Baracoa's Shrimp in Coconut Milk

We are delighted to announce that the "Cuban Food Stories - Cookbook" is now available on Amazon Kindle and vía our website. To celebrate, here is one of the most unexpected Cuban cuisine recipes we found during the shoot of our film, the "Baracoa's Shrimp in Coconut Milk."

Buy Amazon Kindle Cookbook!

Shrimp in Coconut Milk 

Baracoa, Guantanamo

Shrimp in Coconut Milk is one of the best examples of unexpected Cuban dishes. In Cuba, it’s not typical to cook with coconut milk. What we love about making this discovery is the chance to understand what a nuanced and varied heritage Cuban cuisine has to offer. If you thought it was just pork, beans, and rice, you’re in for a surprise!

This is a simple recipe, but one with unique flavors. Because this region of Cuba is still not well-connected with the rest of the island, we find its cuisine to be reminiscent of other Caribbean countries, such as Jamaica and Haiti. For a time, it was easier for the people of Baracoa to sail to other countries in the Caribbean or even to French Louisiana than it was to travel to other regions of Cuba. We shot this recipe up the Toa river, in a place where you can only arrive at by rafts.


1 pound of freshly peeled and deveined large shrimps
(In the Toa river, they used river shrimp)
1 small onion
4 garlic cloves
4 small peppers
(In Cuba, they use Scotch bonnet peppers; in the US,
we use mini peppers.)
1 can (14 oz) of unsweetened coconut milk
(In Baracoa they make this coconut milk from scratch, but that’s a bit hard to do in our tiny Brooklyn apartment.)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 bunch of cilantro
1⁄2 teaspoon of saffron (in Baracoa they use achiote (annatto seeds), but saffron is not only easier to find but brings a little more flavor to the dish, too).
Salt and black pepper to taste


1. Finely chop the onion, garlic, and pepper.

2. Heat the olive oil in a pan at medium to medium/high heat and then simmer the onion, garlic, and pepper in the oil. (This is the sofrito step). Remember to stir the ingredients with a tong from time to time. Lower to medium and cook for 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Open the can of coconut milk and whisk with a spoon. Add the coconut milk to the sofrito. Stir occasionally.

4. Add the cumin, some salt, and the saffron, and let it cook until you get a nice, silky reduction.

5. After the reduction is almost done, add the shrimp to the pan and let it cook for 3-5 minutes (until the shrimp are pink). It’s important not to overcook the shrimp.

6. Serve and garnish with cilantro.

In Baracoa, they eat this dish with bacán, a plantain-based tamale, and white rice. In our house, we eat it with white rice, fried tostones, and an avocado/tomato salad.

It’s delicious with whatever you want to pair it with!

1 comment

  • Tina Madden

    Loved this recipe.
    I substituted the saffron with turmeric, and red pepper flakes instead of peppers.
    My husband added scotch bonnet pepper sauce as he ate it, so everyone was happy with the amount of heat.

Leave a comment