Shrimp Cocktail

Simple, shrimp cocktail appetizer with a spicy homemade shrimp cocktail sauce. Learn how to boil shrimp in flavorful ingredients, then how to make shrimp cocktail sauce that tastes a million times better than anything store-bought.

Shrimp Coctail
Jaden Hair

Please welcome guest author Jaden Hair of the oh-so-steamy as she shares an oh-so-spicy shrimp cocktail recipe she found on a trip to Asheville, North Carolina. ~Elise

Real Deal Shrimp Cocktail

I’ll be honest with you, I never order shrimp cocktail at a restaurant. Why? Because almost always the shrimp is too cold, the sauce is jarred and the dish is way overpriced.

But for some reason, a couple of weeks ago while on a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, I was possessed. It might have been the shock of the fresh mountain air (in Florida, the largest mountain we have is a speed bump)

With the waitress hovering over me, my finger stopped at the “Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail with Fresh Homemade Cocktail Sauce.”

The finger paused a little too long at the words “Cocktail Sauce” and she took it as a sign of my order and zoomed off to make it happen.

Woooaaahhh.... $18.00 for a shrimp cocktail, are you kidding me? I was too embarrassed to change my order because really, it was my own lingering finger fault.

When the shrimp cocktail arrived, I was still sulking (curse my slow finger!) but then I saw the plate. It wasn’t just a chef reaching into a bag of store-bought, pre-cooked rubbery shrimp and glopping a spoonful of jarred sauce. It really was the real-deal.

If you make a “C” with your forefinger and thumb, that’s how big the shrimp were.

Making Shrimp + Shrimp Cocktail Sauce Stand Out

The tangy, spicy shrimp cocktail sauce was a house-recipe. Instead of just boiling the shrimp in plain water, the spices in their recipe really make the big difference between bland shrimp that serves as a carrier for the shrimp cocktail sauce and a shrimp cocktail with layers upon layers of flavors in every bite.

Yeah, $18 was still expensive for shrimp cocktail, so thank goodness I made buddy-buddy friends with Kevin, the Food and Beverage Director at the resort and he snuck me the recipe, including how to make the cocktail sauce.

Shrimp Cocktail

Total Time 0 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings

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 shrimp 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 make 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.

Recipe adapted from Grove Park Inn, Asheville North Carolina.