Dinner Tonight: Camarones en Pipian (Shrimp in Pumpkin Seed Sauce)

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Dinner Tonight: Camarones en Pipian (Shrimp in Pumpkin Seed Sauce)

This recipe from Dianna Kennedy's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico actually began its life as an "elegant and unusual dish" from one of the best restaurants in Tampico in the 80s. Like a lot of great restaurant dishes, it probably had a bit more butter than was necessary, so she cut down the amount "considerably." Don't worry, there's some sour cream to get things through. Certainly, while my presentation skills are certainly lacking, I can vouch that the flavor is definitely still there.

Now I admit that this recipe initially seems similar to these shrimp tacos with jicama, which I wrote about two years ago. But the difference here is in the details. Instead of simply blending toasted pumpkin seeds with water, you make a stock with the shrimp shells. This isn't food to eat quickly while standing up—this is worth taking a seat to linger over. The result is a rich and surprisingly flavorful sauce with just a tinge of heat.

  • Yield:4 people
  • Active time: 30 minutes
  • Total time:40 minutes


  • 1 ½ pounds medium shrimp, unshelled, preferably with heads on
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped, stems discarded
  • 4 serrano chiles, stemmed, and chopped
  • ½ small white onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ⅔ cup thick sour cream
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 2 limes, quartered


  1. 1.

    Remove shells and heads from shrimp. Transfer shells and heads to a medium-sized saucepan. Pour in water, and add salt. Turn heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes.

  2. 2.

    Meanwhile, toast pumpkin seeds in an un-greased 12-inch iron skillet set over medium heat. Toss gently, and remove when they begin to pop. They should not brown. Transfer to blender. Let cool for a few seconds, and then grind to a powder.

  3. 3.

    Add shrimp broth, cilantro, serranos, and onion to blender. Blend until very smooth, about 1 minute.

  4. 4.

    Add butter to iron skillet. Melt over medium-low heat. Pour in pumpkin seed mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, for about three minutes, or until it becomes a relatively thick paste. Stir in sour cream, and season with more salt to taste. Cook for three minutes. Turn heat to low, and add shrimp. Stir well and cook for five minutes. Season with more salt to taste.

  5. 5.

    Serve with warm corn tortillas and the quartered limes