Shrimp Cocktail 2.0

Shrimp Cocktail 2.0

The shrimp “cocktail” as we know it originated in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. The proud, flavorful shrimp of my youth have been reduced to rubbery sauce shovels sadly sharing sherbet cups with week-old lemon wedges. It’s just not right.

There’s a secret ingredient in this new cocktail sauce: smoked almonds. Trust me on this.

Shrimp Cocktail 2.0

  • 2 ounces kosher salt
  • 2 ounces sugar
  • 1 cup water (at room temperature)
  • 8 ounces ice cubes
  • 32 head-on shrimp (21-25 count)


  • 1/4 cup smoked almonds
  • 1 28- ounce can whole tomatoes (drained)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup (I prefer Heinz, and no … they don't pay me to say that)
  • 3 tablespoon Sambal chili paste (or other prepared chili sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon old bay seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  1. Combine the salt, sugar and water in a mixing bowl, stirring to dissolve. Add the ice and set aside while prepping the shrimp.
  2. Use a pair of scissors to remove the veins from the shrimp without removing the shell.
  3. Put the shrimp in the brine and refrigerate for 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, to make the cocktail sauce, place almonds in food processor and pulse until pieces resemble course meal. Add all the other ingredients except salt and process in pulses until desired consistency is reached. I like mine a little on the chunky side.
  5. Let the sauce sit in the work bowl for 5 minutes, then taste. Add the salt as desired. (Refrigerate 3 hours before serving. Up to a week is okay too.)
  6. Place a half sheet pan or foil-lined broiler pan about 8 inches under the broiler and heat for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the shrimp from the brine and rinse under cold water. Dry thoroughly on paper towels. In the same bowl (discard the brine), toss the shrimp with the oil and sprinkle with Old Bay.
  8. Arrange the shrimp on the sizzling-hot sheet pan and slide back under the broiler. Set your timer for 2 minutes.
  9. Clean out the bowl and stick it in the freezer.
  10. Flip the shrimp quickly with tongs and return to the broiler for 1 minute.
  11. Transfer the shrimp to the chilled bowl and toss a few times to knock down the heat. Place in the freezer, tossing every few minutes until the shrimp are thoroughly cooled (shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes).
  12. Peel the shrimp and serve alongside the sauce.


Add yours
  1. 3
    Diane Barvels

    Wow! I never had shrimp before until I joined the military in 1990. Growing up fancy meant saltine crackers! : ) But We did always have the freshest poultry on any American table! 0500 the chicken got the axe….and 0515 the feather plucking started! By 1100 the chicken was on the table! : )

  2. 4

    Wow, Alton. Hope you never develop HBP. No extra salt, no almonds, no Old Bay sodium bomb, no extra whole tomatoes. I’ve been using 2 cloves pressed garlic, horseradish, lemon juice, hot sauce, ketchup and worcestershire, for years. And God, NO sugar.

  3. 6

    How did you come up with smoked almonds in coctail sauce? I can’t wait to try it. But now you have me thinking about ceviche and what a few smoked almonds would do for the taste/texture…

  4. 7

    Saw you in Houston, AB. Loved it. BUT, We need to send you some Whataburger Ketchup. Also, you should serve this in airports!

  5. 8
    Mark Hard

    Not pertinent to the recipe, but do you write your own copy? You (or whoever) are a gifted writer. You have humorous, expressive ways of stating things.

  6. 9
    Pamela Pingel

    Recipe calls for head-on shrimp….are they to remain that way or are heads removed before being “plated” with the sauce?

    • 10
      Brent D.

      I bet it meant shell on. And technically the instructions for making the sauce should be before the shrimp stuff.

      • 11

        Brent, I am 100% sure he meant head on shrimp. Of course substituting shell on would be better than peeled because of the flavor difference. Cooking them shell on is better, but with the head on is the best, plus head on shrimp are most commonly sold fresh and not previously frozen.

  7. 12

    Ya lost me at almonds. Joe, Heinz is used by most kitchens because of it’s consistency. A chef knows how it will taste, every single time. Homemade is also cool, I’d love to try it someday.

  8. 13
    Joe s

    Why Heinz ketchup/catsup, besides you like it? Why no t homemade since it’s basically vinegar, tomatoes, and spices. Think of the possibilities with the vast array of herbs and spices. Hot, sweet, or savory ketchup!!

  9. 14
    Jonathan M

    “Oil” is listed in step 7 but not in the ingredients. Not sure what to use, but I’m guessing something pretty high temp tolerant to take the broiler.

    • 15

      Old Bay is also not listed as an ingredient… speaking as someone who uses recipe print-outs to create shopping lists, this could potentially leave someone short an ingredient.. YES, Old Bay and Olive Oil are standards, but neophyte cooks may not have them and that could lead to frustration.

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