Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail

 The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Chill: 30 mins
Total: 70 mins
Servings: 6 servings

Shrimp cocktail is a classic appetizer that you can serve any time of year. It’s fancy enough for a chic dinner party, yet easy enough for a backyard picnic. Shrimp cocktail is also the perfect appetizer to make ahead of time. You can cook the shrimp up to a day in advance and the cocktail sauce up to three days ahead of time. You won’t have to worry about any boiling or peeling on the day of your event.

This is the easiest and tastiest way to make delicious cocktail shrimp. Start with a homemade broth to cook tons of flavor right into the shrimp and serve it alongside a tangy yet sweet classic cocktail sauce.


  • For the Shrimp:
  • 10 cups cold water
  • 2 medium carrots (quartered)
  • 2 stalks celery (quartered)
  • 1 large onion (quartered)
  • 1 head garlic (halved)
  • 1 lemon (halved)
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound large raw shrimp (in the shell)
  • Garnish: Fresh lemon slices
  • For the Cocktail Sauce:
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon (zested)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Fill a large bowl with ice and place in the refrigerator while you prepare the broth.

    Shrimp cocktail ingredients
     The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney
  2. Add the water to a large pot, followed by the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, lemon, parsley, thyme, and bay leaves. Boil over high heat, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 to 30 minutes or until the vegetables are slightly softened and the broth is fragrant. 

    Broth ingredients in a pot
     The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney
  3. Add the shrimp to the cooking liquid and turn off the heat. Leave the shrimp in the hot water, stirring occasionally, until they are pink and the tails have curled. This will take about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. The larger the shrimp, the longer it will take. 

    Cooked shrimp in broth
     The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney
  4. Remove the shrimp from the cooking liquid and promptly add them to the bowl of ice to cool quickly.

    Cool the shrimp in ice
     The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney
  5. Once they feel cool to the touch, remove the vein of the shrimp if you wish, then remove the shell down to the tail. Leave the tail on the shrimp. Place the shrimp on the serving platter, cover, and place in the refrigerator. 

  6. While the shrimp continue to chill in the refrigerator, prepare the cocktail sauce. 

    Cocktail sauce ingredients
    The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney 
  7. Add the ketchup, chili sauce, horseradish, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic powder, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce to a bowl. Whisk together until completely combined. 

    Cocktail sauce in a bowl
    The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney 
  8. Serve the shrimp alongside the cocktail sauce and additional lemon slices. 


You can also cook the shrimp by roasting them on a sheet pan.

  • Heat the oven to 400 F. Peel and devein the shrimp but leave the tails on. Then toss the shrimp with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Place on a sheet pan and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the cocktail sauce.