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Here’s the very best homemade cocktail sauce that makes shrimp cocktail sparkle! Tangy, savory, and spicy, this recipe takes just 5 minutes.

Homemade cocktail sauce
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Here’s the thing. Store-bought cocktail sauce is decent. But homemade cocktail sauce is a revelation. Yes, behold the magic of this easy cocktail sauce you can make at home! This one has become famous in our family because it’s just that good. It takes just 5 minutes to stir together, and makes your tastebuds dance with the depth of flavor. What makes the very best shrimp cocktail? This tangiest, most flavor-popping, horseradish-y cocktail sauce recipe! When Alex and I first tried it, we were blown away by the punch in just a few ingredients. Let’s get cooking, shall we?

How to make cocktail sauce from scratch

Cocktail sauce is a cold sauce served with shrimp or prawns that originated back in the 1950s and 60s in Britain. This delightfully retro appetizer has solidified itself in modern American culture to this day. (What party isn’t complete without a tray of shrimp cocktail?) While you can find bottled cocktail sauce in any grocery store, it’s taken to new heights when you make it at home.

How to make homemade cocktail sauce? It’s as easy as mixing the following together:

  • Organic ketchup
  • Tomato paste
  • White vinegar
  • Spices: onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder
  • Prepared horseradish
  • Hot sauce

Simply mix these ingredients in a bowl (quantities are below) and voila: instant cocktail sauce! You’ll be surprised when you take a taste out of the bowl: it tastes dead on. You almost feel like you’re tasting shrimp…but it’s just the sauce!

Shrimp Cocktail Sauce

Use organic ketchup if you can find it

We like using organic ketchup in our recipes. Why? It tends to have a better flavor: not necessarily because it’s organic, but because the manufacturer has taken a little more care with the ingredients. It also tends to have regular sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. Take a look at the ketchup options at your grocery and choose wisely. The ketchup makes the main body of the sauce, so you want it to be as quality as you can afford. (See also: our Homemade Ketchup recipe!)

Adjust the horseradish to taste!

The spicy horseradish is what makes cocktail sauce shine! In fact, there’s a famous restaurant in our city that prides itself on the spiciest cocktail sauce around. For this recipe, we wanted it to be medium spicy to fit a variety of tastes. If you love heat in cocktail sauce, feel free to add more to taste: it makes it even better!

Remember that prepared horseradish is the kind in the jar: not the bare root that you can find in the produce section. Prepared horseradish is grated horseradish root that’s mixed with vinegar and salt. You can find it in the condiments area in your grocery store, by the mayonnaise and ketchup.

Fun fact: Horseradish is a cruciferous vegetable: it’s in the same plant family as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage! If you love the spicy flavor, try it in this Creamy Horseradish Sauce.

Best shrimp cocktail

How to cook shrimp for shrimp cocktail

Once you’ve mixed up a batch of homemade cocktail sauce, all you have to do is cook the shrimp. What’s the cooking traditional cooking method for this appetizer? Boiled. Yes, make up a batch of Boiled Shrimp. Most of the time we cook shrimp on the stovetop, but to get that perfect shrimp cocktail flavor and texture, boiling it does the trick.

How long does homemade cocktail sauce last?

Good question. You can store this homemade cocktail sauce for several months refrigerated. Some sources claim it lasts up to 6 months: we’d recommend about 3 months. This means you can make up a big batch to keep it around for dipping. Speaking of…

Homemade cocktail sauce

Other uses for cocktail sauce

Do you love homemade cocktail sauce as much as we do? Then you might want to consider expanding what you use it for! Here are a few other ideas to use up the leftovers:

  • Serve it with baked fish as a dipping sauce
  • Brush it on the top of meatloaf at the end of baking
  • Use it with grilled shrimp as a smoky spin
  • Spread it on pizza dough as an alternative to pizza sauce
  • Stir in some cream cheese to make a spicy dip

This homemade cocktail sauce recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

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Shrimp cocktail

Famous Homemade Cocktail Sauce

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: ¾ cup 1x
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Here’s the very best homemade cocktail sauce that makes shrimp cocktail sparkle! Tangy, savory, and spicy, this recipe takes just 5 minutes.


  • ½ cup organic ketchup*
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, or more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce (like Frank’s Red Hot)


  1. In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients. Taste and adjust horseradish to your preference. Saves for up to 3 months refrigerated.


*Double if serving for a large party. 

  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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