Delicious shrimp cocktail with zesty cocktail sauce is a classic seafood favorite appetizer. This recipe is made with fresh Key West Pink Shrimp.
According to the Key Largo Fisheries, an impressive 85% of pink shrimp available in the USA hail from South Florida, and they certainly live up to their reputation. Whether served as a party dish or a last-minute appetizer, Shrimp Cocktail is our favorite and always an irresistible treat.
- Why We Love This Shrimp Cocktail Recipe
- Shrimp Buying Guide
- Shrimp Size Guide
- How To Defrost Frozen Shrimp
- How To Peel and Devein Shrimp
- What You Need
- How To Cook Shrimp
- Homemade Cocktail Sauce
- Make it Low Calorie!
- How To Serve Shrimp Cocktail
- You Can Buy Florida Pinks Online!
- More Quick and Easy Shrimp Recipes
- "📖 Recipe"
Why We Love This Shrimp Cocktail Recipe
We love shrimp cocktail for its simplicity and bold flavors—perfectly cooked shrimp paired with a tangy cocktail sauce create a classic appetizer that everyone loves.
This is the perfect easy appetizer for entertaining and can be prepped in advance.
Shrimp Buying Guide
There is a wide choice of cooked and raw shrimp available at the grocery store, with common varieties such as white shrimp, brown shrimp, and pink shrimp; the choice depends on your recipe and personal preference.
Here in the Keys, we have local pink shrimp that are very fresh and taste great, so I'm using them for this recipe.
At your supermarket seafood counter, when purchasing shrimp that have been frozen and defrosted, opt for a bag of frozen wild shrimp from the USA, if available.
Choose a package that fits your budget, making sure the shrimp inside the bag are loose and not frozen into a solid block, which indicates they were defrosted and refrozen, as they were likely mishandled somewhere along their journey to the store.
Shrimp Size Guide
Shrimp are labeled jumbo, large, medium, and small.
The size is based on the number you get per pound.
Jumbo-sized shrimp is preferred for shrimp cocktails so you can pick them up and they are sturdy enough to hold in your hand.
Jumbo = less than 20 per pound
Large = 20-30 per pound
Medium = 30-40 per pound
Small = more than 40 per pound
source: Florida Dept of Agriculture
How To Defrost Frozen Shrimp
First, make sure the shrimp are defrosted in cold water or under refrigeration for a few hours. You don't want them to get to room temperature.
If you choose to soak the shrimp in cold water, ensure the water is cold so the shrimp doesn't start cooking from the heat of hot water.
I buy local shrimp by the pound that have their shells intact. Try to keep the tails on for the shrimp cocktail so you have a little "handle" to pick them up and the tail on the shrimp makes a much better presentation.
How To Peel and Devein Shrimp
When you peel shrimp, try to keep the tails on so you have a little "handle" to pick them up. Tail-on shrimp makes a much better presentation.
Hold the tail with one hand, grab the legs and shell with the other hand, and snap the shell back. Pull all of the shells off each one.
There is a dark vein running down the back of the shrimp. Score the flesh over the vein with a paring knife and remove it with the knife tip. Rinse the shrimp under cold running water.
What You Need
- Shrimp, cooked or uncooked
- Lemons: lemon halves for poaching and lemon wedges for serving
- Worcestershire sauce
- Hot sauce
See the recipe card for quantities.
How To Cook Shrimp
For perfectly cooked shrimp, cook the shrimp in a pot of seasoned water for two to three minutes, depending on their size.
Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil so the shrimp can move around while cooking. Drop in a few lemon halves, salt, parsley, half a peeled onion, and a few smashed garlic cloves. Add the shrimp and cook for two to three minutes or until the shrimp is opaque.
Remove the shrimp from the water and place them in an ice bath to stop them from cooking. Chill for at least an hour before serving.
Homemade Cocktail Sauce
You can purchase a bottle of cocktail sauce, but it is so easy to make homemade cocktail sauce with a few pantry staples.
Combine ketchup, prepared horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, a little hot sauce, and some fresh lemon juice in a medium bowl. You can garnish the sauce with a bit of lemon zest. Cover with plastic wrap and chill before serving.
Make it Low Calorie!
Shrimp are loaded with iodine and are good for your thyroid according to Healthline.
Omit the cocktail sauce and go with melted butter and lemon juice. Fresh shrimp is the star and without cocktail sauce, this dish has no sugar and no carbs!
Once the shrimp are cooked, store the shrimp in an airtight container for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. You can cook the shrimp the day before serving them.
How To Serve Shrimp Cocktail
To serve a shrimp cocktail or Cóctel de Camarónes, in Spanish, consider placing a shrimp cocktail platter on a table alongside other appetizers or hors-d'oeuvres.
Make sure the shrimp are fully defrosted before setting them out. Garnish a white or light-colored platter with lemon wedge, and a big bowl of cocktail sauce.
If you have fresh parsley in the kitchen, add a few sprigs to the platter for an extra touch of color
You Can Buy Florida Pinks Online!
Forget about the frozen supermarket shrimp from farms in Vietnam or China. Check out Key Largo Fisheries to have these domestic beauties shipped right to your door.
Key Largo Fisheries, at 1313 Ocean Bay Drive in Key Largo, is an informal waterfront seafood shack called the Back Yard.
You can enjoy lunch or dinner while watching the fishing boats pull up to unload the catch of the day.
More Quick and Easy Shrimp Recipes
- This Blackened Shrimp with Butter Sauce is a fun Sunday dinner meal.
- You’ll only need one pan for this Peel and Eat Shrimp Recipe. Another shrimp appetizer that takes minutes to make!
- My daughter's favorite meal is Shrimp Tacos with Pico de Gallo. Tacos are always fun and these are a great summertime meal when it's too hot to use the oven.
- If you love fresh shrimp as much as I do, try this recipe for Key West Shrimp Salad. I make it with our beautiful local shrimp, Old Bay, and mayo. You're gonna love it!
With a preparation as simple as can be, plump shrimp paired with cocktail sauce delivers a restaurant-quality shrimp cocktail.
For perfectly cooked shrimp, boil the shrimp in seasoned water for a few minutes and then quickly move them to an ice bath to stop cooking.
Pre-cooked shrimp can also be used for shrimp cocktails.
The larger the shrimp, the more crunch they have. Large and jumbo-size shrimp are preferred for this appetizer. The smaller shrimp can be used for shrimp salad.
Make sure you buy quality wild-caught shrimp from the USA for the best results.
Once cooked and cooled, arrange the shrimp on a nice platter and serve alongside a bowl of freshly made cocktail sauce with lemon wedges.
The dark vein in a shrimp is called the "sand vein" or "intestinal tract," and it is the shrimp's digestive system. While it is edible, many people prefer to remove it before cooking as it can have a gritty texture and a slightly different flavor compared to the rest of the shrimp.
The amount of shrimp cocktail per person can vary depending on whether it's an appetizer or a main course. As a general rule, for an appetizer, you might serve around 4-6 large shrimp per person, and for a main course, you might increase that to 8-12 large shrimp. It's a good idea to consider your guests' appetites and any other dishes you're serving to determine the right quantity.
Cocktail sauce typically includes ingredients like ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. It's a zesty, slightly spicy complement to the sweet shrimp.
Yes, you can use frozen shrimp to make a shrimp cocktail. To do so, simply thaw them by placing them in the refrigerator for a few hours or under cold running water for a quicker thaw. Once they are thawed, cook and arrange them with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges for your shrimp cocktail.
Florida Keys Shrimp Cocktail
FOR THE COCKTAIL SAUCE
- ½ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoon prepared horseradish (found in condiment aisle)
- 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon hot sauce (such as Cholulah)
FOR THE SHRIMP
- 2 pounds Key West shrimp thawed of frozen, peeled and deveined
- 2 lemons halved
- 3 whole garlic cloves peeled
- 1 handful parsley flat-leaf or curly
- 1 onion peeled and quartered
- lemon wedges for serving and garnish
- Mix together cocktail sauce ingredients and chill until ready to serve.
- Peel the shrimp: pull the legs and the shell off each shrimp, leaving the tail intact. Devein each shrimp with a paring knife.
- Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Add lemons, garlic, parsley, and onion; cook for two minutes. Lower heat to a simmer.
- Add the shrimp and cook three minutes or until shrimp are pink and firm to touch. Drain in a colander.
- Place shrimp in a bowl of ice water to cool for a few minutes. Drain; place shrimp in a covered bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Place chilled shrimp on platter beside a bowl of cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.