This easy steamed shrimp cocktail is the perfect appetizer and takes only 15 minutes. Shrimp is delicately steamed (using a steamer basket), then poached in an ice water bath resulting in the most perfectly steamed shrimp ever. Serve this steamed shrimp alongside homemade cocktail sauce or garlic butter.
Another great shrimp recipe is this sauteed garlic butter shrimp that takes only 15 minutes!
What You Will Love
This delicious appetizer is so quick and easy that it's perfect for entertaining. Steamed shrimp is so much better than boiled shrimp because it isn't overcooked and rubbery. If this is your first time steaming shrimp, prepare to be shocked at how good it is.
The ingredients are split into two parts: the shrimp and the cocktail sauce.
This steamed shrimp recipe can be made with uncooked frozen or fresh shrimp. I purchased previously frozen raw shrimp with the tail-on. It's possible to unshell the shrimp or thaw previously frozen shrimp in water before use.
Also, I prefer to use extra large shrimp. It doesn't matter what type of shrimp you use; make sure they are decently sized and uncooked. If the shrimp is pink, then it's been previously cooked. Just check the bag or the seafood counter for raw shrimp.
Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
- Ketchup: Use any type of ketchup available. Tomato sauce cannot be substituted.
- Prepared horseradish: Horseradish is a root. Prepared horseradish is the horseradish you buy at the grocery store that's in a jar (it might be found in the fridge section).
- Crushed garlic: Use fresh garlic cloves that are mashed or crushed using a garlic press.
- Celery: Finely dice fresh celery. This adds a little flavor and crunch to the shrimp cocktail sauce.
- Lemon: Use fresh lemon juice that's squeezed to remove the seeds.
- Worcestershire sauce (optional): This unique flavor adds another dimension to the shrimp cocktail sauce. It's optional, so if you don't have any on hand, you can omit it.
- Tabasco sauce (optional): Not required, but adds a little heat.
See the recipe card at the bottom of the post for quantities.
Steam shrimp using a steamer pot. Poach shrimp in an ice water bath. Make the homemade shrimp cocktail sauce. Serve the cocktail sauce alongside chilled shrimp.
How To Make Steamed Shrimp Cocktail
Prepare the steamer by adding water to the bottom of the pan.
Add the shrimp to the steamer tray or steaming basket. Cover the shrimp with the steamer pot lid.
Put the steamer pot on high heat, so the liquid can come to a boil. Once steam starts to form, set a timer for about 60 seconds to 90 seconds. Flip the shrimp. Steam another 60 seconds to 90 seconds.
Make an ice-water bath for the shrimp.
Quickly dump the steamed shrimp in an ice-water bath. This stops the shrimp from continuing to cook.
After about a minute, remove the shrimp onto a paper towel lined plate.
Pat dry the steamed shrimp. Chill the shrimp in the fridge while preparing the shrimp cocktail sauce.
Finely dice the cucumber.
Add the finely diced cucumber, ketchup, lemon juice, crushed garlic, prepared horseradish, tabasco (optional), and Worcestershire (optional) into a small bowl.
Mix until well combined.
Serve the chilled, steamed shrimp with lemon wedges and homemade cocktail sauce.
Tips and Tricks
- Don't boil the shrimp. Within seconds the shrimp can overcook in boiling water resulting in rubbery shrunken shrimp.
- Steam the shrimp with a steamer. You can use a steamer basket insert and a conventional pot OR a steamer pot with a steam basket.
- Buy the shrimp thawed, shelled, and with the tail on. Save time by buying the shrimp ready to go.
- Use larger shrimp or jumbo shrimp. Don't skimp on size here if possible.
Variations and Substitutions
- Since you have your steamer pot out, steam some lobster tails too!
- Make homemade garlic butter sauce to serve with steamed shrimp (and lobster tails) instead of homemade cocktail sauce. Or make both!
I recommend using a steamer pot or steamer basket for this recipe. You will also need a large bowl for the ice water bath.
Store the shrimp and cocktail sauce separately in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. I do not recommend freezing this recipe.
Once the steam starts in the steamer tray, the shrimp takes about 2 to 3 minutes to turn pink.
Thaw the frozen shrimp in water before steaming them. Do not steam frozen shrimp. Otherwise, they will cook unevenly and overcook on the outside.
Steaming is the best method to cook shrimp because it doesn't overcook the shrimp as quickly as boiling water would.
Favorite Party Appetizers
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Perfectly Steamed Shrimp Cocktail
- 2 lbs shrimp uncooked frozen or fresh, tail-on
Homemade Cocktail Sauce
- ½ cup ketchup
- ½ tablespoon prepared horseradish or more depending on preference
- 1 garlic clove crushed or mashed
- ½ lemon squeezed
- 2 tablespoon finely diced celery
- 1 teaspoon tabasco sauce optional
- ½ tablespoon worcestershire sauce optional
- Prepare the uncooked shrimp so it's thawed and the shell is removed but with the tail-on. Have the ice-water bath ready in a large bowl.
- Add water to the bottom of the steamer pot. Place the shrimp in the steamer tray. Cover the pot with the lid.
- Bring the steamer to a boil. Once you see steam and the shrimp starting to turn pink, set a timer for 60 seconds to 90 seconds. Flip the shrimp and steam for another 60 seconds to 90 seconds.
- Immediately dump the shrimp in the ice water bath for about a minute until they cool down. Move to a paper towel lined plate. Blot the shrimp dry using a paper towel. Chill the shrimp in the fridge while preparing the homemade cocktail sauce.
Homemade Shrimp Cocktail Sauce
- Finely dice the celery. Crush the garlic using a garlic press or mortar and pestle. Squeeze the lemon using a lemon juicer.
- Add the ketchup, diced celery, lemon juice, crushed garlic, prepared horseradish, worcestershire sauce (if using), and tabasco sauce (if using). Mix well.
- Serve the homemade cocktail sauce with chilled steamed shrimp.
- For frozen shrimp, thaw in water for about 30 minutes until fully thawed. Do not steam frozen shrimp!
- If the shrimp has the shell-on, you can unshell the shrimp and remove the vein running alongside the back. Keep the tail on.
With a lemon squeeze, delicious appetizer for New Year’s Eve.
Thanks for the comment Lisa!