Get ready to try the best cocktail sauce! Make your shrimp cocktail the life of the party with this zingy dipping sauce! Works with all seafood. 5 minutes from start to finish!

homemade cocktail sauce recipe |

We didn’t have a ton of money when I was growing up. And while we always had a roof over our heads and good food on the table, my Mom had to be creative when budgeting for family meals and school clothes, etc. She’s an absolute champ!

Anyway, our frugality took a break on New Year’s Eve. There was always a gargantuan veggie, cheese and olive tray – and, you guessed it, a massive shrimp cocktail. It always seemed so fancy and cultured to have a crown of cocktail shrimp on ice surrounding a bowl of tangy, savory and spicy cocktail sauce AT HOME. My brother and I tended to pay extra special attention to that tray. The shrimp was cold and perfectly springy – and the horseradish in the sauce quickly became my favorite thing about the holidays.

By the time I was in my teens, the thought of celebrating New Year’s Eve without shrimp cocktail seemed preposterous. Therefore, that’s one of the traditions I have brought with me.

And I’ve got a delicious cocktail sauce recipe that is so easy to make – all you need is a handful of pantry ingredients and 5 minutes. I hope you love it as much as I do!

cocktail sauce recipe |

What is cocktail sauce?

Used most often as a cold dipping sauce for steamed or boiled shrimp, cocktail sauce is a tart, savory and sometimes spicy tomato based sauce that can actually be an accompaniment to any seafood.

It is common to find cocktail sauce in use at most raw bars and oyster bars. And while the flavor seems complex, it is actually an easy-to-make mixture of a few common composed kitchen condiments.

Cocktail sauce ingredients 

  • Ketchup: Yep, the condiment of all condiments forms the tomato base of our sauce. Salty, sweet and perfect!
  • Horseradish: In the same family as mustard and wasabi, you KNOW horseradish packs a punch! It delivers a spicy burn that comes almost as quickly as it dissipates. And, much like wasabi or Chinese hot mustard, eating too much horseradish in one bite will definitely let your sinuses know its there 🙂
  • Lemon Juice: I like to use fresh squeezed lemon juice as a tart, acid element.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: This fermented wonder-sauce is a mixture of vinegar, molasses, anchovies and tamarind (to name a few ingredients) and manages to impart an umami element that is both bright and earthy.
  • Hot Sauce: Now, this one is optional. But if you like your oyster and shrimp sauce spicy, you know what to do!

One of the coolest things about making cocktail sauce at home is that you’ve probably got everything you need in your pantry! Even worcestershire sauce is pretty easy to track down at your corner grocery store – or you can grab it on Amazon.

And you won’t believe how easy it is to make in less than 5 minutes.

ingredients for homemade cocktail sauce |

How to make cocktail sauce

  1. Add all the ingredients to a bowl, mix well and serve.

And that’s it! Crazy easy, I know!

When whipping up shrimp cocktail at home I actually like to make the sauce a couple of days in advance. I feel like giving it a couple of days in the fridge really brings the flavors together. But that’s totally not necessary (just a preference).

Also, when making this sauce, you’re the absolute boss. So make it how you like it. I prefer a spicy cocktail sauce, so I’m a little heavy handed with the horseradish and hot sauce. And I keep extra horseradish on the side in case I feel like adding a bit more.

But if you like your cocktail sauce without horseradish, then go for it! When making recipes at home, you can totally tailor them to your taste!

peeled raw shrimp |

What to serve with cocktail sauce

Now it’s pretty obvious that this homemade cocktail sauce recipe pairs effortlessly with shrimp, oysters, clams and crab. Chances are, if you order a chilled seafood tower at a restaurant, it’ll come with a container of cocktail sauce right next to the mignonette.

But what about some other uses for cocktail sauce?

Well, it makes a delicious dip for things like veggie and mozzarella sticks. Or use it as a sandwich spread. I’ve had great luck in the past adding a bit of mayo and using it as a salad dressing (almost like Thousand Island with a bite).

However, my favorite use of cocktail sauce (other than as a sauce for shrimp) is as a bloody Mary starter. Yep! Just add some tomato juice and a bit of celery salt – and you’re on your way to making a delicious bloody Mary for brunch. Just don’t forget the vodka!

What about you? What are some of your favorite uses for cocktail sauce?

cocktail sauce with shrimp |

How long does cocktail sauce last?

Most everything in this cocktail sauce recipe is extremely shelf stable – and will last quite a long time without going bad as long as you keep the mixture covered and cold.

While mass produced cocktail sauces will last for months in the fridge, I find a good rule of thumb is to keep the homemade stuff for up to a week before using the leftovers or pitching it out. And that probably displays an abundance of safety.

However, there’s a catch:

If you’ve been dipping shrimp directly in the container of sauce, use it up that day or get rid of it. 

That said, there’s never really a reason to make a huge batch anyway. With a recipe this easy to whip up on a moment’s notice, you can make a shrimp cocktail appetizer at home anytime the mood strikes!

Other delicious and easy homemade sauce recipes

Cocktail Sauce Recipe |

Did you like this Cocktail Sauce Recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!


Cocktail Sauce

This savory, sweet and spicy cocktail sauce will make your shrimp cocktail the life of the party!

  • Author: Caroline Phelps
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1/2 cup 1x
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Mixed
  • Cuisine: American


  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Hot sauce (optional)


Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Serve with seafood.


Keep this unused homemade condiment in the fridge (covered) for about a week. If you dipped shrimp directly in the sauce, then use that same day or discard.

Keywords: sauce, condiment, shrimp cocktail, spicy, appetizer

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