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Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

A classic shrimp cocktail is a sumptuous dish that makes for a perfect starter at dinner parties or a light main course for lunch. This cold dish is both refreshing and tantalizing, offering a beautiful blend of sweet shrimp and tangy cocktail sauce. Each component is simple to prepare, allowing the natural flavors to shine through.

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Photos of Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

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Most of these ingredients are likely already in your kitchen - lemon, onion, garlic, tarragon, black peppercorns, and bay leaf. The key ingredients, shrimp, and cocktail sauce may require a trip to the supermarket. Ensure you choose fresh shrimp as it's the star of the dish. As for the cocktail sauce, it's available in the condiment aisle, but you may also make it at home.

Ingredients for Classic Shrimp Cocktail

Lemon: Adds a refreshing citrus note that complements the sweetness of the shrimp.

Water: Used for boiling the shrimp.

Yellow onion: Adds a mild, sweet flavor to the shrimp when boiled together.

Garlic cloves: Enhances the flavor complexity of the shrimp.

Tarragon: An aromatic herb that adds a slight anise flavor.

Black peppercorns: Adds a bit of heat and complexity to the shrimp's flavor.

Bay leaf: A herb that adds a subtle bittersweet flavor.

Shrimp: The star of the dish, make sure they are fresh and of good quality.

Cocktail sauce: A tangy sauce that pairs excellently with the sweet shrimp.

One reader, Calhoun Pease says:

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I recently tried the classic shrimp cocktail recipe, and it was a hit! The shrimp was perfectly cooked and the cocktail sauce was delicious. It's a simple and elegant appetizer that's perfect for any occasion. I highly recommend trying it out!

Calhoun Pease

Key Techniques for Making Classic Shrimp Cocktail

How to prepare the shrimp: This involves cleaning and deveining the shrimp, which can be done by removing the shells and the dark vein running along the back of the shrimp.

How to make cocktail sauce: This involves mixing ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl. Adjust the ingredients to taste.

How To Make Shrimp Cocktail

This shrimp cocktail recipe is made with a delicious poached shrimp tossed with flavorful spices and served with a homemade cocktail sauce.

Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 15 minutes
Total: 20 minutes



  • 1lemon,cut into 8 wedges
  • 8cupscold water
  • ¼yellow onion,sliced
  • 2garlic cloves,peeled and bruised
  • 2tspfresh tarragon
  • 1tspwhole black peppercorns
  • 1bay leaf
  • 2lbsshrimp,peeled and deveined
  • 1cupcocktail sauce,homemade recipe


  1. Add half the lemon pieces, water, onion, garlic, tarragon, black peppercorns, and bay leaf to a large pot and bring it to a boil.

  2. Prepare a large bowl of ice water.

  3. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes then remove. Quickly place it in the cold water for 5 minutes before serving with cocktail sauce and remaining lemon wedges.


  • Calories: 84.95kcal
  • Fat: 1.19g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.31g
  • Trans Fat: 0.02g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 0.21g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.35g
  • Carbohydrates: 2.04g
  • Fiber: 0.21g
  • Sugar: 0.18g
  • Protein: 15.61g
  • Cholesterol: 142.88mg
  • Sodium: 651.82mg
  • Calcium: 75.21mg
  • Potassium: 148.36mg
  • Iron: 0.39mg
  • Vitamin A: 62.00µg
  • Vitamin C: 0.66mg

Expert Tip for Perfecting Your Shrimp Cocktail

When cooking shrimp, it's important not to overcook them as they can become tough and lose their sweet flavor. The shrimp are done as soon as they turn pink and opaque. This usually takes around 2 minutes. If you're unsure, cut into one at the thickest part. If it's still translucent, give it a bit more time. Once cooked, immediately plunging them into ice water stops the cooking process, ensuring they remain tender and juicy.

Time-Saving Tips for Preparing Shrimp Cocktail

Prep ahead: Chop vegetables, measure ingredients, and prepare the shrimp cocktail sauce in advance to streamline the cooking process.

Use pre-cooked shrimp: Save time by using pre-cooked shrimp instead of boiling raw shrimp, ensuring a quicker preparation for the shrimp cocktail.

Substitute Ingredients For Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

  • lemon - Substitute with lime: Lime can provide a similar level of acidity and citrus flavor to the dish, offering a slightly different but still complementary taste to the shrimp cocktail.

  • yellow onion - Substitute with white onion: White onion can be used as a substitute for yellow onion, providing a similar pungent flavor and texture to the dish.

  • garlic cloves - Substitute with garlic powder: Garlic powder can be used as a substitute for fresh garlic cloves, providing a convenient alternative with a slightly milder flavor.

  • fresh tarragon - Substitute with fresh dill: Fresh dill can be used as a substitute for tarragon, offering a similar fresh and herbaceous flavor to the shrimp cocktail.

  • whole black peppercorns - Substitute with ground black pepper: Ground black pepper can be used as a substitute for whole peppercorns, providing the same peppery flavor but in a more dispersed form.

  • bay leaf - Substitute with thyme: Thyme can be used as a substitute for bay leaf, imparting a slightly different but complementary herbal flavor to the shrimp cocktail.

  • shrimp - Substitute with crab meat: Crab meat can be used as a substitute for shrimp, offering a different but equally delicious seafood option for the cocktail.

  • cocktail sauce - Substitute with remoulade sauce: Remoulade sauce can be used as a substitute for cocktail sauce, providing a tangy and flavorful alternative for dipping the shrimp.

Presentation Ideas for a Stunning Shrimp Cocktail

  1. Elevate the shrimp cocktail: Arrange the shrimp in a circular pattern on a bed of ice to create a visually stunning display. This will enhance the presentation and keep the shrimp chilled and fresh.

  2. Garnish with fresh herbs: Sprinkle finely chopped tarragon over the shrimp cocktail to add a pop of color and a burst of fresh flavor. This will elevate the overall aesthetic and taste of the dish.

  3. Incorporate citrus accents: Place thinly sliced lemon wedges around the edge of the serving platter to add a vibrant and refreshing touch to the presentation. The citrus aroma will also complement the flavors of the shrimp.

  4. Use elegant serving ware: Present the shrimp cocktail in individual martini glasses or on a sleek, modern platter to create a sophisticated and upscale presentation that will impress the judges.

  5. Create a dramatic cocktail sauce design: Use a squeeze bottle to drizzle the cocktail sauce in an artistic pattern on the plate, adding a touch of flair and creativity to the overall presentation.

Essential Tools for Making Classic Shrimp Cocktail

  • Large pot: A large pot is essential for boiling the shrimp and creating the flavorful poaching liquid.
  • Bowl of ice water: This is used to quickly cool down the shrimp after cooking, ensuring they remain tender and juicy.
  • Knife: A knife is necessary for cutting the lemon, onion, and garlic for the poaching liquid.
  • Cutting board: A cutting board provides a stable surface for chopping the ingredients for the poaching liquid.
  • Strainer: A strainer is useful for draining the shrimp and transferring them to the ice water after cooking.
  • Serving platter: A serving platter is ideal for presenting the shrimp cocktail elegantly, ready to be enjoyed with the cocktail sauce.

Storing and Freezing Leftover Shrimp Cocktail

  • To store leftover shrimp cocktail, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days. The shrimp will remain fresh and flavorful, but the texture may slightly change due to the acidity of the cocktail sauce.

  • If you want to prepare the shrimp ahead of time, cook and chill them as directed, but store them separately from the cocktail sauce in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Combine the shrimp and sauce just before serving for the best texture and flavor.

  • To freeze shrimp cocktail, it's best to freeze the cooked shrimp and cocktail sauce separately. Place the cooled, cooked shrimp in a freezer-safe container or zip-top bag, removing as much air as possible. Freeze for up to 2 months.

  • Thaw frozen shrimp in the refrigerator overnight before serving. To maintain the best texture, avoid refreezing previously frozen shrimp.

  • While you can freeze cocktail sauce, its texture and flavor may slightly change after thawing. If you choose to freeze it, use a freezer-safe container and leave some headspace for expansion. Thaw the sauce in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Interesting Trivia About Shrimp Cocktail

The classic shrimp cocktail recipe is a popular appetizer that originated in the United States. It is believed to have been created in the early 20th century and gained widespread popularity during the mid-20th century. The dish is often served at special occasions and gatherings, and it is known for its refreshing and zesty flavors. Shrimp cocktail is a versatile dish that can be easily customized with different spices and herbs to suit individual preferences. It is a timeless and elegant addition to any menu, and it continues to be enjoyed by seafood enthusiasts around the world.

Is Making Shrimp Cocktail at Home Cost-Effective?

The cost-effectiveness of this shrimp cocktail recipe is quite favorable for a household. Shrimp is a relatively affordable protein option, and the additional ingredients such as lemon, onion, and garlic are commonly found in many kitchens. The simplicity of the recipe also contributes to its cost-effectiveness. Overall Verdict: 8/10. The approximate cost for a household of 4 people is around $20-$25, making it a budget-friendly option for a delicious and elegant appetizer.

Is Classic Shrimp Cocktail Healthy or Unhealthy?

The classic shrimp cocktail recipe is a relatively healthy dish, as it primarily consists of shrimp, which is a lean protein source low in calories and rich in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and selenium. The recipe also includes fresh ingredients like lemon, onion, garlic, and tarragon, which offer various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

However, there are a few aspects of the recipe that could be improved to make it even healthier:

  • The cocktail sauce may contain added sugars and sodium, which can be detrimental to health when consumed in excess. Consider making a homemade cocktail sauce using fresh tomatoes, horseradish, lemon juice, and a minimal amount of added sugar or salt.
  • The recipe does not include any vegetables or fruits, which are essential for a balanced diet. Incorporate a side salad or fresh vegetable crudités to increase the fiber and nutrient content of the meal.

To further enhance the nutritional value of the shrimp cocktail, consider the following suggestions:

  • Use wild-caught shrimp instead of farm-raised, as they tend to have a better omega-3 to omega-6 ratio and are less likely to contain contaminants.
  • Experiment with different herbs and spices in the poaching liquid, such as dill, cilantro, or Old Bay seasoning, to add flavor without relying on salt.
  • Serve the shrimp cocktail with whole-grain crackers or a small portion of whole-grain bread to provide complex carbohydrates and additional fiber.
  • Offer a variety of healthy dipping sauces alongside the cocktail sauce, such as guacamole, hummus, or a Greek yogurt-based dip.

Editor's Opinion on the Classic Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

This classic shrimp cocktail recipe is a timeless favorite, showcasing the delicate sweetness of the shrimp with a zesty cocktail sauce. The poaching liquid infuses the shrimp with aromatic flavors, while the ice water bath ensures a perfectly tender texture. The balance of flavors and textures makes this dish a delightful appetizer or light meal. It's a simple yet elegant dish that never fails to impress.

Enhance Your Shrimp Cocktail Recipe with These Unique Side Dishes:

Grilled Asparagus: Drizzle with balsamic glaze and sprinkle with parmesan cheese for a savory side dish.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes: Toss with honey and cinnamon for a sweet and flavorful accompaniment.
Fruit Salad: Mix together a variety of fresh fruits for a light and refreshing side to balance out the shrimp cocktail.
Creamy Coleslaw: Combine shredded cabbage and carrots with a creamy dressing for a crunchy and creamy side dish.
Garlic Bread: Toast slices of bread with garlic butter for a delicious and garlicky addition to the meal.

Delicious Alternatives to Classic Shrimp Cocktail

Grilled Vegetable Skewers: Marinate the vegetables in a tangy balsamic vinaigrette before grilling for a smoky and flavorful side dish.
Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken: Rub the chicken with a zesty lemon garlic marinade and roast until golden brown for a juicy and aromatic main course.
Mango Coconut Chia Pudding: Combine ripe mangoes, creamy coconut milk, and nutritious chia seeds for a refreshing and healthy dessert or snack.
Spicy Thai Coconut Soup: Simmer together coconut milk, Thai curry paste, and fresh herbs for a spicy and comforting soup that's perfect for any season.

Ideal Main Courses and Desserts to Pair with Shrimp Cocktail

Main Courses:
Grilled Salmon: Marinate the salmon in a zesty citrus and herb mixture before grilling to perfection. Serve with a side of roasted vegetables for a healthy and flavorful main course.
Beef Stir Fry: Sear thinly sliced beef with colorful bell peppers and onions, then toss in a savory soy and ginger sauce. Pair with steamed rice for a satisfying and delicious meal.
Chocolate Mousse: Indulge in a rich and velvety chocolate mousse, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. The perfect way to satisfy your sweet tooth after a delicious meal.
Apple Crisp: Savor the warm and comforting flavors of baked apples, cinnamon, and a crispy oat topping. Serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a delightful dessert that will leave your guests wanting more.

Why trust this Shrimp Cocktail Recipe:

This classic shrimp cocktail recipe guarantees freshness and flavor. The shrimp is cooked to perfection in a fragrant broth of lemon, onion, and aromatic spices. The quick chilling process ensures a firm and succulent texture. The accompanying cocktail sauce adds a zesty kick, perfectly complementing the delicate sweetness of the shrimp. Trust in the simplicity and elegance of this timeless dish, and savor the delightful harmony of flavors.

Have a favorite shrimp cocktail recipe of your own or thoughts to share on this classic appetizer? Join the discussion in the Recipe Sharing forum and let us know!
How long should I cook the shrimp for?
You should cook the shrimp for about 2 minutes in the boiling water. Once they turn pink and opaque, they are ready to be removed from the water.
Can I use frozen shrimp for this recipe?
Yes, you can use frozen shrimp for this recipe. Just make sure to thaw them completely before cooking.
How should I store any leftovers?
Store any leftover shrimp cocktail in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Can I make the cocktail sauce from scratch?
Absolutely! You can make the cocktail sauce from scratch using ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and hot sauce.
Can I use dried tarragon instead of fresh?
Yes, you can use dried tarragon instead of fresh. Just use half the amount of dried tarragon as the recipe calls for fresh.

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