RECIPES:
May 12, 2021

Shrimp Fajita Bowl with Quinoa

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Shrimp spiced with chili powder and cayenne are served with sautéed peppers and onions over black beans, quinoa and finely shredded cabbage with a light cilantro lime vinaigrette.

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If you like classic Tex-Mex chicken or skirt steak fajitas, then you will certainly love this lightened up shrimp fajita bowl. Shrimp spiced with chili powder and cayenne are served with sautéed peppers and onions over black beans, quinoa and finely shredded cabbage with a light cilantro lime vinaigrette. While classic fajitas are served over flour tortillas, I take those elements and serve them over quinoa for an easy, balanced weeknight meal. I like serving grain bowls, especially those with quinoa with a dressing (like this vegetable quinoa salad) to add extra flavor and keep the bowl moist.

This healthy-ish fajitas recipe with seasoned shrimp is perfect for summer and the veggies and shrimp can even be made in a pan on the grill if desired. Grain bowls make for a great balanced meal without compensating on flavor. Rather than using a store bought fajitas seasoning, the simple blend of chili powder, cayenne powder, salt and lime juice adds a smoky heat.

Shrimp Fajita Bowl with Quinoa

 

Quinoa benefits

Using quinoa in this bowl keeps it on the lighter side. Quinoa is a very nutritious whole grain. It’s very high in fiber and protein. I like using it as an alternative to rice. It’s also great for people with gluten intolerance and has a low glycemic index.

bright red chili powder sautéed tail on shrimp on a white plate

Ingredients in this quinoa bowl

  • Shrimp – I prefer to use colossal (U/15) shrimp in this recipe so that each person gets 3 to 4 shrimp in the shrimp fajitas bowls. They’re meatier and stay very tender when cooked. The seasoned shrimp are coated simply with chili powder, cayenne, salt and lime juice. 
  • Quinoa – Quinoa is a whole grain cooked similar to rice. I cook quinoa in vegetable broth for added flavor but you can substitute water in a pinch. There are a few different types but white quinoa is the most common. If desired you can easily substitute rice or cauliflower rice in for the quinoa bowl.
  • Green cabbage – The cabbage adds a nice crunch to the base of this bowl. It can be substituted with another green, like chopped romaine. 
  • Bell peppers – Bell peppers are sweet with mild flavor. They don’t have any heat but add a sweet flavor, especially when slightly charred in the pan. They contrast with the red onion and spicy shrimp. 
  • Red onion – I sauté red onion along with the strips of bell peppers. Red onions turn from pungent and slightly spicy when raw to slightly sweet, but are still full of onion flavor when they’re cooked. 
  • Black beans – Dried black beans take so much time to cook and soak that I often find it easier to reach for canned beans. I always rinse and drain my canned black beans.
  • Sour cream – Sour cream contrasts with the flavors of the peppers and shrimp, acting as a cooler element.
seasoned shrimp fajita bowl with sautéed peppers and onions, black beans and green cabbage in a stone bowl on a marble table

Instructions to figure out what size shrimp are best for a recipe

The terms “jumbo” and “extra jumbo” and “colossal” aren’t standardized terms within the industry. Instead look at the numbers – they estimate approximately how many shrimp are in 1 pound. A “U” will designate that it is under that number, for example U/15 – means under 15 shrimp per pound. As the number gets smaller, the shrimp get bigger and meatier. 

side view of seasoned shrimp fajita bowl with sautéed peppers and onions, black beans and green cabbage in a stone bowl on a marble table

Steps to make shrimp fajita bowl

Step 1:

Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the lime juice, garlic, vegetable oil and cilantro until completely combined. Season to taste with salt. Set aside until ready to use.

Step 2:

Stir together the chili powder, cayenne and salt then season the shrimp. And set aside.

Step 3:

In a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat through. Add the onions and sauté briefly. Add the bell peppers and continue to sauté until slightly charred. Set aside and return the pan to heat.

Step 4:

Add the remaining oil and heat through then add the shrimp to the pan and cook, until pink and no longer translucent.

Step 5:

While the shrimp and veggies cook, make the quinoa. Simmer in a pot until all the liquid has been absorbed and fluff with a fork.

Step 6:

Divide the quinoa among each serving bowl followed by green cabbage and black beans. Add the shrimp, peppers and onions over the top. Garnish with sour cream, cilantro and lime wedges. Serve the shrimp fajitas bowls immediately. Squeeze the lime juice over the top as desired.

closeup image of seasoned shrimp fajitas with sautéed peppers and onions, black beans, sour cream and green cabbage in a stone bowl on a marble table

Why do you use different color bell peppers?

Different color bell peppers aren’t actually different varieties of pepper – they signify how long they have been left on the vine before they’re picked. Peppers change from green to yellow to orange then red over time on the vine, with their flavor differing slightly. Green peppers are slightly more bitter since they are picked sooner than other colors, before they are technically “ripe”. 

Furthermore, female peppers have more “lobes” and are sweeter when they are raw. Male peppers with three or fewer “lobes” are better for sautéing or grilling though the flavor only differs slightly. In this recipe I use a variety of colors more for aesthetic purposes than flavor profiles. You can swap in one color for another if desired. 

How do you get finely shredded cabbage?

I use a mandolin on the thinnest setting to shave the cabbage as fine as possible. While you still get the satisfying crunch it’s way easier to eat.

easy shrimp recipes

Shrimp Fajita Quinoa Bowl

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Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Serves 4

Ingredients:

Cilantro lime vinaigrette:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt, as needed

For the shrimp fajita mixture:

  • teaspoons chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound colossal (U/15) shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cored and sliced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cored and sliced
  • 1 medium orange bell pepper, cored and sliced

For assembly:

  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • ½ cup white quinoa
  • 2 cups finely shredded green cabbage
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, rinsed, drained and heated
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ packed cup cilantro
  • Lime wedges, for serving

Instructions:

Cilantro lime vinaigrette:

  • Whisk together the lime juice, garlic, vegetable oil and cilantro until completely combined. Season to taste with salt. Set aside until ready to use.

For the shrimp fajita mixture:

  • In a small bowl stir together the chili powder, cayenne and kosher salt. In a large mixing bowl toss the shrimp with the lime juice then season with the spice mixture, tossing to combine.
  • Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat through. Add the onions and sauté for 3 minutes.
  • Add the bell peppers and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, until some char marks appear and the onions and peppers are tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside and return the pan to heat.
  • Add the remaining oil and heat through then add the shrimp to the pan and cook, until pink and no longer translucent, about 1 minute per side.

For assembly:

  • Bring the vegetable stock to a boil over medium heat, then stir in the quinoa. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover, simmering until stock has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  • Divide the quinoa among serving bowls followed by green cabbage and black beans. Top with shrimp, peppers and onions. Garnish with sour cream, cilantro and lime wedges. Serve immediately.

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