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Shrimp Cocktail is a classic appetizer of flavorful, poached shrimp served with a homemade cocktail sauce that is party ready in less than 20 minutes.
Shrimp Cocktail is part of a classic appetizer spread, but you can also enjoy shrimp a variety of ways. Some of our favorite shrimp recipes include Tomato & Shrimp Pasta, Lemon Pepper Shrimp, Fried Shrimp and Mexican Shrimp Cocktail.
Best Shrimp Cocktail Platter – A Party Favorite!
I have been enjoying shrimp cocktail for as long as I’ve been alive it seems. It was always the first thing on the list for any family party, and my dad was usually the first one to break into the platter. While my mom almost always made her own homemade cocktail sauce, we usually bought the pre-cooked stuff from the grocery store deli.
Buying pre-cooked definitely seems the easier way to do it, but the stuff you get from the grocery store tends to be rubbery from either over-cooking of an extended refrigeration time and it is sorely lacking in flavor. It can in fact have almost a watery taste if it had been frozen. I promise you that this recipe for poached shrimp cocktail platter is going to be so easy you’ll never buy pre-cooked again!
Shrimp Cocktail Ingredients
- A pot of boiling water – This is the poaching liquid that will cook the shrimp.
- Lemons, Garlic, Onions, Herbs (thyme, parsley, bay leaves), Salt – All added to the poaching liquid to flavor the shrimp.
- Large shrimp – Look for the packages marked 31/35, which means there are approximately 31-35 shrimp per pound. You always want to choose peeled and deveined shrimp, but it’s preferable for the tails to be in tact.
How to Make Easy Shrimp Cocktail
- Prepare the poaching liquid. The process of poaching in the liquid is incredibly easy. Simply boil all of the ingredients (except the shrimp) together to create the poaching broth. This liquid will impart a flavor to the meat without being overpowering. While the liquid is boiling you’ll want to prepare a large bowl of ice water.
- Poach the shrimp. Add the shrimp to the poaching liquid and cook them just for a couple of minutes. They cook very quickly so it’s important that you watch them closely and don’t walk away. Once they are nice and pink and just beginning to curl, transfer them the ice bath. Serve chilled, garnished with minced parsley and with a side of homemade cocktail sauce.
How to Peel and Devein Shrimp
If you’re able to buy raw shrimp from the butcher that’s already been peeled and deveined like we are, do that! However, if it comes with the shell still on, you’ll need to know how to peel and devein it. Never fear, it’s easier than you might think. In fact there’s something weirdly satisfying and primal about it.
- Peel. To peel raw shrimp, start by cracking the shell open from the underside after you’ve removed the legs. Tear the shell away above the tail segment, leaving the tail in tact.
- Remove the tail. To remove the tail, simply squeeze the sides of the tail and pull the body out. I recommend leaving the tail on to make it easier to pick up and eat once cooked.
- Devein. To devein, use a paring knife to cut a small slit along the backside of the crustacean, then use the knife to gently remove the black strip of intestines and discard it.
It’s actually very low in fat and calories! A single, jumbo sized shrimp has about 14 calories, so one serving is just over 113 calories, making it an excellent choice for snacking. The homemade cocktail sauce has about 56 calories per serving, so overall this is a very healthy choice! It also has a high level of protein, and key nutrients and antioxidants.
To eat seafood cocktails with your fingers, pick up a piece of poached shrimp by the tail. Dip in some cocktail sauce then place the shrimp in your mouth and gently squeeze the tail to remove it. Repeat, over and over again. If the tails are removed, place the shrimp on a plate and spoon cocktail sauce over them. Use a seafood fork to devour.
Shrimp with cocktail sauce is the traditional way to serve this type of shrimp, and it’s usually served chilled. You could also serve it with Tartar Sauce.
They are often a part of both simpler appetizer spreads and fancier cocktail parties.
Storage: Leftover cooked shrimp should not sit out longer than 2 hours for food safety. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Freezing: Arrange on a baking sheet and flash freeze for 1-2 hours. Once the shrimp are solid you can transfer to a resealable freezer bag and freeze for up to a year.
Thawing: Do not thaw on the counter. Place frozen shrimp in the refrigerator until completely thawed. You could also place them in a bowl of cold water, in the fridge, to speed up the process.
More Shrimp Recipes to Try
- Cheesy Baked Shrimp Dip
- Garlic Tomato & Shrimp Pasta
- The Best Shrimp Ceviche
- The Best Copycat Bang Bang Shrimp
- Shrimp Fried Rice
- Sheet Pan Lemon Pepper Shrimp
- Bang Bang Shrimp Tacos
- 2 pounds raw, tail on large shrimp 16-20 per pound, peeled and deveined
- 3 lemons
- 1 small onion quartered
- 4 cloves garlic peeled
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 springs fresh thyme
- several sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley about ⅓ of a bunch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- frech minced parsley for garnish, if desired
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup prepared horseradish
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- pinch of kosher salt or more to taste
- Bring 8 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Cut one lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the water, then toss both halves in. Add onion, whole garlic cloves, bay leaves, thyme, parsley and salt to the boiling water; boil uncovered for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl with ice water.
- Turn off heat and add raw shrimp to the water. Stir and cook for several minutes; just until shrimp turn pink and begin to curl. Transfer cooked shrimp to the ice bath and chill 10 minutes. Drain. Store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Serve chilled with homemade cocktail sauce and lemon wedges. Garnish with fresh minced parsley if desired.
- Stir together ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.