Skip to main content

Get instant access to everything. 2-Week Free Trial

Make 2021 the year of “Why not?” in the kitchen with Digital All Access. Get all our recipes, videos, and up-to-date ratings and cook anything with confidence.

Get Free Access ▸

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

By Annie Petito Published

Cóctel de camarón is more flavorful—and more fun—than the American classic.

American shrimp cocktail will always be a classic, but I’m here to tell you that the Mexican take on the dish has a whole lot more personality. Cóctel de camarón offers an incredible mix of flavors and textures: plump, tender poached shrimp; crisp bites of raw onion and cucumber; and cool, creamy avocado are all coated in a tangy, spicy-sweet tomato sauce. Eaten ice‑cold with a spoon and saltines, it’s like a festive, shrimp‑packed Bloody Mary or gazpacho.

I’ve made—and eaten—a lot of cóctel de camarón and know that success lies in nailing two key aspects: the cooking of the shrimp and the sweetness and consistency of the sauce, which always contains ketchup.

There are several ways to poach delicate proteins such as shrimp: Start cold and bring everything to a simmer; add the food to 160-degree water and fiddle with the stove to maintain a consistent temperature; or dump everything into boiling water and pull it off the burner so that carryover cooking does the job. The residual heat method gave me the most consistent results with the least effort. Here’s the interesting part, though: Boiling water is way too hot for cooking delicate shrimp, but when 11/4 pounds of cold, raw seafood is added to 3 cups of boiling water, the water temperature instantly drops to 155 degrees, ideal for poaching. After 5 minutes off the heat, the shrimp were tender and opaque. For easy eating, I cut each one crosswise into three bite-size pieces.

Associate Editor Annie Petito leads a discussion about the five Mexican shrimp cocktail recipes she prepared for the Cook's Illustrated team to sample.

With the shrimp all set, I tackled the sauce. Along with ketchup, the sauce for cóctel de camarón typically includes some variety of tomato juice (frequently Clamato) as well as hot sauce and fresh lime juice. But when I stirred together 2 cups of Clamato, ¾ cup of ketchup, lime juice, and hot sauce, the finished sauce was too sugary and thin. Reducing the Clamato by half and the ketchup by ¼ cup yielded a sauce with a thicker consistency, but the oversweetness persisted.

Since ketchup was the sole source of body, I hesitated to use even less. Instead, I made three more batches: one with Clamato, one with tomato juice, and one with V8. The V8 version struck the right balance: equally sweet and savory, with touches of tartness.

Why Cóctel de Camarón Should Have a V8

The sweet ketchup in Mexican shrimp cocktail is often cut with Clamato, tomato juice, or V8. We thought Clamato had lots of character but was a little thin while tomato juice was overly sweet and fruity. But V8’s blend of tomato and vegetable juices and lack of added sweeteners gave the dish a welcome savory balance. Measuring viscosity on a DIY consistometer showed that V8 has a thicker consistency than the other choices; it produced a punchy sauce that was liquid-y but not watered down. 

 

Slow and steady wins the race: V8 (left) flowed the slowest down the slope of our DIY consistometer, indicating a thicker viscosity that we preferred to that of tomato juice (center) and Clamato (right).

 

Ready to round out the dish, I cut a ripe avocado and half an English cucumber into bite-size chunks. For savory crunch, I added finely chopped red onion to the mix. Finally, a smattering of chopped cilantro contributed freshness.

Saltines are a traditional accompaniment to cóctel de camarón, but tortilla chips or thick-cut potato chips are also good.

With my work complete, I set out saltines, lime wedges, and a bottle of hot sauce—essential accompaniments to a stellar cóctel de camarón.

Recipe Cóctel de Camarón (Mexican Shrimp Cocktail)

Cóctel de camarón is more flavorful—and more fun—than the American classic.

Leave a comment and join the conversation!

0 Comments
Read & post comments with a free account
Join the conversation with our community of home cooks, test cooks, and editors.
First Name is Required
Last Name is Required
Email Address is Required
How we use your email?
Password is Required
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.