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.

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

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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 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 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.

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Recipe adapted from Grove Park Inn, Asheville North Carolina.

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

24 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Felicia Thayer



  2. Tina

    Excellent recipe. Only change I made was to put 2x the amount of horseradish in the cocktail sauce – we love horseradish!


  3. Kali

    Perfect! Great balance of flavors.


  4. Marilyn

    I had this for dinner this evening and it was great! Of course, I added my two cents worth of ingredients and won’t bore you with that!!! Great job, Simply Recipes!


  5. Harry N

    I have a problem I live in Africa and haven’t been able to find Old Bay Seasoning. Any suggestions for a replacement?

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