Classic Prawn Cocktail

Close-Up Of Prawns Over White Background
Akepong Srichaichana / EyeEm / Getty Images
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
271 Calories
12g Fat
4g Carbs
36g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 271
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 15%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Cholesterol 255mg 85%
Sodium 906mg 39%
Total Carbohydrate 4g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Protein 36g
Calcium 115mg 9%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

A traditional prawn cocktail was a popular appetizer in the 1960s and '70s. Back then it was considered sophisticated but over time, it sadly fell out of fashion. But in recent times, the prawn cocktail has experienced a resurgence as a go-to party food. Though times have changed, the recipe remains much the same.

A prawn cocktail (or shrimp cocktail) is one of the quickest and easiest of starters. However, having a super tasty one is not that easy if you don't use the best ingredients, particularly when it comes to the prawns and shrimp. There are many cheap, frozen prawns available in the supermarket freezer but these do not make good cocktails. Once defrosted, they often tend to be watery and tasteless.

Use a good mayonnaise for the sauce and, if you have the time, make your own, you will notice the difference. Adding a dash of creamed horseradish zaps up the cocktail. If you don't have any creamed horseradish on hand, just add tomato ketchup for a tasty sauce.

Iceberg traditionally is the lettuce to use for the cocktail because it stands up well and doesn't go soggy. You can also use romaine.


  • 17.5 ounces / 500 g prawns (or shrimp, cooked and peeled)
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise (homemade or good-quality)
  • 1 tablespoon creamed horseradish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
  • 2 cups iceberg lettuce (or romaine, shredded)
  • Garnish: 1 lime (quartered)
  • Optional: 4 large tail-on shelled prawns

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Place the cooked and peeled prawns in a large bowl. Add the mayonnaise, creamed horseradish, and tomato ketchup and stir to combine all the ingredients. Make sure all the prawns or shrimp are coated in the sauce. If the sauce seems thin, add a little more of each sauce ingredient.

  3. Divide the shredded lettuce between 4 large wine glasses and top with the prawns and sauce. Arrange neatly, don't just plop the shrimp on top.

  4. Garnish each glass with a wedge of lime and an optional prawn on the edge of the glass.

  5. Serve the prawn cocktails immediately with small slices of buttered brown bread and enjoy!


  • If you are not serving the prawn cocktail immediately, then assemble the sauce and keep it in the fridge with the prawns. Then put them together at the last minute. If you make the cocktail too far in advance, it tends to become watery and split.
  • Refrigerate any leftovers, but it is best to eat them as soon as possible, definitely within a day.

Recipe Variations

  • Add a tiny amount of grated fresh ginger and a splash of chili sauce to the cocktail sauce for a Southeast Asian-style cocktail.
  • Switch the iceberg to a mixture of romaine and arugula for a little spicy taste.

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