How to Make Shrimp Cocktail from Raw Shrimp

Shrimp cocktail is a classic appetizer that has been popular for decades. It is believed to have originated in the United States in the early 20th century and quickly became a popular dish for cocktail parties and special events.

The dish typically consists of cooked or raw shrimp served with a zesty cocktail sauce and a slice of lemon. Parsley or other herbs may be used as a garnish.

Today, shrimp cocktail remains a beloved appetizer, and it’s easy to see why. The combination of juicy, succulent shrimp with a tangy, flavorful sauce is a winning combination that never goes out of style.

Ingredients needed for a Classic Shrimp Cocktail

To make a classic shrimp cocktail, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Raw shrimp: It’s important to use fresh, high-quality shrimp for the best flavor and texture. You can use any size shrimp you like, but larger ones are more impressive for presentation.
  • Cocktail sauce: This is the tangy, flavorful sauce that goes with the shrimp. You can make your own using ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and hot sauce, or you can buy it pre-made.
  • Lemon wedges: A squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the shrimp adds a bright, citrusy flavor that complements the cocktail sauce.
  • Parsley: This is an optional garnish, but it adds a pop of color and freshness to the dish.

Preparing Raw Shrimp for Shrimp Cocktail

To prepare raw shrimp for shrimp cocktail, you will first need to clean and devein them. Here’s how:

  1. Hold the shrimp by the tail and use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to cut through the shell down the back of the shrimp. Be careful not to cut too deep, as you want to keep the meat intact.
  2. Use your fingers or a small spoon to remove the vein that runs along the back of the shrimp. This is the digestive tract and can be gritty or unpleasant to eat.
  3. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Once your shrimp are cleaned and deveined, you can cook them using one of the following methods:


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until pink and cooked through.
  3. Drain the shrimp and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.


  1. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Skewer the shrimp on metal or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water for 30 minutes.
  3. Brush the shrimp with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Grill the shrimp for 2-3 minutes per side, or until pink and cooked through.


  1. Fill a large pot with 1-2 inches of water and bring to a boil.
  2. Place the shrimp in a steamer basket and place the basket in the pot.
  3. Cover the pot and steam the shrimp for 2-3 minutes, or until pink and cooked through.

Once your shrimp are cooked, you can chill them in the refrigerator until ready to serve with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.

Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

Making Cocktail Sauce

Making cocktail sauce is easy and requires just a few ingredients. Here’s a classic cocktail sauce recipe:


  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and hot sauce (if using).
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Stir to combine.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Variations: Cocktail sauce can be customized to suit your taste preferences. Here are some variations you might try:

  • Spicy cocktail sauce: Increase the amount of hot sauce or add cayenne pepper for extra heat.
  • Sweet cocktail sauce: Add a tablespoon of honey or brown sugar to balance out the tanginess of the ketchup and horseradish.
  • Herb-infused cocktail sauce: Add finely chopped herbs such as dill or cilantro for a fresh, flavorful twist.
  • Citrus cocktail sauce: Add a tablespoon of orange or grapefruit juice for a bright, citrusy flavor.

Flavor profiles: Cocktail sauce can have many different flavor profiles depending on the ingredients you use. Here are some common flavor profiles:

  • Tangy and spicy: Classic cocktail sauce with ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce.
  • Sweet and tangy: Cocktail sauce with added honey or brown sugar to balance out the acidity.
  • Herbaceous: Cocktail sauce with added herbs such as dill or cilantro for a fresh, herbaceous flavor.
  • Citrusy: Cocktail sauce with added citrus juice for a bright, zesty flavor.

Serving Suggestions:

When serving shrimp cocktail, it’s important to keep it chilled and fresh. Here are some serving suggestions:

  • Arrange the cooked shrimp on a bed of ice to keep them cold and add visual appeal.
  • Serve the shrimp in individual glasses or bowls with the cocktail sauce and lemon wedges on the side.
  • Add a sprinkle of chopped parsley or cilantro on top of the shrimp for a pop of color.
  • Serve with crackers or toasted bread to scoop up the shrimp and sauce.

Presentation ideas: Shrimp cocktail is a classic appetizer that can be dressed up for any occasion. Here are some presentation ideas:

  • Serve the shrimp on a large platter with the cocktail sauce in the center for dipping.
  • Arrange the shrimp in a circular pattern on a bed of greens for a restaurant-quality presentation.
  • Place the shrimp in individual shot glasses or mini martini glasses for a fun, upscale twist.
  • Serve the shrimp on skewers with a drizzle of cocktail sauce for a handheld option.

Complementary appetizers: Shrimp cocktail pairs well with a variety of other appetizers. Here are some complementary options:

  • Bruschetta: Toasted bread topped with diced tomatoes, basil, and garlic.
  • Cheese board: Assorted cheeses, crackers, and fruits.
  • Guacamole and chips: Avocado dip with crispy tortilla chips.
  • Vegetable crudité: Raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, and cucumbers with dip.
  • Deviled eggs: Hard-boiled eggs filled with a seasoned yolk mixture.

With these ideas, you’re sure to impress your guests with a delicious and beautiful shrimp cocktail appetizer.


In conclusion, shrimp cocktail is a classic appetizer that is both delicious and easy to prepare. By using fresh, raw shrimp and a homemade cocktail sauce, you can create a flavorful and impressive dish that is sure to impress your guests. Whether you choose to boil, grill, or steam your shrimp, be sure to properly clean and devein them before cooking. Additionally, consider adding your own unique twist to the cocktail sauce by experimenting with different herbs and spices.

When it comes to serving and presentation, there are endless possibilities. Keep the shrimp cold and fresh, and consider using individual glasses or skewers for a fun, upscale twist. Don’t forget to pair your shrimp cocktail with complementary appetizers such as bruschetta or a cheese board to round out the meal.

Overall, shrimp cocktail is a timeless classic that is sure to please any crowd. So next time you’re looking for an easy and impressive appetizer, give shrimp cocktail a try!

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