Recipe: Classic Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

Recipe: Classic Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

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Emma Christensen
Mar 20, 2015
(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Never underestimate the power of a simple shrimp cocktail sauce to get a party going. Not only is this appetizer absolutely perfect with a dry martini, but guests will flock to the platter and sing your praises — all for a five-ingredient sauce made in 30 seconds from the contents of your condiment shelf.

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

The beauty of the cocktail sauce lies in its balance of ingredients: sweet ketchup, spicy horseradish and hot sauce, salty and umami-rich Worcestershire sauce, and a squeeze of sour lemon. Think of the recipe below as a jumping-off point — taste it and keep tweaking until you're happy with the flavors. Everyone's cocktail sauce is a little different.

One last note: Poaching the shrimp is traditional, certainly, but not by any means obligatory. Personally, I prefer to pan-fry the shrimp to give them a little color and roasted flavor — this is what I did for the gorgeous shrimp in these photos. If you're making a lot of shrimp for a crowd, I like the convenience of roasting them on a sheet pan.

Classic Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

Serves 8 to 10

1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons horseradish, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 to 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Whisk together all the ingredients in a bowl. Taste and add more horseradish or any of the other ingredients to suite your taste. When you're happy with the sauce, transfer it to a small serving bowl.

Cook the shrimp by poaching them in boiling water, pan-frying them on the stovetop, or roasting them in the oven until opaque. Arrange the shrimp around the cocktail sauce and serve hot or cold.

Recipe Notes

  • Make-Ahead: The cocktail sauce can be made up to a week ahead and kept refrigerated. The shrimp can be cooked a day ahead and served cold.
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