Classic Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

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This recipe is so easy, you'll never want to pay restaurant prices again

Classic Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

Shrimp cocktail is one of those classic appetizer dishes that is often affiliated with high-end steak and seafood restaurants. I’ve never really understood why; the sauce only requires three to five ingredients, and it’s easy to source seafood today, even if you’re far from the coast. This classic shrimp with cocktail sauce recipe is so easy, you’ll never want to pay restaurant prices again.

Start With the Shrimp

Classic Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

When buying shrimp, it’s best to look for high-quality shrimp that’s sourced from the coast closest to you. If you don’t live near the sea, frozen shrimp is often the best option. But, if you’re lucky enough to live close to the ocean, go for the freshest and most local option.

Before you cook the shrimp, make sure you have everything ready. This means having a bowl of ice water and an appropriate utensil at the ready. Once your pot of water is boiling, add the shrimp and cook for about three minutes for medium-sized shrimp (or five minutes for larger shrimp). It’s better to undercook them and have to return them to the pot because you overcooked shrimp doesn’t taste great.

Once, they are finished cooking, transfer them immediately to the ice water to stop the cooking process. You can leave them there for a few minutes. Got leftover shrimp? Shrimp are incredibly versatile and can be used in anything from Pineapple Honey Shrimp Taco Bowl to this Quinoa Shrimp Saffron Paella. Oh, I almost forgot my favorite Spicy Black Bean Shrimp Salad. 

The Sauce

High-Protein shrimp

I’m pretty fussy about cocktail sauce. The bottled stuff is typically too sweet and mild, and it just doesn’t cut it for me. When I make my own, I want that zing – you know what I’m talking about. But that’s the beauty of recreating your own classic shrimp with cocktail sauce at home: You can cater to personal preference.

If you’re buying cocktail sauce at the store, you might encounter a few varieties: regular, hot, or zesty. The main difference between them is the amount of horseradish. If you like more of a kick, feel free to add an extra half tablespoon of horseradish. Equally, if you like more tang, be generous with the lemon juice. A half teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce also doesn’t do any harm! Alternatively, turn up the heat with some Tabasco or your favorite hot sauce.

Ultimately, the sauce is so simple that you can be playful, making minor additions and tasting as you go. Since cocktail sauce is basically ketchup on steroids, it’s easy to up-cycle it if you have leftovers. I like to add orange marmalade to make a sweet and sour sauce for barbecue pork. Use it to marinate salmon, spread it on bread for a sandwich, or even add tomato juice and you’ve got the beginnings of a Bloody Mary mix.

The cocktail sauce can be made up to a week ahead and kept refrigerated. The shrimp can be cooked a day ahead and served cold.

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Classic Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

No need for a fancy reservation, this budget-friendly appetizer is easy to put together right at home. Start off your meal with seafood bites with this classic shrimp cocktail recipe.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Yield 4
Serving Size 5 shrimp
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American


For the Cocktail Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup ketchup no-sugar added
  • 1/2 tablespoon horseradish grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

For the Shrimp:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 whole lemon sliced
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spice
  • 1 pound raw shrimp 16/20 size, peeled and deveined.


For the Cocktail Sauce:

  • Combine all ingredients and mix until well combined. Set aside.

For the Shrimp:

  • Bring the water, lemon slices, and pickling spice to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, add the shrimp. Boil the shrimp for about 5 minutes or until pink and firm.
  • Quickly drain the shrimp and place the shrimp in a large bowl of ice, ensuring the shrimps are covered with the ice. When cooled, remove the shrimp and pat dry. Serve with cocktail sauce on the side.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 5shrimp | Calories: 149kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 286mg | Sodium: 1279mg | Potassium: 159mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 16IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 199mg | Iron: 3mg |
SmartPoints (Freestyle): 2
Keywords Budget-Friendly, Keto, Quick and Easy

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Chef Nichole

Nichole has a culinary degree from Great Lakes Culinary Institute and has worked in the culinary industry for 10 years. She also has the knowledge to write recipes using the most nutritious, fresh, and balanced ingredients. Nichole enjoys creating healthy and tasty recipes anyone can prepare, no matter their cooking skill level.

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