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Shrimp Cocktail

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This delicious shrimp cocktail is a great appetizer to serve up for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Quick and easy to cook, the shrimp are perfectly seasoned and can be made ahead of time.

Shrimp cocktail granished with wedges of lemons.

I love to serve up a lighter appetizer before the main event on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and this shrimp cocktail is a classic for a reason!

This is such a great finger food that you can serve up whilst the rest of the dinner is being cooked to keep friends and family entertained.

The shrimp are cooked with herbs and spices and they come out so perfectly juicy and succulent. Serve them up with some cocktail sauce and lemon wedges and you are good to go!

How to make shrimp cocktail

  • Bring water, salt, black peppercorns, lemon, and parsley to boil in a large stockpot. Allow to boil for about 10 minutes.
Shrimp cooking in a pot of water with lemon and herbs.
  • Add shrimp and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the shrimp is pink. Remove shrimp and place in a bowl of cold ice water. I use a spider strainer to get them out.
Cooked shrimp in a glass bowl.
  • Remove shrimp from water, pat dry, and serve with cocktail sauce. Enjoy 🙂
Cooked shrimp and cocktail sauce on a plate.

Do you have to keep the tails on the shrimp?

I much prefer to keep the tails on the shrimp for this appetizer. They add more flavor to the shrimp and they are also easier to pick up an dip in your sauce.

Can you make it ahead of time?

This is a great make ahead appetizer! Once the shrimp have cooled in the iced water, pat them dry and transfer them to a covered bowl and keep them in the fridge. They will keep well for 3 to 4 days, but I prefer to serve them up within 24 hours.

Can you use frozen shrimp?

I prefer to use fresh shrimp for this recipe, but you can use frozen if that’s what you have.

You can either fully defrost the shrimp before cooking, or you can add them right to the pot frozen. Frozen shrimp will take longer to cook, about 5 to 6 minutes. If you are using frozen shrimp, make sure that they are shelled and deveined before adding them to the pot.

Close up of cooked shrimp served with cocktail sauce and a lemon wedge.

Recipe Notes and Tips

  • Take care not to overcook the shrimp. They are quick to cook and as soon as they turn an opaque pink color take them out of the pot. Overcooking can cause them to get tough.
  • Be sure to plunge the cooked shrimp into ice water when they are ready. This will stop them from cooking so that they stay nice and juicy and don’t get chewy.
  • Great to serve as part of a shrimp cocktail appetizer, these shrimp are also great served on a bed of salad for a sit down course.

More Easy Appetizers

Shrimp Cocktail

This delicious shrimp cocktail is a great appetizer to serve up for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve. Quick and easy to cook, the shrimp are perfectly seasoned and can be made ahead of time.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Keyword easy shrimp appetizer, how to make shrimp cocktail
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 17 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 128kcal
Author Tanya

Ingredients

  • 12 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 lemon cut in half
  • 1 handful parsley
  • 16 oz jumbo raw shrimp peeled, deveined, tail-on
  • cocktail sauce to serve

Instructions

  • Bring water, salt, black peppercorns, lemon, and parsley to boil in a large stockpot. Allow to boil for about 10 minutes.
  • Add shrimp and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the shrimp is pink. Remove shrimp and place in a bowl of cold ice water.
  • Remove shrimp from water, pat dry, and serve with cocktail sauce. Enjoy 🙂

Notes

  • Take care not to overcook the shrimp. They are quick to cook and as soon as they turn an opaque pink color take them out of the pot. Overcooking can cause them to get tough.
  • Be sure to plunge the cooked shrimp into ice water when they are ready. This will stop them from cooking so that they stay nice and juicy and don’t get chewy.
  • Great to serve as part of a shrimp cocktail appetizer, these shrimp are also great served on a bed of salad for a sit down course.

Nutrition

Calories: 128kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 286mg | Sodium: 2663mg | Potassium: 175mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 224IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 207mg | Iron: 3mg
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