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The Homemade Diaries

Real Food. Made Simple.

  • ashleylynn

Easy Shrimp Cocktails

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

Restaurant style shrimp cocktails at home
Plump shrimp, served with a tangy, homemade cocktail sauce. Perfect for date night!

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I love shrimp. I'm just gonna put that out there. Like, I reeeeeally love shrimp. I could eat it all day, everyday. Shrimp is super easy to cook up, makes a great, quick protein for just about any meal, and they are delicious.

All that being said, shrimp cocktails feel like a fancy treat. It's something you get on the rare occasion at a high-end steak house. But why wait, or spend the money for that matter?

Shrimp cocktails are super easy to make, and if you're like me and keep frozen shrimp on hand, you most likely already have all the ingredients in your fridge, freezer, and pantry.

This recipe has two main components - the shrimp and the sauce. The key to the shrimp is to not overcook them. I like to cook mine in a quick poaching liquid (which sounds way scarier than it actually is). It adds subtle flavor, which I think makes it feel like restaurant food.

I like to boil the shrimp in water and aromatics like lemon, peppercorns, thyme, and salt to add subtle flavor.

The sauce on the other hand, is a combo of a few pantry staples that you really can't mess up. Plus you can adjust my measurements to taste. I tend to like my cocktail sauce very horseradish-forward. But you can make it more lemony, or salty, or Worcestershire-y as you see fit.

Perhaps the best part of this recipe, is that you can make it all ahead of time! Both the cocktail sauce and the shrimp are served cold, so you can make it hours or even a day or two ahead of time. The sauce gets better the longer it sits anyway. So if this is only one component of your meal, make it ahead for a stress-free appetizer!

A few notes about presentation

To make this really feel like a fancy restaurant shrimp cocktail, I like to serve mine in some martini-style glasses, with a small cup of sauce in the middle. I like to garnish with a little sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves and server some lemon wedges along side.

Also, to make it really special, I buy shrimp that is already peeled and deveined, with the tails left on. The tails are like sandwich bread - they give you something to hold and keep your hands clean. This part is not necessary though, and you can definitely use what ever shrimp you have. I would make sure they are peeled and deviened at the very least (or do it yourself if you know how).

Lastly, I like to add a little crushed ice to my cups like they do in restaurants. If you don't feel like crushing ice, here's my little cheater way. I use this ice cube tray from amazon that makes super tiny cubes. It's similar in size to crushed ice, and requires no actual crushing!

Shrimp cocktail cups with crushed ice and sauce.
These vintage martini glasses and "crushed" ice give my shrimp cocktails that special, restaurant feel - for a fraction of the price!

Ok, enough chit chat. Here's my perfect shrimp cocktail recipe:

Perfect Shrimp Cocktail

Print recipe here

Cocktail Sauce

½ c ketchup

1 T horseradish

1 t Worchestershire

1 t salt

juice of ½ a lemon

a few good dashes of Tabasco sauce, to taste

Shrimp ½ lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails 4 c water ½ of a lemon, cut in half (so two ¼ wedges) 1 t salt 8-10 whole black peppercorns 3-4 sprigs of thyme

To make the cocktail sauce

  1. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix to incorporate.

  2. Taste the sauce and adjust to your tastes.

  3. Chill sauce in the fridge until ready to use.

To make the shrimp:

  1. Defrost your shrimp completely if frozen.

  2. Add all ingredients (except the shrimp) to a sauce pan. Bring poaching liquid to a boil.

  3. Add shrimp to liquid. Cook just until the shrimp are pink, translucent, and plump.

  4. Drain shrimp in a colander in your sink. Remove lemon wedges, peppercorns, and thyme and discard.

  5. Rinse your shrimp under cold water until cool to stop the cooking process. If you're worried about not cooling it well enough, you can also add it to a bowl with cold water and ice until ready to use.

  6. Once the shrimp are cooled and your sauce is chilled, assemble the cocktails and server with lemon wedges.

Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out with a comment below!

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