How To: Make Homemade Cocktail Sauce

Growing up, it wasn't a holiday party until my mother put out a platter of chilled shrimp with a bowl of spicy cocktail sauce. This holiday season, skip the bottled sauce and make your own at home with this simple recipe!

Homemade Cocktail Sauce | Taste As You Go

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While I wouldn't necessarily say that my parents loved throwing parties when I was growing up, I secretly think my mother loved entertaining. Not because she enjoyed making all of the preparations, but because she enjoyed having the opportunity to bring together the people she cared about the most in one place.

Looking back on the holiday parties put on by my parents, I'm thoroughly amused by the fact that my clearest memories related to those parties all have to do with food. She was, by no means, a gourmand, but my mother had her stand-by favorites and loved to serve punch (made with fruit juice, ginger ale, and large scoops of rainbow sherbet), stuffed mushrooms (made with Cheez-Whiz and pastrami), and crocks of hot crab dip as well as large platters of chilled shrimp with the traditional accompaniment of cocktail sauce from a bottle.

I can understand why my mother used bottled cocktail sauce. It was easy and didn't require effort beyond opening the bottle and pouring the sauce into a pretty bowl. But after seeing a recipe for cocktail sauce in the February 2014 issue of Food & Wine, I realized that making it from scratch was just as easy (assemble ingredients and stir to combine) and allowed me to control the spiciness.

Ready to be convinced? Then keep reading!

Tomato Ketchup | Taste As You Go

Chances are, you'll already have most of the necessary ingredients on hand. Miraculously, the only item I had to pick up from the grocery store was the prepared horseradish.

But I'm getting slightly ahead of myself.

You're going to want to start with 1 cup of ketchup.

Prepared White Horseradish | Taste As You Go

Add 1/3 cup prepared white horseradish that's been drained well with a fine mesh strainer. Since Stephen and I can take a little spice in our food, I didn't level off the horseradish after measuring it. Feel free to adjust the amount of horseradish to suit your tastes.

Microplane and Shallot | Taste As You Go

Next, add 1 shallot that's been grated. A Microplane is perfect for this task, and I found that grating the shallot rather than simply mincing it intensifies the overall flavor of the cocktail sauce. Again, if you'd prefer to mince the shallot, then, by all means, go for it!

After the shallot, add 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar. The Food & Wine recipe calls for a full tablespoon of vinegar, but I cut that amount in half. For me, there was plenty of vinegar in the ketchup.

Microplane and Grated Lemon Zest | Taste As You Go

Now comes 1 teaspoon lemon zest that's been finely grated and 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

Homemade Cocktail Sauce | Taste As You Go

Stir everything together and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

And that's it!

The cocktail sauce can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for up to three days. Since I prefer my cocktail sauce chilled, I like to keep it in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.


I told you making homemade cocktail sauce was easy. Consider making it from scratch the next time you're planning on adding shrimp cocktail to your party menu!

(Or anything else that calls for cocktail sauce, for that matter.)

Homemade Cocktail Sauce | Taste As You Go


Six years ago: Simple Stuffed Mushrooms

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