Shrimp Cocktail

If you are using frozen shrimp, the safest way to defrost them is in a bowl of ice water in the refrigerator. I like to buy tail-on, shell-on, deviened shrimp. Of course, use what you can find at the markets.


For the shrimp:

  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 24 extra large tail-on raw shrimp (more if you are using smaller shrimp)

For the cocktail sauce:

  • 1/2 cup Heinz chili sauce*
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

* The chef specifically recommends Heinz chili sauce – it’s not very spicy and has a nice sweet taste. If you use other type of hot chili sauce, just start with a couple tablespoons first, then taste and adjust.


1 To prepare the cocktail sauce, mix all the cocktail sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

2 Have a large bowl of ice water ready and set near the sink. To a 8-quart pot of water, add the Old Bay, lemon, granulated garlic, garlic, chili powder, and salt. Bring to a boil. Add the shrimp to the pot and when the water returns to a boil, the shrimp should be done! The shrimp should be bright pink.

3 Immediately drain and place the shrimp into the ice bath to cool for 2 minutes. Peel the shrimp (leaving the tail-on.) Drain and serve with the cocktail sauce.

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  • Susan

    This is delicious, it really seasons the shrimp nicely. This is a very similar concoction that I used to use for crab boil seasoning (from MD originally), only a lot more of everything and a little bit of sugar. So good!

  • M.A. Dixon

    To prepare a lesser number, say 12 extra large shrimp, would you half the size of the pot, seasonings & ingredients for the sauce?

    Yes, but use enough water so that the shrimp actually have room so that they will boil quick! ~jaden

  • Angie McGowan

    This is a great way to cook shrimp, it is almost identical to my dad’s recipe he had at his family’s seafood restaurant. The couple of restaurants I worked in did this way to. I never knew people actually boiled them in just water, too bland for me! I have to try adding the chili sauce and cilantro in my cocktail sauce. Sounds great!

  • Sally

    I roast the shrimp like The Barefoot Contessa and make a sauce that’s very similar to this one. Excellent!

  • Kristin

    I never get tired of shrimp cocktail. Lately, all my shrimp for shrimp cocktail has been grilled and the sauce is always basic: ketchup, liquid hot sauce, lemon juice and horseradish. This looks like a little more trouble, but I’m definitely going to try it. Thanks Jaden!

    I love my shrimp grilled too! Adds more flavor. ~jaden

  • Kevsky

    You don’t state to use whole(head-on), headless or(OMG!!) peeled shrimp to boil?

    I’m originally from southeast Louisiana and always tend to use whole shrimp when they are to be boiled.

    Everyone has different preferences – buy and use what you want! I use whole, head-on shrimp when I can find. ~jaden

  • Rosa

    OMG…sounds like a keeper which I want to try this weekend. How many servings per recipe?

    Should be four ~jaden

  • Mark Shaw

    Do you peel and devein them before boiling, though?

    Sorry, I’ll clarify in recipe. You can buy any type of raw shrimp you want – most important is that it’s tail-on for traditional shrimp cocktail. Devein prior to cooking, it’s easier. ~jaden

  • Ade

    Does the cocktail sauce need any mayo in it? I always thought that shrimp cocktail sauce needed a carrier of mayo where u mix the other ingredients in? :P Then it turns the beautiful coral peach shade of pink.

    Appears I am wrong based on your recipe… hee hee

    Hey there, no you do not need mayo. Well, if you LIKE mayo, I’m sure you can add it! ~jaden

  • kelly

    I almost put my foot in my mouth… i’ve always shied away from shrimp recipes as I didn’t really want to use frozen, and a little clueless on prep/de-veining. Facepalm, I just searched and there it is
    How to Peel and Devein Shrimp
    going to have to try this over the weekend now.

    BTW, Elise, I love the blog… I make a bolognese sauce based off your lasagna post with El Cocinero Loco’s input… it’s the absolute best.

  • Aussie

    Quick question, what is “Old Bay Seasoning”, what does it taste like? Id say its another one of those things you cant get in Australia.

    It’s a pretty popular seasoning in the U.S. The mixture is celery seed, bay leaf, mustard seed, red pepper, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, etc.. If you can’t find, there are a few recipes online for the spice mix, just search for “Old Bay Seasoning recipe.” ~jaden

  • Larry

    Jaden, I’ve been a big fan of your posts here and man, this is a gem. Shrimp Cocktail drives me crazy, and I’m going to go out tomorrow and get some good jumbo gulf shrimp just so I can try this out. Thank you so very much.

    And yeah, I’m gonna have to start reading Steamy Kitchen too. looks like you post winners like this over there too :)

    Thanks Larry! ~jaden

  • Anna

    Great post, Jaden.
    Have to tell you, I am an AVID shrimp cocktailer. The best one I’ve ever had was at some rinky dink casino in Old Vegas. Yum.

    This post sounds like a winner. I also like to serve my shrimp cocktail roasted. Just a little olive oil, some salt, pepper and a little Old Bay at 400 for 6 minutes. Gracious, me…it’s good. It’s also good served slightly warm or at room temperature.

    For cocktail sauce – there is something about fresh onion juice and coarse ground pepper that gets me all twitterpated. Also, I like to mix it up a bit. The sweet chili sauce and spicy mustard or dijon with horseradish, or adding in a little bit of bloody mary mix, finely chopped celery, horseradish, etc.

    Thanks for the recipe/story!

  • Linda Larsen

    Ooooh, shrimp cocktail – my favorite thing. I was at a restaurant in Florida a few years ago and had the best shrimp cocktail ever. It was freshly caught shrimp, cooked just before serving. The shrimp was still slightly warm in the center. It was so good I ordered another! The chef peered around the kitchen door to see who was so in love with his appetizer.

  • Wendy Brassard

    This looks like a fabulous recipe and plan to race to the nearest town to stock up on what I’ll need to try it out, however I would like a small clarification.
    In the first section “For the Shrimp” the list of ingredients includes 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic, followed by the 1 teaspoon of garlic. I assumed that meant fresh chopped garlic but found that in the second portion of the recipe, “For the Cocktail Sauce” one of the ingredients is 1/2 clove of garlic finely minced. So, that tells me that when it’s fresh garlic you say so. Can you help clear this up for me?
    I can’t wait to try this,
    Thank you.

    Ah, I see. To clarify, in the “For the Shrimp” it should be fresh chopped garlic. I’ll fix now. Thank you! ~Jaden

  • Kirsten

    I made this yesterday for a wine tasting party I attended. It was fantastic and a huge hit!! Thanks so much for posting this. It was so easy, quick and delicious. I had some sauce leftover from the party, so I just made another batch of shrimp today for lunch. Can’t wait to make it for another party!

  • Louise

    I have never cooked shrimp before but was so inspired by this recipe that I went to Costco for the shrimp over the weekend and put this together. It was FABULOUS! Thanks for the link on how to prepare shrimp – very helpful, and thanks for the clear, step by step instructions. The only thing I did different was I used fresh grated horseradish and cut it to 1 tsp. because the person at the store warned me that it was stronger than the jarred stuff. The shrimp were appetizers for an outdoor barbecue; I wound up using the sauce on my burger, too. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ally

    Sounds wonderful! The sauce recipe reminded me of Gulf Coast vacations with my sister and the wonderful hole-in-the-wall seafood shacks which place sauce ingredients on the table and each person mixes up their own sauce. I like mine a little heavy on the horseradish and not too sweet. Nothing better than freshly caught deepwater Gulf shrimp dipped in homemade cocktail sauce. Try your shrimp steamed and eat them hot instead of cold. Yum!

  • Tory

    Thanks for the recipe! We’ve had them at Grove Park too and they are good. When we do them at home, we use Zatarain’s seafood boil. It’s a much more complex flavor layer that allows the sweet buttery shrimp to really shine. Our sauce uses green onion instead of cilantro. C’est si bon! Yes, I’m a North Carolina resident, but a Cocodrie, Louisiana native where there’s a motto that the shrimp are so fresh, ya have ta slap ’em” :)

  • Calamity Anne

    I’ve made my share of shrimp cocktails in my lifetime…but never were any as delicious as the recipe I found here! Needless to say, all my other recipes are trashed…and this one is the only one I’ll ever use again! Thanks for sharing!

  • robin

    While I have never seen a shell on deveined shrimp, it is usually better to buy shell on frozen shrimp, the shells preserve more flavor.

    I had not thought of adding cilantro but will do so today as I am having a shrimp cocktail for dinner.

  • jonathan

    Was this at the Grove Park in Asheville, Jaden? A really beautiful place, as is the Biltmore.
    It’s really all about the shrimp. And while I’ve gone on about it ad infinitum (I’m not a paid spokesperson – honest), the best I’ve found are local US, and better yet, from the Gulf waters. The stuff that comes from Thailand, etc. just can’t compare. These are sweeter, fresher and have an amazing texture. I’m now finding them in almost every grocer’s seafood counter, which is a good sign.

    Alton Brown uses a shell-on brining/broiling method, though I’ve yet to try it. I may save that experiment for the imported stuff. Whatever you do, Old Bay’s gotta be in the recipe somewhere ;^)

  • Angie

    Old Bay is the most versatile seasoning isn’t it? Now that I’ve tried it, I wouldn’t go without it.

    This one is bookmarked. Thanks so much.

  • Christopher Douglas

    I do everything almost exactly as you say, with a couple of small changes:

    I add peppercorns, a halved lemon, and two bay leaves to the court bouillon and simmer it for at least 15 min. before adding the shrimp. It adds to the flavor.

    While the water is simmering I sprinkle the shrimp with dry creole seasoning. It adds a little zip without being over-powering.

    To Ade above: If you add mayonnaise, some creole mustard, and some paprika, finely chopped onion, celery, a little red wine vinegor, and parsley, you’re on your way to a New Orleans style Remoulade, which is good on both shrimp and crab cakes. Leave it in the ice box over night before you serve it for the flavors to fully develop.