Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail is a slam dunk appetizer at any party - it draws people to the buffet table every time. It's very simple to cook shrimp, but also very easy to over-cook them too. Here are some tips on how to make the very best shrimp cocktail.

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Shrimp Cocktail

  • Prep Time: 15 m
  • Cook Time: 33 m
  • Total Time: 48 m
  • Servings:


  • 1 onion peeled and quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic smashed
  • 2 ribs celery halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 peppercorns
  • 8 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 lemon halved
  • 2 pounds Black Tiger shrimp peeled and deveined

Cocktail Sauce
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup prepared horseradish
  • 1 lemon zest and juice
  • dash Worcestershire sauce
  • dash or two Tabasco® sauce


  1. Combine the onion, garlic, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme and salt in a large stockpot and add 4 quarts of water. Squeeze the lemon into the water and toss the squeezed lemon halves into the pot as well. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let it simmer gently for 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Prepare the shrimp while the water simmers – peel and devein and make sure the shrimp is no longer frozen.
  3. Prepare the cocktail sauce by combining all ingredients in a bowl and mixing well.
  4. Drop the shrimp into the simmering liquid. Give the shrimp a stir and let them sit in the hot liquid for about 3 minutes or until the water comes back to a boil. They should turn bright pink and feel firm if squeezed. Drain the shrimp and transfer the shrimp to an ice bath to cool for a few minutes. Remove from the ice bath and dry well. You can do this step a day ahead of time if desired.

  5. Serve the shrimp with the cocktail sauce to dip into.
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Comments (14)Post a Reply

  1. Question: Meredith I am planning a wedding rehearsal dinner for my son. How many shrimp should I allow per person and what size shrimp. Thanks Maryann

    1. Hi Julie. Both were available at QVC at the time I shot the video, but I’m not sure if they are still available.

  2. As far as the size of the shrimp I always say, “the bigger the better,” as long as they are fresh and tender (very important not to over cook them). Regarding the number I would think that 5 to 6 Jumbo Shrimp per person would make a wonderful appetizer and leave room for dinner later. Good Luck!

  3. I’m confused about step 4. It says to put the shrimp in the water and turn and turn off the heat. It then says to stir and to leave the shrimp in the water for 3 minutes or until the water comes back to a boil. How will it come back to a boil if the heat is turned off??
    Thank you

  4. I have made this a number of times. In addition to the ketchup,I use chili sauce so that the sauce is slightly thicker. Yummy!

  5. What is an alternative to horseradish? I don’t mind the heat, but I don’t like the flavor. I would love to try making this without it but I don’t want to mess up the recipe. Happy New Year!

    1. Hi Lyn. If you don’t like horseradish, I suspect you don’t like cocktail sauce at all, so why not change the dip altogether? How about a sweet Thai chili sauce (you can buy this in a bottle in most stores) or make the Bang Bang Shrimp sauce that you see on this page and serve that with your perfectly cooked shrimp?

  6. 5 stars
    Best shrimp cocktail I’ve ever made, thanks for this recipe, Meredith! I put the shrimp shells and lobster tail shells back in the water and boiling down for some fish stock. Planning on making lobster bisque tomorrow.😋

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