A Perfect Shrimp Cocktail For the Holidays

Making Restaurant-Style Shrimp Cocktail

If you’re anywhere near my age, you’ll remember going to restaurants and supper clubs with your parents, where one of the most elegant appetizers you could order was the shrimp cocktail.

There’s honestly nothing quite like a crisp, chilled shrimp with a zesty cocktail sauce, especially during the holiday season. I wanted to share one of my favorite seafood recipes with you, and make it possible for you to bring another festive dish into your home for the holidays.

If you prefer to cook along with a video, check out this step by step tutorial showing my Perfect Shrimp Cocktail recipe using Naked Raw Shrimp

Before we start cooking, let’s talk about the ingredients for this shrimp recipe.

Ingredients Needed for this Shrimp Recipe

One piece of naked raw shrimp on a plate.

Shrimp cocktail requires a high-quality, sustainably sourced shrimp. I like to use Naked Raw Shrimp, which comes peeled, deveined and with the shell on.

Our ocean-raised Naked Shrimp has a naturally-clean flavor profile and crisp texture. The most important part about this shrimp is that it contains absolutely no chemicals, no artificial preservatives, and no antibiotics… it’s just pure shrimp.

Naked Shrimp is 4-Star Certified Sustainable by the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP), which is the highest rating possible. This means that every step of the process is carefully monitored to ensure the highest quality, best tasting, responsibly sourced Shrimp.

How to Cook Shrimp for Shrimp Cocktail

Working with the right ingredients matters a lot, but the right cooking techniques play an important role, too.

When you’re preparing a shrimp cocktail at home, it is crucial to use SHELL-ON SHRIMP. Why? This enhances the flavor, and prevents the shrimp from absorbing excess water, which can compromise their texture. By keeping the shell on, you’ll transfer the shell’s flavors into the shrimp. It’s a real game-changer in terms of taste!

Here are my 5 tips for cooking shrimp:

  1. Season the water. I season my water with kosher salt and a little secret weapon of white vinegar, which is going to season and acidulate the water. This is going to make your shrimp taste great.
  2. Test doneness. How do you know when your shrimp is ready? Test doneness by carefully removing shrimp from the pot using a kitchen cloth. Make a cut through the middle, and check for any translucence or shininess. If it’s shiny at all, put the shrimp back in the pot for another 30 seconds. If it’s white throughout, it’s done!
  3. Shock the cooked shrimp in an ice bath, which will immediately stop the cooking. This avoids overcooking, and will rapidly chill your shrimp. 
  4. Peel your shrimp as close to serving time as possible. This will ensure a moist shrimp. Keep your shrimp covered after peeling to prevent it from drying out.
  5. Feeling overwhelmed? Watch my How to Make a Classic Shrimp Cocktail video for easy-to-follow cooking instructions. 

My Holiday Shrimp Cocktail Recipe 

DIY Shrimp Cocktail

Serves 2-4

Base Mix Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Raw Naked Shrimp (EZ Peel), fully thawed
  • ½ Gallon Water
  • ½ Cup White Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
  • 1 large bowl of ice water at the ready
  • (1) 12 oz. jar Cocktail Sauce

Method:

    1. Thaw shrimp fully before cooking, either for 24 hours in the refrigerator or under cold running water for 4-5 minutes.
    2. In a large stock pot, combine:
      1. Water, Vinegar, and Salt
    3. Bring seasoned water to a boil on high heat.
    4. Add the thawed shrimp, reduce heat to medium.
    5. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes.
    6. Check 1 shrimp for doneness:
      1. Remove on shrimp with tongs and dunk in ice water.
      2. With a small paring knife, cut halfway into the shrimp.
      3. If it is white throughout, it is DONE.
      4. If it is translucent or shiny at all on the inside, add back to the heat and continue to cook for another 30 seconds – 1 minute.
      5. Check again to ensure shrimp are cooked through.
    7. Once cooked, remove all shrimp, and submerge into ice water. This will STOP the cooking immediately, to avoid overcooking.
    8. Allow to sit for a couple minutes until completely chilled.
    9. Remove from water and peel.
      1. Remove all the shell, except for the tail. This will act as a “handle” for your guests
      2. Peel your shrimp as close to serving time as possible. This will ensure a moist shrimp. Keep covered after peeling so shrimp do not dry out.

Serve with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.

Bake or Pan Fry?

How to Make Homemade Cocktail Sauce

Creating your own cocktail sauce is so easy, and delicious. All you need are Rotel tomatoes, chili sauce, horseradish, EVOO, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and tabasco. Watch our Instagram video to quickly see how to make your own sauce.

If you want to try a different flavor altogether, check out this Mexican-inspired shrimp recipe.

For the final touches on your recipe, here are my additional serving suggestions that’ll wow your guests.

Shrimp Cocktail Suggestions:

  1. Leave the tails on as a handle for your guests.
  2. Serve it in a festive dish. I always use my grandmother’s pedestal dish, which was her most special dish. She used it whenever she’d serve shrimp cocktail, because it was considered one of the fanciest appetizers.
  3. Plan on about three to six shrimp per guest.
  4. Pair your shrimp with a German riesling. It has a little bit of sweetness that complements the acidity of the cocktail sauce nicely.

You honestly can’t go wrong with a classic shrimp cocktail. This recipe is always useful to have in your culinary arsenal; not only during the holidays. Your friends and family will thank you for being the one to bring the best shrimp cocktail.

On the hunt for more great shrimp recipes? Here’s my Classic Shrimp Scampi recipe, or try my Beer Battered Naked Shrimp with Rosemary Lemon Aioli.

Do you have any questions about cooking shrimp? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, and on social media. Tag us at @NorthCoastSeafoods to get featured.

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About Chef Andrew Wilkinson: Trained at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York Chef Andrew Wilkinson has an instinctive understanding of superior cuisine. In his newest mission; “Real Food for Healthier Kids,” Chef Andrew is spearheading North Coast Seafoods’ commitment to offer all school children the benefits of adding seafood to the weekly menu offering. Wilkinson is constantly looking for innovative ways to utilize lesser-known, sustainable and healthy fish choices for today’s changing diet.

Prior to joining North Coast Seafoods, Wilkinson was Chef/Partner of Skipjack’s Restaurant Group in Boston. Wilkinson made his mark in New York City as the Executive Chef of the Rainbow Room. Wilkinson brings extensive international experience to the kitchen. After graduating from the CIA, he worked at the 3-star Kur Hotel Traube Tonbach in Germany. He returned to the U.S. to be the chef at Aurora in New York City and after three years was recruited to Fukuoka, Japan. He was a U.S. Culinary Olympic Team Sous Chef in 1984 & 1988. The most important things in Chef Andrew’s life, family and cooking, have always intersected.

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