Peel-and-Eat Boiled Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

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Simmered in beer and Old Bay, these Maryland-style peel n’ eat boiled shrimp are easy to make and fun to eat.

Bowl of peel-and-eat boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce in from of Old Bay Seasoning.

One of my family’s favorite summer pastimes is eating at ramshackle seafood shacks, where we sit around brown paper-covered picnic tables and feast on peel-and-eat boiled shrimp. Even better is recreating this experience at home in the backyard. Boiled shrimp are not only incredibly quick and easy to make but also so much fun to eat. My favorite way to prepare them is Maryland-style: simmered in beer and Old Bay seasoning with homemade cocktail sauce on the side. You’ll be amazed by how much cooking shrimp in the shell maximizes flavor and helps retain moisture (it’s also less work for the cook!). A word to the wise: be sure to buy raw shrimp instead of pre-cooked. This is a very common mistake, and cooking shrimp twice will result in very tough shrimp.

What You’ll Need to Make Peel-and-Eat Boiled Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

ingredients for boiled shrimp

As with all of my shrimp recipes, I recommend buying frozen shrimp. Most shrimp are cleaned and flash-frozen shortly after being caught. Unless you live on the coast, the “fresh” shrimp you see in the seafood case is typically thawed frozen shrimp. Who knows how long it’s been sitting there, so you’re better off buying frozen and defrosting it yourself.

Shrimp have a dark vein running along their backs, which needs to be removed. It’s a bit tedious to do yourself, so look for shrimp labeled “shell split and deveined.” (If you need to do it yourself, use kitchen shears to cut through the shell along the back of the shrimp, from the head to the tail, then use a small paring knife to lift out the vein.)

To defrost frozen shrimp, leave them in the refrigerator overnight or run them under cool water.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Make the Boiled Shrimp

Combine the beer, water, butter, and Old Bay in a large pot.

Beer broth in a Dutch oven.

Bring the broth to a boil.

Dutch oven of boiling broth.

Add the shrimp, turn the heat down to medium, and cover with a lid.

adding shrimp to brothCook, stirring once, for 3 to 6 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink but still tender.

boiled shrimp in broth

Step 2: Make the Horseradish Sauce

In a medium bowl, combine the ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper.

horseradish sauce ingredients in bowl

Whisk to combine.

whisked horseradish sauce

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

Bowl of boiled shrimp with a container of Old Bay seasoning.


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Peel-and-Eat Boiled Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

Simmered in beer and Old Bay, these Maryland-style peel n’ eat boiled shrimp are easy to make and fun to eat.

Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 5 Minutes
Total Time: 20 Minutes


For the Shrimp

  • 2½ 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, thawed if frozen

For the Cocktail Sauce

  • 6 tablespoons ketchup
  • ½ tablespoon prepared horseradish (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch cayenne pepper


For the Shrimp

  1. Combine the Old Bay, butter, beer, and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp, turn the heat down to medium, and cover the pot with a lid. Cook, stirring once, for 3 to 6 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp from the broth and transfer to a serving platter. Serve hot or cold with cocktail sauce.

For the Cocktail Sauce

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  2. Note: Prepared horseradish can be found in the refrigerator aisle at your supermarket.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 220
  • Fat: 7 g
  • Saturated fat: 4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 8 g
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 31 g
  • Sodium: 344 mg
  • Cholesterol: 259 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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  • This recipe looks great, but I can’t figure out where all the sodium is coming from. The nutrition info shows it’s over 1,000 mg/serving. I have done the math and can’t figure out how they arrived at so high a number. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

    • — Barbara on June 21, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Barbara, I just plugged the numbers back into the software I use to calculate nutritional information and the original sodiumm count must’ve been a typo because the sodium per serving comes out to be 344 mg — quite a difference! I’m going to update the recipe now. Hope you enjoy if you make it!

      • — Jenn on June 21, 2024
      • Reply
  • This was an easy shrimp boil and it tasted so GOOD. Definitely will make again and recommend!

    • — Dana Richardson on June 17, 2024
    • Reply
  • Hey Jennifer, your favorite retired US Navy guy here. Made this two nights ago. My “peel and eat” boil is way different with more “stuff” that I let sit in the pot at a high simmer for a good portion of the day. Makes the house smell good. So no comment on yours good or bad. Anyway, the sauce was really good as I always make my own. We weren’t sure that we would like the amount of horseradish, but it was perfect. I did put more cayenne in but that’s just us. Keep it up, you are my go-to for ideas.
    US Navy Retired

    • — Jon on February 28, 2024
    • Reply
  • This has been on my list for a while, and I finally made it – it was so good!! Super easy to make. I will definitely be making my shrimp this was again! I feel like I could have eaten the whole batch, but I did share!!

    • — Jill S on February 16, 2024
    • Reply
  • So I read the reviews. Thought it sounded great. I don’t know what I did wrong.
    Shrimp seemed fresh from Central Market when I was unpacking them. And I’m very picky. So if know when shrimp aren’t fresh. But I did exactly as recipe called for I promise and shrimp were mushy at the head which was strange.
    I cooked 6 minutes.
    Not sure what I did wrong. Any thoughts?

    • — Susan on January 1, 2024
    • Reply
    • The only thing that could’ve potentially gone wrong with you cooking for the maximum amount of time is that they’d get overcooked, but that would have made them tough – not mushy – so the only thing that I think could cause the issue would (sadly) be the shrimp.

      • — Jenn on January 3, 2024
      • Reply
  • Hi. Have a quick question: after you put the shrimp in, do you have to let it come back to a boil before you set the timer for 3-6 minutes?

    • — Suzanne Joiner on September 26, 2023
    • Reply
    • No need to let it come back to a boil – set the time right after you’ve put the shrimp in the pot and turned down the heat. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 27, 2023
      • Reply
  • This is the best Maryland-style spiced shrimp I have ever had and I’m from MD! I have never seen butter in a shrimp boil recipe – and I’ve been making it for decades. I made both your shrimp and cocktail sauce recipes as written last night. My husband and I devoured it. The butter is next level and the cocktail sauce is perfect. Thank you so much for sharing this spectacular recipe!

    • — Jenny on August 21, 2023
    • Reply
  • Delicious and super easy!

    • — Laura Medill on July 3, 2023
    • Reply
  • This recipe is outstanding and super easy and simple household ingredients combine well the buttery flavor or the best.

    • — Jay Patel on April 14, 2023
    • Reply
  • excellent and easy way to boil shrimp. I only boiled 1 pound of shrimp with the same amount of ingredients for the recipe and they still came out well.

    • — Bruce on February 24, 2023
    • Reply
  • I only made the shrimp, not the sauce, but OMG it’s amazing! I’ve been looking for a good recipe for peel and eat at home. This one is amazing! I saved it and will use it again and again!

    • — Anna on February 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • Simple and delicious, it will be my go to recipe from now on.

    • — Mark on February 12, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is our go-to recipe!! Perfect.

    • — Heather on January 3, 2023
    • Reply
  • Followed the recipe to a tee. Simply put, the best boiled shrimp recipe I have made at home and better than the majority of “seafood shacks” I have eaten at.

    • — thesurveyor on December 2, 2022
    • Reply
  • Just delicious! I didn’t add, omit, or change a thing! My husband raved about the shrimp & the cocktail sauce! Best he’s ever had!… he has travelled far & wide and has eaten his fair share of shrimp! An awesome addition to my repertoire. Thank you!

    • — Carolanne on July 8, 2022
    • Reply
  • Delicious! And so easy! My homemade cocktail sauce calls for chili sauce instead of ketchup, more horseradish, fresh squeezed lemon juice, a splash of Worcestershire sauce and optional hot sauce to taste.

    • — Judy A. on July 7, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi ! If I only use 1 pound of shrimp, do I leave the rest of ingredients the same? Thanks! Ally in NJ

    • I would actually cut all the ingredients in half. Hope you enjoy!

  • Hi Jenn. I not sure where you got your Maryland recipe. The Old Bay and beer is right, but here we steam our shrimp. I use a Pilsner beer, and a whole lemon squeezed and just put the whole darn thing in the pot. For the shrimp cover with Old Bay and like yours when the shrimp are pink they’re done. One other thing, try adding a onion with the shrimp. Old Bay steamed onions are great too. Thanks.

  • I made these for New Years Eve and oh-my-gosh, they are the BEST boiled shrimp I have EVER made! (And I’m an experienced cook.) I am so happy to have found your website because every recipe of yours I have tried has turned out perfectly. I always follow recipes “to the letter” the first time and I have NEVER had to tweak any of yours. I also appreciate all the clear and concise instructions you always include. Thank you SO much for sharing your talent as a chef!

  • Hi Jenn,

    I love your recipes, and since they never fail, I plan on making this for the first time as an appetizer for Christmas Day. I will cook the shrimp the day before and serve cold. Is there any reason I can’t peel and maybe remove the tail of the shrimp after cooking but before serving to make it less messy?

    Thanks for your help.

    • Hi Rhonda, So glad you enjoy the recipes! It’s fine to peel the shrimp before serving. Merry Christmas!

  • tip for y’all after mixing sauce to your taste squeeze more lemon juice over top and some cracked pepper enjoy. and as Jimmy would say ” Good Appetite “

  • Jenn, just make this for the third time. Delicious! Our son doesn’t care much for bottled cocktail sauce, but loves cocktail sauce, when I prepare your recipe. And, we love the shrimp!

    My question is: why use 1 cup water and 1 cup beer. Why not just beer?

    I can’t find shrimp like you describe in Atlanta. Luckily, my neighbors gave me shrimp to try they buy frozen from Great Alaskan Seafood. It is frozen pink shrimp deveined with the shell on…..perfect for this dish! After they gave us the Great Alaskan Seafood shrimp, I tried your recipe and love it! The shrimp is tender and the recipe great! Thanks!

    • — Richard Wilson
    • Reply
    • So glad you like it! I suggest part beer and part water because beer has a slightly bitter flavor and the water helps to temper that.

  • This recipe looks really good, but where will I find frozen split shelled and deveined? Especially if I want USA shrimp. I did email Biloxi Shrimp out of Miss.
    Thank you.
    Sunny Drohan

    • Hi Sunny, I haven’t had a problem finding the shrimp at my local grocery store. (I’m not certain they’re from the US though.) If you’re having a problem at your local stores, you may want to try a place like Whole Foods or a smaller market that specializes in seafood. Good luck!

      • Thank Jennifer. I will check with our Whole Foods here in Naples. I just don’t want to use Asian Shrimp. They don’t have our guide lines.
        Sunny D.

  • I made these last weekend at our Lakehouse in Wisconsin. They were absolutely fantastic. Not only were they easy to prepare, but they were extremely flavorful and tender. They also keep very well as we ate them cold the next day for lunch! Another great recipe!!

  • Could you make this in an instant pot?

    • — Jale Breidenstein
    • Reply
    • Hi Jale, I don’t have enough experience with an instant pot to tell you confidently whether or not this would work in one, so you may want to take a peek at these tips. It looks like they could be useful. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

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