Cocktail Sauce Recipe

This is the perfect cocktail sauce recipe. It’s sweet, spicy and delicious with shrimp or oysters or any seafood. The best part, you probably already have all the ingredients at home.

This is the perfect cocktail sauce recipe. It's sweet, spicy and delicious with shrimp or oysters or any seafood. The best part, you probably already have all the ingredients at home.

New Orleans Cocktail Sauce

I was at an oyster bar in New Orleans a couple of months ago. I ordered oysters, of course. When the waiter brought them he asked, “Do you know how to make cocktail sauce?”

I actually do, and did, know how to make cocktail sauce but I found the question surprising. It’s not usually what one gets asked when the waiter brings your food. So I just looked at him blankly. He took this as a no and proceeded to make cocktail sauce in front of us at the table while explaining away…

“You take a little cup like this. You squirt in ketchup, scoop in horseradish and then go in with a splash of Worcestershire and hot sauce. Maybe a bit more. Stir. Taste. Do you like it? Good. Enjoy!” And then he was gone.

After he left, my delightful dinner companion admitted that he had never made cocktail sauce before, and until that moment he’d had no idea what was in it or that you even could make it yourself. So we experimented by making a couple of little batches, one for each of us. Both of us wound up with more hot sauce and a lot more horseradish than the waiter started us with.

Making Cocktail Sauce at Home

Making cocktail sauce like that was so fun that it got me thinking about making cocktail sauce at home and how, just like we did at the table, you can customize it to your own taste. You can make it spicier, saltier, sweeter – whatever you want!

I’ve said above that this is a “perfect” cocktail sauce recipe. And it really is. Because you get to adjust it to be perfectly right for you. I’ve given you the ingredients and measurements that I use, and trust me when I say that it’s good stuff. But I’m also giving you permission to change it up and add more or less of things to suit you more.

What Kind of Horseradish?

There is one thing that I’ll say before sharing the recipe though. Make sure you like your horseradish. Not all horseradish sauces are created equal. Some are very mild, some are creamy, some are crazy-spicy. Taste your horseradish before adding it. If it’s really mild you might never get the pungency that you want once you mix it with the ketchup. If it’s very hot, you might not end up needing to add very much. For your reference, the horseradish I buy is sold in the refrigerated part of the grocery store near the refrigerated pickles. I find it to be much spicier with a richer flavor than the horseradish that is sold in the aisles. If you can get your hands on fresh horseradish, do give it a try. Just, as with the jarred horseradish, taste a tiny bit before you start adding it.

This is the perfect cocktail sauce. It's sweet, spicy and delicious with shrimp or any seafood. And, you probably already have all the ingredients at home.

Cocktail Sauce Recipe

  • Author: Christine Pittman
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup


This is the perfect cocktail sauce. It’s sweet, spicy and delicious with shrimp or any seafood. And, you probably already have all the ingredients at home. The first three ingredients are required. The second set of three you can use zero, one, two, or three of.


  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. horseradish
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. hot sauce, like Tabasco (optional)


  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Taste. Add more horseradish if desired.
This post originally appeared in December 2017 and was revised and republished in April 2020.
Cocktail Sauce Recipe

32 Responses to “Cocktail Sauce Recipe”

  1. RoboJ1M — February 28, 2020 @ 3:11 pm (#)

    Now, I already know my wife doesn’t like Marie rose pushed towards ketchup.

    But I’ve just had an idea.

    I’m going to try making this with passata.
    Or puree but diluted maybe.

    • Christine Pittman — February 28, 2020 @ 3:27 pm (#)

      Let us know how that works for you!

  2. Cheryl — December 22, 2019 @ 3:07 pm (#)

    This sounds delicious and so easy.

    • Christine Pittman — December 23, 2019 @ 1:30 pm (#)

      Thank you, Cheryl!

  3. Rebekah Kalinowski — December 21, 2019 @ 4:20 am (#)

    I never realized this was so easy to make! Store-bought cocktail sauce never has enough horseradish for my taste!

    • Christine Pittman — December 23, 2019 @ 1:16 pm (#)

      Now you can make it so it’s just right! Have fun, Rebekah!

  4. Angelica — December 17, 2019 @ 1:59 pm (#)

    This sounds just like my mom’s lost recipe. I’ve been trying to figure hers out, going to give this a whirl!

    • Christine Pittman — December 18, 2019 @ 11:09 am (#)

      Wonderful! I hope it comes close to your moms, Angelica!

  5. Sarah L — December 16, 2019 @ 10:13 pm (#)

    That’s about exactly how I make it except I’ve never added hot sauce. I get enough kick from the horseradish.

    • Christine Pittman — December 17, 2019 @ 10:23 am (#)

      Thanks for your feedback, Sarah!

  6. Mary Gardner — December 16, 2019 @ 1:05 pm (#)

    I have not make cocktail sauce before but I will surely try it because this sounds much easier than I imagined it would be.

    • Christine Pittman — December 17, 2019 @ 10:19 am (#)

      Enjoy, Mary!

  7. Calvin — December 14, 2019 @ 5:43 pm (#)

    Sounds great especially for parties. Would dip 10/10

    • Christine Pittman — December 17, 2019 @ 9:56 am (#)

      Thanks, Calvin!

  8. Debbie Yoder — December 12, 2019 @ 6:29 pm (#)

    Love this,so easy ,im using it for shrimp!

    • Christine Pittman — December 17, 2019 @ 9:48 am (#)

      Thanks, Debbie!

  9. Andrea Hatfield — December 8, 2019 @ 4:06 pm (#)

    Thank you for sharing this! I normally buy the bottled cocktail sauce but I think my husband may enjoy something different to dip his shrimp in. :)

    • Christine Pittman — December 9, 2019 @ 11:22 am (#)

      You’re welcome, Andrea!

  10. Michael S Coovert — November 30, 2019 @ 11:32 am (#)

    Looks scrumptious!  Chilled shrimp always goes best with a great cocktail sauce.

    • Christine Pittman — December 2, 2019 @ 1:36 pm (#)

      Thanks, Michael!

  11. Amanda B. — November 30, 2019 @ 8:28 am (#)

    Shrimp cocktail is one of my favorite appetizers!

    • Christine Pittman — December 2, 2019 @ 1:34 pm (#)

      Hope you enjoy, Amanda!

  12. Sarah Bridges — November 27, 2019 @ 11:50 pm (#)

    I’ve always wondered how cocktail sauce was made! I’m going to try making this sometime.

    • Christine Pittman — November 29, 2019 @ 10:10 am (#)

      Great, Sarah! It’ll be delicious!

  13. Donna Haga — September 21, 2019 @ 7:08 pm (#)

    Yes please go to Felix’s it is right across the street from Acme Oyster where you will find a line around the block. We decided on Felix’s and it is a hole in the wall but the greatest place to get the real New Orleans experience. 

    • Christine Pittman — September 23, 2019 @ 6:10 pm (#)

      Glad to hear you like it there as well, Donna! So fantastic.

  14. Austin — August 26, 2019 @ 12:24 pm (#)

    What is the name of this oyster bar in New Orleans? I’m headed there this week!

    • Christine Pittman — August 27, 2019 @ 6:12 pm (#)

      The oyster bar is called Felix’s! Enjoy, Austin!

  15. FWM — January 16, 2019 @ 1:15 am (#)

    I’ve found that bottled chili sauce makes a better seafood cocktail base (more tomato flavor), plus, lemon juice should NEVER be optional because that’s what makes seafood sing, IMO. If you add salt, be sure to use freshly ground sea salt for obvious reasons. Since I’m from the South, I always add a few grinds of black pepper too. And for more zest, add a little islands hot sauce such as Pickapeppa to the Tabasco. You can be liberal with the ingredients because, if it is too spicy, you can always back it off a bit by adding ketchup to taste.

    • Christine Pittman — January 16, 2019 @ 8:51 am (#)

      Thanks for the tips!

  16. SCV — October 5, 2018 @ 5:44 am (#)

    How is this different then anyone else’s I have been making cocktail this way for yours.

    • Christine Pittman — October 29, 2018 @ 12:21 pm (#)

      It’s not different. It’s pretty standard. But people are often looking for how to make the standard recipe at home and so I’ve shown them how. I have a variation on cocktail sauce over here if you’re looking for something different

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