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This easy recipe for shrimp cocktail absolutely delivers on incredible flavors and mouth-pleasing textures. Tender, juicy shrimp boiled in dreamy aromatics and served with a tangy cocktail sauce for plenty of dipping. It’s quick and easy to throw together and perfect for parties, holidays, date nights, or nutrient-dense meals.

A close-up of poached shrimp arranged on a platter of ice next to a small dipping bowl of shrimp cocktail sauce.

🍤 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!

👩🏼‍🍳 Chef’s Tips

  • 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.
Poached shrimp arranged on a platter of ice next to a small dipping bowl of shrimp cocktail sauce.

🎊 More Tasty Appetizers for Entertaining

Recipe By: Cheryl Malik

Perfect Shrimp Cocktail with Homemade Cocktail Sauce

Prep 15 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 30 minutes
Tender, juicy shrimp served with a tangy chilled cocktail sauce. It's a quick and easy appetizer that's a classic for a reason!
6 servings


  • medium mixing bowl with lid, or plastic wrap to cover
  • whisk
  • Large pot
  • Large wooden spoon
  • Slotted spoon
  • Large bowl
  • ice
  • serving platter
  • colander


For the Cocktail Sauce

  • ½ cup ketchup store-bought or make your own
  • ¼ cup chili sauce
  • 4 tablespoons fresh horseradish more or less to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice juice from approximately 1 medium lemon

For the Poached Shrimp

  • 3 quarts cold water
  • 1 cup sliced white onion approximately half of 1 medium white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled, bruised
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh tarragon or fresh parsley, optional
  • 1 tablespoon seafood seasoning Old Bay®, etc.
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 2 medium lemon halves 1 medium lemon, halved
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp shell on, deveined; thawed if frozen

Serving Suggestions (All Optional)

  • lemon wedges


For the Cocktail Sauce

  • Add ½ cup ketchup, ¼ cup chili sauce, 4 tablespoons fresh horseradish, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, and 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice to medium mixing bowl.
    Ketchup, horseradish, and other ingredients for shrimp cocktail sauce in a white bowl on a marble countertop
  • Whisk ingredients together until fully incorporated. Cover bowl with lid or plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Chill sauce at least 15 minutes.

For the Shrimp

  • Place large pot on stovetop over medium-low heat. Add 3 quarts cold water, 1 cup sliced white onion, 2 cloves garlic, 2-3 sprigs fresh tarragon, 1 tablespoon seafood seasoning , 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, and 1 large bay leaf to pot.
  • Squeeze juice from 2 medium lemon halves directly into pot, then add both lemon halves to pot. Stir ingredients together to incorporate, then simmer mixture 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • After 15 minutes, increase heat under pot to high and bring water to rapid boil. While water comes to boil, fill large bowl with cold water and ice. Set aside.
  • Once water begins to boil rapidly, add 1 pound jumbo shrimp to pot. Cook shrimp approximately 2 to 4 minutes, just until shrimp are bright pink, opaque, and loosely curled into "C" shape.
  • When shrimp are fully cooked, immediately remove shrimp from pot with slotted spoon and submerge shrimp in ice bath to stop cooking.
  • Once all shrimp have been transferred to ice bath, discard remaining water and aromatics.

To Serve

  • While shrimp chill in ice bath, remove chilled cocktail sauce from refrigerator. Stir sauce, then transfer sauce to small dish or cocktail glass for serving. Arrange ice on serving platter in one even layer.
  • When shrimp are chilled, pour ice water through colander. Drain shrimp well, then arrange shrimp on top of ice on serving platter. Garnish with lemon wedges if desired and serve immediately with prepared cocktail sauce.
  • Shrimp: Any size/count of shrimp will work, but I recommend larger shrimp for ease.
  • Leftovers: 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.

Approximate Information for One Serving

Serving Size: 1 serving shrimp with sauceCalories: 61calProtein: 1gFat: 0.3gSaturated Fat: 0.1gSodium: 428mgPotassium: 244mgTotal Carbs: 15gFiber: 2gSugar: 8gNet Carbs: 13gVitamin A: 237IUVitamin C: 19mgCalcium: 58mgIron: 1mg
Nutrition Disclaimers
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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