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: 199
  • Fat: 7 g
  • Saturated fat: 4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 9 g
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 21 g
  • Sodium: 1020 mg
  • Cholesterol: 206 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 was a perfect summer dinner when it’s too hot to cook. We enjoyed these shrimp on the deck with a salad and a nice glass of wine. I felt like I was on vacation! The seasoning was just right and the shrimp were so flavorful.

  • I’m not much of a beer drinker, but if I do it is usually Stella, Corrona, or Summer Shanty. Would these work or should I use a different type of beer to get more flavor? If do, can you recommend a couple I might be able to buy singles. Thank you

    • Hi Julie, Any of those beers would work. Enjoy!

  • Loved this recipe! It will be my new go to anytime I cook shrimp, which is often!! Love your website and all your yummy recipes.

  • Perfection! Doubled the recipe for Royal Reds. Lovely aroma from the boil and the shrimp were tender and excellent. Topped with fresh parsley and served with a bacon and egg Caesar salad. Thank you for helping a first timer look like an experienced cook.

  • Love this recipe. Always serve fresh peel & eat shrimp with wings at BBQs now because of this simple and delicious recipe. Thank you for sharing!

  • This is our GO TO shrimp recipe. We don’t buy thawed shrimp anymore at the grocery store. My wife and I are very grateful you shared this. THANKS

  • Made this twice now. It is the best! The hardest part for me is waiting for the shrimp to defrost!!!

  • Delicious! Made exactly as written with fresh local Florida gulf shrimp and loved- served warm with the cocktail sauce (made also per above recipe but with both chili sauce and ketchup and more horseradish). I have never made a recipe from this site that I didn’t like 🙂
    Question: If I refrigerate the cooking liquid, can I use again in the next day or so? Thanks Jenn!😊

    • Hi Liz, Glad you enjoyed the shrimp! It’s never occurred to me to reuse the cooking liquid, but I think you could get away with it. 🙂

    • We enjoyed this recipe very much. I don’t know if i prefer them hot or cold, but either way, so very good. Spice is just enough where you can still taste the shrimp. I think this would be a hit with any shrimp lover, even kids. Thank you for sharing.

    • I have frozen my shrimp cooking liquid and it works perfectly!

      • — Jenny on August 21, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Can I use peeled shrimp instead? Thank you, Lisa

    • Hi Lisa, I wouldn’t recommend it. The peel helps to keep the shrimp tender while it’s cooking. Sorry!

  • Made it tonight and loved it! I used a bit more horseradish because I love it spicy. Thanks!!

    • — Marty Almquist
    • Reply
    • Easy recipe for a weekday dinner. Family loved it! Dad got the props for another dinner…..thanks.

  • This is beyond fantastic!!! I cannot believe how delicious and easy this is!! It should have a thousand five star reviews! It will be a staple in my family for a very long time to come! Thank you for another amazing recipe. Your recipes make my family very happy!

  • Can I use fresh shrimp that still have the head on?

    • Sure, Addie. Enjoy!

  • Hi Jen, is there anything suitable that could subsitute for the beer … or not really?

    • Sure, Raye, you could substitute fish or veggie broth, or even water. Hope you enjoy!

  • Made this for my family over the weekend and since then they all keep asking when we can have it again. Everyone agrees it should be on the menu at least once a week. Thanks, Jenn!!

    I did not however have the ingredients for the homemade cocktail sauce so used a bottled version. Next time I want to try the real thing, but I’m having trouble finding the recommended horseradish. The only Boar’s Head I could find was for Horseradish Cream. Is this the same thing or do I need grated horseradish without the additional ingredients.

    • Glad to hear the shrimp were a hit! Yes, there is a difference between horseradish cream and plain jarred horseradish. This is the kind of product you’re looking for. Hope that clarifies!

    • In my grocery store, horseradish is in a jar in the refrigerated section. I find it near the eggs. Maybe you could try looking there.

  • This recipe was incredibly easy and was delicious. Shrimp were very tender and tasty. Thanks for sharing

  • Jenn: went to an oyster party, and prepared this easy recipe to bring along. Gone like that! Fabulous, thanks. Tom

  • How to devain & still have peel & eat

    • Hi Kathy, look for shrimp that are marked “Shell Split and Deveined” or “EZ-peel shrimp.” These will have been deveined but still have the shell on them. Enjoy!

      • Are these readily available say at Publix or Whole Foods? I also want to make sure the shrimp are from USA not from Asia.

        • Hi Sunny, I really don’t know – I’m sorry. You may want to call the stores ahead and ask to keep from running around.

  • So good! Brought us back to our college years in Maryland. I added a bunch of chopped garlic to the broth to punch up the flavor even more. I served in a large bowl with the broth so people could have as much or as little sauce as they wanted to mop up with crusty French bread.

  • When I make my shrimp with Old Bay I just use Old Bay and beer no sense in adding more water cuz the beer already has water in it and I make my cocktail sauce with horseradish and ketchup takes it up a notch

    • Next time I will skip the water! Add more beer!

      • — Gloria LaRoche
      • Reply
  • I’ve done a lot of recipes from this site and they have all been successful; but this one was definitely the easiest recipe with the biggest payoff so far! So simple and so tasty. I especially like that it uses ingredients that we would normally have around the house and can throw together quickly on a school night, yet the recipe is special enough to serve to guests.

  • We LOVE this recipe. I used Guiness Nitro IPA instead of Corona to give it more of a hearty flavor and I only had salted, sweet cream butter on hand, and it didn’t make the shrimp too salty (which we were anticipating upon adding that to the Old Bay). I will definitely be making this again and again.

  • donthe shrimp have to be thawed or can they be frozen still

    • Hi Malik, I thaw them first.

    • I just add Old Bay and beer and butter. Outstanding, I have thrown them in frozen and just add 1 minute more to be cooked so delicious
      Thanks for this great recipe!

      • — Charlotte DiTommaso
      • Reply
  • Shrimp and sauce were fantastic! Just like being in Maryland. Kids liked it too. Will make again!!

  • Love this recipe! Making it tonight for the second time!!

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • — Barb in Florida
    • Reply
  • 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 !!

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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 🙁

    • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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!

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

  • 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.

  • im trying these this weekend for a cookout!! 🙂

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

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

  • 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!

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

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

  • I have made this before and it is delicious!

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

  • 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!

    • — Mary Ann Mayhem
    • Reply
    • Hi Mary Ann, I also add butter, which makes a big difference 🙂

  • 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.

  • 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!!

    • — Kristie A. Langley
    • Reply
  • 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!

  • 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!!!

    • — Deborah in Atlanta
    • Reply
  • 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.

    • Same way!

      • — Mary Ann Mayhem
      • Reply

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