Batter Licker

December 27, 2010

spice-boiled shrimp and cocktail sauce

I’ve had a lot of bad shrimp cocktails in my life. You know, the ones where the shrimp is rubbery from overcooking, the $19 restaurant appetizer features only four measly little creatures, the shrimp has absolutely zero seasoning whatsoever, or the cocktail sauce tastes like ketchup and ketchup only. But all those shrimp cocktail mishaps (especially the ones at renowned, expensive fish restaurants!) were for the better because they encouraged me to start making shrimp cocktail at home.

In other words, this is not one of those disappointing, lackluster recipes.

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This shrimp cocktail may be unlike any one you’ve ever had in that the shrimp, while boiled, is actually seasoned. A little lemon, some very flavorful Creole seasoning from my Jambalaya recipe, and a tiny bit of salt infuse the shrimp with the subtle flavor you may not have realized you were missing. And with just two minutes of cooking time and a quick shock in ice water to prevent shrimp from continuing to cook and becoming rubbery, this dish comes together in mere minutes.

The cocktail sauce also comes together with a quickly whisked combination of sweet ketchup, spicy horseradish, fresh lemon juice, and a little Worcestershire sauce, chili powder and salt to round it out. A lightly spicy, bright and fresh sauce perfect for dunking the spice-boiled shrimp into.

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Because this dish comes together so quickly, it makes a great weekday dinner paired with a simple salad, as well as a stress- and utensil-free appetizer for parties.

Spice-Boiled Shrimp
Serves 4 with a simple salad for dinner

1 lb. large shrimp (about 22 to 25 shrimp) with tails on
2 Tbsp. Creole seasoning
1 lemon, halved
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Cocktail Sauce (recipe below)

Fill large pot with water. Add Creole seasoning, lemon, garlic, chili powder, and salt, and bring to a boil. Add shrimp (if using frozen, make sure they’re defrosted all the way), and cook for 2 minutes (right about the time the water returns to a low boil, they’re done!). Remove shrimp immediately, run under cold water or in an ice bath, tossing frequently for a couple minutes until shrimp are no longer warm. Drain.

If still in shells, peel shrimp, but leave tails on. Serve with cocktail sauce.

Cocktail Sauce
Makes a little more than 1 cup

1 c. ketchup
2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish, plus up to 2 more Tbsp. to taste
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)
1 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients until combined, starting with 2 Tbsp. horseradish and adding more to taste. Serve immediately with grilled or steamed shrimp or crab, or store in airtight, refrigerated container for up to 2 weeks.


  1. I usually make shrimp cocktail every Christmas Eve, but this year I wanted to be more adventurous and try Barefoot Contessa’s baked shrimp scampi. Much as I love BC, none of us were fans of the recipe, so we’ll be back to shrimp cocktail next year!! Glad to see someone else enjoys it, too!!

    Comment by The Food Hound — December 28, 2010 @ 5:45 am

  2. I think shrimp cocktail works so well, especially for holiday entertaining, because it’s so fresh and bright tasting compared to many of the other delicious but heavy holiday favorites. Duly noted about BC’s shrimp scampi recipe – that might be the first recipe of hers that I’ve ever heard of anyone not loving!

    Comment by Kristen — January 4, 2011 @ 8:14 pm

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