Shrimp Cocktail

Learn how to make this simple shrimp cocktail appetizer with a spicy homemade shrimp cocktail sauce. You’ll never need to order from a restaurant with this in your kitchen arsenal.

A hand dipping Shrimp into Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

Simply Recipes / Annika Panikker

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.

Shrimp Cocktail + Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

Simply Recipes / Annika Panikker

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.

Shrimp Cocktail + Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

Simply Recipes / Annika Panikker

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

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Shrimp Cocktail

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings
Yield 24 extra-large shrimp

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)


  1. 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.

    Stirring Shrimp Cocktail Sauce ingredients together in a bowl

    Simply Recipes / Annika Panikker

  2. 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.

    Adding raw shrimp to a pot of seasoned water for boiling for a shrimp cocktail recipe

    Simply Recipes / Annika Panikker

  3. 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.

    Cooling boiled shrimp in an ice bath for a shrimp cocktail recipe

    Simply Recipes / Annika Panikker

    Shrimp Cocktail + Shrimp Cocktail Sauce served on a platter

    Simply Recipes / Annika Panikker

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
135 Calories
1g Fat
32g Carbs
6g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 135
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 30mg 10%
Sodium 1449mg 63%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 12%
Dietary Fiber 5g 17%
Total Sugars 17g
Protein 6g
Vitamin C 78mg 392%
Calcium 72mg 6%
Iron 2mg 8%
Potassium 476mg 10%
*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.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.