This Poached Shrimp Cocktail is a foolproof appetizer you can serve at parties, holidays, or as a crowd-pleasing snack. Homemade seafood stock fills the shrimp with aromatic flavors while the cocktail sauce is perfect for dipping!Jump to Recipe
The best shrimp appetizer
The party can’t begin until the Poached Shrimp Cocktail is ready! And thankfully, it takes less than 30 minutes to put together.
Shrimp cocktail is a classic party appetizer for endless reasons:
- The bite-sized shrimp are easy to grab.
- The presentation can be as simple or as fancy as you want.
- Shrimp is mild-flavored, which makes everyone happy.
- They’re also juicy and delectable!
- Every bite is perfectly complemented by the cocktail sauce.
In this recipe, the shrimp are poached in an easy homemade seafood stock perfumed with aromatic herbs and chili peppers. Throw the peeled shrimp shells in too – nothing is going to waste! Once poached to perfection, dip those tasty shrimp in the cocktail sauce and enjoy.
What’s in shrimp cocktail?
- Shrimp – You can make poached shrimp cocktail with any large-sized shrimp (jumbo, extra large, or large) depending on how many people you’re serving. I used 16 to 20 shell-on extra large shrimp and deveined and peeled them myself with a paring knife, but this is optional. Look for shrimp labeled Easy Peel, Simple Peel, or Shell Split and Deveined when you’re out shopping.
- Fresh herbs and shallots – Fresh oregano (or parsley), dill, a bay leaf, and onion or shallot are the aromatics needed to fill your seafood stock with layers of flavor. Dried herbs aren’t as flavorful, but can be used as an easy substitute.
- Cocktail sauce – Making shrimp cocktail sauce at home is easy. You probably have most of the ingredients in your fridge already! All you need is ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, and hot sauce.
How to peel and devein shrimp
This recipe will taste its best with raw shrimp, which means you need to peel them yourself! Peeling shrimp helps them look better, making your shrimp cocktail completely irresistible. It’s an easy process that involves removing the black vein on their backs and peeling the outer shell.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Pull off the legs on the bottom of the shrimp.
- Peel the shells but keep the tails intact. Save the shells for your seafood stock!
- Use a paring knife to cut through the shell, from head to tail, on the back of the shrimp.
- Lift out the vein with the knife, then discard.
If you need more guidance on peeling shrimp, this video by Epicurious has some great tips.
How to make poached shrimp cocktail
- Make the shrimp cocktail sauce: Stir all of the cocktail sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Set it aside while you poach the shrimp.
- Prepare the shrimp: Peel and devein the shrimp. You can learn how to do this yourself in the tips and video above. Save the shells for the stock.
- Make the seafood stock: Bring a large pot of water up to a boil and add in the shallots, herbs, fresno pepper, bay leaf, and shrimp shells. Lower the heat and let it simmer until it’s very aromatic.
- Poach the shrimp: Add the shrimp to the simmering stock and cook until they’re bright pink. Immediately transfer them to an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
- Assemble and serve: Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel. Place them in a serving bowl next to the cocktail sauce, then enjoy!
Poached shrimp cooking times
Shrimp will take between 1 and 5 minutes to poach, depending on their size. Follow these cooking times for guidance:
- 13 to 15 shrimp: 4 minutes
- 16 to 20 shrimp: 3-4 minutes
- 21 to 25 shrimp: 2 minutes
- 26 to 30 shrimp: 1 ½ minutes
Tips to make the best shrimp cocktail
- Serving amounts – Keep the number of guests in mind when you’re out shopping for shrimp. You can plan to serve at least 3 to 4 large shrimp per person as long as other appetizers are being served. When in doubt, buy a little more than you think you need!
- Save the seafood stock – This way, it’s ready to go when you need poached shrimp in a hurry! Store the cooled stock in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.
- Experiment with aromatics – You can add peppercorns, Cajun seasonings, Old Bay seasoning, lemon juice, green onions, or any other aromatics you love to the seafood stock.
- Always pat the shrimp dry – Once they’re out of the ice bath, pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. This way, the cocktail sauce will cling to the outside of the shrimp.
- Instead of cocktail sauce – Plate the shrimp around a bowl of tartar sauce, hot sauce, romesco sauce, garlic aioli, or pesto.
Frequently asked questions
You’ll know they’re done poaching when the shrimp turn from translucent to pink in color and form a half-moon or “C” shape.
Of course! Allow the frozen shrimp to thaw overnight in the fridge or by placing the bag in a large bowl filled with cold water.
If you aren’t serving the shrimp cocktail right away, store the poached shrimp in a shallow airtight container in the fridge. They should stay fresh for 2 to 3 days.
Looking for more delicious shrimp recipes?
- Garlic Shrimp Soba Noodles
- Grilled Garlic Shrimp
- Chili Lime Shrimp Tacos
- Pan-Fried Romesco Shrimp
- Grilled Shrimp and Avocado Salad
Did you try this Poached Shrimp Cocktail? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below and giving this recipe a rating! Don’t forget to take a picture tag me on Instagram or use #lenaskitchenblog to be featured in my stories! I love seeing what you come up with!
Poached Shrimp Cocktail
- 1 ½ pound raw shell-on shrimp deveined and thawed if frozen (16-20 count)
- ½ small onion peeled and quartered or use shallot
- 4 stems fresh oregano or use parsley
- 4 stems fresh dill
- 1 bay leaf
Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
- 1 cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce or more to taste
Make the Cocktail Sauce
- Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix well, until combined. Set a side to let flavors marry together while th shrimp cooks.
Make Poached Shrimp
- If the shrimp aren't deveined: Using a sharp knife, cut along the length of the backs of the shrimp through shells and just deep enough into the flesh to expose veins; remove veins. Peel the shrimp. Reserve the shells for stock.
- Bring a stockpot of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Add onion, herbs, bay leaf, and shrimp shells.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Return to a rolling boil. Add shrimp, cover pot, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Remove the shrimp into a ice bath with a spotted spoon. Let cool completely. Pat dry with a paper towel. Add to a serving bowl with cocktail sauce.