Classic Prawn Cocktail Recipe

prawn cocktail
Classic Prawn Cocktail. Getty Images
Ratings (13)
  • Total: 10 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 5 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
271 Calories
12g Fat
4g Carbs
36g Protein
(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, sadly, over time it fell out of fashion as many once-popular foods do. However, now it is back and has been smartened up, though the recipe remains much the same.

A prawn 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.


  • 17.6 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 shredded iceberg lettuce (or romaine)
  • Garnish: 1 lime (quartered)
  • Optional: 4 large tail-on shelled prawns

Steps to Make It

  1. Place the 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Garnish each glass with a wedge of lime and an optional prawn on the edge of the glass and serve immediately with small slices of buttered brown bread.

  4. If you are not serving the cocktail immediately, then assemble the sauce and keep in the fridge with the prawns and put together at the last minute. If you make the cocktail too far in advance, it tends to become watery and split. 


  • 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 rocket for a little spicy taste.