Shrimp Cocktail

By Jeri Mobley-Arias
April 2, 2021 | Updated on February 10, 2022

Ditch the store-bought shrimp cocktail platter you typically go for and try your hand at making your own shrimp cocktail and homemade cocktail sauce.

If you’re looking for more appetizers, you’ll definitely want to try my Smoked Salmon Tartare and Peach and Honey Ricotta Crostini recipes, next!

shrimp cocktail

Shrimp cocktail is one of those any-occasion finger foods; great for holiday gatherings, parties, poolside eats, or the perfect pairing to your dry riesling. We’ve all done it before; opted for the ready-made platter of shrimp cocktail and it’s sufficed–but if you only knew how easy it is to make your own, you’d just might never go back to those pre-packaged days.

How to cook shrimp

Step 1: Do not overcook shrimp–that is crucial! No one likes rough, chewy shrimp, and the key to achieving that perfect texture is by poaching shrimp for 4 minutes.

Prior to poaching, devein the shrimp, but keep the shell intact. The shell will be removed after poaching and is left on to help retain flavor while cooking.

Deveining shrimp is fairly easy, and is best done using a pair of kitchen scissors. Carefully cut along the top and devein. When poaching liquid comes to a boil, add shrimp and cook for 4 minutes.

The poaching mixture is quite simple and calls for: kosher salt, bay leaf, lemon juice + lemon halves and water. Simply bring contents to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add shrimp and cook for 4 minutes.

While shrimp cooking, prepare an ice bath. Place cooked shrimp in an ice bath for 5 minutes or until completely cooled. Remove shell until you reach the tail–tails serve as a great handle and keep fingers mess-free when dipping.

Keep in the refrigerator until ready to plate.

Homemade shrimp cocktail sauce:

Cocktail sauce is incredibly easy to make and done in just a few minutes. If you have time, it’s best to make the sauce ahead of time–2-3 hours of night before–as the flavors blend better over time.

In a bowl add ketchup, prepared horseradish, worcestershire sauce, lemon zest, tabasco, and lemon juice in a bowl.
Mix to combine well.
Place in refrigerator for 2-3 hours or ideally overnight until ready for use.

Yup, it’s that easy and quite delicious.

What size shrimp should I use?

l sauce. Also, when shrimp cook, the muscles contract, thus causing them to be smaller in size. A good indicator of knowing when shrimp are fully cooked is when shrimp curl to a “C” shape.

Different sauce brands may yield varying textures and taste
I didn’t want to go without mentioning different ketchup brands will yield a thicker or smooth textured cocktail sauce. I tested two brands: Sir Kensingtons and O Organic (Von’s supermarket brand) ketchup and preferred O Organic due to it’s smoother texture. Also, keep in mind that different brands of ketchups range in sugar content which may also affect taste.

Prepared horseradish also varies in texture in taste depending on the brand. For this recipe, I used Fresh Ground Horseradish by Silver Spring Foods. It packs more zing than prepared horseradish and both will work for this recipe.

How long does shrimp cocktail last in the fridge?

48 hours is a safe spot. You don’t want to keep the shrimpany longer than that once they’re cooked. Although, I don’t think you’ll have any difficulty in finishing this stuff–it’s damn good.

Did you love this recipe as much as we do? Leave a comment below and share your love for this recipe on Instagram and Pinterest. We love to see you get down in the kitchen. Happy eating!

shrimp cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail

Ditch the store-bought shrimp cocktail platter you typically go for and try your hand at making your own shrimp cocktail and homemade cocktail sauce.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 3
Author Jeri Mobley-Arias
Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Seafood


Cocktail Sauce

  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish or ground horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon tabasco
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Poaching Liquid

  • 15 jumbo shrimp, deveined, shells on
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt, Diamond Crystal brand
  • 1 lemon
  • Ice bath

To Serve

  • Lemon wedges for serving
  • Flat-leaf parsley for garnish
  • Ice for platter


Cocktail Sauce – Best if prepared 2-3 hours or night before

  • In a bowl, add ketchup, prepared or ground horseradish, worcestershire sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice and mix well. Leave in the refrigerator until ready to plate.


  • Devein shrimp, but do not remove shells. Shells help retain flavor and will be removed after poaching.
  • Prepare an ice bath. Set aside
  • In a dutch oven, add water, kosher salt, bay leaf, juice of lemon + squeezed lemon halves. When poaching liquid comes to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and add shrimp. Cook shrimp for four minutes. Test one to make sure it is cooked through.
  • Once shrimp are cooked, add to ice bath for 6 minutes. Once shrimp are completely cooled, remove shells until you reach the tails. Leave tail on, as it serves as a good handle and keeps fingers mess-free when dipping.
  • Place shrimp in a bowl, cover and leave in refrigerator until ready to plate.

To Plate

  • Place cocktail sauce in a small bowl and center on platter. Layer platter with ice and top with shrimp. Garnish with lemon wedges and flat-leaf parsley. Enjoy!
Did you make this recipe?Leave a comment below and tag @whisperofyum on Instagram and hashtag it #whisperofyum!
shrimp cocktail


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


Hey, I'm Jeri!

At Whisper of Yum, we explore ALL cuisines - comfort foods, classics, elevated originals. If you love food like me, I invite you to settle in to this place, where swoon-worthy food is attainable + inspo for your next meal awaits.

Recent Yum