a spot on this page because it used the potentially unknown ingredient in a straightforward and doable—not to mention delicious—way.

For those who may not be familiar, harissa is a North African spice blend of smoked red chiles, spices, and olive oil that can be used as a condiment but also as a base for curries and stews. Beyond Shabnam’s shrimp recipe, harissa may be used in place of your go-to hot sauce. Or toss a little into roasted carrots or winter squash. I particularly enjoy mixing harissa into mayonnaise or ketchup and using as a sandwich or burger spread.

The following aioli recipe would also be delicious spooned over chicken or almost any grilled meat, and a little dollop livened up the grilled vegetables my family ate alongside the shrimp. For those who steer clear of spicy foods, a small amount of harissa will add unique flavor without creating a fiery dish.

Shabnam has her own food blog–with many equally mouthwatering recipes–called Flavor N’ Spice. I’m sure she’d love a visit, and I know we’d both love to hear what you think if you try the recipe!

Grilled Apricot Shrimp with Harissa Aioli
Refrigerate any leftovers and enjoy cold or at room temperature the next day.

Yields 3-4 main dish servings or 6-8 appetizer portions.  
For the shrimp
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (may used frozen and thawed)
  • 3 tablespoons apricot chutney or jam
(I used jam)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce (see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons harissa paste or powder (see notes for where to buy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
For the harissa aioli
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce (start with 1-2 teaspoons if you prefer less spice)
  • 1 teaspoon harissa paste or powder
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Skewers for grilling (if wooden, soak in water for 20-30 minutes prior to grilling)
  1. Rinse the shrimp, drain well, and blot dry with a paper towel.
  2. In a large bowl or zipper-top bag, combine the apricot chutney or jam, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 tablespoon Sriracha, the olive oil, 2 teaspoons harissa paste, and the salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and gently toss to thoroughly distribute the marinade. (If using frozen shrimp, make sure to completely thaw and drain very well. You can expedite thawing by placing the frozen shrimp in a colander and running under lukewarm water.)
  3. Seal the bag or cover the bowl, and allow the shrimp to marinate in the refrigerator for 6-12 hours.
  4. To make the aioli, in a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 tablespoon of Sriracha (or less to taste), 1 teaspoon harissa, the Dijon mustard and the honey. Mix well. The aioli may be made up to one day in advance, covered, and refrigerated until ready to use.
  5. When ready to eat, preheat the grill to medium heat. Thread the shrimp onto skewers, and discard the remaining marinade.
  6. Grill the shrimp for about 5 minutes on one side and about 3-4 minutes on the other side or until pink and just cooked through. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp or they will become rubbery instead of moist and tender.
  7. Remove the shrimp to a platter, and serve with the aioli on the side. The shrimp are delicious as an appetizer or a main course.
  • Sriracha is a type of hot sauce that can be found in the international aisle of most large grocery stores. Harissa may be found in the international aisle of some large grocery stores as well as online and at many Middle Eastern or specialty stores including Williams-Sonoma. Locally, harissa is also available for approximately three dollars at Mandros Imported Foods on Lemon Street and at Saife’s Middle Eastern Food at Lancaster Central Market.
The Fountain Avenue Kitchen

This is an example of one brand of harissa paste, which is very similar in consistency to Thai red curry paste. A powder version is also available. I bought this can for $2.99.

For a crowd-pleasing appetizer option, remove the cooked shrimp from the skewers to a platter. Optionally, thread one or two shrimp onto shorter skewers and leave on the skewers for guests to pick up and enjoy. The shrimp may be served hot or at room temperature.

For a crowd-pleasing appetizer option, remove the cooked shrimp from the skewers to a platter. Optionally, thread one or two shrimp onto shorter skewers and leave on the skewers for guests to pick up and enjoy. The shrimp may be served hot or at room temperature.

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  1. Jean

    This looks fabulous. Definitely on the to do list. Question for you. Aioli usually has garlic but this one does not. Is that intended? Thanks

    1. Ann

      You are right, Jean, but this recipe doesn’t include it. It wouldn’t hurt to add some though. Either way, I hope you like!

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