Skip to content

Classic Poached Shrimp Cocktail with Homemade Cocktail and Shrimp Louie Sauces


*This post may contain affiliate links. See my privacy statement for details.

This Classic Poached Shrimp Cocktail recipe is an irresistible treat that never goes out of style. A shrimp cocktail appetizer stands as a testament to sophistication and simplicity. Delicately poached jumbo shrimp, perfectly seasoned and chilled to perfection, are accompanied by two delicious homemade sauces; a zesty cocktail sauce and a creamy Shrimp Louie sauce.

This iconic shrimp dish has remained a go-to for generations. Often served up at the finest restaurants, you can easily prepare this classic shrimp cocktail in your very own kitchen. It makes for a perfect party appetizer, as it can be prepared in advanced, and serve to your guests upon arrival. This recipe will yield approximately 8 servings.

A large white platter lined with ice and filled with chilled poached shrimp and lemon wedges, garnished with fresh parsley. Two dipping sauces are in the middle of the platter in small, rectangular bowls. One is a cocktail sauce and the other is a shrimp Louie sauce.

What Kind of Shrimp to Use for Shrimp Cocktail

For a classic shrimp cocktail, it’s recommended to use larger-sized shrimp. The size specification is often denoted by a count per pound, such as 16-20 count, or larger. This means there are approximately 16 to 20 shrimp per pound.

Larger, jumbo-sized shrimp work well for shrimp cocktail. They provide a satisfying bite and showcase beautifully when arranged around the cocktail glass or platter. The size also allows for easier poaching and handling during the cooking process, ensuring the shrimp remain tender, and flavorful.

Can you use smaller-sized shrimp?

Yes, however adjust the poaching time accordingly.

Fresh vs. Frozen Shrimp

When preparing shrimp cocktail, using fresh shrimp is ideal to achieve the best flavor and texture. However, high-quality frozen shrimp can also be a convenient and suitable option. If opting for frozen shrimp, it’s essential to properly thaw them before use.

To properly thaw frozen shrimp for shrimp cocktail:

  • Thaw the shrimp in a bowl of cold water and place in the refrigerator overnight for a gradual thawing process.
  • For a quicker thaw, add the shrimp to a bowl of cold water and set on counter or in sink, changing the water a few times until the shrimp are thawed.

Avoid thawing shrimp at room temperature or using warm water, as this can lead to uneven thawing and potential bacterial growth. Once thawed, rinse the shrimp under cold water.

Cleaning and Deveining Shrimp

Preferably, purchase fresh or frozen shrimp that have already been cleaned and deveined.

In the event that the shrimp have not been deveined, it’s imperative to devein the shrimp prior to poaching for shrimp cocktail. To devein shrimp:

  1. Use a paring knife or shrimp deveiner tool.
  2. Make a shallow incision along the back of the shrimp, just deep enough to expose the vein.
  3. Gently lift out the vein using the tip of the knife or your fingers and discard it.
  4. Rinse the shrimp under cold running water to remove any remaining bits or debris.

In addition, using tail-on shrimp for shrimp cocktail not only enhances the dish’s visual appeal but also offers functional advantages. The tails provide an attractive presentation, making the dish more visually appealing and inviting. Additionally, leaving the tails intact makes it easier for diners to pick up the shrimp and dip them into the accompanying sauce without getting their fingers messy.

Why Poach Shrimp?

Shrimp, by itself, has a relatively mild flavor compared to other seafood. The poaching liquid serves as an opportunity to infuse the shrimp with aromatics, herbs, spices, and seasonings. By quickly simmering the shrimp in a flavorful broth or liquid, the shrimp absorbs these surrounding flavors, enhancing its overall taste profile.

It’s through this process that shrimp cocktail gains its distinctive taste, making the quality and richness of the poaching liquid a critical component in elevating the overall flavor profile of this classic shrimp dish.

How to Prepare a Classic Shrimp Cocktail Appetizer

Preparing a classic shrimp cocktail appetizer is more than just opening a bag of frozen, cooked shrimp; thawing and plating with store-bought cocktail sauce.

If you want a more classic preparation and presentation, poaching raw shrimp in a broth of flavorful aromatics is a game-changer:

  1. Prepare Shrimp:
    • Season the tail-on, deveined jumbo shrimp with salt. Refrigerate while preparing the poaching liquid.
  2. Prepare Poaching Liquid:
    • Heat olive oil in a deep pot and season celery, fennel, onions, garlic, and peppercorns with a touch of salt and sauté until slightly colored.
    • Add white wine, clam juice, lemon juice, squeezed lemons, fennel fronds, fresh parsley, bay leaves, coconut milk, and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Make Cocktail Sauce:
    • Combine all ingredients for the cocktail sauce in a bowl and chill in the fridge.
  4. Prepare Louie Sauce:
    • Mix mayo, homemade cocktail sauce, and chopped capers in another bowl. Chill in the fridge.
  5. Poach the Shrimp:
    • Strain out the aromatics and vegetables from the poaching liquid and turn off the heat.
    • Add the shrimp to the liquid and let it poach for a few minutes in the residual heat.
    • Transfer the shrimp to an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

Tips on Making the Best Shrimp Cocktail

Here are a few tips on how to prepare this easy shrimp cocktail recipe:

  • Select Quality Shrimp: Choose larger-sized, high-quality shrimp like jumbo or extra-large for better texture and presentation.
  • Poach with Flavor: Ensure a flavorful poaching liquid by simmering with aromatic vegetables, herbs, and seasonings.
  • Avoid Overcooking: Transfer shrimp to an ice bath as soon as they turn pink and opaque.
  • Thoroughly Chill: Ensure the shrimp are completely cold before serving by refrigerating or placing them on a bed of ice.
  • Presentation: Arrange shrimp on a platter with lemon wedges, fresh parsley, flaky salt, and cracked black pepper.
  • Deveining Shrimp: If needed, devein shrimp before poaching.
  • Adjust Seasonings: Taste and adjust sauces before serving; add more horseradish or citrus for extra kick or balance flavors with sweetness or acidity.

How to Serve and Store Shrimp Cocktail

Here’s how to assemble this tasty seafood starter:

  • Place a layer of ice (optional) in a large bowl or platter.
  • Add small bowls of both sauces.
  • Arrange the poached shrimp on the platter along with lemon wedges.
  • Sprinkle on the flaky salt/ cracked black pepper mixture and garnish with fresh parsley.

Storing shrimp cocktail properly is crucial to maintain its freshness and flavors. Here’s how to properly store shrimp cocktail:

  1. Refrigeration: If there are leftovers or if you’ve assembled the shrimp cocktail in advance, cover the platter tightly with plastic wrap or transfer it to an airtight container. Store it in the refrigerator at or below 40°F (4°C).
  2. Separate Components: If possible, store the shrimp separately from the sauces and garnishes. This prevents the shrimp from becoming soggy due to contact with the sauces.
  3. Consume Promptly: Shrimp cocktail is best enjoyed fresh. Consume it within 1-2 days for optimal taste and texture.
  4. Avoid Freezing: It’s not recommended to freeze shrimp cocktail as freezing can significantly alter the texture and quality of the shrimp and sauces.

More Shrimp to Love

clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
A close up of a rectangular bowl of homemade cocktail sauce with poached shrimp and lemon wedges surrounding the bowl. One piece of shrimp is in the bowl covered in the sauce.

Classic Poached Shrimp Cocktail with Homemade Cocktail and Shrimp Louie Sauces


A Classic Poached Shrimp Cocktail appetizer stands as a testament to sophistication and simplicity. Delicately poached jumbo shrimp, perfectly seasoned and chilled to perfection, are accompanied by two delicious homemade sauces; a zesty cocktail sauce and a creamy Shrimp Louie sauce.


  • 2-pounds, jumbo shrimp (1620 count, or larger), tail-on and cleaned and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, whole with skin
  • 5 garlic cloves, whole with skin 
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • bunch of fresh parsley
  • fronds from fennel
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1, 8-ounce bottle clam juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • extracted lemons
  • 1, 15-ounce can coconut milk
  • 2 cans water
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt, for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, for garnish
  • lemon wedges for serving

For the Homemade Cocktail Sauce:

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons prepared or fresh horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce ,or hot sauce 
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of black pepper

For the Shrimp Louie Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons homemade cocktail sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped capers, rinsed and drained


  1. Place the peeled and deveined shrimp in a bowl. Season with salt and place in fridge while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  2. Heat oil in a deep pot. Add the celery, fennel, onions, garlic and peppercorns. Season with salt. Sauté to add a bit of color to the vegetables and toast the peppercorns. 
  3. Add in the white wine, clam juice, lemon juice, extracted lemons, fennel fronds, fresh parsley, bay leaves, coconut milk and water. Season with salt.
  4. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  5. While the poaching liquid is simmering, mix together all of the ingredients for the homemade cocktail sauce in one bowl. Use part of the cocktail sauce to mix together the ingredients for the Shrimp Louie sauce. Place both sauces in the fridge to chill.
  6. Once the poaching liquid has simmered, remove the aromatics with a slotted spoon. 
  7. Turn off the heat.
  8. Add the shrimp and allow the residual heat from the poaching liquid to cook the shrimp.
  9. The shrimp are fully-cooked when they turn opaque and are no longer translucent. This will only take a minute or two, depending on the size of the shrimp.
  10. Immediately transfer the poached shrimp to an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  11. Place shrimp in fridge to chill for 10 minutes, or so.
  12. Grab a large platter or bowl. Optionally, add a layer of ice (see note). Fill two smaller bowls with the sauces and add them to the platter. Plate the shrimp with lemon wedges. Sprinkle with the flaky salt/pepper blend. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.
  13. Serve chilled.
  14. ENJOY!

Classic Shrimp Cocktail Recipe! Serve this at your next holiday party. You can even make ahead for convenience! #shrimp #shrimpcocktail #appetizer #seafood #partyfood #appetizers #holidayfood #recipetok #cookingtutorial

♬ Stories 2 – Danilo Stankovic


  • If possible, use fresh shrimp, or a high-quality frozen shrimp.
  • Devein the shrimp, removing the shell. Keep the tail-on for presentation.
  • Just roughly chop the vegetables. There is really no need to remove the skin from either the onion or garlic cloves. 
  • Toasting the aromatics prior to adding the liquid will add a greater depth of flavor to the poaching liquid.
  • If you do not have clam juice, leave it out, or replace with seafood stock or water.
  • Allow the poaching liquid to simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  • Have an ice bath ready for the poached shrimp. This will stop the cooking process and ensure the shrimp are cooked perfectly.
  • Once the aromatics are removed from the poaching liquid, turn off the heat and allow the residual heat from the liquid poach the shrimp. Do NOT boil the shrimp.
  • Try not to overcook the shrimp. As soon as they turn opaque and are not longer translucent, transfer the shrimp to the ice bath.
  • If you have time, chill the shrimp for at least 10 minutes in the fridge, prior to plating.
  • Depending on how you are serving the shrimp cocktail, you may want to serve on a bed of ice for food safety. 
  • For ease, use part of the homemade cocktail serve to create the Shrimp Louie sauce.
  • Easily, make this Classic Shrimp Cocktail ahead of time and serve chilled when your guests arrive.
  • Nutrition information does include both homemade shrimp sauces.
  • Shrimp cocktail is best enjoyed immediately. Refrigerate leftovers and consume within 1 to 2 days.
  • Prep Time: 8 minutes
  • Cook Time: 32 minutes
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Easy
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Shrimp cocktail recipe, Classic shrimp cocktail, Homemade cocktail sauce, Fresh shrimp appetizer, Seafood appetizer, Shrimp with homemade sauce, Easy shrimp cocktail, Best shrimp cocktail, Delicious shrimp recipe, Party appetizer, Refreshing shrimp dish, Gourmet shrimp appetizer, Tasty seafood starter, Poached shrimp with sauce, Shrimp and cocktail sauce, Classic shrimp cocktail recipe with homemade cocktail sauce, How to make a homemade shrimp cocktail with fresh sauce, Easy step-by-step shrimp cocktail appetizer guide, Best jumbo shrimp cocktail recipe for parties, Refreshing seafood appetizer with homemade sauce, Gourmet poached shrimp with tangy cocktail sauce, Delicious jumbo shrimp appetizer with homemade dips, Perfectly poached shrimp served with homemade sauces, How to prepare a classic shrimp cocktail with two sauces, Step-by-step guide for making the best shrimp cocktail, Gourmet seafood starter: Classic shrimp cocktail recipe, Easy and quick homemade cocktail sauce for shrimp, Homemade cocktail and Louie sauce for shrimp cocktail, Appetizing jumbo shrimp with homemade tangy sauce, Mouthwatering shrimp appetizer with fresh ingredients, appetizers, how to properly poach shrimp, what is a poaching liquid,


A photo of me in a black floral dress cooking at the stovetop at Williams-Sonoma

WELCOME! My name is Melissa Latin aka. Charlotte Fashion Plate. Happy to meet you! I am more than just recipes. I love fashion and style too! Most importantly, I love my Family (my Hubby and my Fur Babies). My Husband (aka my “Kitchen Bitch”) means the world to me. He’s pretty damn cool too. Not only is he one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, he also has had a lengthy career in professional hockey. Not only winning two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early ’90’s, but most recently winning the Calder Cup with the Charlotte Checkers, amongst many other accolades. If you live in Charlotte and play hockey, or have a family member who plays, be sure to contact him!

Our life has changed dramatically in the past few years with the passing of our two goldendoodles, Vegas and Viva. We were lucky enough to have Vegas for five years (totally wish it was longer). Most recently, losing our Viva to a brain tumor in July of 2020. We welcomed our mini goldendoodle 7, almost seven years ago. We just added the amazing Hazel! Of course, I am always posting tons and tons of photos! Be sure to check out my recipe for Pet Bone Broth! This broth is super rich in nutrients and will provide your pet with a multitude of health benefits!

In addition, I’m so very excited to announce I have published my first e-book and paperback, “Mastering Thanksgiving – A Guide to Perfecting Your Thanksgiving Dinner.” Your support would mean the world to me.

Let’s Get Social!

Be sure to follow me on social media! I’m always talking food, fashion, and family! I also love sharing some of my favorite Amazon Finds too. Click here to check out my Amazon page! FacebookInstagramTikTokTwitter and Pinterest! THANK YOU!

More to Plate...

A big white plate trimmed in blue holding a fried chicken cutlet topped with a shaved tomato salad and garnished with fresh basil and a piece of crispy prosciutto.

Chicken Milanese with Tomato Salad

When you crave a twist on the classic chicken parmigiana, this Chicken Milanese with Tomato Salad offers a refreshing change. This dish

A deep stainless steel pan of quick rigatoni pasta pomodoro. The pasta is garnished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh torn basil.

Quick Rigatoni Pasta Pomodoro

Craving a simple, yet delicious pasta dish? This Quick Rigatoni Pasta Pomodoro, with its roots in Italy, is a classic pasta dish

A charcoal-colored, round plate with cooked orzo on the bottom and topped with a pan seared grouper filet that is covered with a Florentine (spinach cream) sauce.

Pan Seared Grouper Florentine

This Pan Seared Grouper Florentine is a delightful combination of tender grouper filets and a rich, creamy Florentine sauce. The grouper is

No comment yet, add your voice below!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.