Updated date:

The Perfect Prawn Cocktail Recipe: An Easy Prawn Starter with An Extra Special Kick

Make and Rate

The Prawns

The prawns you choose for this starter makes the difference between a good prawn cocktail and a perfect prawn cocktail. Generally frozen prawns are better quality from the fish counter in your local supermarket chain rather than the frozen food section. Your local fishmonger is an even better choice if you're lucky enough to have one.

Making Your Prawn Cocktail:


  • Frozen prawns
  • Sea salt
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 small red chili
  • A handful of fresh parsley
  • A crushed garlic clove


  • Bring 500 ml of water to the boil in a deep bottomed pan.
  • Add in a good pinch of sea salt.
  • Add in the lime juice, chili and crushed garlic.
  • Lastly add the parsley and the prawns.
  • Slow simmer for 10 minutes.
  • The prawns will turn a blushing pink and float on the surface when cooked through.

Cook's Tip:

  • Medium sized (40/60) frozen prawns in their shell are the best prawns for this dish. Don't go for really small prawns they get lost among the salad leaf and sauce. Allow 8 to 10 prawns per person for a decent starter portion.
  • Remove the black line ie digestive tract; it is easier to remove when the prawns are slighlty thawed rather than frozen or defrosted because the digestive tract is not soft like it is when the prawn is defrosted. Gently pull the head forward: you will see the tip of the line; using a tweezers grip the line and slowly pull it out. Of course if you have a prawn deveiner or a shrimp knife use that. A deveiner is a great tool and well worth the investment. A shrimp knife is an excellent tool to. When using either the deveiner or the knife tool the prawns are better defrosted.

A Shrimp Knife is a Cool Tool: this shrimp knife takes the hassle out of deveining prawns

The Cocktail Sauce

While your prawns are simmering get on with the sauce. Your ingredients must be precise. The following will serve two portions:


  • 3 tbs of good quality full fat mayonnaise (low fat is a no, no)
  • A dash of tabasco sauce
  • The juice of one large lime (add more or less to your taste)
  • 1 tbs thick tomato ketchup
  • 10 ml of a good quality brandy (do not be tempted to use a cheap brandy, it will ruin this sauce)
  • 10 ml of double cream, lightly whipped
  • Paprika to dust
  • Lime or lemon wedge to garnish


  • Mix all the ingredients as listed, (except the paprika and lime) to a smooth even paste.
  • Take care when adding in the cream, fold rather than mix.
  • You want a nice shiny, thick substantial cocktail sauce: cover the mixture with cling film and leave in the fridge till required.
  • This mix can also be altered to your taste, for example adding a little more tabasco if you like more of a kick or more brandy if you fancy more of a punch.

Back to The Prawns

Be careful not to overcook the prawns. Over cooked prawns are rubbery, dry and lack flavor. Pay attention as they will cook quite quickly, even slightly over cooked prawns will lose texture.

You want juicy mouth watering prawns for the perfect prawn cocktail. Remember: cook on a slow simmer and once the prawns turn a blushing pink and begin to float they are cooked.

  • Strain the prawns, cover and leave to sit for a further 5 minutes.
  • Peel the prawns; remove the head first and work your way carefully down the body of the prawn till all the shell is removed.
  • Give the prawns a quick rinse under a tepid running tap.
  • Gently pat dry with kitchen paper or a t-towel.
  • Squeeze over a little lime juice.

Long Handled Spoons: perfect for eating a prawn cocktail in a glass

Layer your ingredients

Layer your ingredients

Dust with paprika

Dust with paprika

Assembling The Cocktail

  • Use a glass to serve your prawn cocktail; make sure it's wide enough to access the prawns. Long handled spoons are a great buy and really work well with this starter.
  • Wash and shred fresh crisp lettuce, cos lettuce works well.
  • Put the prawns in a bowl, add a dollop of the sauce, and mix to lightly coat the prawns.
  • Put a little lettuce in the glass add a couple of prawns and spoon over some sauce, continue layering.
  • Make sure the last layer is cocktail sauce.
  • Sprinkle over a dusting of paprika.
  • Serve with a lime or lemon wedge.

Prawn Cocktail Low Down

  • A prawn cocktail makes an excellent starter for all occasions.
  • A larger portion served with buttered brown bread makes a fabulous light supper.
  • Don't be tempted to use low fat mayonnaise, it is not the same.
  • This cocktail sauce mix can be altered to suit individuals tastes: adding more or less of each ingredient to make it your own.
  • Serving the prawn cocktails in a glass adds a little glamour and turns a simple starter into something of show stopper.

Calorie Count for The Perfect Prawn Cocktail Recipe:

  • 1 tbs of mayo = 90 calories
  • 1/2 a tbs of ketchup = 30 calories
  • 5 ml of double cream = 15 calories
  • 5 ml of brandy (has an average) = 10 calories
  • Your cocktail sauce based on half the mix = 145 calories
  • The average prawn = 6 to 8 calories
  • Based on 10 prawns at 7 calories each, this starter = 215 calories

Cook's Tip:

  • You can assemble the prawn cocktails and leave covered in the fridge for up to 30 minutes before serving (longer than this and they get too cold for my preference). When you take them from the fridge leave for 5 mins before serving.
  • Choose a dry but fruity chilled white wine to accompany this dish. A sparkling Cava works very well too, especially at Christmas.

© 2011 Gabriel Wilson


Gabriel Wilson (author) from Madeira, Portugal on February 09, 2015:

The best thing about good food is sharing :) hope you enjoy.

Easy-tasty-recipe on February 09, 2015:

Oh my myyy...Sound great.

thanks for sharing :)

Gabriel Wilson (author) from Madeira, Portugal on March 03, 2012:

Hope you enjoy :)

Thelma Alberts from Germany on March 02, 2012:

Yummy!!! I'll have to try this. Bookmark for later use. Thanks for sharing.

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on April 19, 2011:

It sounds fabulously yummy! Why oh why did I have to read this in the wee hours when the good shops are closed!

Fay Paxton on March 04, 2011:

Boy does this sound yummy!

tnderhrt23 on March 04, 2011:

This sounds absolutely fabulous!

Related Articles