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Better Than Grocery Store Shrimp Cocktail

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I like frozen shrimp rings with overly sweet cocktail sauce as much as anyone else, but you need to do yourself a favor and try making it from scratch just once. Homemade cocktail sauce is way too delicious for how easy it is to make. Not to be dramatic but it might just change your life.

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How to Pick the BEST Shrimp for Shrimp Cocktails

Shrimp has so many different forms they’re sold in that it’s hard to figure out which one is best. I believe the best shrimp for shrimp cocktails are:

Frozen: The “fresh” shrimp at the vast majority of seafood counters are really just frozen shrimp that has been defrosted at the store. To maximize freshness cut out the middleman and just buy frozen shrimp.

Raw: pre-cooked frozen shrimp tend to be drier and less tender than frozen raw shrimp that has been freshly cooked.

Tail on: The tail is just an iconic part of the cocktail presentation. Not necessary, but nice to have.

Headless: Saves time by not having to remove the head yourself.

Deveined: A huge time saver. Not only does it remove the digestion vein for you, but the vein removal process also splits the shell in a way that makes it way faster and easier to peel.

How to Perfectly Cook Shrimp Every Time

Poaching shrimp is something that needs to be done carefully. If done carelessly it’s easy to end up with rubbery shrimp. Here’s a step by step on how I get perfectly cooked shrimp every time.

  1. Defrost: It’s important to defrost shrimp completely before cooking, otherwise the outside will be overcooked before the inside is properly cooked.
  2. Brine: Letting the salt rest in salt and baking soda helps season the inside of shrimp, and also tenderizes it. This Serious Eats article goes into more detail
  3. Poach: Poaching the shrimp gently is the perfect way to ensure perfectly cooked shrimp. The lower temperature gives you a better window of time to take the shrimp out.
  4. Chill: Immediately plunging the shrimp into an ice bath quickly halts the cooking process, preventing overcooking via leftover heat. Plus the shrimp needs to be cold for shrimp cocktail anyways so might as well save some time.

Better Shrimp Cocktail



Prep time


Cooking time




  • Shrimp
  • ½ lb shrimp

  • 5 sprigs parsley

  • ½ tsp salt

  • ⅛ tsp baking soda

  • 1 tsp peppercorns

  • Cocktail Sauce
  • ½ cup ketchup

  • ½ tbsp horseradish, or add to taste

  • 2 tsp lemon juice

  • ¼  tsp Worcestershire sauce

  • hot sauce to taste


  • Thaw shrimp in the fridge or in cold water. Drain water completely and toss the shrimp in salt and baking soda. Let rest in the fridge for 15 minutes up to an hour.
  • Fill a pot with 5-6 cups of water. Add parsley, peppercorns, and any squeezed lemon slices from the cocktail sauce. Bring up to a boil on high heat. Turn off the heat and wait for the simmering to stop. Immediately add the shrimp and cover. Let cook for 3-4 minutes depending on shrimp size. Immediately remove shrimp and plunge into an ice bath. Place in the fridge and let cool for at least 15 minutes.
  • To make the cocktail sauce mix together the ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.
  • Serve the shrimp and sauce together chilled.

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