15-minute classic prawn cocktail recipe mingled with a deliciously addictive cocktail sauce. Our version captures the timeless flavours but styled for today’s crowd. Time to bring this baby back!
Why You’ll Love Prawn Cocktail
Oh, where do I even start?
Making a prawn cocktail (or known as shrimp cocktail in the US) brought back many childhood memories. Sitting in an 80s restaurant with dark timber trims, a full balloon skirt and crimped hair, I remember that we were in for a treat whenever my parents ordered a prawn cocktail.
A large fancy glass filled with prawns smothered in a tangy pink coral sauce with the extra prawns hanging from the side, our eyes sparkled as we devoured this classic prawn salad.
I am not sure why it went out of fashion as such. Maybe no one likes eating from a glass? Ha.
Prawn cocktail flavours are so delicious. I love the combination of creamy tang with a hint of spice. It’s all about getting the balance in the sauce. No store bought stuff.
It is great to serve as individual appetisers or pile on a large platter for friends to share. You will love recreating this classic prawn cocktail recipe!
Where Did Prawn Cocktail Originate From?
Indulged by many prior generations, seafood served with a tangy sauce is not a new invention. The prawn cocktail was made famous by British restaurateurs in the 1960s and continued to gain global popularity until the 1980s.
Serving prawn cocktail at fancy restaurants may not be fashionable now and possibly seen as retro, but it has generated quite a few spin off commercial products, including salad dressing, crackers and chips. Clearly, people still love the flavours!
How To Serve Prawn Cocktail
Classic prawn cocktail is served in a martini or coupe glass. I guess, as the name suggests, it is a cocktail!
Shredded lettuce leaves are placed at the bottom, and then prawns layered on top with sauce drizzled all over. To finish, hang some prawns off the side. It would not be a classic style if you did not hang some prawns off the side!
If you don’t have martini glasses, try short glasses or small round bowls for individual servings. I’ve chosen to serve this prawn salad recipe on a platter so everyone can share.
What is Marie Rose Sauce?
The sauce often used in a prawn cocktail is known as Marie Rose sauce. We are not sure how the origin of the Marie Rose name came about. There are some references to a British warship, Mary Rose, but no one can confirm.
Marie Rose sauce is generally made with mayonnaise, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and some seasoning. Flavours are creamy, tangy and aromatic.
Over time, there have been variations to spice up the flavours. Most commonly now, Marie Rose sauce will include Tabasco sauce to add a little extra heat.
In America, Thousand Island dressing is a very close cousin to Marie Rose sauce and is often used in a prawn cocktail.
Prawn cocktail is all about the sauce. And there is no need to buy bottles of it from the supermarket. I can show you how to make prawn cocktail sauce at home with ease. Try it, and you will never go back.
Flavour/Texture: The combination of creamy mayonnaise, tangy tomato ketchup and sweet prawns make this prawn salad recipe. The hint of spice from Tabasco sauce gives the element of surprise as well.
Ease: Literally no effort required for this classic salad recipe, especially if you are using pre-cooked prawns. Peel, mix and serve. It can’t get any easier than that.
Time: I would estimate no more than 15 minutes, even with peeling prawns. If you have bought shelled prawns, this will take less than 10 minutes to serve.
Prawns/Shrimp: Choose small to medium sized prawns (or shrimp) for this recipe, especially if you want to serve in a glass or small bowl. Large prawns are delicious but not appropriate for this salad.
Instead, I chose to use pre-cooked tiger prawns as I love the flavour and firm texture. Plus, the beautiful coral stripes add a spark of colour to the plate.
Gem Lettuce: Baby gem lettuce is excellent for prawn cocktail as they are more sturdy and will hold up well against the sauce. I like how I can use gem lettuce as a cup or shredded in a bowl.
Mayonnaise: Good quality mayonnaise is needed for this recipe as it creates the creamy base for the sauce. I used whole egg mayonnaise, but you can use traditional mayonnaise too.
Tomato ketchup: What we call tomato sauce, this is what gives the sweet tang and coral red hues in the prawn cocktail sauce.
Worcestershire sauce: Pantry staple for us as we use Worcestershire sauce in several recipes. Originated from Worcester, England, this popular condiment is made from vinegar, molasses, anchovy, garlic, tamarind, sugar and salt, giving its unique umami tangy flavour.
Tabasco sauce: This fiery sauce is fantastic to add heat to any dish. You only need a few drops to spice things up. Adjust according to taste.
Cayenne pepper: The amount of cayenne pepper in this recipe to add additional flavour and to add colour in the sauce and also at the end to serve.
Variations and Substitutions
Variations on how to serve prawn cocktail: Mix prawns in cocktail sauce and then layer on top of gem lettuce in the serving glass of your choice. You can use a variety of vessels, including:
- martini glasses
- small bowls
- short tumblers
Alternatively, you can serve the dressed prawns in lettuce cups.
Variations to prawn cocktail sauce: I prefer the classic with no variations, but there are other spices and condiments you can add to create your own version. Try finely chopped shallots, horseradish, lemon juice, gherkins, dill, tarragon, paprika, or switch tabasco with sriracha.
Additional ingredients: Traditionally, prawn cocktails don’t include ingredients other than prawns, lettuce and sauce but it is now quite common to add avocado to the mix as the pairing of prawn and avocado is delicious.
Others may add chopped mango for a sweet summer variation, plus a touch of spring onions, chives, chervil, mint or watercress as light garnishes.
Step by step instructions for how to make Prawn Cocktail with Marie Rose Sauce:
How to Make the Salad
By using pre-cooked prawns, it makes this prawn salad very easy to prepare. I prefer to buy my cooked prawns with shell on only because I like the flavour. You can, of course, use cooked prawns that have already had their shell removed.
Remove heads and de-shell prawns. Set aside for assembly.
Wash and trim gem lettuce. Pull leaves apart.
How To Make Prawn Cocktail Sauce
Place mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and cayenne pepper in a small mixing bowl.
Whisk until well combined.
How to Assemble the Salad
There are various ways you can assemble a prawn cocktail. I like to try a different method by layering the prawns on a large serving platter. You can also serve individually on plates or glasses.
On a large plate, spread a tablespoon of prawn cocktail sauce on the bottom.
Layer gem lettuce leaves on top of the prawn cocktail sauce.
Scatter prawns on top of lettuce leaves and sauce.
Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and serve
Great Mains for This Salad
Looking for a great main dish to serve up with these prawn cocktails? Try these:
Smoked garlic butter prime rib is a recipe that boasts rich flavours and juicy, tender, melt-in-your-mouth beef. Great to start with prawns before getting into this delicious fare!
Frequently Asked Questions
You can easily prepare the prawns and the cocktail sauce in advance and store in the fridge until you need them. Plating only takes a few minutes. You can also easily transport them separately.
If you have guests that don’t like prawns, you can use prawn cocktail sauce with other seafood. This delicious cocktail sauce will match well with crab, lobster, fish, calamari or clams. It will store in the fridge for a couple of days.
Generally, yes, a prawn cocktail is keto friendly. Ingredients like prawns, mayo and tabasco all fit in the keto diet. Worcestershire sauce and tomato ketchup are less friendly, but they shouldn’t cause too many problems with such small amounts.
Find a low sugar tomato ketchup to comply with keto diet rules. And to add extra fat, switch mayonnaise with cream.
Classic prawn cocktail is such a quick and easy recipe that it is perfect for no fuss entertaining. Yes, the styling may be a little retro, but the flavours are timeless. So it is time to bring it back!
Serve it however you like. I know this is deliciously addictive.
- 500 g prawns, (shrimp) pre-cooked, medium sized
- 2 gem lettuce
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Remove heads and de-shell prawns.
- Wash and trim gem lettuce. Pull leaves apart.
- Place all ingredients in a small mixing bowl.
- Whisk until well combined.
- On a large plate, spread a tablespoon of prawn cocktail sauce on the bottom.
- Layer gem lettuce leaves on top of the prawn cocktail sauce.
- Scatter prawns on top of lettuce leaves and sauce.
- Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and serve
- You can serve a prawn cocktail using various glasses like a martini glass, short tumblers or coupe glasses. Alternatively, you can use small bowls or lettuce cups.
- Create your version of the prawn cocktail sauce with spices and condiments like shallots, horseradish, lemon juice, gherkins, dill, tarragon, paprika, or switch tabasco with sriracha.
- To add volume to the salad, it is common to include avocado or mango. You may also add a touch of spring onions, chives, chervil, mint or watercress as light garnishes.
- You can prepare the prawns and cocktail sauce in advance and leave in the fridge until you need it.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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