Shrimp Cocktail — Shrimp cocktail is a quintessential appetizer that’s so easy to make and is ready in minutes. You’ll never buy ore-made shrimp cocktail again!
Homemade Shrimp Cocktail Recipe
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.
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.
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.
The shrimp are sweet with just the right amount of savory brine and irresistible.
Shrimp Cocktail Ingredients
To make this easy shrimp cocktail recipe, you’ll need:
- Bay leaves
- Whole black peppercorns
- Raw shrimp
- Cocktail sauce
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.
How to Cook Shrimp for Shrimp Cocktail
Making shrimp cocktail yourself is very easy! The key thing to remember is that the shrimp needs to be flavored while it’s cooking otherwise you’ll wind up dunking essentially plain shrimp into the cocktail sauce.
Here’s an overview of what I’ve found to be the best way to cook shrimp for shrimp cocktail:
- Fill a large pot with water and add the lemon, bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. Bring the water to a boil, then let it boil for 5 to 10 minutes while you peel the shrimp.
- 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.
- Serve the shrimp immediately with cocktail sauce.
How Long to Boil Shrimp for Shrimp Cocktail
The shrimp cook very quickly; they need just 2 to 3 minutes in the boiling water. That’s why it’s so important to let the water boil for a few minutes on its own to let the aromatics infuse into it.
Is Shrimp Cocktail Raw?
Nope! The shrimp may look plain, but they’ve been cooked with aromatics like lemon and bay leaves.
You can tell the shrimp are cooked when they’re pink all over (raw shrimp is gray).
What Size Shrimp Is Best for Shrimp Cocktail?
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.
Can I Prep Shrimp Cocktail in Advance?
Yes, the shrimp can be cooked and stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours before serving them and cocktail sauce stays good for a few days in the fridge.
Tips for the Best Shrimp Cocktail
Note that you must use raw shrimp for this recipe, not pre-cooked. If you buy frozen shrimp, make sure they’re raw. If you try to make this recipe with pre-cooked shrimp, you’ll wind up with rubbery shrimp cocktail.
For cooking the shrimp, 1 tablespoon of salt to 1 pound of shrimp cooked in 2 quarts of water is a good ratio to keep in mind.
The ice bath is a must when cooking the shrimp. If you don’t plunge the shrimp immediately into cold water, you run the risk of over cooking them.
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Easy Shrimp Cocktail
- 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 raw shrimp, deveined and peeled with tails left on (16-20 count okay)
- ice bath
- cocktail sauce, for serving (storebought or homemade, see blog post for recipe links)
- 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.
- 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.
- Add shrimp to an ice bath 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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