This shrimp cocktail recipe recreates a classic appetizer to treat your friends and family. We infused the shrimp with plenty of aromas, maintained their crisp texture using ice, then served them with a sweet, sour, and spicy dip.
What Is Shrimp Cocktail?
It’s a fancy party snack with plump shrimp hanging around the edge of an iced martini glass and served with a sweet-and-sour hot sauce in the middle.
Believe it or not, this delicious treat started out its life with oysters instead of shrimp. Shipping shrimp demands a method of freezing, so until an efficient one was discovered, oysters were an easier option. They were delicious, too, and became such a popular craze that people served them by the hundreds with the addictive cocktail sauce.
Rumor has it that the sauce was just ketchup at first, then lime juice, herbs, shallots, and other ingredients were added. It’s officially been called ‘cocktail sauce’ since circa 1902.
To recreate the best version possible of the ‘cocktail sauce’, we used a combination of sauces, herbs, and aromatics. Its intense citrusy sourness will make you shiver at first, then comes the sweetness, the garlic, the herbs, and a lingering warmth on your tongue. The whole experience is definitely worth a try.
Is Shrimp Cocktail Healthy?
Packed with proteins and good fats from the seafood, shrimp cocktail can be a healthy dish. As it is just an appetizer, we sized each portion to only 4 shrimp to keep the calories low. We also tried not to go wild on the sauce to keep your sodium intake of the day within the recommended allowance.
You can check out the guidelines for more details on how to eat healthier. There are other things you should keep in mind as well, such as your daily intake of saturated fat, added sugar, and alcohol.
Shrimp Cocktail Ingredients
We should mention that our shrimp cocktail recipe uses cooked shrimp, not raw shrimp (there are recipes that do). For the best taste and aroma, we recommend buying raw shrimp and peeling and cooking them at home. We have a guide on how to peel them most efficiently further down the page.
In terms of size, we’re using large shrimp, about 1 oz each. You can use jumbo shrimp if you want, but keep in mind that each portion should have 4 oz worth of shrimp only.
Once prepared, they are boiled with some sliced onions, celery, and a torn bay leaf.
Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
For the red sauce body, we use ketchup, Sriracha, olive oil, and Tabasco for lingering warmth. Sriracha gives a bit of zing, but since there’s lime juice and lemon juice anyway, you can skip this ingredient if you like.
The combination of two citruses is not only for the sour taste but also for their aromas. You can use lime juice alone, but adding both will return a better result.
For the herbs, we used a combination of parsley, cilantro, and pungent red onions, all finely chopped. We also added raw, minced garlic for its robust taste (skip if you’re not a fan).
Finally, some ground black pepper to add a bit of warmth and aesthetics to the sauce.
Measurements of these ingredients are provided in the ‘shrimp cocktail recipe’ card at the bottom.
Can I Make Shrimp Cocktail With Frozen Shrimp?
The shrimp we used partially thawed after a 30-minute trip from the grocery store to our kitchen, so they needed only a minute of boiling. If yours are straight from your freezer (and peeled), boil them for another minute. If they’re shell-on, let them thaw for 15 minutes, peel, and cook as we did.
How to Prepare Shrimp Cocktail
There isn’t much to do but cut the herbs and citrus if the shrimp are already peeled. Otherwise, follow these steps:
Use a toothpick to plunge through the part where the tail and body connect. Pull the toothpick upward to reveal the vein. Pull it out with your fingers.
Use one hand to hold the body and the other to twist its head and yank to remove. Save the head, as it can make a delicious shrimp stock.
Hold the shrimp, pull out their legs, and pry it open with your thumbs. Gently remove the shell. Again, save the shells to make the stock.
To make shrimp stock, cook one part head to one part shell in a large pot for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Then, add water, scrape the bottom to release the brown bits, and simmer for about 30 minutes.
We recommend using two parts of water for every part of shrimp. This stock is good for soups or noodles and can be kept for 3 months in the freezer.
How to Make Shrimp Cocktail
Once the ingredients are prepared:
Bring a pot of water and the aromatics to a rolling boil.
Meanwhile, prepare the dipping sauce.
Cook the shrimp then shock in an ice bath.
Serve and enjoy.
Until the shrimp are served, they should be placed on ice to maintain the crisp texture. The sauce can be refrigerated.
How Long Does Shrimp Cocktail Last in the Fridge?
The cooked shrimp and the cocktail sauce can be kept separately, covered, for a maximum of 4 days. You can serve them right away at any given time within this duration.
Even so, we highly recommend serving them within one day for the best texture, as shrimp lose their ’bite’ by the second. As we mentioned earlier, keep them in a bowl of ice, and place them in the refrigerator until serving.
What to Serve With Shrimp Cocktail
Be it a salad, a tray of roasted vegetables, or a creamy side of mashed potatoes, this protein-rich appetizer will be the perfect pairing. It can also be served with pasta or dishes that lack proteins to form a well-rounded meal.
A writer and entrepreneur, Luna’s day doesn’t start at the computer keyboard, but in the kitchen.
Half of her working hours are spent on mixing ingredients for her recipes. The other half involve working with the tech team to research and test the tools and appliances that promise to make kitchen work effortless and mess-free. From a kitchen knife or water filter to the Instant Pot, if it can help save time and effort for the home cook, Luna and her team are on it.
Luna’s extracurricular pastimes include camping, travel, and photography.