Classic Shrimp Cocktail is ready in minutes and always a crowd pleaser making it the perfect make-ahead appetizer for your any gathering. It combines succulent boiled shrimp with a spicy tomato-based sauce for the ultimate blending of flavors.
I’ve been making this shrimp cocktail for as long as I can remember. Sometimes for dinner parties, I serve it as a sit-down first course. Other times, I put it on the counter along with other appetizers before the meal.
Regardless of how I serve it, the shrimp cocktail disappears in minutes!
Here’s How I Made the Cocktail Sauce
You can’t have shrimp cocktail without cocktail sauce.
This amazing cocktail sauce recipe uses only a handful of ingredients.
Making the cocktail sauce couldn’t be easier. I whisked together the chili sauce, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and pepper.
Then, I refrigerated it in a covered container to allow the flavors to blend together. That’s it!
The Best Shrimp to Use
I always use fresh head-on shrimp from the local fish market. The size that I buy really depends on what looks the freshest.
Today, the 10 to 15 count shrimp (10 to 15 shrimp per pound) looked the best. They were amazing. In fact, the Master Taste Tester kept commenting on how good the shrimp were!
I started by cleaning and deveining the shrimp. Because I was making shrimp cocktail, I left the tails on to make it easier to hold and dip.
Here’s How I Cooked The Shrimp
The key to perfectly cooked shrimp is to not overcook them.
- Rather than use the store-bought shrimp boil, I like to flavor the water with onion, celery, lemon, salt, Worcestershire sauce, paprika and hot sauce.
- I started by adding the onion, celery, lemon, salt, Worcestershire sauce, paprika and hot sauce to a pot of water over high heat.
- Once the water started to boil, I reduced the heat and let it simmer for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend together.
- After 15 minutes, I brought the water to a boil again over high heat and added the shrimp.
Once the water returned to a boil, I cooked the shrimp for two minutes.
- After two minutes, I drained the shrimp in a colander and rinsed them in cold water. I removed the vegetables and returned the shrimp to the pot used for cooking them.
Next, I poured ice and water over the shrimp to ensure that the cooking had totally stopped.
- After the shrimp were thoroughly cooled, I drained them, patted them dry, and put them in the refrigerator until serving time.
How To Serve Classic Shrimp Cocktail
There’s really not a right or wrong way to serve Classic Shrimp Cocktail.
If I’m serving it as an appetizer for a group of friends, I like to put the shrimp cocktail in a shell-shaped serving dish with the cocktail sauce on the side.
If I’m serving it as a starter for a sit-down dinner, then I like to start with lining a martini glass or large red wine goblet with romaine lettuce. Then, I place 5 or 6 shrimp around the rim of the glass (depending on the size of the shrimp), with the tails to the outside. I also place a slice of lemon on the glass.
Right before serving, I’ll pour some cocktail sauce on the bed of the lettuce. However I serve it, the Classic Shrimp Cocktail consistently brings praise. Yum!
Frequently Asked Questions
I’m fortunate to live along the Gulf Coast where fresh shrimp is always available. However, if you’re not so fortunate, you can use frozen shrimp that have been thawed.
I usually leave the tails on the shrimp for two reasons. First it’s easy to grab the shrimp by the tail for dipping into the cocktail sauce and eating. Second, I personally like the appearance of the shrimp with the tails left intact. However, you can certainly remove the tails.
Prepared horseradish is grated horseradish in vinegar. It’s in the refrigerated section of a grocery store, and is not at all the same as creamy horseradish.
Homemade cocktail sauce is significantly better than store-bought cocktail sauce and is so easy to make. Also, you can vary the taste by adding more or less horseradish.
The only way that I know of to determine the freshness of shrimp is by the shell and the vein. If the shrimp is fresh, its shell is brittle and easy to remove. As the shrimp ages, the shell becomes soft. For the vein, if the shrimp is fresh, the vein can be easily pulled out. As the shrimp ages, the vein starts to disintegrate making it more difficult to remove.
Other Shrimp Recipes
If you’re a fan of shrimp, you should definitely check out these amazing recipes.
Classic Shrimp Cocktail
- 12 ounce bottle of chili sauce (See Tip 1)
- 1 Tablespoon prepared horseradish (See Tip 2)
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds large head-on shrimp (10 to 15 count or 16 to 20 count) (See Tip 3)
- 1-½ quarts water
- 1 small onion, peeled and cut in half
- 1 stalk celery, cut into pieces
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon Tabasco or hot sauce
- Whisk together chili sauce, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and pepper. Season with more horseradish if a hotter sauce is desired. Refrigerate until ready to use. Yield: 1-½ cups
- Remove shrimp heads and shells, leaving tails in-tact; devein. Add onion, celery lemon, Worcestershire sauce, salt, paprika and hot sauce to water. Bring boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend together. Return water to a boil. Add shrimp and return to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, and cover in ice water to cool completely. Rinse well with cold water and drain. Pat shrimp dry with paper towel; refrigerate until ready to use.
- Serve with cocktail sauce.
- Yield: Serves 4.
Chula’s Expert Tips
- Chili sauce is similar to ketchup but is spicier. In a pinch, you could use ketchup.
- Prepared horseradish is not the same as creamy horseradish or horseradish sauce. Prepared horseradish which is grated horseradish in vinegar is found in the cold food section of a grocery store. Don’t be tempted to use creamy horseradish or horseradish sauce for the cocktail sauce.
- The 10 to 15 count shrimp is preferable if you’re going to serve individual servings in a wine glass. Either the 10 to 15 count or 16 to 20 count works fine if serving the shrimp in a bowl with the cocktail sauce on the side.
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