The 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 for a shrimp cocktail! Are you kidding me? I was too embarrassed to change my order, because really, it was my own lingering finger's 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, precooked 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.
Seasoning for Shrimp Cocktail
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 made the big difference between bland shrimp that serves as a carrier for the 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.
How to Boil Shrimp for Shrimp Cocktail
Boiling the shrimp with seasoning and aromatics makes this shrimp cocktail flavorful.
Be sure to use a large enough pot, and make sure there’s plenty of water in it. Allowing the crustaceans to move around when boiling will help them cook quickly and evenly.
No Old Bay Seasoning? Here’s the Blend!
- 1 tablespoon celery salt
- 2 teaspoons ground bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- Pinch ground cinnamon
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- Pinch ground ginger
Storing Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
Store any leftover cocktail sauce in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. Homemade shrimp cocktail sauce will keep in the fridge for one to two weeks.
More Spiced Shrimp Recipes
- Skillet Shrimp Fajitas
- Bang Bang Shrimp Tacos
- Spicy Garlic Shrimp With Coconut Rice
- Grilled Shrimp With Chermoula
- Shrimp Etouffee
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, deveined shrimp. Of course, use what you can find at the market.
The shrimp in this recipe are boiled unpeeled, which helps to intensify the shrimp flavor. If you prefer to devein the shrimp, you can do this with the shells still on by cutting a slit along the back of the shells with kitchen shears. Or keep the shells intact and insert a toothpick between two of the shell segments on the back of the shrimp. Use the toothpick to gently lift out the vein. (This method works best if the vein is very prominent; otherwise, you can skip it altogether.)
Recipe adapted from Grove Park Inn, Asheville, North Carolina. The chef specifically recommended Heinz chili sauce—it’s not very spicy and has a nice, sweet taste. If you use another type of hot chili sauce, just start with a couple tablespoons first. Then, taste and adjust.
For the shrimp cocktail sauce:
1/2 cup Heinz Chili Sauce (see recipe note)
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
For the shrimp:
2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 lemon, halved
1 teaspoon garlic powder
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)
Make the cocktail sauce:
In a medium bowl, combine the chili sauce, ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, Tabasco, minced garlic, and cilantro. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Prepare an ice bath and cook the shrimp:
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, garlic powder, garlic, chili powder, and salt. Bring to a boil. Add the shrimp to the pot. When the water returns to a boil, the shrimp should be done. The shrimp should be bright pink.
Drain and cool the shrimp:
Immediately, drain and place the shrimp into the ice bath to cool for 2 minutes. Peel the shrimp (leaving the tails on). Drain and serve with the cocktail sauce on the side.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 1g||1%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||1%|
|Total Carbohydrate 32g||12%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||17%|
|Total Sugars 17g|
|Vitamin C 78mg||392%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|