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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  • Roobs

    Pretty good, but one lime is not enough for the whole thing. Best to have extra lime on hand and season to taste in your glass. And no decent Mexican would think of using Tabasco. Use Tapatio (or better yet Salsa Yaqui if you can find it, comes in a large bottle like Sriracha does). And for extra flavor, clamato works great!


  • Matt

    Real Mexican shrimp cocktail has Clamato…

  • Kimberly

    This was the best looking recipe to remind me of my Rocky Point fave!! Was so apprehensive of the ketchup and hid it from my diners. So after I chopped and minced everything, I put in the ketchup and chilled the bowl in the fridge right away. Asked them if they noticed any ketchup about an hour after we all ate seconds, and they all said no! Also they said not to skip it either that it was so perfect.

    This recipe is deserves 10 stars!!
    I used a 28 oz can of toms and minced one serrano vs using 15 oz can and a jala.
    It came out better than my fave spot in puerto penasco!!!


  • Corina K

    I’m going to try this. Yummy.

  • Abby

    This recipe is the best. I’ve been making it for years now.


  • Dana Sumner

    I’ve made this recipe several times and my husband and I absolutely love it. I double the recipe so that we can eat a couple of meals off of it.


  • Sophia Clavery

    My husband & I love this shrimp cocktail recipe!!! I double or triple it for parties and everyone loves it!


  • Damien


  • Jennifer

    2nd time I’ve made this and it’s amazing


  • Yanet

    Does anyone know approximately how many calories a serving has?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Yanet! Emma here, managing editor for Simply Recipes. I’d recommend plugging the ingredients into a nutrition calculator like this one to determine the calories. Hope this helps!

  • Katherine

    I’ll be adding this dish on Saturday, 10/21 for my Mexican birthday bash. I’ll use wild WA frozen shrimp and incorporate water from thawing; Tapatio, peeled organic Roma tomatoes (I boil for one minute then ice water-cuts the acid too) celery with leaves! english cucumber, roasted jalepenos, cilantro with young stems, red onion (I soak in water then dry), avo, splash of clamata & pink hyacinth salt. Wish me luck! Having 50 people.

  • Don

    Don’t use fresh farm shrimp!

  • Jessica Shaffer

    Amazing. My husband loved it. Definitely a keeper to make many more times. Thanks for the great recipe!

  • Valerie

    The best! Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe!!!!

  • Joan

    Took me straight to BAJA!!! OMG, love, love love this!

  • Mira da

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

  • 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!

  • Michelle

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 Bauer

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

  • Monica

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

    • Elise Bauer

      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.

      • Lorilyn

        One day will definitely work becauce I eat leftover one day later and it tastes even better.

  • 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.

  • 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! :)

  • P. Grossman

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

  • 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 Bauer

      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!

    • Bebe

      When they make this shrimp cocktail in Mexico (and in many good Mexican restaurants here), they mix everything together and never look back. There is plenty of liquid in the tomatoes, the lime juice, the hot sauce and what leaches out of the chopped cucumber and celery. It is supposed to be shrimp in a sauce, not soup.

  • Beth

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Elise Bauer

      It’s much harder to peel the cooked shrimp cleanly than raw shrimp.

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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.