Micah A. Leal
Active Time
30 Mins
Total Time
1 Hour
1/2 cup Cocktail Sauce and about 32 Poached Shrimp

This classic coastal appetizer is somewhat of a throwback, but for lovers of fresh shrimp, ketchup, and Worcestershire, there may be no better way to embrace the flavors of the beach—and impress guests.

Traditionally cooked in a broth called Court Bouillon, the gently poached shrimp  for Shrimp Cocktail are flavored by all the aromatic components of the broth, such as onion, celery, carrot, garlic, parsley, lemon, and pepper. The beloved and familiar flavors in Court Bouillon penetrate the soft flesh of the shrimp and lend a savory harmony of flavors to an otherwise simple and sweet tasting shellfish. In our recipe, we’re saving you a bit of time and chop work by starting with a store-bought vegetable stock and adding a few ingredients to enhance it for a delicious cheat “Court Bouillon.”

Related: 3 Sauces Every Home Cook Should Know How to Make

The cocktail sauce for this classic hors d’oeuvre is characterized by its sweetness and punchiness, coming from the tomato ketchup and horseradish. Lemon juice is mixed in to add brightness, and hot pepper sauce provides the perfect amount of kick. The tang of fermented anchovies found in Worcestershire sauce offers a touch of mouth-smacking savoriness to an otherwise sweet and acidic condiment. Altogether, cocktail sauce is the aggressively flavorful counterpart to shrimp, and it’s this combination that’s made Shrimp Cocktail a classic for decades.

Since shrimp are the star of this dish, we highly recommend using the best-quality raw shrimp you can find. The sweeter and fresher the shrimp, the noticeably better your Shrimp Cocktail will be. Not hidden in a buttery sauce or by a starchy pasta, excellent shrimp naturally stand out with a better texture and sweeter flavor. Invest in good shrimp, follow our simple steps, and enjoy serving something that’s as sophisticated as it is delicious.

How to Make It

Step 1

Make Cocktail Sauce: Stir ingredients together until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Step 2

Make Poached Shrimp: Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. Add garlic, parsley, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Cover with lid and boil gently for 30 minutes.

Step 3

In a large bowl prepare an ice bath; set aside. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, discard garlic head, lemon halves, and parsley from the boiling liquid. Bring liquid back to a boil and then remove from heat. Immediately submerge shrimp in liquid, cover with lid, and allow shrimp to cook for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, until the flesh turns pink and the shrimp curl slightly. Strain shrimp and submerge in prepared ice bath for 1 minute; strain. Allow to cool to room temperature before peeling, leaving the tails on. Remove the vein if desired. Serve immediately with Cocktail Sauce or refrigerate.