Grilled Shrimp Cocktail

The problem with those ready made shrimp cocktails that you find in the deli section at the supermarket are two-fold, first, the shrimp.  Small, bland, watery — weirdly translucent — they look like a plasticized mold of the real thing.  Second –  that cocktail sauce.  Too sweet, little heat — decidedly un-inspired.  For the life of me, I don’t understand people that buy or even worse — serve — that stuff when the real deal is SO MUCH BETTER and so RIDICULOUSLY EASY to make.  Grilled Shrimp Cocktail is packed with flavor from the first bite.

How to devein shrimp, step by step.

The quality of the shrimp make a difference — and fresh is always preferred. Try to get the largest shrimp available, preferably U-15 to U-20.  If you can only get frozen, make sure to thaw them completely before moving on to the rest of the recipe. Dry the shrimp well with paper towels so the marinade will cling to the shrimp better.

How to peel and devein shrimp

If you’ve got fresh, peel and devein them (method shown above), leaving the last segment and the tail still attached.

  1. Grab the legs (and head, if attached) and pull off the shell right up to the last segment and tail. Leave those intact.
  2. Run a sharp paring knife down the back of the shrimp, about 1/8 to 1/4″ deep.
  3. Remove the dark vein and discard.
How to marinate and skewer shrimp.

Marinade for grilled shrimp cocktail

  • Garlic
  • Lemon or Lime Zest
  • Olive Oil
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Black Pepper

 Only 15-20 minutes in this easy marinade will add a ton of finger-licking flavor to the shrimp.

Newsletter Signup
Join our community of food lovers!

Get my latest recipes, helpful kitchen tips and more good things each week in your inbox.

Making cocktail sauce with ketchup and horseradish.

While the seafood rests in the garlicky marinade, make the cocktail sauce.  Never made cocktail sauce before?  It’s ready in approximately 2 minutes and it’s WAY better than the jarred stuff in the store.   

Homemade cocktail sauce ingredients

  • Ketchup
  • Horseradish
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Lemon Juice
  • Hot Sauce (to taste)

Just mix the ingredients in a bowl and taste for seasonings.

mixing the spicy cocktail sauce with a whisk.

The nice thing about making your own is that you can adjust this sauce to your tastes.  If you want your sinuses to clear, add more horseradish.  If you want more heat, up the hot sauce.  More tang?  Add lemon.  Play with it, until you get it the way you like.  Chill the cocktail sauce until you’re ready to eat.

A platter of marinated shrimp on skewers.

Best way to grill shrimp? Kebab them.

I find it easiest to grill shrimp when they’re skewered or kebabed. Why? If they’re not secure, the shrimp can literally fall through the cracks. The  skewers makes it faster and easier to flip multiple shrimp at once and prevents over cooking. I like to use metal skewers to save the hassle of soaking them first, but if you’re using wooden skewers, be sure to submerge them in water for at least 45 minutes to an hour, so they don’t burn on the grill. 

Grilling the shrimp kabobs.

Preheat the grill to a medium high heat (about 400-450°) and add the shrimp skewers. Shrimp are an immediate gratification seafood.  Just a few minutes on the fire and they’re perfectly plump, pink and juicy. I usually start with 2-3 minutes on the first side, before flipping and letting them cook for 1-2 more minutes.

A platter of grilled shrimp with lemon slices.

So admit it, this looks a hell of a lot better than those flaccid, rubbery trays of shrimp from the grocery store, doesn’t it? Trust me, these grilled shrimp taste better too. Especially with that homemade cocktail sauce.

Grabbing a grilled shrimp cocktail from the platter.

Bathed in garlic, spice and citrus, this grilled shrimp cocktail is way beyond ordinary. In fact, I could snack on this dish all afternoon! The cocktail sauce is tingly, sweet and spicy — with enough horseradish to make the hairs in your nose stand up — at least that’s the way I like it. Adjust to your tastes as necessary.

Individual shrimp cocktails with seafood cocktail sauce.

Grilled shrimp cocktail is delicious hot from the grill but it can also be served chilled — so, if you’re having company, you can make it in advance.

An appetizer plate of shrimp and cocktail sauce.

For passable hors d’oeuvres, add a tablespoon or two of the sauce to very small glasses – or even shot glasses and perch a shrimp on the corner.  Aren’t they fun? For more seafood appetizers, try these Fancy Baked Sea Scallops, my Florida Style Smoked Whitefish Dip or these awesome Conch Fritters.

More easy shrimp recipes you might like:

Tried this recipe? Leave a rating and review.

Your comments and shares are invaluable to me and the thousands of readers who use this site daily. If you've made the recipe, leave a star rating and review. We want to hear how you liked it.

We'd love it if you shared the recipe with your friends on social media!

grilled shrimp cocktail with lemon.
Print Pin
4.56 from 9 votes

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail

No more watery, rubbery shrimp cocktail from the deli section.  Fresh grilled shrimp and fast and easy cocktail sauce are ready in minutes!
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Keyword shrimp
Dietary Restrictions Dairy-Free, Egg Free, Gluten-Free, Pescatarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Total Time 26 minutes
Servings 4


  • 10-inch metal or wooden skewers
  • charcoal or gas grill


  • 1 pound large shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lime zested
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

For cocktail sauce

  • cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • a few drops of your favorite hot sauce optional
  • Special equipment: 10″ metal or wooden skewers


  • Place shrimp in a medium bowl. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil, lime zest and pepper. Toss to coat completely and set for 15-20 minutes to marinate.
  • Meanwhile prepare cocktail sauce. In a small bowl combine ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, worcestershire sauce and hot sauce (if desired). Stir to combine. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  • Heat grill to medium high heat — about 400 degrees. Skewer the shrimp through the head end first then through the tail section. Having two entry points will hold the shrimp steady on the skewer. Grill the shrimp for 2-3 minutes per side, or until pink and firm.
  • Serve shrimp alongside cocktail sauce.


If using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water for an hour before threading the shrimp onto them. This will prevent the skewers from catching fire on the grill.


Calories: 207kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 285mg | Sodium: 1094mg | Potassium: 192mg | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 120IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 173mg | Iron: 2.7mg

Don’t Forget To “Pin It” For Later!

Need an easy shrimp recipe? This Grilled Shrimp Cocktail with homemade cocktail sauce has just a few ingredients and is ready in minutes. Great for entertaining!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

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


  1. Darren Stevens says:

    5 stars
    The score is for the shrimp since I prefer a more traditional cocktail sauce that is 1/2 ketchup and 1/2 chili sauce. The shrimp recipe is sublime. It’s highly recommended to use 8/12 shrimp since it’s easy to overcook. I used a Le Creuset “skinny grill” on the BBQ to provide good heat but a little indirect so as not to overcook. This technique might work with 16/20s, too, but either way one needs to be rather vigilant to keep the shrimp from overcooking. I took them off a tiny bit early, looking for intrinsic heat to finish the cooking process – worked like a charm and chilled them off once they cooled. Perfection! Brava!

    1. Enjoy it, Britt – super easy and really tasty!

  2. Mmm this looks so good! One of my favorite ways to enjoy shrimp…perfect appetizer!

    1. Thank you, Sue! Don’t you just love a good shrimp cocktail?

  3. This shrimp is gorgeous! And I really appreciate the step by step photos.

  4. 5 stars
    You are so right! Store bought shrimp cocktail is not as tasty as homemade. You are right too about it being weirdly translucent! Eek. I never thought of grilling my shrimp for shrimp salad. Brilliant! This recipe looks fabulous!

  5. Great video! 🙂 I think it adds a lot to the blog!