Shrimp in a Creamy Saffron Tomato Sauce is Ready in Just 30 Minutes

  • By Jackie Sun
  • October 19, 2014

Weeknight Meals via @CookSmarts: Shrimp in Saffron Tomato Cream Sauce #recipe

Our How to Maximize Flavor series is well underway, and this week’s weeknight recipe is the perfect meal to feature, since we just talked about how sauces can jazz up any meal. We highlighted 5 sauces that are great on anything, but by changing ingredients up here or there, you can make a completely different sauce!

Just like this shrimp dish, which starts out as a classic tomato sauce. Pureeing it and folding in cream at the end gives this basic sauce a smooth, velvety finish. By adding saffron and white wine, we give it some Spanish flair.

After all, this dish was inspired by our ‘Vacation to Spain,’ where we spent a week on a culinary tour of the country, experiencing the classic good eats that are found there. While most people are familiar with paella, we wanted to offer both popular items, such as gazpacho as well as not-so-common items, like this shrimp recipe.

“I was blown away by this meal. I LOVED the sauce. I puréed it with the immersion blender and wouldn’t have it any other way. I would make that sauce for anything.” -Liane

For this recipe, we traveled to Northern Spain, where they are all about the sauces. (We’re very thankful for that because this tomato cream sauce is incredible!) Spain is also surrounded by water, so you can bet they have the freshest seafood possible. And when you have such amazing ingredients, simplicity is best.

We are all about adding flavor to meals with spices, so we keep it super simple by using only saffron, a spice that comes in thin, red threads. The flavor of saffron is altogether sweet, bitter, and sour. To really get the full aroma and taste of saffron, it needs to be activated by the heat of cooking. In addition to the taste, saffron also imparts a bright, yellow-orange hue to foods.
Shrimp in Saffron Tomato Cream Sauce #recipe via @CookSmartsHowever, each thread of saffron is hand-picked, which makes it the most expensive spice in the world. So this is important to remember: A little goes a long way! All you need are a few threads. Also, it’s best to soak it in a liquid first, or else it will just clump up when you toss it into the dish, making one bite extremely strong and overpowering!

We highly recommend that you try out this spice, but it’s understandable if you don’t want to shell out for a bit of saffron. If that’s the case, this tomato cream sauce also works wonders without the saffron. It’s so good, you’ll want to put this on everything – ladle it over rice, use crusty bread to mop up every last drop of sauce, serve with potatoes or cauliflower, or even top on your favorite egg dish.

Get creative! Just like our Kitchen Hero Aishah: (Now we like how she thinks!)

“Really, really outstanding. That sauce was to-die-for. I used the leftover sauce over grits with fried fish the next morning for breakfast. Another winner.” -Aishah

Serving Suggestion:

Since you’re already making a classic Spanish dish, pair this with our simple and tasty Garlic White Wine Mushrooms or Pan con Tomate.

Prepping Smarts:

Shrimp is quick to defrost, even when you have just taken it out of the freezer. Here’s how:


Prepping Frozen Shrimp

Watch how we defrost frozen shrimp when we need it for tonight's dinner.

Onions and parsley really add aroma to this dish. Here’s how to prep and chop them:


How to Slice an Onion

Learn the most efficient way to slice, dice, and chop onions so that your prep always goes smoothly.


How to Chop Cilantro or Parsley

Learn how to chop parsley using the 'pivot-and-fan' chopping technique with this short video.

Equipment Smarts:

A saute pan is all you need to cook everything.

Buy this 5 quart saute pan from Cuisinart on AmazonPureeing the sauce with an immersion blender makes it super smooth and creamy. You won’t regret this extra step!

For more kitchen and equipment and tool smarts, visit our ‘Essential Kitchen Cookware and Tools’


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Shrimp in a Creamy Tomato Saffron Sauce Recipe

Coating anything in a saffron tomato cream sauce seems like a good idea to us. With it's creaminess and rich tomato-y flavor, everyone will love the comfort of this dish.

Prep time: 10 min

Cook time: 20 min

Total time: 30 min

Serves: 4


  • Shrimp - 1 lb, peeled and deveined
  • Garlic - 2 cloves, minced
  • Onion - 1, chopped
  • Parsley - 1/4 bunch, chopped
  • Saffron - a pinch
  • White wine - 2 tbsp
  • Cooking oil - 1 tbsp
  • Crushed tomatoes - 1 can (~2 cups)
  • Salt - 1/4 tsp
  • Pepper - 1/4 tsp
  • Sweetener - 1 tsp (Like sugar, honey, maple syrup)
  • Cream (opt) - 3 tbsp
  • Lemon - 1/2, juice of



  1. Shrimp – Rinse and defrost.
  2. Garlic / Onions / Parsley – Prep as directed. (Can be done up to 3 days ahead)


  1. Combine saffron and white wine.
  2. Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and then onions to heated oil. Saute until softened, ~3 minutes.
  3. Add saffron-infused wine and garlic. Saute for another minute or two, and then add in tomatoes, salt, pepper, and sweetener. Saute for ~5 minutes. At this point, you have the option of pureeing your sauce with an immersion blender directly in the pan, transferring the sauce to a blender to puree, or just skipping the puree step altogether.
  4. Return (pureed or not) sauce to a simmer and then add in shrimp. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until shrimp is cooked through.
  5. Remove saute pan from heat and fold in cream (if using) and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and garnish with parsley.
  6. Enjoy with shrimp and sauce ladled over rice, potatoes, or use bread to sop up every last bit of sauce!


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