This classic recipe for shrimp cocktail makes an elegant appetizer that’s tender and full of flavor. With a quick and easy cocktail sauce for plenty of dipping, this appetizer is easy to throw together and perfect for entertaining, dinner parties, and holidays!
What Makes This Recipe So Great
- It’s visually appealing! The vibrant pink and white of the boiled shrimp, the rich red of the cocktail sauce, and the bright yellow of the lemon wedges all make for a stunning presentation. Make it more elegant by serving the sauce in a shrimp-rimmed martini glass.
- Everything is served chilled! Free up your schedule by making this appetizer the night before or the morning of your event.
- Perfectly cooked shrimp are juicy, tender, and just a little firm, and the seasonings in this shrimp boil compliment the natural shrimp flavor beautifully.
- It’s super easy to adjust the quantities to make a shrimp cocktail for intimate date nights or large social gatherings – or even for a solo snack!
Horseradish – A potent root vegetable that gives a dish all the spice and flavor of a hot pepper without any of the pain.
Tarragon – This leafy herb has a subtle flavor that enhances fish, chicken, and sauces without overpowering the dish. Fresh tarragon can be hard to find – if you use dried tarragon in its place, you’ll want to increase the amount to achieve the same level of flavor. You can also use parsley if that’s easier to find.
Worcestershire – We love that hard-to-pronounce condiment for the flavor it gives our favorite dishes. It’s vinegar-based and flavored with goodness like molasses and tamarind, making it sweet and savory.
- You can store the cocktail sauce in the refrigerator for one to two weeks, and the boiled shrimp in the refrigerator for two to three days. Use an airtight container for each.
- If you live near the ocean, buy your shrimp fresh off the boat. If you don’t live near the ocean, head to the freezer section. Frozen shrimp are going to taste better than the “fresh” shrimp from the grocery store, which are really frozen shrimp that were thawed and then set out in an ice boat.
- For an extra-amazing shrimp cocktail, use wild-caught shrimp. Wild-caught shrimp are more flavorful than farmed shrimp. Take a second to check the package for that designation, but don’t lose sleep if you can’t find wild-caught at your local store.
- I recommend jumbo shrimp for this recipe, but you can use any size. The numbers on the bags tell you how many shrimp you’re getting and how big they are – you just need to know how to read them! Higher numbers mean more shrimp per pound, and that means smaller shrimp. 16/20 shrimp will be larger than 26/30 shrimp, but you’ll get fewer shrimp in the 16/20 bag than in the 26/30 bag.
More Appetizers for Entertaining
- Bacon Wrapped Shrimp
- Addictive Crab Dip
- Cream Cheese Sausage Balls
- Deviled Eggs
- Healthy Greek Appetizer Platter (Healthy Appetizers)
For the Cocktail Sauce
- ½ cup ketchup
- ¼ cup chili sauce
- 4 tablespoons horseradish
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
For the Shrimp
- 3 quarts cold water
- ½ of one onion sliced
- 1 lemon halved, for shrimp boil
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and bruised
- 2-3 sprigs fresh tarragon optional, or parsley
- 1 tablespoon seafood seasoning such as Old Bay®
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pound jumbo shrimp shell on, deveined
- ice bath for cooling shrimp
- 1 lemon cut into wedges, for garnish
For the Cocktail Sauce
- Whisk ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate at least 15 minutes, until chilled.
For the Shrimp
- In large pot, stir cold water, onion, garlic, tarragon, seafood seasoning, peppercorns, and bay leaf together. Squeeze in juice of lemon, then add lemon. Simmer and cook until flavors blend, about 15 minutes.
- Bring liquid to rapid boil, then add shrimp. Cook until shrimp are bright pink outside and no longer transparent in the center, about 3-5 minutes.
- Transfer shrimp to ice bath and immerse until cold. Drain water.
- Arrange cold shrimp on platter and serve with chilled sauce and lemon wedge garnish.
- The cocktail sauce can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks.
- Boiled shrimp can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Refrigerate within 2 hours of boiling.
Number of total servings shown is approximate. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes.
Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using the ingredients listed, not including any optional ingredients. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used.
To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by the desired number of servings. Result will be the weight of one serving.
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