This easy prawn cocktail recipe is one of my favourite things to make for Christmas Day Starter. It's always a hit with guests and so easy to make.
A great thing about prawn cocktails is that they're nutritious and delicious, making them perfect as appetizers or starters.
Another great thing about prawn cocktails is that they're quick and easy to make. There's no cooking and little prep time, so you can quickly whip up a batch before your guests arrive or while they are watching!
Prawn Cocktail Recipe Video
Check out the video below to see how easy it is to make this prawn starter recipe.
Continue reading or jump straight to what you want to know.
This prawn cocktail recipe is a classic starter made famous in the UK in the 60s and 70s. Often served in a tall glass with avocado, tomato, and lettuce, dressed with a Marie Rose sauce, served as an appetizer or starter.
The dish fell out of favour in the 1980s but has seen a resurgence in recent years.
Here I will go into more detail about the ingredients you need for this recipe, including suitable substitutions.The measurements and instructions for this prawn cocktail recipe are further down on the printable recipe card - click to scroll straight to it here.
Cooked king prawns work well in this recipe because they are ready to eat, and don't need to be cooked.
You can use any size of fresh prawns or shrimp; it is best to use peeled prawns for the best results.
Pat them dry with a kitchen paper towel.
If you use smaller cooked prawns (cold water prawns), you might want to increase the number of prawns to compensate.
Raw prawns will need to be cooked first, then allow time to cool before adding them to the Marie rose sauce.
When using frozen prawns, make sure to defrost them first. Shelled, peel prawns before adding to the sauce.
Lettuce / Salad Leaves
The retro classic prawn cocktails use iceberg lettuce or little gem lettuce. You can use any salad leaves you like.
You can buy bags of shredded lettuce to make it easier.
I prefer to use a mixed bag of leaves like rocket, watercress and spinach for more flavour and texture to the dish and more nutrition.
I like to add cherry tomatoes to my prawn cocktail starter.
You can use other vegetables, salad or fruits, such as slices of cucumber, diced avocado, chopped chives or diced mango.
Thinly slice the lemon or cut lemon wedges. Ready to be served on the side.
Marie Rose Sauce
Marie rose sauce is a classic accompaniment to prawns. Make your prawn cocktail sauce or use a store-bought seafood sauce instead. It's easy to make with mayonnaise, ketchup and seasoning.
Mayonnaise is used for the base when making your own sauce. You can use low-fat mayo to keep the saturated fat levels down.
If not following a low-fat diet, use a good quality rich mayonnaise for extra creaminess.
Tomato ketchup is an essential ingredient in the seafood sauce. It adds sweetness and acidity to balance the mayonnaise.
Lemon juice adds a zesty taste to the sauce. You could use white wine vinegar or cider vinegar instead.
Worcestershire sauce is a fermented condiment made with vinegar, soy sauce, anchovies, garlic and other spices. It adds umami flavour to the sauce.
Paprika or Cayenne Pepper
Add Paprika for a sweet heat or cayenne pepper for a spicier kick. You can leave it out if you don't like spice.
You can add a little bit of tabasco sauce for an extra kick.
Salt and Pepper
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cognac or Brandy (optional)
Cognac or brandy is an optional ingredient in the seafood sauce. It adds a depth of flavour to the sauce, perfect for special occasions such as Christmas.
How to make Prawn Cocktail
Making a prawn cocktail is easier than you think! Just follow these simple steps, and you'll be able to wow your guests in no time.
Mix the sauce recipe ingredients in a large bowl.
Before adding the prawns into the sauce, use some of the sauce between layers of salad leaves in the serving bowls or glasses.
We used a squeezy bottle to make this easier, but a spoon will work fine!
Top with more lettuce leaves.
Add the cooked prawns to the remaining sauce in the bowl and mix them.
Spoon the sauce-coated juicy prawns mixture evenly between the serving dishes. Add a little paprika pinch or sprinkle of fresh chives.
Serve prawn cocktail glasses with lemon wedges and cherry tomatoes on the side.
Why not add some large unpeeled cooked prawns on the side for the ultimate prawn cocktail recipe with an extra wow factor?
This classic prawn cocktail recipe is often served as a starter at a dinner party or special occasion with thinly sliced and buttered brown bread.
But it can be served in many ways, make smaller portions as part of a buffet or party food on a platter.
Prawn cocktail is also perfect for summer holidays, BBQs or picnics.
Or split between two servings to make a more significant portion for lunch or as a light dinner.
📖 Step by Step Recipe
Prawn Cocktail Recipe
- 300 grams Cooked King Prawn
- 1 Bag Lettuce Leaves Your choice
- 8 Cherry Tomatoes
- ½ Lemon cut into slices to serve
Marie Rose Sauce (can use shop bought Seafood Sauce instead)
- 230 ml Mayonnaise
- 60 ml Tomato Ketchup
- ½ Lemon (juice only)
- 1 big pinch Paprika or Cayenne Sweet or Spicy
- Few Splashes Worcestershire Sauce
- Black Pepper
- Cognac / Brandy
- 4 large Crevettes (whole unpeeled prawns)
- Mix mayonnaise with ketchup.230 ml Mayonnaise, 60 ml Tomato Ketchup
- Squeeze juice from ½ a lemon.½ Lemon
- Add salt & black pepper, Worcestershire saucePaprika, if you like it sweet or Cayenne pepper, if you like it spicy.Optional extra- splash of Cognac1 big pinch Paprika or Cayenne, Few Splashes Worcestershire Sauce, Salt, Black Pepper, Cognac / Brandy
- Mix until well combined.
- Place salad leaves into four serving glasses, and add a layer of the Marie rose sauce around the edge.1 Bag Lettuce Leaves
- Repeat with another layer of lettuce leaves and sauce, finishing with more lettuce leaves.
- Add the prawns into the remaining sauce, and stir until well coated.300 grams Cooked King Prawn
- Spoon prawn cocktail mixture evenly between the 4 serving dishes.
- Garnish with 2 cherry tomatoes each and a slice of lemon.8 Cherry Tomatoes, ½ Lemon
- Finish with a sprinkle of paprika on top.1 big pinch Paprika or Cayenne
- Optional: For a fancier presentation, include an unpeeled large prawn (crevette) on top.4 large Crevettes (whole unpeeled prawns)
You can make the seafood sauce ahead and keep it covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.
I wouldn't recommend making the prawn cocktail too far in advance, as the salad can turn soggy in the sauce.
You can prepare everything ahead and then assemble everything just before serving.
Yes, you can make the sauce up to 3 days in advance and store it covered in the fridge.
A lot of people think that they can save time by making their prawn cocktail starter ahead of time, but this is a mistake. If you dress the salad leaves with the sauce too far in advance, they'll go soggy and lose their crunch. The sauce can be made ahead, but it's best to wait until just before serving to put everything together. That way, you'll have a crisp, fresh starter that your guests will love.
This recipe is healthy if you use low-fat mayonnaise and nutritious green salad leaves such as spinach, rocket and watercress.
More Prawn Recipe Ideas
If you love prawns, then try our other prawn recipes:
Thanks for reading our prawn cocktail recipe! We hope you enjoy it.
If you make it, let us know how it turns out in the comments below.
Do you have a favourite variation or serving suggestion? We'd love to hear about it.