Mexican Shrimp Cocktail (Coctel de Camarones) is an elegant, chilled appetizer of tender shrimp, fresh tomato, cucumber, avocado, red onion and cilantro in a lightly spicy tomato based sauce. It's a beautiful way to begin a meal.
Shrimp takes center stage in this appetizer, first gently poached in water seasoned with fresh lemon, cilantro stems, black peppercorns and salt then steeped in sauce full of complex flavors and textures. Cucumber and red onion add crunch, while ketchup and Worcestershire sauce add sweetness and depth. Lemon juice adds brightness and hot sauce adds a hint of spicy kick. Creamy avocado is stirred in just before serving. Think of it as a fiesta for your tastebuds!
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail Ingredients
- Shrimp: medium shrimp with the shell on
- Lemon: one for poaching shrimp and optionally another for fresh lemon juice in the sauce
- Black Peppercorns
- Fresh Cilantro
- Tomatoes: such as Roma tomatoes for easy dicing
- Cucumber: peeled cucumber or English cucumber (no need to peel)
- Red Onion: or shallot for a milder onion flavor
- Vegetable Juice: such as V8 or RW Knudsen brand (what I used)
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Ketchup: ideally without high fructose corn syrup
- Fresh Lime Juice:
- Hot Sauce: such as Cholula brand
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Tortilla Chips: for serving, optional
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail is a combination of cooked shrimp, vegetables like tomato, cucumber and onion in a spicy, tomato based sauce. It shouldn't be confused with prawn cocktail or shrimp cocktail that is simply shelled cooked prawns or shrimp served with cocktail sauce.
While ceviche starts with raw shrimp (or other seafood) or fish, Mexican shrimp cocktail is made with cooked shrimp.
Instead of using Clamato, with ingredients like MSG and added color, I've opted instead for vegetable juice (like V8) spiked with a splash of Worcestershire sauce. You could also add a hearty splash of clam juice if you happen to have it on hand, but the flavors in this recipe are bold and complex enough without it.
More Must Try Mexican Appetizers
- Shrimp Ceviche
- Pico de Gallo (I tested the most popular methods and there is a clear winner!)
- Salsa Guacamole
- Mango Avocado Salsa
More Great Shrimp Recipes
How to Make Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
In a medium pot bring 2 quarts water, lemon wedges, peppercorns, kosher salt and reserved cilantro stems to boil over medium-high heat. Add deveined shrimp in shell and cover; remove from heat and let stand 3 minutes, until shrimp is just cooked through. Transfer with slotted spoon to ice bath. Let shrimp stand in ice bath 3 minutes; remove and peel shrimp including tails.
While shrimp cooks, combine tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, vegetable juice, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, ketchup, lime juice, water and hot sauce in a medium bowl. Add cooked, peeled shrimp and stir to combine; cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
To serve, remove shrimp cocktail from refrigerator and let stand for 10 minutes at room temperature. Stir in avocado and cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in 4 individual glasses with tortilla chips and lime wedges if desired.
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
- 1 pound medium shrimp shell on
- 1 lemon cut in to wedges (recipe note #1)
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves stems reserved
- 2 medium tomatoes cored and diced
- 1 small cucumber peeled and diced
- ½ small red onion finely chopped
- 1 cup vegetable juice such as V8
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice ideally fresh
- ⅓ cup ketchup
- 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lime juice plus lime wedges for serving
- ¼ cup water
- 2 ½ teaspoons hot sauce such as Cholula
- 1 small avocado halved, pitted and diced
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- tortilla chips for serving
- With kitchen shears, cut through shells along the backs of the shrimp lengthwise, just deep enough to expose veins. Remove veins with the tip of a pairing knife. (See recipe note #2 for other deveining options)
- In a medium bowl, prepare an ice bath for shrimp.
- To a medium pot add 2 quarts water, lemon wedges (squeeze juice out into pot as well as adding wedges), peppercorns, kosher salt and reserved cilantro stems; bring to boil over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and cover; remove from heat and let stand 3 minutes, until just cooked through. Transfer with slotted spoon to ice bath. Let shrimp stand in ice bath 3 minutes; remove and peel shrimp including tails.
- Meanwhile in a medium bowl combine tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, vegetable juice, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, ketchup, lime juice, water and hot sauce. Add cooked, peeled shrimp and stir to combine; cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
- When ready to serve, remove shrimp cocktail from refrigerator and let stand for 10 minutes at room temperature. Stir in avocado and cilantro; season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in 4 individual cocktail glasses or goblets with tortilla chips and lime wedges if desired.
- If you want fresh lemon juice for the sauce, you'll need a second lemon.
- The method I've described for deveining shrimp before poaching is my preference, but you have other options. You can peel and devein the cooked shrimp after you remove them from the ice bath; buy shell-on shrimp that have the backs split and the vein removed (Costco sells frozen wild shrimp that are prepared this way.), or skip deveining as many recipes instruct (you may end up with a little bit of grit in your shrimp, but then again you may not!).
- Note that nutrition information does not include tortilla chips.