This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.
Here is how to make your own shrimp cocktail and the sauce, too. There is a reason classics never go out of style and this gorgeous platter of chilled succulent shrimp waiting to be dunked in spicy sauce tells everyone at the table that this is a celebration.
Ingredients & substitutions
- Large raw shrimp peeled, deveined, tails-on, thawed: Tails on is vital. The tail shell makes shrimp cocktail the grabbable finger food they are. If you buy unpeeled, make sure not to peel off the tail. Smaller shrimp or frozen ones? No worries. They’ll work.
- Old Bay Seasoning: The classic spice blend contains celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and paprika. Those or salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes can stand in. Trying to recreate Old Bay? It may contain laurel leaves, mustard, salt, cardamom, cloves, and ginger.
- Lemon: For the boiling mixture and cocktail sauce, either lemon juice, lime juice or white vinegar can be used depending on which taste you prefer.
- Ketchup: Chili sauce can sub in but adjust amounts of hot sauce and horseradish. Plain tomato sauce can also work in a pinch, but you may want to add a scant teaspoon of sugar to balance the spicy ingredients.
- Horseradish: Grate the fresh root or buy prepared horseradish but not horseradish sauce, which has cream in it. Freshly ground mustard seeds or some Japanese wasabi paste will also add heat. However, horseradish can be a polarizing ingredient, if you hate it, leave it out.
- Worcestershire: Here it adds just a dash of umami flavor, but soy sauce can be subbed.
- Hot sauce: Use whatever brand – Sriracha, Cholula, Tabasco – you prefer. Out? Add a dash or two of ground cayenne pepper.
How to make shrimp cocktail
Cook the shrimp
- Put a large pot of water on to a boil. Add Old Bay seasoning and lemon juice. Lower the heat to create a flavorful broth.
- Carefully and quickly spoon the shrimp in and cook watching for doneness signals – pinkness and curling.
- Then, when the shrimp become bright pink and curl, immediately strain. Overcooking creates a rubbery texture!
- Transfer to the prepared ice water to quickly stop the cooking. Drain when cool and place on ice to serve immediately or refrigerate.
make the cocktail sauce
- In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire and hot sauce for the cocktail sauce.
- Stir until well blended and serve with the chilled shrimp and wedges of lemon.
Tips for making shrimp cocktail
- Stay by the stove: Shrimp is done in mere minutes. The indicator is when it turns from gray to white/pink and is no longer translucent and curls. More than any particular amount of time, color and a change in texture are the doneness indicators. Watch the pot and trust your eyes.
- Opt for frozen for fresher fish: If the fresh fish selection in your market leaves something to be desired, do not turn your nose up at frozen. Virtually, all seafood is frozen immediately after being caught, anyway. Note: frozen cooks almost as quickly as fresh!
- Boil then peel: If you buy completely unpeeled shrimp, boiling with the shell on imparts flavor. After cooling, peel (leaving the tails on) and de-vein.
- Flash cool: Don’t be tempted to skip the ice bath – or at the very least run under cold water – because the shrimp will continue to cook a little out of the pot.
Frequently asked questions
The rule of the thumb is two hours before bacteria start multiplying at an alarming rate.
Not everyone is a fan! Follow your flavor bliss. Aioli would be great, as would melted butter, maybe with some chopped garlic added? All different kinds of salsas could work, and Cucumber Garlic Sauce would be cooling and light, as well.
Not advised. Going off the assumption that all seafood has been frozen at one point, refreezing is not recommended as the texture and taste will suffer.
Shrimp is a healthy, low-fat, low-carb indulgence and perfect for any holiday spread. Now you now how to make shrimp cocktail to add to your gatherings and celebrations.
More shrimp recipes:
- Shrimp Scampi with Zoodles
- Shrimp Fried Rice
- Garlic Shrimp Spaghetti
- Grilled Shrimp Skewers
- Shrimp Lettuce Wraps
If you found this tutorial for How to Make Shrimp Cocktail helpful or if you try any recipe on Feel Good Foodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! It helps others who are thinking of trying out this tutorial and we would love to hear about your experience. And if you snapped some shots, share it on Instagram so we can repost on Stories!
How to Make Shrimp Cocktail
For the shrimp
- 1 pound large raw shrimp peeled, deveined, tails-on, thawed
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup Old Bay Seasoning
- As needed ice water
For the cocktail sauce
- 1 cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons horseradish
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons worcestershire
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce Cholula, Tabasco, etc
- Pinch salt
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add Old Bay seasoning and lemon juice. Lower the heat to a low and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the shrimp and cook stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes until the shrimp become bright pink and curl.
- Strain and transfer to the prepared ice water to immediately stop the cooking.
- In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, worcestershire and hot sauce for the cocktail sauce until well blended.
- Serve the shrimp chilled with the cocktail sauce.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.
Photo Credit: Erin Jensen