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Grilled Shrimp Skewers With Pesto and Pernod

Kaili loves to cook—from comfort food to fine cuisine—and was the recipient of a silver medal in a food and wine matching competition.

This shrimp recipe goes really well with simple pasta dishes and summer salads.

This shrimp recipe goes really well with simple pasta dishes and summer salads.

Pesto Shrimp Skewers

This shrimp recipe is so easy to prepare and so tasty, you'll want to have it two nights in a row. Made with pesto sauce with a splash of Pernod that gives it a wonderful, slightly licorice flavor, this shrimp recipe requires very little preparation time. This is among my favorite shrimp recipes, and it's a staple during barbecue season.

Ready? Let's get cooking!

What Is Pernod?

Pernod is a brand of liqueur from France that is made with star anise, herbs, and aromatic plants. It has a very distinctive licorice flavor that goes extremely well with shellfish and other fish dishes. Other countries, including Greece and Spain, make their own variations of this licorice liqueur. If you don't have any Pernod on hand, try substituting some ouzo or even sambuca in the recipe.

Preparation Time and Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

10 min

10 min

20 min

Serves two people (1/2 pound of shrimp per person)


  • 1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup pesto sauce
  • 3 Tbsp Pernod
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil


  1. If you are using fresh shrimp, shell and devein them. Place shrimp in a colander and rinse them well under cold running water. Note: If you are using frozen, deveined shrimp and forgot to take them out of the freezer, don’t worry. Simply run them under cold running water for a few minutes, and then remove the shells. You can also buy fresh shrimp already shelled and deveined from your local fish store.
  2. Add ½ cup pesto sauce to a mixing bowl. Note: The recipe illustrated here was prepared with store-bought pesto sauce, but you can use your own homemade sauce if you have some handy.
  3. Stir in the Pernod and the olive oil until well blended.
  4. Add the shrimp and stir to coat them completely. If the mixture is a little runny, add more pesto (see Tips below). You want it to adhere to the shrimp.
  5. You can now put the bowl of shrimp in the fridge for a couple of hours to marinate if you have the time. If not, proceed to the next step. We understand if you're in a hurry.
  6. Get your grill ready. If you are using a gas grill, preheat it to about 500°F and then turn it down to about 425°F. If using charcoal, wait until the coals are gray.
  7. Push the shrimp one by one onto bbq-safe skewers.
  8. Place the skewers on the bbq, and baste them with the pesto mixture that remains at the bottom of the bowl. Turn the skewers about every 2 minutes, basting after each turn. The shrimp should be done in about 10 minutes. Larger "jumbo" shrimp or scampi may take another minute or so.
  9. Enjoy!

Cooking Tips

  1. If you have time to marinate the shrimp ahead of time, you will find that this enhances both the texture and the flavor of the shrimp.
  2. Put a little oil on the rack on your grill, or use vegetable spray for the grill before lighting it. This will make cleanup easier.
  3. The pesto and Pernod mixture should be thick enough to stick to the shrimp and not simply run off. The amounts shown in the ingredients may have to be adjusted somewhat depending on how large your shrimp are and how thick your pesto sauce is, to begin with. If the pesto Pernod sauce is too thin after adding the oil and Pernod, add another tablespoon or two of the pesto. If it is too thick, add a touch more Pernod first, then a little more oil if necessary.
  4. Once the first shrimps are on a skewer, place them over a foil roasting pan or tray to catch the drips while you assemble the other skewers.
  5. Save the pesto and Pernod mixture for basting the shrimp while they are on the barbecue.
Zinfandel is a big fruit-forward wine that pairs extremely well with this dish.

Zinfandel is a big fruit-forward wine that pairs extremely well with this dish.

Red Wine With Shrimp? Really?

Yes, red wine! Don’t believe you can only drink white wine with shrimp. This shrimp and pesto recipe has a wonderful grilled flavor with a hint of licorice that stands up very nicely to red wine. Try a California Zinfandel or a lighter one from Australia.

Seghesio Vineyards from Sonoma County makes wonderful Zinfandel. Their wines have lovely red and blackberry flavors with a dash of spiciness and pepper and a fabulous body and mouthfeel. The spice and black fruit in the wine bring out the Pernod in the shrimp. A perfect match!

© 2012 Kaili Bisson