Peel n’ Eat Shrimp with Homemade Cocktail Sauce

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Nothing says summer like Peel n’ Eat Shrimp. I like to make it Maryland-style, simmered in beer and Old Bay with homemade cocktail sauce on the side. At my son’s request, it’s on our menu for Memorial Day, along with Crab Cakes with Tartar Sauce, Cornbread Muffins and Buttered Corn on the Cob. What can I say? The kid’s got good taste.

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Peel n’ Eat Shrimp are as easy to make as they are fun to eat. Honestly, if you can boil water, you can make this dish. There’s very little prep work, and the only way to mess it up is to cook the shrimp too long.

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To minimize the amount of work, be sure to buy frozen shrimp marked “Shell Split and Deveined.” Then all you have to do is defrost them and you’re ready to go. Cooking the shrimp with the peels on keeps them nice and tender (plus, it’s less work for the cook).

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Begin by combining the beer, water, butter and Old Bay in a large pan. Bring to a boil.

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Add the shrimp, turn the heat down and cover. Cook for 3-6 minutes or until the shrimp are pink and still tender.

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Use a slotted spoon to transfer the shrimp to a platter. Serve with beer, cocktail sauce and plenty of napkins.

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Peel n' Eat Shrimp with Homemade Cocktail Sauce

Print Recipe
Servings: 2 pounds shrimp


For the Shrimp

  • 2-1/2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 pounds extra large shrimp (26-30 per pound), shell split and deveined

For the Cocktail Sauce

  • 6 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/2 tablespoon prepared horseradish (best quality, such as Boar's Head or Ba-Tampte)*
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch cayenne pepper


For the Shrimp

  1. Combine Old Bay, butter, beer and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add shrimp and turn heat down to medium. Cover and cook, stirring once, for 3-6 minutes or until shrimp are pink. Keep an eye on it; if you overcook the shrimp, they'll be tough. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and transfer to serving platter. Serve hot or cold with cocktail sauce.

For the Cocktail Sauce

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and add more of any ingredient if desired.
  2. Note: Prepared horseradish can be found in the refrigerator aisle at your supermarket.


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  • Amy

    YUM!! I live in Washington and we just went shrimp fishing yesterday. Guess what’s for dinner!! Thanks for another awesome recipe! I’m taking your Gingered Carrot Souffle to a Memorial Day party.

    • Mary Ann Mayhem

      Same way!

  • Deborah in Atlanta

    I’d love to make these for dinner tonight, but I only have the peeled and deveined shrimp. How would your recipe be adjusted to compensate for that? God, these look yummy!!!

  • Hi Deborah, Thanks for your question. I’d cut the Old Bay down to 2 tablespoons and simmer the shrimp very gently so they don’t seize up and become tough. Also, be sure to remove them from the cooking liquid as soon as they’re done, otherwise they might overcook. Good luck!

  • Kristie A. Langley

    Thank you for actually giving the measured amount of Old Bay to weight of shrimp. Several recipes just state “Old Bay” and leave it up to you to guess. Most of the time it is either not enough or entirely to much. And my Dad is one who loves him some horseradish and your recipe is perfect!!

  • Robyn Blond

    Hi Jen-
    Made these over the holiday weekend! The were delicious. I love the taste that the beer leaves on the shrimp! Thanks for providing another easy, fun, and delicious recipe! Hope all is well.

  • Andy Creek

    I appreciate you sharing this article post.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

  • Mary Ann Mayhem

    I live in Maryland and we have been making steamed shrimp ever since I can remember as a child and I am 67! Recipe is right on and is also on the Old Bay container-duh! Only the beer replaces the water. YUMMY! Have 4 lbs of shrimp in my freezer for tomorrow’s game!

    • Jenn

      Hi Mary Ann, I also add butter, which makes a big difference :)

  • Growing up in MD anything with Old Bay is a hit with me!

  • Ana

    I have made this before and it is delicious!

  • Lee Smith

    Even I cant mess this one up. its great!!

  • Donna Hudson

    Yummy! But, I must confess, I prefer fresh shrimp…

  • Linda S

    I live in Old Bay country so had to try this one. This is not my go to recipe for shrimp. I made it with the cornbread muffins and your chespeake corn and tomatoes, what a hit!

  • Chevis

    Can you chill the shrimp after cooking them to sever them cold? Or is it best hot?

    • Jenn

      Hi Chevis, I think it’d be fine to serve it cold. Hope you enjoy!

  • Glenda

    im trying these this weekend for a cookout!! :)

  • Lindsay

    Made these last weekend for Mother’s Day. Love love love. so easy, and when you can find the shrimp on sale at the store it makes it all the more worth it.

  • Rachel

    Super easy! I used garlic and herb Old Bay. Very tasty.

  • Sandra Wilson

    I havent tried yet. My friend told me about the recipe but she could not find the old bay. I found at fresh and easy. Cant wait to try it!

  • donnainohio

    tried this today and it was good. it tasted a little bit salty for me so i just added 2 tbsp of sugar and it was perfect. thank you!

  • ryan

    How can I stop the cocktail sauce from coagulation? It tasts great but I work at s restaurant and our cocktail sauce is in portion cups, and sometimes look like jello shots :-(

    • Jenn

      Hi Ryan, I’ve never had this problem with cocktail sauce. I suggest trying a different recipe and see if that solves the problem. Hope that helps!

  • Lind

    Can’t wait to get these tastie items to cook. Also don’t forget the steam shrimp one.I’ll be looking for new recipes to try thanks Linda

  • PaulainVA

    I found the shrimp to be a little bland. After numerous forays into this kind of dish, I have found that I like them best roasted. I just put the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with a little olive oil, kosher salt and pepper, and roast at 400 for 8-10 minutes. I also like a zippier cocktail sauce, with 50/50 chili sauce and ketchup, and a dash of tabasco.

  • Sondy

    As a born and bred Marylander, this recipe captures the taste and fun of Maryland style peel n eat shrimp! Perfect for a summer evening. Thank you Jennifer !!

  • Barb in Florida

    I first shared this with neighbors in our FL Gulf Coast community where shrimp is plentiful and actual FL natives with lots of shrimp experience exist. Served chilled with the cocktail sauce. What a hit! Eight people downed four pounds of these yummy tidbits in something under an hour. I am now the official peel-n-eat shrimp lady and have added a warm version served with drawn butter and a bit of fresh lemon juice.

  • The shrimp came out great! I made a small batch because I had some leftover shrimp from another recipe. Will have to go buy more for a larger batch. thanks.

  • Deborah

    I just cooked this… not my cup of tea.:(

  • lila

    i’m from Canada what here is equivalent to old bay

    • Jenn

      Hi Lila, Check out this recipe and you can make your own. It’s delicious on seafood! link to

  • Linda

    I make this about once a month and we really pig out. So easy and so delicious! We lived in Maryland for six years and would get wonderful steamed shrimp there. Now that we live in Missouri, it’s nice to be able to reproduce that wonderful flavor again. I sometimes add onion slices to the liquid to add more flavor and also sprinkle on extra Old Bay just before serving. You may want to adjust the horseradish in the cocktail sauce to suit your taste as it can be a little hot depending on the horseradish you use.

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