Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

If it's tomato season, use freshly chopped tomatoes with their juices, instead of the canned tomatoes.

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6


  • 1 pound medium shrimp, raw or cooked
  • Salt
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup peeled, diced cucumber
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 15-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped OR 1 1/2 cups of freshly chopped tomatoes with their juices
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • Juice of a lime, about 2 Tbsp
  • Hot sauce (like Crystal or Tabasco) to taste (about 1 Tbsp to 1/4 cup of Crystal)
  • 1 avocado, cut into chunks


1 Peel, devein, and cook raw shrimp (if using): If you have pre-cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp you can skip to the next step. If you are working with raw shrimp, peel and devein them.

If you have a little extra time and want your shrimp to be extra good, put the shells in 6 cups of cool salted water, bring to a boil, then strain the shell stock into a separate pot and cook the shrimp in that liquid.

If you want to skip that step, just bring a medium pot salted water to a boil (a Tbsp salt for 2 quarts of water), add the shrimp, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until just cooked through. Reserve a cup of the cooking water and chill it.

2 Cut half of the cooked shrimp into chunks: Cut half of the shrimp into large chunks, leaving the other half whole (for a more attractive presentation).

3 Toss with other ingredients, chill: Put the chopped shrimp in a bowl with the chopped onions, cucumber, celery, jalapeño, tomatoes, ketchup, cilantro, lime juice and hot sauce. Gently stir to combine, and chill.

4 Add some cooled shrimp cooking water: Once the cooking water has cooled at least to room temperature, add a little at a time to the shrimp cocktail, until the shrimp cocktail is the consistency you want (use clam stock or lightly salted water—a third of a teaspoon of salt dissolved into a cup of water—if you are starting with already cooked and peeled shrimp).

5 Stir in salt, hot sauce, avocado: To serve, add salt and more hot sauce to taste and gently mix in the chopped avocados. Dip the whole shrimp in the cocktail and arrange them on top.

Serve in parfait glasses or in small bowls with tortilla chips on the side.

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  • Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast today

    I could totally eat it now.

  • Cookiecrumb

    Jeez, Elise. It’s not even 7 a.m., and Kalyn reposted this on Facebook. We just made a shopping list! Guess what’s for lunch. :)

  • George

    Thanks for posting this recipe. This is one of our favorite summer meals. Using shrimp in their shells and making the shrimp shell broth makes the dish immeasurably better, and you can use quite a bit of the broth, yes, we prefer this a bit soupy. I use a mix of ketchup, good tomato sauce, and cocktail sauce for a bit more flavor. To our taste saltines are even better with this dish than tortilla chips, so offering both is a real treat.

  • Kevin @ Closet Cooking

    What a great summer treat! I can never get enough shrimp!

  • Elizabeth

    Going to make it this weekend. Very close to how I usually make ceviche. Only difference is that I ‘cook’ my shrimp in lemon & lime juice and instead of ketchup, I use Clamato. Can’t wait to make this version though! YUM!

  • mary stone

    I’ve enjoyed this countless times out for brekky at a favorite Mexican place in Placentia, CA (El Farolito). Traditionally served with ketchup and Saltines in a giant sundae glass. thanks for sharing it–Mary Stone

  • Wietje

    This looks fab. Tell me, what difference would it make: boiling the raw shrimps (with shell) with water, and boiling the peeled shrimps with the shrimp stocks (coming from boiling the shells)? I thought that would be the same thing.

  • Sally

    With the exception of the cilantro, that sounds delicious.

  • flo

    This looks like a great lunch.

  • nessa

    This looks really yummy!

  • Lori B

    I took this to a party this weekend and it got rave reviews–it was a really big hit. I used Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and with the jalapeno, gave it quite a kick (which everyone loved). To thin it down, I added a shot of tequila. And to give it even more kick, I added a teaspoon of fresh horseradish, which took it over the top. I used Fred’s Horseradish from Battle Creek Ranch, Paynes Creek, CA, which is fabulous. (It’s in the refrigerator section at our local co-op here in Olympia.) I love your website and your recipes–my most favorite place to go to find something new and wonderful to try. And by the way, I get really excited and happy for you when I “google” for a recipe for something particular and there’s your recipe right there at the top of the stack! I can’t begin to say how many times that has happened–wow!! and congratulations to you for a wonderful and successful site. And thanks for sharing so much (even more than simply recipes–lol) with all of us.

  • Jayne

    Drinkable shrimp tomato juice cocktail thing? Count me in ;-)

  • winnie

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I have been looking for such a recipe for a while, most online are kind of vague. Looks so good, I can’t wait to make this.

  • Toni | Boulder Locavore

    What a perfect summer dish Elise. Can’t wait to give it a whirl!

  • tomek

    looks nice, i need to try it :)

  • Kathleen

    I live near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and this is very, very close to the real deal. In Puerto Vallarta, at Ocho Tostadas, you can get a great shrimp cocktail just like this. The only suggestion I have is to use bottled Mexican hot sauce, like Cholula or Bufalo Chipotle or La Victoria, if you can get to a Mexican grocery store. Then it will be muy autentico!

  • Sean

    Making this tonight sans celery, looks and sounds delicious!

  • katie

    Oh wow–Elise this looks fantastic! I love Mexican food and shrimp. This is a match made in heaven for me.

  • Ernesto

    This is an all time favorite in my home, I’ve tried many different hot sauces and I find that Tapatio hot sauce definitely goes best with a shirmp coctail. That and an ice cold Mexican beer on a hot summer day and I’m in the clouds!

  • Colleen

    O My Elise….I so can’t wait to make this!!!! Your site is fantastic & a big thank you!!!!

  • gaps girl

    Elise, I am wondering the same thing as Wietje–would boiling the raw shrimps in their shells in water achieve the same effect as boiling the shells first and then cooking the peeled deveined shrimp in the broth? I would prefer to avoid the extra step and dishesfrom straining the shells into another pot.

  • reen

    Welp, I guess a stop at the market on the way home tonight is in order because there’s NO WAY I’m waiting for the weekend to make this! All of our favorite flavors in one bowl – and on a 101-degree day in Texas no less. Perfect. Thanks!

  • megan

    This looks fabulous and I will definitely make it soon, one of these hot summer nights. I have read and made many of your recipes that have become family favorites.

  • reen

    Follow-up: I tried unsuccessfully to remember all the ingredients in my aging brain…and missed the cilantro and celery. BUT! I subbed celery seed and dashed a little more hot sauce in, and had the kids help chop everything, and OH MY LANDS, we all went after this as if our lives depended on it. Maybe they did! LOL So wonderful on a hot summer afternoon. Fantastic recipe – we’ll be making this often.

  • Beth

    This is delish!! Tastes very similar to the shrimp cocktail at Abuelo’s. This is a great summer dish!

  • Michelle

    This is what I hate about online recipes….when there’s an issue there is no quick answer…..

    Please address this issue: If you buy the shrimp already, cooked, peeled and de-veined, there would be no shrimp stock to pour into the cocktail mix to make to “desired consistency”? Are you suppose to just use plain water, if you used prepared shrimp? I’ll have to make do, but maybe answering this question might help someone else….since no one else seemed to see this problem.

    • Elise

      Great question Michelle! I hadn’t thought about that scenario. You could use lightly salted water (1/3 a teaspoon of salt for 1 cup of water) or clam juice. I’ve adjusted the recipe accordingly. Thanks!

  • P. Grossman

    How far ahead of time can this be put together…a day?

  • Tiffany

    Hello Elise! Just wanted to say I love and live off your recipes lol. This is a recipe my Dad makes! IT IS SO AMAZING!! We pretty much prepare by memory but this is pretty much on point! Well we still add like clamato and V8 juice and green onion and cilantro. I don’t like spiciness so I opt out of the jalapenos and I don’t like avocados. But other then that its the same! OH! and people, PLEASE USE FRESH DICED TOMATOES!!!! It makes a differences and they taste so much better and have less salt! I know its easier but it only takes a minute or two to dice the tomatoes and it’s well worth the extra minute to do so! Thank you Elise, for all the awesome recipes you give us! :)

  • Amber

    Elise, can I use clam juice? If so, how much do you think?

    • Amber

      Hi Elise, I did end up making this with clam juice and it turned out great. Maybe a little more heat next time around. Would still be curious to know how much clam juice you feel is sufficient.

  • Monica

    Is it recommended to make a day early? Would it be more flavorful or soggy and unattractive?

    • Elise

      Hi Monica, I think you can get away with a day early but not more than that, otherwise the shrimp starts to taste a little too fishy.

  • Robert

    Hey Elise, how do you think this dish would taste if I added some crab to it? And how much would you recommend to use with the 1 pound of shrimp?

    • Elise

      Hi Robert, I think it would be great with crab. Your guess is as good as mine as to the amount!

  • Robert

    Thanks Elise. I’ll be trying it tonight. I’m doubling up the recipe and just use 1 pound of crab instead. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Thanks for making it a little easier for a guy to look like he knows what he’s doing in the kitchen.

  • Peggy

    I haven’t tried this recipe yet (but it’s definitely on my list), but I’m thinking that perhaps a spicy bloody Mary mix might be good as part of the liquid.

  • Michelle

    Making this again…and then again….and again…..

  • Mary

    HI Elise, I’m wondering if I can combine all ingredients (with the exception of shrimp and avocado) one day ahead of time, then mix in the shrimp and avocado right before serving? I’m making this for a crowd… serving in 5 oz cups at a happy hour.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Mary, great question. I’m thinking that the acid in the lime juice and tomatoes will be fine with the onions (they’ll pickle them a bit) but would probably make the cucumbers a bit limp. But you don’t really know until you try it. If you do, please let us know how it turns out for you!

  • Mira da

    I use Clamato and a little ketchup! Instead of the shrimp water :)