The Best Shrimp Cocktail Recipe Ever. Period.

This shrimp cocktail recipe will not only save you probably a great deal of money over the generic deli counter take-out tray, but it will shock and amaze you how much better shrimp can taste!

Not only that, but it will take you just as long to follow the shrimp cocktail sauce recipe as it would to drive to the store and pick it up!

Let me educate you a little beforehand about what the "other guys" are doing, that you're paying top dollar for when buy those trays.

shrimp cocktail recipe

  • First, they'll use flavorless pre-peeled, pre-cooked shrimp, and just defrost them. Easy for them.

  • Second, they'll pop open a jar of boring over-the-counter cocktail sauce, and pour it into their little to-go container. Easy for them.

  • Third, (and here's the hard part!) they'll lay some lettuce or kale down on a platter, cut up a couple lemons, and (wait for it...) spend 5 minutes laying the shrimp out in a pretty little concentric circle pattern. Easy for them.

  • Fourth, they'll put the top on and collect the check.

Once again, easy for them, expensive for you.

Okay, I will say that shrimp, in itself, can be a little costly, depending on the size and quantity of what you purchase, but all the more reason to make the money go farther by following this excellent shrimp cocktail recipe.

Now, you're certainly welcome to go ahead and follow the steps I've just outlined if you're really into that a la 'supermarket' style, but I would much rather prefer not to have missed critical opportunities to introduce a bounty of flavor into this simple, non complicated dish. The choice is yours.

Stick with me, though, and you wont make that mistake. ;)

Very simply put, there are two main aspects to poaching (never boiling) shrimp properly:

  2. Make sure your poaching liquid (aka court boullion) is highly flavorful.

The following shrimp cocktail recipe is scaled for 1 pound of medium large 36/40 shrimp.

Tip: For the layman, 36/40 reffers to how many little tasties you're going to get in one pound, so 36/40 means you'll get from 36 to 40 shrimp per pound (or an average of 38!). The larger you go, even up to less than 10 per pound (Yikes), the more expensive, and same for the other direction. Smaller is cheaper. Just note that if you use bigger shrimp or smaller, adjust the cooking time 1 to 2 minutes respectively.

The Court Boullion: Golden legal drama, or fragrant seafood bath?
  • 1 pound raw medium large 36/40 shrimp, peeled and deveined.
    Tip: Save those shells in a bag in the freezer. When lightly sauteed and then simmered in water, they flavor a lovely stock or sauce!
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 peppercorns
  • 5 coriander seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

  1. Bring all ingredients (except shrimp) to a boil in a 3- or 4- quart saucepan over high heat; boil for 2 minutes.

  2. Turn off heat and stir in shrimp; cover and let stand until firm and pink, 6 to 8 minutes or so.

  3. Drain the shrimp, and then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking. This is an especially important step essential to this shrimp cocktail recipe, do not leave it out! Drain them once more.

  4. Pack shrimp into a heavy resealable plastic bag and refrigerate until ready to use.

Not so hard, huh? Now for the easy homemade cocktail sauce recipe.

It's Cocktail Time: Don't worry, its happy hour somewhere.

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 mild chili powder
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice


  • add 1 tbsp chopped cilantro, substitute lime juice for lemon
  • add 1 Tablespoon of honey and a couple drops of liquid smoke

    Stir all the ingredients together and then adjust the seasonings to your liking.

Again, that's it. I'm sure you'd agree that this shrimp cocktail recipe was a lot simpler than you'd originally thought.

Oh, and its okay if you still want to use a little lettuce or kale and some sliced lemon wedges for garnish, I won't mind. :P

Return from Shrimp Cocktail Recipe to Free Cooking Classes Home