Monday, March 4, 2013

The BEST Shrimp Cocktail

The BEST Shrimp Cocktail recipe by Barefeet In The KitchenCalling this The BEST Shrimp Cocktail is almost an understatement. You may have noticed that there are very few recipes on my site that I have labeled "the best." This shrimp cocktail has earned that title. This is beyond a doubt the best shrimp cocktail I have ever tasted. The sauce is incredibly flavorful with a perfect balance of spicy tangy heat.

I have made this recipe twice now. I initially tested a halved recipe for a lunch with just my kids and I and we inhaled everything! (in a matter of minutes!) Because we didn't leave a single shrimp for the other adult in the house to taste, I felt obligated to make it again. Just to make sure it was as awesome as I remembered. And yes, it was every bit as awesome the second time.

I've made this with medium size shrimp and jumbo shrimp. I preferred the jumbo ones, but the smaller ones tasted every bit as amazing. In the future when I make this, I'll likely buy whichever is on sale at the time. I've also boiled the shrimp with and without their shells and tails. Whichever method you prefer will work fine. There is no difference in the taste.

* The shrimp and the cocktail sauce may be made up to 24 hours in advance. If deveined shrimp aren't available, simply shell the shrimp (leaving the tail intact) and cut through the top of the shrimp along the vein line and remove and discard the vein.

The BEST Shrimp Cocktail
recipe slightly adapted from Cooks Country via Mel's Kitchen Cafe
Yield: 6-8 Servings
(printable recipe)

Shrimp Ingredients:
2 pounds deveined, (shells removed and tails left on) jumbo shrimp (16-20 per pound)
3 tablespoons salt
10 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
2 lemons, juiced, peels reserved and roughly chopped (you will only need 1/4 cup of this juice, save the rest in the refrigerator for another use)
8 cups ice

Cocktail Sauce Ingredients:
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a large pot, combine the shrimp, 4 cups cold water, salt, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaves and celery seeds. Cook this mixture over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the water registers 170 degrees and the shrimp are just barely beginning to turn pink, about 5-7 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and add 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, along with all of the lemon peels. Cover the pot and let the shrimp mixture rest until the shrimp are completely pink and firm, about 5-7 minutes. While the shrimp finishes cooking, set aside 8 cups of ice next to the pot. When the shrimp are bright pink, stir the ice into the pot and let the shrimp cool completely, about 5 minutes. Remove the cool shrimp from the pot and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Whisk together the cocktail sauce ingredients and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Enjoy!

The BEST Shrimp Cocktail recipe by Barefeet In The Kitchen

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ONE YEAR AGO TODAY: Strawberry Date Shake Smoothie Ice Cream


  1. I've never started shrimp in cold water and steeped at such a low temp so this method intrigues me as do the things you cooked them in. I have a seafood-a-thon planned for this week and will definitely give this a try. When you say cold water does that mean out of the tap temperature?

    1. Yes, it was cold water out of the tap. I hope you like this as much as we did!

  2. My sister's birthday is coming up and I do believe this would be the perfect party app!

  3. Well, if you say it's the best, then I definitely have to try it!

  4. Horseradish is one of my favorite flavors! This brings back memories for me. I used to eat fresh shrimp with a neighbor from time to time. Her husband would drive to Mobile Alabama and buy 50 pounds of fresh shrimp right off the boats. He would drive it back home to Tennessee and we would boil it up and open a few (or more) cold beers. Those were some great afternoons! Love the recipe - I'll watch for shrimp to be on sale and give this a try.

  5. That last shot is just shrimp cocktail perfection!

  6. uuhhhmmmmm.. yea... I've made a few of your "best" recipes... I'm gonna believe you when you say this is the BEST! And of course, I will be trying this soon!!

  7. I'm obsessed with horseradish. I haven't had shrimp cocktail in so long!

  8. A few weeks ago we were driving home to Los Angeles from Las Vegas….I was playing on my cell phone and stumbled on a unique way of preparing Shrimps for a Shrimp cocktail….it was your blog that I was led to, and I bookmarked the recipe you shared, as well as delving into your site itself. I remembered this yesterday as I found the recipe in my bookmarks to serve ourselves and guests last night. Well let me tell you... STUNNINGLY delicious Shrimps like I've never cooked before….and this 57 year old has tried many, many variations on how to prepare Shrimps with succulence versus rubbery flavorless outcome. After preparing the Shrimps I had to laugh. My first email to you was me not being clear on the type of coconut for those Almond Joys, because the recipe didn't say…and now I'm writing to tell you that even though the Shrimp recipe left no possible room for error, I did not read it correctly, and I ended up making a mistake….a mistake that I will do on purpose from now on! I purchased my Shrimps at Costco. They are deveined already, and with a fairly deep incision that goes down the entire back of each Shrimp. I mis-read the recipe and placed the Shrimps into the seasoned water without having removed the shells. Because of the deep incision which exposed a goodly amount of the Shrimp meat, I feel that the flavors in the water were absolutely able to permeate….but I think that additional flavor came from the shells themselves, and again this was the best method ever (and the only method from now on) to cook Shrimps in my house!

    Cheers and thanks so much for having shared that recipe. I'm looking forward to try recipes from your site that I vibe with.


  9. Recipe sounds wonderful. QUESTION: I can't do horseradish (makes my tongue swell). What do you suggest as a replacement? Would a little Tabasco be in order?

  10. There is NO replacement for HORSERADISH !!!!!!!

  11. I like to grate radishes for a horse radish sub