When you serve Shrimp Cocktail, you can turn a holiday get together into a party! It is quick and easy to boil fresh shrimp in seasoned water for the best ever flavor, then don’t forget to pair it with a homemade cocktail sauce. Wow your friends and family with a low-carb and healthy snack that is ready in only 20 minutes.

Shrimp is served with a glass of cocktail sauce.

It never fails.

Whenever there’s a platter of shrimp cocktail at a party I can’t help but overindulge.

There’s something so satisfying about those cold, plump, and perfectly cooked bites of seafood being dunked into a tangy and kinda’ spicy cocktail sauce.

And even though it seems incredibly fancy, this simple appetizer recipe is SO easy to prepare.

From cooking the shrimp, to whisking up the homemade cocktail sauce, you can have the ENTIRE recipe ready to wow your guests in just 20 minutes.

Or you can even get ahead and prepare the shrimp and sauce the night before, and pull it out whenever you need a quick snack.

Either way, you might want to double or triple the recipe because these crustaceans are going to go fast!

Shrimp, water, parsley, lemons, sugar, water, and cocktail sauce are the ingredients needed for this recipe.

Ingredients

The simple ingredients you need to make this shrimp cocktail recipe include:

  • Shrimp. Fresh, medium-sized shrimp (21/25 count per pound) that have been peeled and deveined with the tails still on are the best. Easy-peel are simple to work with while still keeping the tail on. Frozen can be used as well but will not taste quite as good. You can go larger or smaller in size but you will need to adjust the cook time accordingly.
  • Lemon. The juice and the actual fruit goes into the water while cooking the shrimp. This gives delicious flavor and the acidity helps to tenderize the shrimp.
  • Parsley. A handful of fresh parsley is ideal. Curly or flat-leaf can be used.
  • Salt and Sugar. For the perfect balance, you’ll definitely want to use both.
  • Cocktail Sauce. A simple 6-ingredient sauce with ketchup, prepared horseradish, and tabasco is whipped up in 5 minutes.

How to Make the Best Shrimp Cocktail

The basic steps for making shrimp cocktail are simple to follow:

Peel and Devein Shrimp

If you can’t find peeled and deveined shrimp at the grocery store, you will have to do some extra preparation. The easy-peel kind is the next best option.

In order to keep the tail intact simply hold the tail of the shrimp and then pull back the peel right next to it. Pinch the bottom of the shell, where the legs are, in order to easily slide it off. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.

Boil and Cook Shrimp

Shrimp are incredibly fickle, and the last thing you want to do is overcook them and end up with a rubbery mess. Because of this, we are not actually actually going to boil the shrimp.

Instead, add the water, lemon, parsley, and any other optional add-ins to a pot and bring to a boil. Give the shrimp more flavor by including a quartered onion, celery stalks, bay leaves, or even garlic cloves.

Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat and carefully add in the shrimp. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes until the tails begin to curl and the shrimp are no longer translucent. Use a slotted spoon to remove the shrimp.

Soak in Ice Water Bath

Another step that ensures you don’t end up with rubbery shrimp is to stop the cooking process quickly.

To do this, transfer the shrimp to a large bowl filled with ice and water. Let them soak for at least 10 minutes, or until they are chilled.

If you are not serving them immediately, store the shrimp in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Homemade Cocktail Sauce

You can always buy sauce at the store, but making it at home is super simple and tastes so much better!

Stir together ketchup, prepared horseradish, lemon juice, garlic, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce with a whisk. Use less hot sauce to keep it mild, or add in the full 2 teaspoons for a nice kick.

How to Serve Shrimp Cocktail

To present individual-sized portions pour the cocktail sauce into martini glasses and arrange the shrimp along the rim.

For buffet-style simply place the shrimp on a large plate or platter atop ice cubes with the sauce in a bowl. Serve with additional lemon slices on the side.

Meal Prep and Storage

  • To Prep-Ahead: Shrimp cocktail is one of the easiest appetizers to prepare up to 24 hours ahead of time. For the best texture boil within one hour of serving. Cook and chill the shrimp and make the sauce. Store everything in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.
  • To Store: Seal the shrimp and sauce in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. The shrimp is best within 24 hours, but will keep for up to 2 days. Homemade cocktail sauce will stay good for up to 2 weeks.
  • To Freeze: Place the shrimp in a freezer-safe airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. It is not recommended to freeze the sauce as the texture will change.

FAQs

Is shrimp cocktail raw?

No, shrimp cocktail is shrimp that has been cooked and then chilled.

Why is it called shrimp cocktail?

Back in the 1800s in California a concoction of oysters topped with liquor, ketchup, Worcestershire, vinegar, salt, pepper, Tobasco sauce, and sometimes horseradish was created. This cocktail got a transformation as oyster prices rose and shrimp became more available. The recipe was adjusted while keeping the cocktail name, and since you can’t exactly drink shrimp they began serving the sauce separately.

What’s the difference between shrimp cocktail and ceviche?

Shrimp cocktail is cooked and chilled shrimp served with a tangy dipping sauce. Ceviche is normally raw fish that is “cooked” by being marinated in citrus juices. If you want a cooked ceviche, Mexican Shrimp Ceviche is a great option that is made with red onion, tomato, cucumber, cilantro, avocado, and jalapeño in citrus juices.

Is cocktail shrimp safe to eat?

As long as it has been prepared, cooked, and stored properly, and you do not have an allergy to shrimp, it is safe to eat.

Shrimp Is served with a homemade cocktail sauce.

Expert Tips and Tricks

  • The tail is key. To make it easy to dip the shrimp into the sauce, look for ones that still have their tails on.
  • Add more flavor. Season the water with lemon and herbs in order to enhance the taste of the shrimp.
  • Adjust the heat. By mixing your own cocktail sauce you can make it more or less spicy.
  • Do not overcook. Shrimp can get a rubbery texture if cooked too long, so it’s best to drop the shrimp in hot water and then transfer to ice water to avoid this.
  • Save some time. Prepare this appetizer completely ahead of time so it’s ready to serve.

More Appetizer Recipes

Create an appetizer spread to wow your guests with a combination of any of the following recipes.

For a real showstopper, whip up these Crab Stuffed Mushrooms, Steamed Mussels, Bacon-Wrapped Dates, or Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms.

For a fancy recipe, opt for Cranberry Brie Bites or Maryland Crab Cakes with Tartar Sauce. You can’t go wrong with these savory Mini Quiche bites, either.

Ranch Seasoned Pretzels, Potato Skins, and Keto Sausage Balls are delicious and so easy.

Other Shrimp Recipes

Shrimp is so delicious and adds the perfect flair to any meal.

Easy Shrimp Fried Rice is a fun Asian dish sure to please the whole group while Coconut Shrimp with Pineapple Dipping Sauce is sweet and savory.

If you’re looking for an easy meal, try Shrimp Creole, Air Fryer Shrimp, or this Cajun Shrimp and Grits.

Tap stars to rate!

5 from 2 votes

Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

When you serve Shrimp Cocktail, you can turn a holiday get together into a party! It is quick and easy to boil fresh shrimp in seasoned water for the best ever flavor, then don't forget to pair it with a homemade cocktail sauce.
Two cups of shrimp cocktail are served for a holiday party appetizer.
Yield 8 servings
Total 20 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 lb. shrimp 21/25 count, tail on
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • Handful of parsley
  • 1 lemon halved and juiced

Cocktail Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice freshly squeezed
  • 2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • 1-2 tsp. hot sauce such as Tobasco
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Instructions 

  • Add water, salt, sugar, parsley, the lemon halves and the juice to a large pot. Bring the pot of water to a boil.
    8 cups water, 2 tsp. salt, 2 Tbsp. sugar, Handful of parsley, 1 lemon
  • Turn off heat and carefully add in the shrimp. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, depending on the size, or until the tails begin to curl and the shrimp are no longer translucent.
    1 lb. shrimp
  • Remove the shrimp using a slotted spoon and immediately immerse in an ice water bath. Let soak for at least 10 minutes, or until chilled.
  • Add all of the cocktail sauce ingredients to a medium-sized bowl and whisk until well combined. Chill until ready to serve.
    1 cup ketchup, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, 2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish, 1-2 tsp. hot sauce, 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1 clove garlic
  • Serve cocktail shrimp and sauce in either individual martini glasses or on a platter with ice and extra lemon wedges. Enjoy!

Tap stars to rate!

5 from 2 votes

Video

Notes

Meal Prep and Storage

  • To Prep-Ahead: Shrimp cocktail is one of the best appetizers to prepare up to 24 hours ahead of time. For the best texture boil within one hour of serving. Cook and chill the shrimp and make the sauce. Store everything in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.
  • To Store: Seal the shrimp and sauce in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. The shrimp is best within 24 hours, but will keep for up to 2 days. Homemade cocktail sauce will stay good for up to 2 weeks.
  • To Freeze: Place the shrimp in a freezer-safe airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. It is not recommended to freeze the sauce as the texture will change.

Nutrition

Calories: 104kcal, Carbohydrates: 14g, Protein: 12g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 91mg, Sodium: 873mg, Potassium: 288mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin A: 159IU, Vitamin C: 11mg, Calcium: 56mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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