Shrimp Cocktail is a classic appetizer, especially around the holidays, and it's so incredibly easy to make! My shrimp cocktail recipe has a homemade sauce and is ready in just around 10 minutes. You can make it several days ahead to make dinner prep even easier!

Shrimp is such a quick and easy protein to cook, and it's healthy as well! We love to make our Crispy Coconut Shrimp which can be either baked or fried and served as an appetizer, Bang Bang Shrimp with their irresistible sauce, or for dinner these healthy Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas are absolutely packed with flavor and take just 30 minutes to prepare!

shrimp cocktail appetizer

A few years ago at Christmas or New Years (I can't remember which!), my husband's Aunt Claudia made a shrimp cocktail platter that was just SO delicious. She makes the BEST food, and is also the one who taught me how to make Italian pizzelles.

This shrimp cocktail makes a fantastic starter for a holiday dinner because it's healthy, light, and easy. Plus, you can prep it in advance.

But you definitely don't need to wait for the holidays to enjoy this classic shrimp cocktail!

This Shrimp Cocktail recipe is a lifesaver for so many reasons! Almost all of the ingredients are pantry staples, so I can make it in a pinch with things I already have on hand. The key is to always keep a bag or two of frozen shrimp in the freezer, which I usually have for making quick dinners.

I can usually whip the shrimp cocktail sauce up in 5 minutes or less. It only has six ingredients, and all I have to do is measure them out and mix them up. Then take another 5 minutes to arrange the shrimp on a platter with the sauce and some lemon wedges! It really couldn't be easier.

For the shrimp, you can use either pre-cooked shrimp or you can buy raw shrimp and steam, pan-fry, or boil it. I'm all for doing things from scratch, but when it comes to shrimp cocktail, I prefer using pre-cooked shrimp because all I have to do is rinse them and they're ready to eat! I really like to stock up on the shrimp from the freezer section at Costco, which is actually really quite good!

It's important that you use shrimp with their tails on so that you can hold the tail to dip it in the sauce!

dipping shrimp in cocktail sauce

Cocktail Sauce Ingredients

I confess that I love this appetizer because really all you need to do is make the sauce and thaw some frozen, cooked shrimp. It's seriously that simple. Cooked shrimp with the tails on is the perfect protein to use here! The tails are great to hold onto for dipping.

  • Ketchup: Ketchup adds a delicious sweet tomato taste to this shrimp cocktail recipe
  • Lemon juice: This really elevates the recipe and gives it a refreshing tart kick!
  • Worcestershire sauce: Worcestershire sauce is made up of 3 ingredients: anchovies for saltiness (you can't taste them!), onions, and garlic.
  • Old bay seasoning: This is one of those seasonings that can go with just about anything! As well as adding saltiness to the shrimp cocktail sauce recipe, it gives hints of mustard and paprika as well.
  • Hot sauce: A little punch of spice is super addictive! It really sends this recipe to the next level.
  • Horseradish: I used prepared horseradish which is made of grated horseradish root, vinegar, and salt. It's quite spicy and peppery!
overhead christmas appetizer

How to Make Shrimp Cocktail

Literally just 3 steps - so easy!

  1. Add and mix. First, add all of the cocktail sauce ingredients to a bowl and then mix them.
  2. Rinse. Secondly, rinse the shrimp well in cold water, then pat them dry.
  3. Serve it up! Serve the cocktail sauce with the cold shrimp garnished with lemon wedges and parsley.
cocktail sauce ingredients

How do I store cocktail sauce?

Store the cocktail sauce in an airtight container in the fridge. You can make the shrimp cocktail sauce several days ahead of time, although it really only takes 10 minutes (or less) to whip up a batch before dinner!

Is a shrimp cocktail healthy?

It sure is! It's considered one of the healthier appetizers as it is mostly shrimp which is a super healthy protein, and the homemade cocktail sauce has healthy ingredients in it as well. It's nice and light making it perfect before a big holiday dinner. You could make it even healthier by using sugar-free ketchup or making your own with a natural sweetener like stevia.

shrimp being held with cocktail sauce

Can you eat shrimp cocktail raw?

No! You should definitely use cooked shrimp for this recipe, or you can buy raw shrimp and cook it yourself, either steamed, boiled, or pan-fried. Shrimp cooks really quickly, and just remember that it turns pink when it's ready to eat!

Christmas party platter

More Appetizer Recipes for Christmas

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Shrimp Cocktail

5 from 4 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Shrimp Cocktail is a classic appetizer, especially around the holidays, and it's so incredibly easy to make! My shrimp cocktail recipe has a homemade sauce and is ready in just around 10 minutes. You can make it several days ahead to make dinner prep even easier!


  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon old bay seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon hot sauce
  • 2-3 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 ½ pounds large cooked, tail-on shrimp rinsed with cold water


  • Add cocktail sauce ingredients to a bowl and mix. Can be made several days in advance and refrigerated.
  • Serve with cold shrimp garnished with lemon wedges and parsley.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 109kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 137mg | Sodium: 403mg | Potassium: 336mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 158IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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