Recipe: Classic Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

(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.

23 Ratings

Classic Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

Serves8 to 10


  • 1/2 cup


  • 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


  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.