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Cocktail Sauce Recipe

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posted: 12/12/21

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This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy

This Shrimp Cocktail Sauce recipe is just about the easiest appetizer you can make and it is always a huge hit!

close up of a white bowl with cocktail sauce

After years and years of having babies and little kids, Nathan and I are pretty used to doing New Year’s Eve at home. We make appetizers, play games, and tell the kids it is midnight when it is only 10 p.m. (Typically their excitement and sugar high keeps them from checking the clock . . . don’t judge us and our tired ways.)

One of our very favorite New Year’s Eve appetizers is Shrimp Cocktail Sauce. We can whip it up in under 5 minutes and it is great with cold jumbo shrimp. You’ll want to grab this 3 ingredient cocktail sauce recipe – it is a million times better than what you will buy at the store and so simple.

overhead of ingredients for cocktail sauce

How to Make Cocktail Sauce

  1. Grab some ketchup, horseradish, and lemon juice. Be sure to read below on the type of horseradish you are looking for.
  2. Mix together the ingredients. You can see the full measurements with all the tips and tricks in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
  3. Taste and adjust for flavors. I think this recipe is perfect as is, but tastes vary. If you make it and find that it is too spicy from the horseradish, add 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar. If you find that it is too bland, add up to another tablespoon of horesradish.

What is Cocktail Sauce

Cocktail sauce is most often made from ketchup and horseradish and it is served with cold seafood, most often shrimp. Very often, cocktail sauce recipes include chili sauce, Worchestershire sauce, and lemon juice. While we do add the lemon juice, we do not find the other two necessary.

overhead of cocktail sauce mixed together

What Horseradish to Buy for this Cocktail Sauce Recipe

When you go to buy horseradish at the grocery store you are going to find lots of different bottles. Most of them say that “prepared horseradish” or “horseradish sauce.” They are usually kept near the BBQ sauce and ketchup. These are not what you want.

You are looking for something that says “Fresh Ground Horseradish.” It is sold in small jars and can be found in the refrigerated section of US grocery stores near the refrigerated pickles. When you look at the ingredients, horseradish should be the only thing listed.

martini glass filled with shrimp cocktail sauce recipe and shrimp sticking out of it

What is Horseradish

Horseradish is a root vegetable that is similar in appearance to parsnips. I love the fun facts about horseradish in Wikipedia. When it is intact it has little aroma, but when it is grated it changes and produces an oil that irritates the eyes and mucus membranes. If it is exposed to light and heat it loses that signature taste and becomes bitter.

What does Horseradish Taste Like

I always find it tricky to describe tastes. That being said, Horseradish almost has a spicy quality to it. It has a tang and a kick that really do make your eyes water if it over powers a sauce.

In this recipe, it balances out the sweetness of the ketchup really perfectly and isn’t overpowering.

small white bowl with shrimp cocktail sauce on a platter with shrimp

Adjusting Flavors in our Cocktail Sauce Recipe

One of the things I like about this homemade cocktail sauce recipe is that it can be made exactly to your taste. Keep in mind that I love this recipe exactly as is written, and I could eat all the shrimp you see here with that sauce. That being said, here are two ways to tweak it depending on how spicy you like it.

  • Make it more mild: To do this you can toss in 1/2 a teaspoon of brown sugar. You get the same great horseradish taste without so much of it’s “bite.”
  • Make it stronger: To do this, keep the recipe as is, but just add in a little more horseradish, up to 1 tablespoon.

Storing Leftovers

Any leftovers that have had shrimp dipped in them should be discarded. If you have sauce that hasn’t been used, and hasn’t been dipped in, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Always use your best discretion when it comes to left overs and discard if it tastes or smells different from when you originally made it.

close up of shrimp being dipped into cocktail sauce recipe

Other Simple Appetizers

If you make this amazing Shrimp Cocktail Sauce or any of my other recipes, leave me a comment below the recipe card and let me know what you think!

small white bowl with shrimp cocktail sauce on a platter with shrimp
0 from 0 votes

Cocktail Sauce Recipe

Serves: 20 servings
(tap # to scale)
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
This Shrimp Cocktail Sauce recipe is just about the easiest appetizer you can make and it is always a huge hit!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground horseradish (read what you are looking for here)
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 pounds cooked cold shrimp for serving

Instructions

  • Mix together the ketchup, horseradish, and lemon juice.
  • Taste and adjust if necessary. I think this recipe is perfect as is, but tastes vary. If you make it and find that it is too spicy from the horseradish, add 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar. If you find that it is too bland, add up to another tablespoon of horesradish.
  • Leftover cocktail sauce that has been dipped in should be discarded. Sauce that hasn't been dippped in can be stored in the refrigeator for up to 6 months. Always use your best discretion when it comes to left overs and discard if it tastes or smells different from when you originally made it.
Author: Lisa Longley
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
small white bowl with shrimp cocktail sauce on a platter with shrimp

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Cocktail Sauce Recipe

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Hi! I'm Lisa Longley, and I am committed to giving you simple dinner ideas and recipes that are easy to make; recipes that will fill your home with joy. I am the owner and author of SimpleJoy.com and I'm so glad that you are here.

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