Prawn Cocktail is a classic for a reason. Juicy prawns tossed in a creamy cocktail sauce with crispy lettuce. Try my incredibly easy Homemade Marie Rose Sauce and you’ll never need to use store-bought again.
For me, it’s not Christmas without a prawn cocktail. We serve this festive appetiser every year with some buttered melba toast, and it never gets old.
But Shrimp Cocktail is not just for Christmas – serve this classic dish any time of year. It’s a great choice for dinner parties as you can prep in advance and make it as simple or as fancy as you like.
Some people might call Prawn Cocktail a retro dish that belongs in the 80s, but the popularity of simple prawns or shrimp in a creamy Marie Rose sauce has never waned.
Homemade Marie Rose Sauce
Marie Rose sauce is also know as Thousand Island, Cocktail sauce or Seafood Sauce. It is typically made from mayonnaise, ketchup and lemon juice with additional seasonings. It was made popular in the UK in the 1960s by Fanny Cradock – one of the original ‘celebrity chefs’.
If you want a really decadent cocktail sauce then swap the mayonnaise for double or heavy cream. Creme Fraiche also works well for a lighter, tangier sauce.
For a bit of a boozy festive treat, I add sherry to my cocktail sauce. Just a dash really gives it that extra edge. You can also use brandy or vodka or simply leave out the alcohol altogether.
If you prefer a spicier sauce then my Bang Bang Sauce also works really well with a Shrimp Cocktail.
Prawn Cocktail Ingredients
- Prawns or Shrimp – I prefer cold water prawns as I think they have more flavour, but any variety will work. Frozen cooked prawns are ideal for ease – just defrost them overnight in the fridge before serving. If you need to cook the shrimp yourself make sure it is fully cooled before assembling the salad.
- Lettuce – Iceberg or little gem lettuce are classic for prawn cocktail. Romaine also works well but you can use whatever lettuce you prefer.
- Tomatoes – sweet cherry or plum tomatoes sliced in half.
- Cocktail Sauce – see below for full ingredients and substitutions.
- Paprika or Cayenne – optional, to garnish.
- Lemon Wedge – optional, to garnish.
Cocktail Sauce Ingredients
- Mayonnaise – I use full fat mayonnaise but you can also use light or vegan mayo depending on your dietary requirments. Creme Fraiche is also a good substitute and you can use yoghurt for a lighter sauce. Double or heavy cream is good for a decadent, rich and creamy sauce.
- Ketchup – I use regular Heinz as that is what I typically have to hand, but feel free to use whichever brand you prefer (this Homemade Ketchup is an excellent one to try). You could substitute some tomato passata in a pinch.
- Worcestershire sauce
- Tabasco – Optional, but recommended. Or use your favourite hot sauce. You only need a few drops for flavour, the sauce is not spicy (unless you want it to be, in which case feel free to add extra hot sauce).
- Dry Sherry – Brandy or vodka can also be used. Simply omit if you do not consume alcohol.
- Lemon Juice – freshly squeezed.
- Salt and Pepper
The sauce is easy to make in bulk – simply double or triple the ingredients.
How to Serve Prawn Cocktail
I like this dish served simply and every Christmas I prepare Prawn Cocktail the same way for our extended family. For each portion I start with a bed of finely sliced little gem lettuce, scatter over a few halved cherry tomatoes then add a spoonful of cooked, peeled prawns on top. I drizzle over some cocktail sauce, sprinkle with a dash of paprika then serve with a lemon wedge on the side.
Melba Toast or buttered brown bread are the best sides for a prawn cocktail – you need something to mop up all the extra Marie Rose sauce.
You can serve on a plate as I have in the pictures, or in a dessert or large coupe glass.
The cocktail sauce is at its best a few hours after it has been prepared, meaning this shrimp cocktail can easily be prepared ahead of time and assembled quickly when ready to serve.
Make this prawn cocktail into a meal by serving on a warm crusty baguette, as a sourdough sandwich or tossed with cooked pasta or grains for a hearty salad.
The sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. It is not suitable for freezing.
Upgrade Your Prawn Cocktail
- Swap the prawns for crayfish or lobster.
- Add some flakes of smoked salmon to your prawn cocktail.
- Toss some chunks of fresh grapefruit with the prawns for a lovely fresh zing.
- Upgrade the prawn cocktail salad with slices of avocado, red onion, cucumber or diced mango.
- Toss a bag of mixed salad leaves with the shredded lettuce. You could also use some baby kale or Cavolo Nero.
- Garnish with sliced spring onion and/or chives.
- Quickly defrost frozen prawns or shrimp under cold running water.
- Use pre-cooked and peeled prawns for ease. A whole, shell-on prawn can make a great garnish.
- Wash lettuce using really cold water to keep it crisp and fresh. You can even use an ice bath.
- Use the best quality mayonnaise you can reasonably afford. I love Kewpie but regular Hellman’s is also great. Homemade mayonnaise would be such a treat if you have the time and inclination.
- You can skip the tabasco or use your favourite hot sauce.
I hope you like this recipe as much as I do! Please leave a comment or tag me on Instagram @carrieskitchen_ if you make it!
More Recipe Ideas for Fuss Free Entertaining:
Easy Prawn Cocktail with Homemade Sauce (Shrimp Cocktail)
- Medium Bowl
- 4 plates or glasses, to serve
- 400 grams cooked and peeled prawns or shrimp
- 16 cherry tomatoes
- 2 heads little gem lettuce
- paprika to garnish
- 4 lemon wedges to garnish
- Prepare the cocktail sauce by mixing the ingredients together in a bowl until fully combined. Add salt and pepper to taste, plus extra tabasco and/or lemon juice as desired.
- Wash and thinly slice the lettuce. Slice the tomatoes in half.
- To assemble, divide the lettuce and tomatoes between four plates or glasses. Top with the prawns plus a generous spoonful of cocktail sauce.
- To serve, dust with paprika and serve with a lemon wedge.
This recipe has been linked to CookBlogShare hosted by Midge at The Peachicks’ Bakery