Shrimp Cocktail

AppetizerFish and SeafoodShrimp

Simple, spicy shrimp cocktail appetizer, boiled shrimp served with homemade cocktail sauce.

Photography Credit: 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

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 word “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 it 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.

The tangy, spicy 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 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.

Shrimp Cocktail Recipe


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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Jaden Hair

Jaden publishes recipes and drool-worthy food photography at Steamy Kitchen. Born in Hong Kong and raised in North Platte, Nebraska, Jaden's specialty is Asian cooking that's fast, fresh, and simple. Jaden's cookbooks are Healthy Asian Favorites and Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

More from Jaden

Recipe adapted from Grove Park Inn, Asheville North Carolina.

Showing 4 of 18 Comments / Reviews

  • Emily

    This was FANTASTIC. A huge hit at our annual Feast of the Seven Fishes meal. It will now be on our regular rotation. Thank you for the great recipe!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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” :)

  • 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!

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