Recipe of the Week: Squash and Spicy Shrimp Tacos

Photo by Brogan Wu

After a long winter cooped away eating lots of stews, breads, and roast chickens; I always crave light and bright dinners around the first sign of spring. Cilantro is an herb that just reminds me of sunshine, its fragrance and lemony taste brings an element of freshness to any dish you add it to. It's also one of the flavors that people love or they hate; but I am definitely a cilantro lover.

The cilantro is just an element to these tacos though, it is the shrimp and the butternut squash that are the stars. Tacos are always a weeknight favorite of mine because once everything is prepped you can just set up a little station and let everyone assemble them for themselves. For that same reason I love them for entertaining; and the fact that they just pair so well with a cold beer or a frozen margarita.

This is a great winter-to-warmth transition meal because the cold weather squash brings a hearty and sweet element to the otherwise lean and spicy pan cooked shrimp. The shrimp have a firm bite, while the roasted squash soften with slightly charred bits, and wrapped inside a fried corn tortilla topped with all of the fix-ins creates this unpredictable but fitting marinade of textures and flavors.

For the butternut squash: the key is to slice the squash small enough that they are nice and bite sized. We want them soft but we want them charred; so roasting them at a high heat and moving them around quickly is an important step in preparing them.  

For the quick pickled onions: a mason jar is your best friend here. Chop, combine, and let sit at room temperature for an hour. You can make more in advance and keep this on hand in your fridge, but the quantities I list are perfect for this recipe (around 8 tacos).

For the shrimp: since the shrimp is the star here, quality matters. Look for plump, fresh, peeled and deveined shrimp or prepare them yourself. Discard the tails, season them, toss in lime juice, and let them marinade in the fridge as we prepare everything else. Cooking them in the pan allows us to add butter and fresh garlic, and if you like hard seared shrimp just crank the burner up high.

Squash and Spicy Shrimp Tacos 

You will need:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp

  • Shrimp seasoning (1 tsp of garlic powder, 1 tsp of paprika, 1/2 tsp of cayenne, 1 tsp of onion powder, 1 tsp creole seasoning, 1 tsp of old bay, 1 tsp of fresh ground pepper, 1/2 tsp of salt)

  • 2 cups of chopped butternut squash

  • Butternut squash seasoning (1 tsp of paprika, 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp of onion powder)

  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1/4 cup of chopped red onion

  • Pickling liquid for onions (1-2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, just until the cover the onions, and 3 teaspoons of white sugar sugar)

  • 1 lime

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro (plus more for toppings)

  • Queso fresco

  • Fresh avocado

  • Sliced radishes

  • Corn tortillas (with vegetable oil if you choose to fry first)

  • Sriracha mayo (1 tablespoon mayo, 1 tablespoon sour cream, 1 tablespoon sriracha)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. In a large mason jar, combine red onions, apple cider vinegar, and white sugar. Shake the jar well and set aside for at least an hour.

  3. In a large bowl, toss shrimp in seasoning mix, top with juice of one lime and 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped cilantro. Let marinade in the fridge until other ingredients are ready.

  4. Toss butternut squash in paprika, salt, pepper, olive oil + maple syrup. Bake on a baking sheet until slightly charred, moving around halfway (20-25 minutes).

  5. In the meantime, prepare our other toppings. If you are going to fry your corn tortillas, pan fry them in 1/4 cup of vegetable oil on the stove top until just beginning to crisp on each side. You want them to remain soft.

  6. Once squash is done, remove shrimp from the fridge.

  7. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Cook shrimp on the stove top, adding the freshly minced garlic half way. Cook until done and pink.

  8. Assemble tacos as you choose! Serve with a side of rice or side salad, or eat them on their own.