This Cajun shrimp cocktail is delicious like the original, with a zesty twist. Plump and juicy shrimp are coated with Cajun spices and roasted, then dunked into a tangy homemade Cajun cocktail sauce.
These are the perfect appetizer for a dinner party, or throw them into a salad or wrap. This is a quick and easy recipe that’s ready in under 20 minutes!
You’ve probably enjoyed cocktail shrimp at your favorite seafood restaurant (hello, seafood tower), but did you know it’s pretty easy to make your own? I'm already a big fan of cocktail shrimp, but I love the extra kick the Cajun flavors add. I also love the tanginess of the cocktail sauce. This recipe takes cocktail shrimp to the next level with Cajun spices.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Quick and easy - ready in under 20 minutes!
- A jazzed up version of the classic shrimp appetizer full of flavor and Cajun spice.
- Shrimp are quickly roasted at a high temperature so they stay plump and juicy.
Shrimp - For 4 appetizer size servings, you will need 1 pound of peeled and deveined shrimp. This is about 1 ½ pounds of shrimp with tails shells on. Stores often sell frozen shrimp that are already peeled and deveined to make it easier. As long as you are buying a high quality product, using frozen shrimp are fine.
PRO TIP: 21-25 size shrimp or bigger are great for cocktail shrimp. This means there are 25 or less shrimp per pound. The smaller the number, the bigger the shrimp.
Lemon - The sweet sourness of lemons are the perfect compliment to this seafood dish. You will be using lemon zest as well as lemon juice, so make sure you have a zester. Buy a couple of extra lemons so you can serve the cocktail shrimp with some lemon wedges.
Cajun seasoning - You can’t have Cajun shrimp without the Cajun seasoning! You can buy a pre-made version or make your own homemade Cajun seasoning mix with this recipe.
Horseradish - Horseradish gives the cocktail sauce that classic tang. You can use a little less if you don’t like the flavor.
See the recipe card below for full list of ingredients and measurements.
Check out more Cajun recipes here.
How to make
This seafood appetizer recipe is simple and easy to make but FULL of flavor.
To make the homemade cocktail sauce, combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to use.
PRO TIP: Make the cocktail sauce about 1 hour before you plan on serving so it has time to refrigerate, as it tastes better cold.
Next get your shrimp ready. You can peel the shrimp yourself, or buy shrimp that is already peeled and deveined for you.
I normally don’t leave the tails on the shrimp for other recipes like pasta dishes, but for shrimp cocktail it is best to leave the tails so they can act like a little handle for dipping and eating.
How to peel and devein the shrimp
- Peel the shell up to the last segment containing the tail, and leave that piece intact.
- With a sharp paring knife, make a shallow slit along the back of the shrimp up to the piece of tail shell, exposing the dark colored vein (aka the intestinal tract).
- Remove the vein and discard.
- You should now be left with a peeled and deveined shrimp with the tail intact.
Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and toss in olive oil, then in cajun seasoning and lemon zest.
Looking for more shirmp recipes? Try these deliciously crispy panko shrimp!
Roast the shrimp for 5-10 minutes or until the shrimp are an opaque pink and just cooked through. Shrimp will curl when cooked.
You can serve the shrimp hot or cold. If you would like to serve cold, transfer the shrimp to a plastic bag and place in a bowl of cold water with ice, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (While classic cocktail shrimp are great served chilled, I do prefer these served hot.)
Serve on a serving platter with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and lemon wedges so your guests can add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
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Throw them in a green salad topped with Homemade Cajun ranch dressing.
Storage & Reheating
How to store leftovers: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Shrimp are better when eaten the day they are made.
How to freeze: I don’t recommend freezing this recipe.
How to reheat: These cocktail shrimp are best served hot and fresh, or chilled. I don’t recommend reheating them once they have been cooled, as the shrimp can become rubbery.
Frequently Asked Questions
The “vein” in a shrimp is actually the intestinal tract, and can be filled with a gritty substance. While not absolutely necessary to remove them, it is more appetizing to do so!
You want to use fairly large shrimp for shrimp cocktail. I like to use sizes that are at least 21-25 or larger, meaning they have at most 25 shrimp per pound. The smaller the number, the larger the shrimp.
For an appetizer portion of shrimp cocktail, allow about 4 ounces (¼ of a pound) of shrimp per person. This means 1 pound of shrimp (peeled and deveined) serves 4 people. For a dinner portion, I go for 8 ounces (½ pound) per person.
If you plan on serving the cocktail shrimp cold, you can make the night before and refrigerate. If you plan on serving them warm, I would recommend making them just before serving so they are hot and fresh.
More appetizer recipes to try
- Burrata Bruschetta Recipe with Roasted Tomatoes
- Crab Rangoon Dip with Fried Wontons
- Baked Brie with Fig Jam and Caramelized Onions
- Bacon Cheeseburger Sliders
- Crispy Blackened Chicken Wings
- Spinach and Artichoke Dip
More seafood recipes
Cajun Shrimp Cocktail
- Baking sheet/sheet pan
- Parchment paper or aluminum foil
- Measuring spoons
- Citrus juicer
- Measuring cup or small bowl
- MIX: Combine all ingredients for cocktail sauce and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- PREP: Preheat the oven to 425°F and place the rack in the middle position. Peel and devein shrimp and pat dry. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil. Toss shrimp in oil, then cajun seasoning and lemon zest. Space out on the baking sheet.
- ROAST: Roast the shrimp for 5-10 minutes or until shrimp are opaque pink and just cooked through.
- SERVE: Serve hot or chilled, topped with fresh chopped parsley and lemon wedges.
- You want to use fairly large shrimp for shrimp cocktail. I like to use sizes that are at least 21-25 or larger, meaning they have at most 25 shrimp per pound. The smaller the number, the larger the shrimp.
- How to store leftovers: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Shrimp are better when eaten the day they are made.
- How to freeze: I don’t recommend freezing this recipe.
- How to reheat: These cocktail shrimp are best served hot and fresh, or chilled. I don’t recommend reheating them once they have been cooled, as the shrimp can become rubbery.
Hey good lookin', what ya got cookin'? I'm Lauren and I love to teach you how to make the good stuff, from scratch! I use fresh quality ingredients to create impressive but approachable restaurant worthy recipes.