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Shrimp Cocktail is a classic party appetizer that needs to be at your next gathering! This party favorite is easy to throw together and can be made in advance. 

Every holiday party needs Shrimp Cocktail! It’s a simple and delicious appetizer that everyone know and loves. For more yummy appetizers at your party, try Easy Italian Pinwheels, Avocado Egg Rolls, and Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms.

Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail is a classic that no one can pass up. The good news is that it is so quick and easy to make. I just love that it can be made ahead of time so I’m not making a mess of the kitchen right before guests arrive.

shrimp dipped in cocktail sauce

How to make Shrimp Cocktail?

  • Fill a large pot with water and add half an onion, lemon, bay leaves, a little sugar, and salt. Bring it to a boil.
  • Place ice and water in a large bowl and keep it close by the large pot.
  • Add 1 pound of shrimp to the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes just until the shrimp is pink and begins to float. Remove with a slotted spoon and immediately place in the ice water.
  • Repeat with the remaining shrimp and then drain the shrimp and refrigerate.

Shrimp in an ice bath

How to make Cocktail Sauce?

  • Mix together ketchup, lemon juice, lemon zest, horseradish, Tabasco sauce (add more or less to your liking), and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.

How to serve Shrimp Cocktail?

For a large party: Place cocktail sauce in a medium bowl on top of a platter. Surround the sauce with the shrimp.

For an intimate gathering: Place cocktail sauce in cocktail glasses and hang the shrimp around the edge of the glass.

shrimp cocktail

How far in advance to make Shrimp?

This appetizer can be made right before serving or up to 2 days in advance. Just store covered in the refrigerator.

What kind of shrimp should I buy?

You can buy fresh or frozen.

I prefer to buy shrimp that has already been peeled and vein removed to save myself some time but you can definitely do that yourself if you want to save money.

Medium size shrimp work best for shrimp cocktail. That is about 21-25 shrimp per pound.

shrimp being dipped in cocktail sauce

Can I halve or double the recipe?

Yes! If you halve the recipe just halve the shrimp (not the other ingredients in the pot) and the sauce.

If doubling the recipe be sure to work in batches and boil one pound of shrimp at a time.

shrimp cocktail sauce

Looking for more shrimp recipes? Enjoy these:

shrimp cocktail sauce

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Shrimp Cocktail

By: Melanie Dueck
Shrimp Cocktail is a classic party appetizer that needs to be at your next gathering! This party favorite is easy to throw together and can be made in advance. 
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 10


For the Shrimp:

  • 2 pounds medium RAW shrimp peeled, tail on
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 lemon halved
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt

For the Cocktail Sauce:

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce


For the Shrimp:

  • Fill a large stock pot with water. Squeeze the lemons into the pot and then drop them in. Add in the onion, bay leaved, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil.
  • Fill a large bowl with ice and water and set near the stove.
  • Add half the shrimp to the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes or until pink and float to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in the ice water. Repeat with remaining shrimp. Drain once cooled and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Cocktail Sauce:

  • Mix together all the sauce ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For Serving:

  • Place cocktail sauce in a medium bowl on a large platter and surround it with the shrimp. Garnish with lemon wedges and fresh pa


Calories: 134kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 19gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 229mgSodium: 1648mgPotassium: 175mgFiber: 1gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 123IUVitamin C: 13mgCalcium: 148mgIron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
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About Melanie Dueck

Melanie is the cook and photographer behind the blog Garnish & Glaze. When she’s not playing princesses with her two little girls, she’s experimenting in the kitchen. She takes simple ingredients and creates everything from healthy dinners to indulgent desserts.

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