Grilled Pesto Shrimp with Burst Tomato Couscous Caprese

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Feel-good summer dinners don't get easier than Grilled Pesto Shrimp with Burst Couscous Caprese! Simply coat shrimp & end-of-summer cherry tomatoes in your favorite fresh basil pesto, then thread onto skewers & quickly cook on the grill. For a no-fuss side dish, fold the burst tomatoes into couscous with fresh mozzarella & extra pesto sauce. It's Caprese salad-inspired goodness & couldn't be a more perfect pairing for grilled shrimp with pesto! Ready in 30 minutes or less with only 5 ingredients required, this pesto shrimp recipe is the best easy summer meal!
An overhead shot of grilled shrimp with pesto rests atop a pile of Caprese couscous with burst grilled cherry tomatoes and mozzarella pearls inside of a small cream colored bowl. The shrimp is garnished with small fresh basil leaves and a few lemon wedges and a gold fork rests inside of the bowl. A cream colored linen napkin, a drinking glass, two small pinch bowls filled with salt and pepper, and another serving of pesto shrimp surround the bowl at center.

Grilled Pesto Shrimp with Caprese-Inspired Couscous – Simple Summer Cooking at its Finest!

Even if you love to cook, low-effort dinners are where it’s at during the summer months. I get a special thrill out of creating flavor-packed meals in very little time with just a handful of ingredients. This Grilled Pesto Shrimp with Burst Tomato Caprese Couscous totally fits the bill!

This is a 5-ingredient dinner that comes together in 30 minutes or less. It’s so simple but yields a ton of seasonal flavor thanks to ingredients like end-of-summer cherry tomatoes & fresh basil pesto. Simply toss them together with shrimp, skewer them up, & throw them on the grill. The shrimp cooks up really quickly & the cherry tomatoes burst open over the high heat…it’s so good!

While I think it’s an ideal weeknight dinner, this grilled pesto shrimp recipe is also flavorful & fun enough to keep in your back pocket for end-of-summer entertaining. It has a special, elevated feel that’s great for pretty much any occasion. Honestly, what’s not to love about that?!

Pesto Shrimp Recipe Highlights

You’ll love this grilled pesto shrimp with burst tomato couscous because it’s…

  • AN END-OF-SUMMER BEAUTY. There’s nothing better than in-season flavor! This grilled shrimp pesto recipe is a great way to use all the tomatoes & fresh basil that come onto the scene at the end of summer.
  • CLASSIC VIBES. There’s so much to love about iconic Caprese. Grilled shrimp with pesto incorporates a fun burst tomato couscous with mozzarella pearls reminiscent of the classic.
  • QUICK & EASY. A quick 5-ingredient prep & only a few minutes of grilling result in a super fast dinner with minimal cleanup. Ready in under 30!

Easy, peasy summer shrimps! 🍤 ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make Pesto Shrimp with Burst Tomato Couscous Caprese, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!

This Easy Grilled Shrimp Recipe Starts with Fresh Pesto

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Fresh pesto sauce plays double duty in this recipe, seasoning both the grilled shrimp & the Caprese-style couscous. Feel free to use store-bought pesto or whip up a batch of your favorite recipe. My go-to is a quick lemon basil pesto sauce. It’s filled with herbaceous flavor, irresistible nuttiness, & a burst of bright lemon – perfection! Here’s how you make it…

1

Finely chop the aromatics. Add 1 cup fresh basil, 4 cloves of garlic, the zest & juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/4 cup grated parmesan, & 2 tablespoons pine nuts to a food processor, then pulse gently to combine. Stop occasionally to scrape down any bits on the side so everything combines.

2

Finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Run the food processor & slowly stream in 3-4 tablespoons olive oil, until it reaches your desired consistency. Why? ⇢ Slowly streaming in the oil gives the pesto sauce time to form a sleek & smooth texture.

Meal Prep Tip!

Basil pesto sauce is super easy to prep ahead of time. Once it’s mixed, transfer it to an airtight container & store it in the fridge for up to 1 week. Pesto oxidizes easily & can lose its green color over time, so be sure to seal it tight!

Store-Bought Shortcut!

If you prefer the convenience of store-bought pesto, go for it! I highly recommend buying a fresh sauce from the refrigerated section rather than jarred pesto off the shelf. Fresh pesto typically has a looser, saucy texture which lends itself well to a quick marinade for a recipe like this grilled pesto shrimp.

Tip! ⇢ Whenever you use store-bought pesto, fold in a little lemon zest & juice to help bring its fresh flavors back to life.

How to Assemble Grilled Shrimp Skewers – Tips & Tricks

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

When it comes to grilled shrimp, skewers make life a lot easier – you’ll be grateful they’re there when it comes time to flip the shrimp! Pesto grilled shrimp skewer assembly only takes a few minutes at dinnertime – quickly tackle it as the grill preheats!

1

Season the shrimp. Add shrimp & cherry tomatoes to a large bowl. Season with salt & ground black pepper, then toss in fresh basil pesto. Pesto Shrimp Tip! ⇢ If you need to loosen your pesto up a little bit to help it cling to the shrimp & tomatoes nicely, squeeze in a little lemon juice.

2

Thread the pesto shrimp on the skewers, alternating with cherry tomatoes as you go. Grilled Shrimp Tip! ⇢ The best way to put shrimp on skewers for grilling is to skewer each piece in two places: once near the head & once near the tail. This keeps the shrimp tight & snug on the skewer, making it much easier to turn everything on the grill. (Refer to the photos below for a visual!)

3

Grill the shrimp skewers. Place the pesto shrimp skewers on the grill & cook about 2-3 minutes per side, or until the shrimp is pink & opaque & the tomatoes begin to burst. No grill? No problem! ⇢ If you do not have access to an outdoor grill, cook your shrimp skewers on a grill pan or pop them under the broiler in your oven. Cook times should stay about the same.

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Grilled Skewers Tip!

I prefer using stainless steel skewers for ease since they’re reusable & easy to clean – my favorites are linked below!

You can also use bamboo skewers if that’s what you keep on hand. Don’t forget to soak bamboo skewers in water at least 20 minutes before grilled shrimp skewer assembly! Why? ⇢ A quick soak helps prevent the skewers from burning over the high heat of the grill.

Other Grilled Shrimp FAQs

Do you peel shrimp before grilling?

Yes! For best results, use peeled & deveined shrimp so the sauce gets into every nook & cranny of the grilled pesto shrimp.

What is the best shrimp to use on the grill?

When it comes to grilling, steer clear of tiny shrimp – they’re more likely to fall through the grill grates & overcook with the high heat of the grill. I like to use colossal shrimp (U/13-15) or jumbo shrimp (U/15-25). (Remember! ⇢ The “U” designation is a measure of size, indicating how many individual pieces of shrimp make a pound.)

Can I grill frozen shrimp?

Yes, though technically speaking, you’ll want to grill thawed previously-frozen shrimp. (Grilling straight from frozen doesn’t yield the best results – all of the moisture in frozen shrimp prevents it from cooking evenly & getting gloriously charred grill marks.)

Quickly thawing frozen shrimp. ⇢ The best way to thaw frozen shrimp is to place them in a zip-top bag & submerge in cool water. The steady, cool temperature of the water creates a really controlled environment for the frozen shrimp to come up to room temperature. This is better from a food safety standpoint, since it limits bacterial growth. Refresh the water every 10 minutes or so, until the shrimp are completely thawed – 25-30 minutes, tops!

What is the best temperature for grilling shrimp?

A grill preheated to medium-high (about 450-500 degrees F) works great for both cooking the shrimp & creating crave-worthy charred grill marks.

How long to grill shrimp skewers?

The amazing thing about grilling shrimp is it’s super quick & easy! Aim for 2-3 minutes per side.

How do I know when my grilled shrimp skewers are done?

Grilled pesto shrimp is done once the shrimp turns pink & opaque. These visible indicators are helpful – you’ll quickly see the shrimp change from a translucent color to looking more fully cooked.

Do I close the grill when cooking shrimp skewers?

No need to! Grilled shrimp skewers cook so fast that it’s not necessary to shut the lid. Keep a good eye on them instead!

Why is the grilled pesto shrimp rubbery?

Unfortunately, if the shrimp are rubbery & tough, they’re probably overcooked. Remember, they only need a couple minutes per side!

What if I don’t have a gas grill?

A charcoal grill works great too! If you don’t have access to an outdoor grill, feel free to cook the shrimp on a grill pan or use the broiler in your oven.

Once You’ve Assembled the Pesto Shrimp, Prepare the Caprese Couscous

Couscous is one of my favorite grains during the summertime because it cooks super quickly & doesn’t necessarily require turning on the stove. A few simple add-ins give this particular couscous a Caprese-inspired flare. And the bonus? We’ve already used them in this pesto shrimp recipe. 😎 It’s the easiest built-in side dish ever!

Caprese-Style Burst Tomato Couscous! ⇢ Prepare couscous according to package directions. I typically place it in a large, heat-safe bowl, pour boiling water over top, & cover it with a plate to let it steam. Once it’s absorbed all the water, fluff it with a fork & gently fold in pesto sauce, mozzarella pearls, & the burst tomatoes from the grilled pesto shrimp skewers. If it needs a little zhuzh, squeeze in some fresh lemon juice.

Swaps & Subs

If you prefer not to use couscous, create the same Caprese-inspired salad using any other pasta or grain you love. Pesto linguine, angel hair, & fettuccine are all great options, as are gluten-free grain like quinoa. Or, keep your dinner veggie-forward with pesto zoodles, another fantastic end-of-summer option!

Serving Pesto Shrimp & Burst Tomatoes with Caprese-Inspired Couscous

In less than 30 minutes, each component of this recipe is ready to go. Bring everything together by removing the pesto shrimp & tomatoes from the skewers & piling them over a big bowl of couscous. Feel free to add an extra drizzle of pesto sauce or some freshly cracked black pepper!

Serving Suggestions. ⇢ Truth is, this recipe is pretty fantastic all on its own – the perfect quick & easy weeknight meal! If you’d like to add a few sides, feel free. I always love some extra grilled veggies or a big green salad on the side.

Hosting a pesto shrimp dinner party? ⇢ Wow the crowd with an easy app like Whipped Ricotta Bruschetta or Prosciutto-Wrapped Melon. Both pair beautifully with pesto shrimp!

I can’t wait for you to try this Grilled Pesto Shrimp with Burst Tomato Couscous Caprese recipe! It’s such a fun & simple summer dinner, but it packs a big punch of feel-good flavor – I think you’re going to love it as much as we do!

If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!

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A close up, overhead, and macro shot of grilled shrimp with pesto atop a pile of Caprese couscous with burst grilled cherry tomatoes and mozzarella pearls fills a cream colored bowl. The shrimp is garnished with small fresh basil leaves and a few lemon wedges and a gold fork rests inside of the bowl. A cream colored linen napkin, a small pinch bowl, and another bowl filled with another serving of grilled pesto shrimp surrounds the bowl at center.

Grilled Pesto Shrimp with Burst Tomato Couscous Caprese

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4
  • Category: Main Dishes, Seafood Recipes
  • Method: Grilling & Smoking
  • Cuisine: American, Italian-Inspired

Description

Grilled Pesto Shrimp is such a fun & simple summer dinner. It’s really simple – made with 5 ingredients & comes together in 30 minutes or less – but you’d never guess it based on the amount of fresh flavor it has. The perfect weeknight dish! 

The secret to creating a satisfying meal with a limited number of ingredients is using the most flavorful options you can find & layering them throughout the meal in a couple of different ways. Here, we use fresh basil pesto as both a marinade for the shrimp & a dressing for a Caprese-inspired couscous salad. If you have a ton of end of summer basil on hand, feel free to make homemade pesto (this recipe & this recipe are my go-tos!) but store-bought works great too (see Recipe Notes for some more guidance). 

As far as serving goes, this is an all-in-one meal, but we have some more serving suggestions detailed in the blog post above if you’re looking for inspiration. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 pound colossal shrimp (U/13-15), peeled & deveined
  • 12 ounces cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh pesto, divided (see Recipe Notes)
  • optional: 1 lemon, juiced & divided (see Recipe Notes)
  • 3/4 cup dry couscous, cooked according to package directions
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
  • 812 stainless steel or bamboo skewers (soaked in water at least 20 minutes prior to assembly)

Instructions

  1. Prep: Prepare the grill for medium-high direct heat grilling, about 450-500 degrees F. Once preheated, clean the cooking surface by firmly brushing a wire brush over the grates. (If you do not have access to an outdoor grill, you can also preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat.) Meanwhile, as the grill preheats, prep the shrimp skewers & couscous.Weber Genesis II Propane Grill on a deck.
  2. Prep the pesto shrimp skewers: Meanwhile as the grill preheats, prepare the shrimp skewers. Place the shrimp & tomatoes in a large bowl with 1/4 cup of the pesto & the juice of 1/2 a lemon (if using). Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Toss to coat well. Alternating between the two, thread the pesto shrimp & tomatoes on skewers. It is helpful to skewer each piece of shrimp in two places, once near the head & once near the tail (pictured). Place assembled skewers on a large plate or baking sheet & set aside. A close up shot of pesto shrimp and cherry tomatoes threaded on a stainless steel skewers rest atop an aluminum baking sheet.
  3. Prep the couscous Caprese: Meanwhile, as the grill preheats, prepare the Caprese-inspired couscous. Cook the couscous according to package directions – I like to place the couscous in a heat-safe bowl, pour water over top, cover with a plate, & let steam for 5 minutes. Once steamed, add the remaining 1/4 cup pesto, juice of 1/2 a lemon (if using), & fresh mozzarella pearls to the bowl. Use a fork to fluff the couscous, mixing the pesto & mozzarella throughout. Taste & season with kosher salt & ground black pepper as needed. Set aside for serving. How to make grilled pesto shrimp and tomato caprese couscous, step 3: Prep the coucous Caprese. Cooked couscous mixed with pesto fills a glass mixing bowl atop a light peach surface with small mozzarella balls folded in. A gold spoon rests inside the mixing bowl and the bowl is surrounded by a small wooden pinch bowl filled with kosher salt, a small white pinch bowl filled with ground black pepper, a metal quarter cup filled with pesto, and a half of a lemon surround the bowl at center.
  4. Grill the pesto shrimp skewers: Transfer the shrimp skewers to the grill. Grill over direct heat for 2-3 minutes per side, just until the tomatoes begin to burst & the shrimp is pink in hue & no longer translucent. Transfer grilled pesto shrimp skewers to a clean large plate or baking sheet.A close up shot of grilled pesto shrimp and burst cherry tomatoes threaded on a stainless steel skewers rest atop an aluminum baking sheet.
  5. Serve the pesto shrimp immediately. I like to remove the shrimp from the skewers, toss the burst tomatoes into the Caprese couscous, then pile the shrimp over top. Enjoy!An overhead shot of grilled shrimp with pesto rests atop a pile of Caprese couscous with burst grilled cherry tomatoes and mozzarella pearls inside of a small cream colored bowl. The shrimp is garnished with small fresh basil leaves and a few lemon wedges and a gold fork rests inside of the bowl. A cream colored linen napkin, a drinking glass, two small pinch bowls filled with salt and pepper, and another serving of pesto shrimp surround the bowl at center.

Notes

  • Ingredient Notes:
    • “Fresh” pesto & lemon: Feel free to whip up a batch of homemade pesto for this recipe (my go-to lemon basil pesto recipe is below!), or grab store-bought for extra convenience. For best results, use fresh pesto rather than jarred (i.e. if store-bought, use the kind sold in the refrigerator section, which tends to taste freshest & has a nice, saucy consistency). If your pesto is on the thicker side, squeeze some fresh lemon juice in as directed to help loosen it up. 
    • Go-to lemon basil pesto: To a food processor, add 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves & tender stems, 4 cloves garlic, zest & juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/4 cup grated parmesan, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, & 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Pulse to combine, stopping to scrape down the sides of the food processor as needed. With the processor running, slowly stream in 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil until your desired consistency is reached. Set aside, or transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  • Storage & Reheating: Pesto shrimp skewers are best enjoyed the day you grill them, though leftovers will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 2 days. Leftover burst tomato couscous Caprese will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 4 days. Enjoy leftovers chilled, or reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave just until warmed through. 

Keywords: pesto shrimp recipe, grilled shrimp recipe, coucous recipe, grilled pesto shrimp recipe, easy summer dinners, quick grilling recipes

Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by KJ & Company, Kate Poskochil

A close up, overhead, and macro shot of grilled shrimp with pesto atop a pile of Caprese couscous with burst grilled cherry tomatoes and mozzarella pearls fills a cream colored bowl. The shrimp is garnished with small fresh basil leaves and a few lemon wedges and a gold fork rests inside of the bowl. A cream colored linen napkin, a small pinch bowl, and another bowl filled with another serving of grilled pesto shrimp surrounds the bowl at center.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest for more unfussy recipes that pack a big punch of flavor!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 9.25.22
    Jenny said:

    This was so good (and so easy!) made this tonight with Israeli cous cous, which also worked well. My 9 year-old even cleaned his plate (and he’s not a huge seafood fan). Victory!

    • 9.26.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Love to hear it, Jenny! So glad your family enjoyed & thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment. It means so much!

  2. 8.14.22
    Lauren said:

    Made this tonight with quinoa as I didn’t have couscous on hand and it was delicious! I would even recommend a little bit of red pepper flakes to add a bit of heat to this!

    • 8.15.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thanks so much, Lauren! & oh yes – red pepper flakes are an awesome idea!

  3. 8.13.22
    Lauren Hobson said:

    What an amazing easy summer dinner! Whole family enjoyed it and the couscous was great!

    • 8.15.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thank you, Lauren! We love the couscous too – so simple right?! 🙂