Shrimp Cocktail Recipe with the Best Sauce

Shrimp Cocktail Recipe with the Best Sauce

The shrimp cocktail has a storied history, tracing back to the early 20th century. Originally a symbol of luxury and sophistication, it has evolved into a beloved staple at gatherings and fine dining establishments alike. The appeal of a shrimp cocktail lies in its simplicity and the delightful contrast between the chilled, succulent shrimp and the zesty cocktail sauce. It’s a dish that balances elegance with ease, making it perfect for everything from upscale dinner parties to casual summer get-togethers. The key to its enduring popularity is its versatility; whether served as a classic appetizer or with a modern twist, a shrimp cocktail never fails to impress. Its ability to be both a nostalgic classic and a canvas for culinary creativity is what makes the shrimp cocktail a timeless favorite.

Selecting the Best Shrimp

Choosing the right type of shrimp is crucial for the perfect shrimp cocktail. The ideal candidates are large or extra-large shrimp, known for their meaty texture and ability to hold up well during cooking. When selecting shrimp, consider the following:

  • Fresh vs. Frozen: Both can yield excellent results. Fresh shrimp should smell like the sea without any ammonia-like odor. Frozen shrimp are a convenient and often equally tasty option.
  • Size Matters: Look for shrimp labeled as 16-20 count per pound, which indicates a larger size ideal for a cocktail.
  • Preparation: Opt for shrimp that are deveined and tail-on for ease of eating and aesthetic appeal.

Preparing the Shrimp

Proper preparation of shrimp is key to a delicious cocktail. Start by cleaning and deveining the shrimp, leaving the tails intact for easy handling. Next, focus on the cooking method:

  • Seasoning: Lightly coat the shrimp with olive oil, salt, and pepper to enhance their natural flavor.
  • Baking Method: Arrange the shrimp in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven. This method brings out the shrimp’s sweetness and maintains a tender texture.

Shrimp Baking Chart:

  • Large Shrimp (21-25 count): Bake for 6-7 minutes at 450°F.
  • Extra-Large Shrimp (16-20 count): Bake for 8-10 minutes at 450°F.
  • The shrimp are done when they turn pink and opaque.

The Best Sauce Recipe

The sauce is what truly sets a shrimp cocktail apart. A harmonious blend of tangy, spicy, and sweet flavors makes the best cocktail sauce. Here’s how to achieve it:

  • Ingredients: Combine ketchup as the base, with horseradish for heat, lemon juice for tang, and a hint of Worcestershire sauce for depth.
  • Proportions: Start with a cup of ketchup, add two tablespoons of horseradish, the juice of half a lemon, and a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce. Adjust according to taste.
  • Balancing Flavors: The key is to balance the spiciness of the horseradish with the sweetness of the ketchup and the acidity of the lemon juice.
  • Customizing Spiciness: Adjust the amount of horseradish and add a dash of hot sauce to tailor the heat level to your preference.

This combination creates a sauce that complements the shrimp’s natural flavor, making each bite a delightful experience.

Assembling the Shrimp Cocktail

Assembling a shrimp cocktail is as much about presentation as it is about taste. Arrange the cooked shrimp around the rim of a martini glass or a decorative platter, with the tails facing outward for easy grabbing. Place a bowl of the cocktail sauce in the center for dipping. Garnish with lemon wedges and a sprinkle of fresh parsley or dill for a pop of color. For a festive touch, serve individual portions in small glasses, each with a few shrimps and a dollop of sauce. This not only looks elegant but also makes for convenient serving at parties.

Advanced Tips and Variations

To elevate your shrimp cocktail, explore these advanced tips and variations:

  • Alternative Cooking Methods: Besides baking, try grilling the shrimp for a smoky flavor or poaching them in a flavorful broth for extra tenderness.
  • Creative Variations: Infuse the cocktail sauce with unique ingredients like mango puree for sweetness or a splash of bourbon for depth. Experiment with different herbs and spices in the seasoning of the shrimp. For a tropical twist, add diced avocado and pineapple to the cocktail. These variations can transform the classic shrimp cocktail into a contemporary culinary delight that surprises and pleases your guests.


Can I make shrimp cocktail ahead of time?

  • Yes, you can prepare both the shrimp and the sauce a day in advance. Store them separately in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

What’s the best way to thaw frozen shrimp?

  • A: Thaw frozen shrimp in the refrigerator overnight or place them in a colander under cold running water until thawed.

How can I tell when the shrimp are perfectly cooked?

  • Shrimp are done when they turn pink and opaque. Be careful not to overcook, as they can become rubbery.

Are there any alternatives to ketchup in the cocktail sauce?

  • Yes, you can use chili sauce or a combination of tomato paste and water as a base for the cocktail sauce.

How long can I store leftover shrimp cocktail?

  • Leftover shrimp cocktail can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.


Shrimp Cocktail Recipe with the Best Sauce Recipe

Classic Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

This classic shrimp cocktail recipe offers a perfect blend of succulent shrimp and a zesty homemade cocktail sauce. It's an elegant yet easy-to-make appetizer that's ideal for any gathering or special occasion. The recipe combines the simplicity of baked shrimp with the bold flavors of a horseradish and ketchup-based sauce, making it a timeless favorite.
5 from 14 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Chilling Time: 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 10 servings
Calories 120 kcal


  • Large baking sheet
  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Serving platter or individual serving glasses


  • 2 lbs large shrimp 16-20 count, peeled and deveined, tails on
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce to taste (optional)
  • Lemon wedges and fresh parsley for garnish


  • Preheat Oven: Preheat your oven to 450°F (230°C).
  • Prepare Shrimp: Arrange the shrimp on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
  • Bake Shrimp: Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until the shrimp are pink, opaque, and cooked through. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  • Make Cocktail Sauce: In a bowl, combine ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce. Add hot sauce if desired. Stir until well mixed. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  • Assemble and Serve: Arrange the cooked shrimp around a serving dish or glass. Place the bowl of cocktail sauce in the center. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley.
  • Chill and Serve: For the best flavor, chill the shrimp and sauce in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.


  • For an extra touch of flavor, add a splash of bourbon or a pinch of smoked paprika to the cocktail sauce.
  • If using frozen shrimp, ensure they are fully thawed before cooking.
  • Serve individual portions in small glasses for an elegant presentation.


  • Adjust the spiciness of the cocktail sauce according to your preference by increasing or decreasing the amount of horseradish and hot sauce.
  • The shrimp can be prepared a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator, making this a great make-ahead appetizer.
  • For a gluten-free version, ensure that all your ingredients, especially the Worcestershire sauce, are gluten-free.
Keyword Classic Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

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Karen Elliot

Written by Karen Elliot

Hi, I'm Karen Elliot is a food blogger who founded to make cooking easier. Growing up on a farm in Spain, Karen was inspired by exquisite dishes prepared using simple ingredients. Karen Elliot is particularly known for making anyone can cook.


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  1. 5 stars
    Thank you for this quick and easy recipe. Absolutely delicious. The sauce is outstanding.
    As suggested by one of the comments I used some of the sauce to put over cream cheese. It went great with crackers.

  2. 5 stars
    I’ve only ever seen prepared horseradish sauce in a bottle on the condiment aisle of my grocery store. What brand horseradish sauce do you use found in the refrigerator section?

  3. 5 stars
    I really love all of your recipes and I trust that they will come out great. I made the shrimp and cocktail sauce exactly the way your recipe says for Christmas day appetizer for 20 people and it was a hit!! Thank you so much.

  4. 5 stars
    Always boiled my shrimp for cocktail. After trying this…never again!! Shrimp retained their shrimp taste and were not gummy. Thank you for this delicious recipe. They were a hit last night on New Year’s Eve with the family.

  5. 5 stars
    The shrimp was delicious…couldn’t stop eating them. Wasn’t a big fan of the cocktail sauce but I usually don’t like that kinda stuff anyway. I just made my go-to sauce with ketchup, mayo and tobasco. In hindsight I should have just added mayo to your sauce and made it creamier. Will try that next time. Thank you for all your recipes….luv them!

  6. 5 stars
    This cocktail sauce is amazing! I used to just use just horseradish and catsup but no more!! It was a hit and my sister got to take what was left of the sauce (we ran out of shrimp) home and you’d think she just got the best gift of the evening by her reaction. I’m new to this site and so happy I found it. My twin sister lead me here and you are her go to for all things food!
    Thank you

  7. 5 stars
    I really do not like being taken to ‘PUBLIC’ when I click on a recipe in your emails, Natasha. I want to be taken to YOUR WEBSITE, where the recipe is. ‘PUBLIC’ is just another completely USELESS ‘social media’ website that I do NOT want to be directed to. Please STOP sending us to there! I, for one, want to go to YOUR WEBSITE, and that is it!

  8. 5 stars
    Holy cow! This is the easiest, tastiest shrimp cocktail I have ever made! I can’t wait to serve it as a Thanksgiving appetizer tomorrow…if we don’t devour it before then!

  9. 5 stars
    This sauce was amazing! I wish I would have made more shrimp since I had some sauce leftover and nothing left to dip! The roasted shrimp was also great, but that sauce oh I’m excited to make it again!

  10. 5 stars
    I accidentally left my freezer door open a crack and the only casualties were the shrimp. Tried this and it is by far the best cocktail sauce I’ve ever tasted and I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Texas where cocktail sauce is plentiful. Thanks for this. Linda

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