Easy Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp cocktail. A quintessential appetizer that’s so easy to make and is ready in minutes.

After making it yourself you’ll wonder why you ever bought those overpriced pre-made deli trays.

Easy Shrimp Cocktail - Goodbye overpriced deli trays. Learn the secrets to make your own perfect shrimp cocktail in 15 minutes!! Juicy, sweet and sooo much more flavor!!

When you make it yourself it tastes better, fresher, and you can select the size of shrimp used. I think bigger is better when it comes to shrimp cocktail and most deli trays use dinky shrimp. I want big plump shrimp.

I prefer to use 12 to 15 count shrimp, meaning there’s 12 to 15 shrimp per pound. If my grocery store doesn’t have that size on a particular day, I’ll go for 16 to 20 count.

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Easy Shrimp Cocktail - Goodbye overpriced deli trays. Learn the secrets to make your own perfect shrimp cocktail in 15 minutes!! Juicy, sweet and sooo much more flavor!!

The secret to imparting flavor to the shrimp is to add lemon, a bay leaf, salt and pepper to the pot of boiling water you’re going to cook the shrimp in before adding the shrimp. This allows time for the flavors to develop and bloom.

Once you add the shrimp they cook very quickly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Pull them when they’ve firmed up and just turned pink and place them in an icebath to stop the cooking. Overcooked shrimp are rubbery, tough, and not good.

Easy Shrimp Cocktail - Goodbye overpriced deli trays. Learn the secrets to make your own perfect shrimp cocktail in 15 minutes!! Juicy, sweet and sooo much more flavor!!

There are so many recipes for homemade cocktail sauce but I love Trader Joe’s cocktail sauce because it’s heavy-handed with horseradish and it’s as easy as opening a jar. But if you have ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, lemon juice, salt and pepper on hand it’s a cinch to make. Shrimp smothered in cocktail sauce is the best.

The shrimp are sweet with just the right amount of savory brine and irresistible.

Easy Shrimp Cocktail - Goodbye overpriced deli trays. Learn the secrets to make your own perfect shrimp cocktail in 15 minutes!! Juicy, sweet and sooo much more flavor!!

Easy Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp cocktail is a quintessential appetizer that’s so easy to make and is ready in minutes. After making it yourself you’ll wonder why you ever bought those overpriced pre-made deli trays.When you make it yourself it tastes better, fresher, and you can select the size of shrimp used. I prefer to use 12 to 15 count shrimp, but 16 to 20 count will work. The secret to imparting flavor to the shrimp is to add lemon, a bay leaf, salt and pepper to the pot of boiling water before adding the shrimp. Pull the shrimp when they’ve firmed up and just turned pink and place them in an icebath to stop the cooking. Overcooked shrimp are rubbery, tough, and not good. The shrimp are sweet with just the right amount of savory brine and irresistible.

Ingredients:

  • about 2 quarts water
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves
  • 10 to 15 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste (1 tablespoon salt to 1 pound of shrimp cooked in 2 quarts of water is a good ratio)
  • one pound of 12-15 count (16-20 count okay) raw shrimp, deveined and peeled with tails left on
  • icebath
  • cocktail sauce, for serving (storebought or homemade, see blog post for recipe links)

Directions:

  1. Fill a large pot with water (about 2 quarts for 1 pound shrimp) and add the lemon, bay leaves, peppercorns, salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Allow water to boil for 5 to 10 minutes (while you’re cleaning the shrimp) to allow the flavors to develop.
  2. Add the shrimp to the water (no need to remove lemon, bay leaves, or peppercorns) and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until done. Pull shrimp when they’ve firmed up and just turned pink. Overcooked shrimp are rubbery, tough, and not good.
  3. Add shrimp to an icebath to stop the cooking and allow to remain in icebath for about 5 minutes, or until chilled. Serve immediately with cocktail sauce or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 24 hours before serving.
Only Eats

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20 comments on “Easy Shrimp Cocktail”

  1. thanks averie, I had shrimps last week and were no where near as appetising as these gems x

  2. I LUHVEEE Shrimp Cocktail, and had no idea how easy it was to make! Those things are PRICEY when you buy them at the store, so I am alll about this! Pinned!

  3. I was going to repeat your chicken and pepper pasta salad today but this is too easy. A giant shrimp cocktail for 2, salad from my garden, your whole wheat skillet bread and a six pack of Not Your Father’s Root Beer ought to get the afternoon off to a good start!

    • Guess what–done, consumed and delicious!! I even pulled off my own cocktail sauce but didn’t have horseradish so I improvised with wasabi (to Jon’s delight). Now it’s time to kick back for the rest of the afternoon. Hope you’re having a nice Memorial Day weekend–trying out a few of your recipes has been fun for me!

      • You are amazing!!! You are the only person who cooks multiple recipes of mine in the same week, sometimes with just hours passing between me posting them and you cooking them!

        I am super impressed with your improv wasabi horseradish/cocktail sauce creation. I loooooove wasabi and always have lots on hand :) I bet it’s wonderful with the shrimp!

        So glad you like the shrimp and hope you’re kicking back with shrimp cocktails and cocktails on the holiday :)

    • The whole wheat skillet bread, wow I forgot about that recipe. I made that like, 3 houses/condos/moves ago and Skylar was so little :) Time flies!!

      Glad that you deviated from the whole wheat skillet bread and tried the shrimp cocktail! Happy Memorial Day!

  4. As a little girl, I’d beg my parents to take me to Red Lobster for dinner. On special occasions they granted this wish and I’d always order the shrimp cocktail for an appetizer. It was my favorite and still is one of my favorites to this day. You just can’t beat that sweet, spicy sauce and those plump, juicy shrimp. Such an easy app but an impressive one. Love your version with the bay leaf and peppercorns! Bet that adds great flavor.

  5. Shrimp cocktail will never go out of style. It’s definitely a classic!

  6. Everytime I see those trays, all I can think is “WHO are the people that buy these?!?!”  I mean, even pre-cooked frozen shrimp + a jar of cocktail sauce is SO MUCH less expensive!!  

    Fresh shrimp though….WOW.  So much better tasting and yet I am ashamed to say I’ve only cooked them from fresh and raw ONCE.  I was in Vancouver, BC so it was basically required.  (And they call them prawns there, apparently, but I am pretty sure they are the same.)

    I have to literally watch myself around those cocktails though, because I can easily and quickly finish off a tray and while I don’t think twice about it, I think the other guests might think that’s a little rude.  I had to ask my aunt to slap my hand away on Christmas.  But, there were some left when everyone was leaving, so I made quick work of those little buggars!

    • I can’t believe you have only made shrimp twice in your life from fresh shrimp and you love shrimp?!! Ummmm you need to change that, like now :)

      And in my early 20s, my dinner of choice at restaurants was a combo of cocktails and shrimp cocktail. I was seriously super content with that!

  7. Oh, and I can’t reply to the comment above, but the wasabi at the store is just horseradish with green food coloring, so the lady that “improvised” made it like she should!

  8. I have a thing about buying shrimp at restaurants…which you shouldn’t be surprised about, haha. So making it like this at home is a must!

  9. Love shrimp cocktail! So easy to make and yours looks amazing! Love the pictures, pinned!

  10. I could probably eat shrimp cocktail everyday for the rest of my life and have no qualms against it!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  11. Shrimp cocktail is perfect for summer bbqs! Those shrimp look amazing!

  12. Such a simple recipe for a classic appetizer!

  13. very nice and simple recipe…. I’m sure that the U10 size will go even further towards pleasing a tough crowd!

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