Classic Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

updated Aug 8, 2022
Classic Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

Make this five-ingredient cocktail sauce in just 30 seconds from the contents of your condiment shelf.

Serves6 to 8

Prep5 minutes

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(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Never underestimate the power of a simple shrimp cocktail sauce to kick off the evening. Not only is this appetizer absolutely perfect with a dry martini, but everyone will also 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)

Ingredients in Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

The beauty of shrimp cocktail sauce lies in its balance of ingredients:

  • Ketchup: Ketchup provides a sweet, tangy tomato flavor and acts as the base for shrimp cocktail sauce.
  • Prepared horseradish: Made from grated horseradish (a spicy root vegetable from the mustard family) this ingredient gives shrimp cocktail sauce its trademark zippiness. Look for prepared horseradish in the condiment or seafood section of your local grocery store.
  • Hot sauce: Combined with horseradish, a splash of hot sauce adds just the right amount of heat. Use your favorite hot sauce brand, like Texas Pete or Frank’s Red Hot.
  • Worcestershire sauce: This popular condiment is traditionally flavored with anchovies, garlic and spices, and sweetened with molasses and sugar. Here, it adds a salty, umami-rich kick.
  • Fresh lemon juice: A squeeze of fresh (not bottled) lemon juice adds brightness and balance to spicier and saltier ingredients in the sauce.

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.

Best Way to Cook Shrimp for Cocktail Sauce

When it comes to cooking the shrimp, there are several ways to go about it. 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. For easiest, luxurious hot-weather meal, this 5-minute shrimp dinner involves zero-cooking at all.

Classic Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

Make this five-ingredient cocktail sauce in just 30 seconds from the contents of your condiment shelf.

Prep time 5 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup

    ketchup

  • 2 tablespoons

    prepared horseradish, plus more to taste

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    Worcestershire sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    hot sauce

  • 1 to 2 pounds

    large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

Instructions

  1. 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.

  2. 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.