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Classic Shrimp Cocktail With Homemade Seafood Sauce

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This classic shrimp cocktail recipe uses ketchup and horseradish to create a cocktail sauce that is similar to what you’ll find in a high-end steak restaurant. But since you’re making it at home, you won’t be paying the high-end price.

Classic Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp cocktail is one of those traditional appetizer dishes that is often associated with high-end steak and seafood restaurants.

Although it tastes great, it’s actually very easy to make at home (and it will cost you a lot less money!)

It’s perfect to serve for a dinner party (you can make it ahead of time)…or just to enjoy when you want a treat.

What Type And Size Of Shrimp Should You Use?

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Cooked shell-on shrimp in a colander

The first step to making awesome shrimp cocktail is to get the best shrimp for your dish.

There are three main decisions you need to make when selecting your shrimp:

  1. Raw or cooked
  2. Shells on or off
  3. Size

Here are my recommendations for each of these choices (although you may want to alter your decisions depending on your budget).

Raw or Cooked Shrimp

My first choice is always to buy raw shimp.

Most of the time pre-cooked shrimp has more of a rubbery texture that doesn’t taste as good. However, if you’re short on time, they are still a good option.

Shells On or Off

I always buy de-veined shrimp with the shells on.

Cooking your shrimp with the shells on leads to the best flavor.

Having them de-veined makes the shells easier to remove.


The next decision is the size. Shrimp is sold by how many there are per pound. Smaller numbers per pound mean bigger shrimp.

For individual servings of shrimp cocktail, larger shrimp (16 to 26 per pound) make a bigger statement.

If you are serving the shrimp buffet style, you can get away with medium-sized ones that are in the 30 to 45 per pound range.

One added tip: I usually find that wild-caught shrimp has more flavor that farmed. So I try to use that unless I’m really on a budget constraint.


Now that you know what kind of shrimp to get, here is your shopping list:

  • shrimp – about 2 pounds
  • ketchup – about 1 cup
  • horseradish – about 2 Tablespoons
  • lemon – you’ll need about half a lemon for fresh squeezed juice
  • flavoring – 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, a dash of Tabasco sauce

How to make classic shrimp cocktail

Prepare the Shrimp

Uncooked frozen shrimp being thawed in a colander

If your shrimp is frozen, thaw them before cooking by putting them in a colander and running them under cold water.

Then heat some water on the stove in a sauce pan or steamer.

Shrimp in a steamer

Once the water is boiling, boil or steam raw shrimp for about 5 minutes until they have turned pink and start to curl.

When the shrimp is done cooking, run it under cold water to prevent them from continuing to cook.

If you want to be nice to your guests, you can remove the shells from the shrimp (leave the tail on). However, I usually let them peel their own 🙂

Homemade Seafood Sauce

Shrimp cocktail sauce in a bowl

To make the cocktail sauce combine 1 cup ketchup, 2 Tablespoons horseradish, about 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and a dash Tabasco sauce. Just mix them together

You can vary the amount of horseradish you add based on how spicy you want the dip to be. The more horseradish you add, the hotter it will be.

The good thing about this recipe is that it’s very forgiving, so nothing has to be exact 🙂 If you don’t like the taste, add some more of the other ingredients to change it up.

Classic Shrimp Cocktail with seafood sauce served in cocktail glasses

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Classic shrimp cocktail with homemade cocktail sauce

Wanda Simone
Shrimp cocktail is one of those traditional appetizer dishes that is often associated with high-end steak and seafood restaurants.  And although it tastes great, it actually isn’t that hard to make at home (and it will cost you a lot less money!)
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 8 cocktails
Calories 117 kcal


  • Pot or steamer
  • small mixing bowl
  • measuring cups and spoons


  • 2 pounds raw shrimp

Cocktail Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoons horseradish
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • ½ lemon juiced
  • Dash Tabasco Sauce


Cook The Shrimp

  • If the shrimp are frozen, run them under cold water for a few minutes to thaw them out.
  • Steam or boil the shrimp for about 5 minutes with the shell on.  They will turn completely pink when they are done.
  • Run the shrimp under cold water to prevent them from cooking further.
  • (Optional) If you want to make the shrimp easier to eat, remove the shells leaving the tail on

Homemade seafood sauce

  • Combine the ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire, lemon juice and Tabasco in a small bowl.  
  • Serve as a dip with the shrimp on a platter, or as the center of a individual shrimp cocktail servings.


  • Large shrimp (eg. 16 to 26 shrimp per pound) make the best individual shrimp cocktail. Medium sized shrimp (30 to 45 per pound) work well for buffet style serving. But in both cases, you can use smaller ones if you are on a budget.
  • Store-bought already cooked shrimp will also work if you’re short of time.  But starting with uncooked shrimp that still have the shell on results in a really tasty shrimp cocktail.
  • Cook the shrimp just until they turn pink. Overcooking will make them tough and chewy.
  • Vary the amount of horseradish based on how spicy you want the cocktail sauce to be. More will make it spicier.


Serving: 1 cocktailCalories: 117 kcalCarbohydrates: 10 gProtein: 16 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 143 mgSodium: 933 mgPotassium: 240 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 7 gVitamin A: 359 IUVitamin C: 4 mgCalcium: 69 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition values are estimates only, using online calculators. Please verify using your own data.

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Shrimp Cocktail with homemade seafood sauce

This post was originally published on August 11, 2016 but was updated with new content on November 4, 2022.

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