Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail, a flavorful poached shrimp served with a homemade cocktail sauce, you can make this classic American appetizer in less than 20 minutes and prepare ahead for parties!

Preparing for easy holiday appetizers? You’ll love this recipe along with Buffalo Chicken DipUltimate Spinach Artichoke Dip and Easy Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms.

Shrimp Cocktail
 Shrimp Cocktail Recipe

We’re heading into the holiday season and the recipes on the blog are about to take a very holiday turn. Lots of side dishes, party appetizers and main courses for all your big holiday parties.

One such recipe you definitely should NOT buy pre-made? Shrimp Cocktail. Pre-made shrimp cocktail is non-seasoned steamed shrimp thats basically rubbery from extended refrigeration.

The right way to make shrimp cocktail? A seasoned water for the perfect boil and a quick shock in an ice bath before serving.

Let’s just get this out of the way, this is not an inexpensive option for feeding a crowd. But with a bit of planning you can have an impressive shrimp appetizer for your guests without breaking the bank.

How do you make shrimp cocktail?

You start with a pot of aggressively seasoned water with lemon, onion and herbs. This is really your only chance of introducing flavor to the shrimp. If you fail to use seasoned water you don’t have shrimp cocktail you just have steamed shrimp and while by sight they don’t look any different, the flavors are much different from one another.


only buy shrimp when it dips in price. This happens at least once every couple of months but when it does I buy in bulk. Many times you will go to the counter and if you order in two pound quantities they’ll ask you if you just want the unopened bag of shrimp. YES, they’re opening up frozen bags to give to you.

This is when you buy many of those 2 pound bags and put them in your deep freeze if you have one. I find places like Sprouts Market often have the best shrimp pricing. If you shop around holidays like New Years and Valentine’s Day other grocers will also have great deals.

I end up with 13-15 count bags of frozen deveined but non-peeled shrimp for $6.99 a pound. With 4 pounds you can feed 20-25 guests and with a homemade Cocktail Sauce for dipping you’ll have guests swarming the table.

Shrimp Cocktail


  1. To peel raw shrimp, tear away at the shell above the first segment of the shell (the tail segment).
  2. Take a paring knife and make a shallow cut along the spine of the shrimp (the back of it).
  3. Using the paring knife or a fork, gently remove the black strip of intestines.
  4. To remove tails just squeeze the shrimp out from the bottom of the tail segment.

Some good things to keep in mind with Shrimp Cocktail:

  • Don’t buy pre-cooked, there is no saving the flavors of that shrimp.
  • Don’t overcook, the second the shrimp turns pink scoop it out and into ice water.
  • For easy eating in a party setting leave the tails on.
  • For easy eating in a plated presentation remove the tails so a fork and knife can be used if desired.
  • Source GOOD shrimp. Anything that smells is past it’s prime. Remember fresh seafood is odorless.

Is Shrimp Cocktail raw? No shrimp cocktail is boiled (sometimes steamed) before being immediately chilled before serving. Remember if shrimp is pink it isn’t raw. When raw it looks grey/greyish blue in color.

How fattening is shrimp cocktail? I’m going to give you a reason to celebrate. Shrimp cocktail is in fact… HEALTHY. Yes, shrimp are low in fat and calories and since we’re not adding any fats to this recipe you can enjoy this to your heart’s content at your favorite holiday party!

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Shrimp Cocktail
5 from 5 votes

Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail, a flavorful poached shrimp served with a homemade cocktail sauce, you can make this classic American appetizer in less than 20 minutes and prepare ahead for parties!

Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Keyword holidays, shrimp, Shrimp Cocktail
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 122 kcal
Author Sabrina Snyder


  • 1 lemon cut into 8 wedges
  • 8 cups cold water
  • 1/4 yellow onion sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and bruised
  • 2 teaspoons fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 pounds shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup cocktail sauce homemade recipe


  1. Add half the lemon pieces, water, onion, garlic, tarragon, black peppercorns and bayleaf to a large pot and bring it to a boil.
  2. Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
  3. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes (until the shrimp is bright pink) then remove quickly to the ice water for 5 minutes before serving with cocktail sauce and remaining lemon wedges.

Nutrition Facts
Shrimp Cocktail
Amount Per Serving
Calories 122 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Cholesterol 285mg95%
Sodium 882mg38%
Potassium 136mg4%
Carbohydrates 2g1%
Protein 23g46%
Vitamin A 20IU0%
Vitamin C 12.5mg15%
Calcium 177mg18%
Iron 2.7mg15%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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  1. I’m always afraid of cooking shrimp, knowing it takes no time at all to overcook. This recipe had me wanting to make this for my husband, who loves shrimp. I followed the instructions carefully; and this was a real winner!

    The cocktail sauce is D-I-V-I-N-E!

    Thank you for sharing!

  2. I can’t say enough good things about my favorite seafood, the delectable Shrimp. Living in New England, we’re fortunate to have a fresh seafood market in our town, so I don’t have to buy frozen shrimp, yay! An old fashioned Shrimp Cocktail is always served at my formal family special occasion dinners. I buy pretty large shrimp, and give everyone 6, so they really love that! As for the Cocktail Sauce, I also make my own, and use pretty much what you use in yours, except that I don’t use ketchup (too sweet), I use Heinz (bottled) Chili Sauce. It isn’t hot, it just has a lot of great flavor.

  3. I’ve never tried cooking shrimp this way, but it sounds delicious infused with all those flavors! And of course the homemade cocktail sauce would make them even more tasty. Looks like a perfect holiday appetizer!