Prawn cocktail is a classic appetizer or starter in Ireland. It was extremely popular in the 1970’s but in recent years has made a resurgence.
Prawn Cocktail consists of cooked shrimp served smothered in a Prawn Cocktail Sauce. This is also known as Marie Rose Sauce which is prepared with mayonnaise, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, with optional horseradish.
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Marie Rose Sauce
A little drop of sweet sherry takes this Marie Rose sauce to the next level of deliciousness. It’s very quick and easy to make. Homemade sauces are so much tastier than store bought varieties and this shrimp cocktail Marie Rose sauce is no exception.
It’s so good you’ll use it as a dipping sauce. Breaded shrimp (scampi in Ireland), chicken tenders or wings are delicious dipped in this classic sauce. I’ve also spread it on a chicken or beef burger. Yummy!
This sauce is also perfect to serve with a veggie platter.
Shrimp are called prawns in Ireland. This is a classic starter often served for Irish Christmas dinner. Cooked and peeled prawns are covered in a creamy savory sauce, served on a bed of lettuce, and garnished with chopped fresh chives and lemon wedges.
A sprinkle of lemon juice is delicious with this seafood sauce. If you like to spice things up and like a little heat with your shrimp salad, then garnish with a pinch of cayenne pepper, a little paprika, tabasco sauce or your favorite hot sauce.
Classic cocktail sauce in America is a tomato sauce without any mayo. This classic Irish and British coctail sauce is far creamier
You can use fresh prawns or frozen shrimp. Make sure to devein, clean and peel your shrimp before cooking if you do not buy them already cooked.
King prawns, those jumbo bites of seafood, are perfect for this recipe.
Serving a Prawn Cocktail
Should you serve a prawn cocktail in a bowl or a glass?
There’s no hard and fast rule, and the choice is yours.
I like to use a footed glass bowl for serving this appetizer. It’s a shout out to the 1970’s when these cocktail glasses were all the rage.
You could also use martini glasses, wine glasses or stemless wine glasses to serve this starter.
And there’s no rule against presenting prawn cocktail on a bed of lettuce on a plate.
Here’s a quick list of what you’ll need. Check out the printable recipe card for exact amounts in US measurements or Metric quantities.
- cooked and peeled shrimp
- iceberg lettuce (separated into leaves and washed and dried)
- lemon cut into wedges to serve
- chopped fresh chives to garnish
For the Marie Rose Sauce:
- heavy cream
- tomato ketchup
- lemon juice
- Worcestershire sauce
- sweet sherry
- Cayenne pepper
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Ingredient Tips and Substitutions
You can use all kinds of garnishes for your prawn cocktail. I like the simplicity of chopped chives and lemon wedges.
You can get creative and use cucumber slices, chopped green onions or spring onions, avocado, or even grapes to decorate this dish.
Prawn cocktail is usually served on a bed of lettuce. The variety of lettuce is totally up to you. I used iceberg lettuce since I like the crunchiness of this lettuce with the prawns. Romaine lettuce works great too.
You could use baby gem lettuce in Ireland, or if you prefer a softer lettuce then try Boston or a live lettuce.
Directions for Classic Prawn Cocktail
Here you’ll find step-by-step photographic instructions. Check out the recipe card at the end of this post if you would like to print this recipe.
Make the Marie Rose Sauce
The first step is to make the sauce.
I start by whipping the cream until slightly thickened. I find this makes the sauce lighter and airier.
Add the mayonnaise and tomato ketchup and beat together.
Add the remaining sauce ingredients and combine completely.
Cool in the refrigerator for one hour.
Prepare the Shrimp
Peel the cooked shrimp. If you plan to steam your own shrimp be sure to devein and clean the shrimp properly before using.
Reserve six undressed prawns for the garnish.
Remove the sauce from the fridge when it is fully chilled. Then toss the remaining 30 prawns in the bowl, being sure to cover them completely in sauce.
Arrange washed and dried lettuce leaves on a plate or in a cocktail serving glass for each portion.
Use a spoon to add five prawns and sauce on top of the lettuce leaves in each serving dish.
Garnish with chopped chives, a lemon wedge and an undressed prawn.
Serve this starter immediately. It will keep in the fridge for about 15 minutes, but the lettuce can go limp pretty quickly spoiling the fresh look of this lovely starter.
Recipe Card for Irish Style Shrimp or Prawn Cocktail
Here’s the printable recipe card.
Classic Prawn Cocktail
- 36 large shrimp cooked and peeled
- ½ head iceberg lettuce separated into leaves and washed and dried
- 1 large lemon cut into wedges to serve
- 1 tablepsoon fresh chives chopped as a garnish
Marie Rose Sauce
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup tomato ketchup
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon sweet sherry
- ⅛ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon salt sea salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- To make the sauce, whip the cream until slightly thickened. Add the mayonnaise and tomato ketchup and beat together. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and combine completely. Cool in the refrigerator for one hour.
- Reserve six prawns for the garnish. Remove the sauce from the fridge and toss the remaining 30 prawns to cover them completely in sauce.
- Arrange lettuce leaves on a plate or in a cocktail serving glass Spoon 5 prawns and sauce over the lettuce leaves. Garnish with chopped chives, a lemon wedge and an undressed prawn. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Information is estimated based on the ingredients and cooking instructions as described in each recipe and is intended to be used for informational purposes only. Please note that nutrition details may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients used.
And there you have it. My version of prawn cocktail Irish style. It’s a perfect festive appetizer or entertaining starter. It’s great all year round.
You can get a Valentine’s Day dinner off to a delicious start with a shrimp cocktail too.
Happy cooking from my Irish kitchen to yours.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad –Irish American Mom
Pronunciation – slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad – rhymes with parade
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