Appetizers Seafood

BA’s Best Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp cocktail is all about the shrimp: big, fat, perfectly cooked gorgeous shrimp. We think 16–20 per pound are the perfect size, and that’s what this recipe was developed for (the size will be printed on the bag the shrimp are packaged in, or ask your fishmonger). If you end up with a different size, just follow these guidelines: For 26–30, poach 1½ minutes; for 21–25, poach 2 minutes; for 13–15, poach 4 minutes; for 8–12, poach 5 minutes. Proceed as written with the rest of the recipe!



  • ¼ cup Diamond Crystal or 2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. Morton kosher salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 lb. jumbo shell-on shrimp, deveined

Cocktail Sauce and Assembly

  • 1 cup chili sauce (preferably Heinz)
  • ¾ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ tsp. hot sauce (preferably Tabasco)
  • Lemon wedges (for serving)



  • Scoop 8 cups ice into a large bowl; set aside. Combine salt, sugar, and 6 cups water in a large saucepan. Cut lemons in half, squeeze juice into pot, and toss in lemon halves. Bring liquid to a boil, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar, then remove pot from heat. Add shrimp and poach, uncovered, 3½ minutes.
  • Immediately add reserved ice to saucepan to rapidly chill the liquid and stop the cooking. Let shrimp sit in ice bath 10 minutes. Drain, pat dry, and peel. Pat dry again. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
  • Do Ahead: Shrimp can be poached and peeled 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

Cocktail Sauce and Assembly

  • Mix chili sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, horseradish, pepper, and hot sauce in a small bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
  • Serve shrimp on cracked ice with lemon wedges and cocktail sauce alongside.

Do Ahead: Sauce can be made up to 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.