This Cilantro Lime Pasta with Shrimp is what happens when two amazing food cultures collide!! This dish has the hearty, rich flavors of Italian cooking and the fresh, vibrant flavors of Thai food! Quick, easy and bursting with flavor, you can have the best of both worlds all on one plate!.
This post was originally published in August, 2021 and updated for more detailed information and photos in April, 2022.
I worked in San Francisco during the early 2000’s during the dot.com era (man, those were good days….). Anyhoo, “fusion” food was popping up ALL over the SF restaurant scene and it was ABSOLUTELY the “it” thing! Especially Asian Fusion.
Well, I fell HARD and jumped on the fusion bandwagon and have not abandoned it since! I mean, why enjoy the flavors of just ONE country when you could enjoy TWO?!!! Exactly.
I developed this cilantro lime shrimp recipe to combine my pasta obsession with my Thai food obsession! It’s roughly half Italian (think: pasta, Parmesan cheese, basil) and half Thai-inspired flavors (think: lime, cilantro, peanuts).
The best part is–it’s a super easy recipe but it tastes and feels like restaurant quality!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE
- Simple pasta dish that combines flavors from two amazing cuisines: Italian and Thai!
- Easy dish you can whip this up in less than 30 minutes.
- The cilantro pesto is nut free for anyone with nut allergies (you can add peanuts on top).
You’ll need the following ingredients to make this Easy Cilantro Lime Shrimp Pasta:
Shrimp: I like to use 21-30 count large shrimp (or jumbo shrimp) but feel free to use smaller shrimp, too!
Pasta: I like spaghetti or linguine for this dish because I feel like the pesto adheres to it so well and gives that “Thai noodle” feel. But you can use whatever pasta you have on hand.
Coconut Milk: This is totally optional and only if you need to thin out pesto a bit. You can also just use a splash of pasta water.
HOW TO MAKE CILANTRO LIME PASTA WITH SHRIMP: STEP BY STEP
Here are some quick visual instructions. Remember that full instructions with exact ingredients will be in the recipe card below!
Step 1: Boil up your pasta according to al dente package directions (for example if it says boil for 10-12 minutes, boil pasta on the lower end of the range for 10 minutes). Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water.
Step 2: While pasta is boiling, season shrimp and cook in a little olive oil (about 1-2 minutes each side).
Step 3: Then, whip up your cilantro pesto! It’s super easy and takes less than 5 minutes! NO CHOPPING required!
Step 4: Drain pasta and return to hot pan. Over lowest heat, add in pesto and shrimp. Add a splash (a tablespoon or so) of coconut milk or pasta water if it seems too thick.
Step 5: Toss everything together. Taste, and season with salt, if necessary. Top with peanuts, red pepper flakes, Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lime juice, if you like!
RECIPE TIPS & TRICKS
- If you don’t have a nut allergy, the peanuts on top are A MUST! Totally gives that “Thai flair” to the dish, so don’t leave them if you don’t have to! Also a good squeeze of lime over the pasta is delish too–don’t skip it!
- Make a double batch of the cilantro pesto, if you have a big enough food processor! It will keep for up to 7 days in an airtight container in the fridge and you can use it for other pasta dishes like this Quick & Easy Tuna Pesto Pasta or this Creamy Pesto Gnocchi with Lemon!
- If you leave the shrimp out, this makes a great little side dish or pasta “appetizer!” I like throwing in some cherry tomatoes to replace the shrimp.
STORAGE AND REHEATING
- Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
- Reheating: You can reheat it in the microwave or in pan. When making this dish, I like to reserve a little of the pesto to use for leftovers. When reheating leftovers, add a dollop of the reserved pesto and a little lime juice to freshen up the dish!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I truly feel like this dish stands alone and you don’t need to have any sides with it besides maybe some amazing garlic bread! Of course, a nice Pinot Grigio would be a perfect pairing as well! See all my inexpensive wine reccos here.
This dish does well stored in the fridge in an airtight container for two days. The shrimp doesn’t last much longer that that. If you are making this dish without the shrimp, it will last up to 4 days.
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Cilantro Lime Pasta with Shrimp
For the Cilantro Pesto
- 4 cups fresh cilantro leaves and stems
- 1 cup basil leaves
- 2 tbsp fresh lime juice about 2 limes
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
For the pasta
- 1 lb. spaghetti or your favorite pasta
- 1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined I like using 21-30 count shrimp
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp full fat coconut milk or 1 tbsp pasta cooking liquid optional, as needed
- crushed peanuts, lime wedges, red pepper flakes, freshly ground black pepper (optional, for serving)
- In a large pot, boil up your pasta according to al dente package directions (for example if it says boil for 10-12 minutes, boil pasta on the lower end of the range for 10 minutes). Reserve 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta water.
- While pasta is boiling, cook up your shrimp. Season raw shrimp with 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. In a medium or large skillet, over medium-high heat, cook shrimp 1-2 minutes on each side or until cooked through (with vary based on the size of your shrimp). Transfer to a plate, cover and set aside.
- Make the pesto: In a food processor or blender, add cilantro, basil, lime juice, garlic, salt and Parmesan cheese. Blend for about 10 seconds. Then add in olive oil. Blend 10 seconds more until everything is incorporated. Taste and season with a bit more salt, if necessary.
- Drain pasta (don't forget to reserve a little pasta water!) and return pasta back to the hot pot, set over LOW heat.
- Add shrimp (and all juices from the shrimp that are on the plate) and cilantro pesto to the pasta and carefully toss with tongs until all pasta is covered with the pesto. If you feel it's too thick add about a tablespoon of coconut milk or reserved pasta water. **only add if you think the pasta needs it!
- Plate up your pasta and top with crushed peanuts, red pepper flakes, parmesan cheese, fresh black pepper and more lime juice and chopped cilantro, if you like!!