Classic Cocktail Sauce

  • Jump to Recipe
  • How do you make your favorite cocktail sauce? Just ketchup and horseradish?

    Or you might be one of those people that never really thought about, just got the store bought sauce.

    angle of homemade cocktail sauce surrounded by shrimp

    Cocktail Sauce Recipe

    Classic Cocktail Sauce is more than just ketchup and horseradish. For many, the perfect blend has a few more ingredients to form a balanced classic cocktail sauce worthy of complementing the best shrimp, crabcakes and oysters.

    Also read on for why this can be transformed into a cocktail sauce without horseradish! 

    But the cocktail sauce you get at (some) restaurants tastes different. It has a little more ump. Pizzazz. Your homemade Cocktail Sauce can also be this good with your own special zest! 

    shrimp dipping into homemade cocktail sauce

    Where Does It Come From?

    Cocktail sauce was invented by famed British chef and TV personality, Fanny Cradock, and originally made to serve with a prawn cocktail. The name, therefore, was the “sauce of the cocktail”.

    And what we know today as the famous Shrimp Cocktail, deemed the ultimate of fancy appetizers and hor dourves. I think I might go back to referring to it as a Prawn Cocktail. It sounds so much more sophisticated. 

    Prawns vs Shrimp

    What is the difference between prawns and shrimp? Most people assume they are the crustacean, just different sizes. That is FALSE!

    Both shrimp and prawns are crustaceans that have ten legs and possess external skeletons. However,  shrimp belong to the sub-order Pleocyemata, while prawns belong to the sub-order Dendrobranchiata.

    Try to say that 10 times fast! In fact, just try to pronounce it once. I dare ya!

    In layman’s terms…

    Prawns have branching gills, claws on three pairs of their legs and second pincers that are larger than their front ones.

    Prawns lack the distinct bend in their bodies that is seen with shrimp and each of their body segments overlaps the one behind it in succession.

    Shrimp have plate-like gills and claws on two pairs of their legs with their front pincers being the largest. Shrimp also have a distinct bend in their bodies and their second segments overlap the first and third segments.

    Use that as a little pre-dinner discussion or JEOPARDY… here you come!

    overhead of plate of shrimp with cocktail sauce

    What To Use Cocktail Sauce On

    Since its invention,cocktail sauce has since been added as a staple to many seafood dishes beyond just shrimp cocktail- some even call it shrimp cocktail sauce. Fried fish, fish sticks, oysters and clams, fried and steamed shrimp, sometimes even steamed and fried crabs.

    I even like mine with hush puppies, but don’t tell anyone, that is sooo taboo. I’m not a huge fan of Tartar Sauce, although I’ve been told I make a good one, so anything that usually pairs with tartar gets cocktail sauce! 

    If ketchup is the ultimate condiment, then this sauce is its close cousin. Maybe even a sibling. 

    hand holding up a shrimp with cocktail sauce

    What Makes This One Different?

    My recipe includes the basic building blocks for any cocktail sauce, although some cooks prefer to use a chili sauce in lieu of or in addition to ketchup.

    An easy recipe of ketchup, worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, horseradish, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a small bowl. That is it. 

    After you get your basic sauce perfected, then you can start getting crazy with other concoctions, like my Balsamic Cocktail Sauce that I serve with Balsamic Steamed Shrimp.

    angle of homemade cocktail sauce, lemons and steamed shrimp

    More classic sauce recipes:

    Creamy Horseradish Sauce
    horseradish cream sauce with chives
    Creamy Horseradish Sauce comes together in less than 5 minutes with a sour cream base, tangy horseradish, this is a winner that will rival any steak sauce!
    Remoulade for Crab Cakes
    spoon with remoulade sauce on it
    Get ready to try your new favorite sauce! This EASY Remoulade for Crab Cakes will take your seafood game to the next level.
    Mushroom Sauce for Steak
    bowl of mushroom sauce
    Homemade steak sauces don't get any better than this Mushroom Sauce! Not only does it taste great on steak, but you can add it to many other things, too!


    Whisks– I buy whisks in multiple sizes. You never know which one you will need.

    Mixing Bowls– make sure to check out my article on Using the Right Mixing Bowl, you’d be surprised how many people aren’t!

    Classic Cocktail Sauce is more than just ketchup and horseradish. Come see how to make a spectacular, restaurant quality sauce in just 5 minutes! #cocktailsauce

    Questions about how to make cocktail sauce: 

    Can you freeze cocktail sauce? You can freeze cocktail sauce, but it I’ve very rarely heard of it being done. If you do, freeze it in small batches in sandwich bags or even an ice cube tray so you can just defrost a little bit for dipping when needed. 

    What if I want to make a mild cocktail sauce? Reduce the amount of horseradish and hot sauce. 

    What if I don’t have one of these ingredients? Cocktail sauce is very forgivable and you can easily omit any of the ingredients except ketchup and horseradish. These two elements make it cocktail sauce. 

    What is prepared horseradish? Prepared horseradish is grated horseradish root. It is generally in a liquid to keep it moist and is kind of stringy. Horseradish is closely related to wasabi root. 

    Horseradish potency can greatly vary from brand to brand. I highly suggest taste testing it and then adding it slowly to determine just how how you want your cocktail sauce. 

    Can I make cocktail sauce in advance? You sure can! I make mine up to two days before I need it. This gives all those flavors a change to marry. 

    Can cocktail sauce be left out? You can leave cocktail sauce out for quite a while, there is really nothing that will spoil fast. However, all food are best if kept refrigerated. 

    How can I make cocktail sauce without horseradish? This one is tricky because horseradish is really what defines cocktail sauce. However, if you really dislike it, go ahead and make this recipe, just omit the horseradish.

    If you still need more heat, double or even triple the hot sauce. This recipe has enough flavor from the other ingredients to be just as delicious without horseradish as it is with it! You can also give my Balsamic Cocktail Sauce a whirl! 

    Why does cocktail sauce congeal or gel? There is pectin in horseradish and is varies from brand to brand. Allow it to warm up a bit before serving.

    Classic Cocktail Sauce is more than just ketchup and horseradish. Come see how to make a spectacular, restaurant quality sauce in just 5 minutes! #cocktailsauce
    Classic Cocktail Sauce is more than just ketchup and horseradish. Come see how to make a spectacular, restaurant quality sauce in just 5 minutes! Click to Tweet


    Be sure to follow me on social media, so you never miss a post!

    Facebook | Twitter | Youtube 
     Pinterest | Instagram 

    Get our FREE 8 Day E-Course on How to Be a Better Home Cook. Sign up HERE!

    how to be a better home cook cover
    Classic Cocktail Sauce with shrimp and lemon
    Print Recipe
    4.6 from 47 votes

    Classic Cocktail Sauce

    Classic Cocktail Sauce is more than just ketchup and horseradish. Come see how to make a spectacular, restaurant quality sauce in just 5 minutes!
    Prep Time5 mins
    Total Time5 mins
    Course: Condiment
    Cuisine: American
    Keyword: cocktail sauce
    Servings: 1 cup
    Calories: 293kcal
    Author: Jessica Formicola



    • Combine the ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire, hot sauce, salt and pepper.
    • Stir well. Sauce can be served immediately or chill for 1 hour for best results.
    • If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or ratings.



    Calories: 293kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 3g | Sodium: 3093mg | Potassium: 928mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 55g | Vitamin A: 1230IU | Vitamin C: 24.6mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 1.9mg

    You Might Also Like...

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Recipe Rating

    What type of comment do you have?


  • Evelyn wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Marilyn c. wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Tammy wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Sue wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Kathryn Dyken wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Paula Salazar wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Steph wrote:
  • Jessica berry wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Alycia Nichols wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Ruth wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Felix Virgilio wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • P cherry wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Elyse wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Gillian wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Davinia wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • I Guzyk wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Melanie Ross wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Marie wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Barbara wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Jeff poplawski wrote:
    • Jessica Formicola wrote:
  • Michele wrote:
  • James E Ware wrote:
    • Jessica at Savory Experiments wrote:
  • Brian batezel wrote:
  • Tina Llopis wrote:
    • Savory Experiments wrote: