Easy Cocktail Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 30 min. + chilling
Craving an old-fashioned shrimp cocktail? Our recipe follows the classic way to prepare this appetizer so you can feel confident when serving.

Updated: May 15, 2024

A classic shrimp cocktail is considered the quintessential appetizer for any party or soiree. What you may not know is, however fancy this dish seems, it’s actually pretty easy to pull off. Here’s all you need to do: stir together the sauce, poach the shrimp for a few minutes, then chill. That’s it!

Each shrimp comes out tender and flavorful, and the tangy, sharp cocktail sauce sings with every bite. Arrange the shrimp with the cocktail sauce, and proudly declare your homemade shrimp cocktail done.

Ingredients for Shrimp Cocktail

  • Ketchup: The base of any good cocktail sauce starts with ketchup. Many people swear by sugar-free ketchup for a more savory flavor.
  • Lemon juice: One lemon holds anywhere from 2 to 3 tablespoons juice, so you’ll only need one lemon for the cocktail sauce.
  • Horseradish: Buy prepared horseradish from the store, or make homemade horseradish. Either way, don’t skip this ingredient. Horseradish adds a lovely zing to the cocktail sauce.
  • Worcestershire: If you’re not a Worcestershire sauce type of person, use soy sauce or tamari instead.
  • Hot sauce: A dash of hot pepper sauce adds a tiny kick of heat. Omit if you’re not into it.
  • Court bouillon seasonings: This recipe poaches the shrimp in a flavorful liquid of water, onions, lemon, fresh parsley, salt, peppercorns, a bay leaf and dried thyme.
  • Shrimp: You’ll need 2 pounds uncooked shell-on shrimp for our shrimp cocktail recipe.


Step 1: Make the cocktail sauce

cocktail sauceTMB STUDIO

In a small bowl, stir together the ketchup, lemon juice, prepared horseradish, Worcestershire sauce and, if desired, the hot pepper sauce. Cover the sauce, and set it aside.

Editor’s Tip: Stick the cocktail sauce in the fridge if you prefer it chilled.

Step 2: Poach the shrimp

 In a large saucepan, combine water, onion, lemon, parsley, salt, peppercorns, bay leaf and thymeTMB STUDIO

We’re now going to make a court bouillon, which is just a fancy cooking term for a flavorful liquid that poaches quick-cooking fish and seafood. In a large saucepan, combine the water, onion, lemon, fresh parsley, salt, peppercorns, bay leaf and dried thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil, and add the shrimp. Cook the shrimp just until they turn pink, one to two minutes.

Adding shrimps into the mixture in saucepanTMB STUDIO

Drain the pot, then immediately drop the shrimp into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Discard the onion, lemon, fresh parsley, peppercorns and bay leaf.

added shrimp into bowl of ice waterTMB STUDIO

Step 3: Peel the shrimp, and serve

Peeling shrimps with handsTMB STUDIO

Drain the shrimp from the cold water. To clean the shrimp, peel them, leaving their tails on. If desired, devein. Arrange the shrimp on a platter, and serve with the cocktail sauce.

Editor’s Tip: You technically can eat the shrimp tails, but that’s up to personal preference. Either way, leave them on because they make the shrimp easier to hold and dunk into the sauce.

Easy Cocktail TMB STUDIO

Recipe Variations

How to Store Shrimp Cocktail

To store your shrimp cocktail, place the shrimp in an airtight container and cover the cocktail sauce with storage wrap. Keep them in the fridge for up to two days.

Shrimp Cocktail Tips

Easy CocktailTMB STUDIO

What do I serve with a shrimp cocktail?

A shrimp cocktail is a typical finger food appetizer. Serve it among other party appetizers like charcuterie boards, crostini recipes or any bacon-wrapped recipes. Serve shrimp cocktails as an app for a steakhouse-style dinner at home, fancy New Year’s Eve party or laid-back potluck.

Is a shrimp cocktail raw or cooked?

A shrimp cocktail uses fully cooked shrimp that’s been chilled. Our shrimp cocktail recipe poaches the shrimp, but you can use steamed or roasted shrimp that’s been chilled. Consuming raw or undercooked seafood can cause foodborne illnesses.

Easy Shrimp Cocktail

Prep Time 30 min
Yield about 6 dozen (1-1/4 cups sauce).


  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash hot pepper sauce, optional
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 medium lemon, sliced
  • 2 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 pounds uncooked shell-on shrimp (26-30 per pound)


  1. In a small bowl, combine ketchup, lemon juice, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce and, if desired, hot pepper sauce; set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine water, onion, lemon, parsley, salt, peppercorns, bay leaf and thyme; bring to a boil. Add shrimp. Cook until shrimp just turn pink, 1-2 minutes. Drain; immediately drop shrimp into bowl of ice water. Discard onion, lemon, parsley, peppercorns and bay leaf. Drain shrimp. Peel shrimp leaving tails on and, if desired, devein. Serve with sauce.

Nutrition Facts

1 ounce cooked shrimp with about 2 teaspoons sauce: 42 calories, 1g fat (0 saturated fat), 44mg cholesterol, 193mg sodium, 3g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 0 fiber), 6g protein.

Tender, well-cooked shrimp is paired with a flavorful sauce made with sweet ketchup, tart lemon juice, sharp horseradish and savory Worcestershire sauce for an easy and delicious dish. The best part—it only takes 30 minutes to make! —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin