How to Make Classic Shrimp Cocktail

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food stylist
Helena Picone
Hallie Burton
prop stylist
Kiera Coffee
recipe from
our test kitchen

Serves 3


  • 18 jumbo (21/25 count) shell-on shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tail on

  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt

  • ½ cup ketchup

  • 1 ½  Tbsp white horseradish

  • ½  tsp fresh lemon juice

  • ½  tsp Worcestershire sauce

  • pinch kosher salt

  • ¼ tsp sambal OR 1 to 3 dashes hot sauce (optional)

  • parsley springs and lemon wedges for serving


  • Cooking the shrimp off of the heat poaches them gently and keeps them from overcooking.
  • Add the shrimp heads and shells to the poaching water to infuse your shrimp with even more briny, flavorful goodness. 

Whether you’re entertaining or simply craving, shrimp cocktail is a classic. Almost everyone loves it--and every cook should know how to make it. We’ll teach you how to do it right. 

Rule 1: Do not use precooked shrimp. Poach your own. We guarantee it’s worth it. 
Rule 2: Do not use store-bought cocktail sauce. Our recipe is super simple, and it beats the pants off anything out of a jar or bottle.


Step 1: Poach the shrimp
Combine 4 qt water, garlic, bay leaves, and salt in a large pot, and bring to a boil over a high heat. Meanwhile, clean your shrimp. When the water reaches a boil, carefully lower your shrimp into the pot, turn off the heat, and cover the pot. Peek at them every few minutes, until the shrimp are just opaque and firm all the way through, about 8-10 minutes. 

While the shrimp poach, prepare an ice bath. When the shrimp are ready, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the ice bath to cool. Once cooled, remove them from the ice bath and pat dry. Reserve 1 Tbsp of the poaching liquid and discard the rest. 

Step 2: Make the cocktail sauce
In a small mixing bowl, combine the ketchup, horseradish, lemon, Worcestershire, salt and optional hot sauce. Stir until uniform, then stir in some of the poaching liquid, ½ tsp at a time, until your desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Step 3: Plate and Serve
Scoop ¼ cup of the cocktail sauce into the center of a martini glass, making sure to avoid getting sauce on the sides. Place six shrimp on the ridge of the glass, so the tails of the shrimp are on the outside and the curve of the shrimp hooks to the lip. Garnish the sauce with a sprig of parsley and a wedge of lemon.

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