Homemade cocktail sauce is infinitely more flavorful than store-bought, it is also ridiculously simple to prepare with ingredients you likely have on hand.
This week I did something for the first time in years, I bought cocktail sauce from a store. Whenever I create a recipe that mimics a commonly purchased item, I typically buy that product as well to compare it to my recipe. I'm telling you guys, store-bought sauce doesn't have half the flavor of this homemade sauce that literally takes seconds to prepare.
The biggest benefit to making your own homemade cocktail sauce is the vibrantly fresh flavor of prepared horseradish that can be adjusted to fit your tastes. Store-bought cocktail sauce is fairly light on the horseradish flavor and its freshness gets cooked out when the manufacturer jars it and prepares it for shelf-stability.
The other reason store-bought sauce doesn't taste as fresh is the addition of clam juice (shrimp juice?) to the sauce. Admittedly it does marry cocktail sauce to the shrimp that is being dipped, however, I personally enjoy my sauce to have more of a flavor contrast with the item I am dipping.
TIP: If you enjoy the briny seafood flavor added to your cocktail sauce, I recommend buying clam juice and adding a few dribbles until you get the flavor profile you desire.
How to Make Homemade Cocktail Sauce
My homemade cocktail sauce is made with four simple ingredients you likely already have on hand. Ketchup is the base, prepared horseradish is the primary flavoring agent, Worcestershire adds depth, and brown sugar takes a bit of edge off the flavor.
I eat a lot of prepared horseradish (affiliate link) and one thing I have learned is no two manufactures has the same heat level in their ground horseradish. When making this popular shrimp sauce, I recommend starting with less horseradish and slowly adding more, while tasting, until it has your desired punch.
Easy Cocktail Sauce
Admittedly, I often do not make my full cocktail sauce recipe when I am eating shrimp. I often made a 'cheater version' instead. Ketchup and horseradish, that's it. Bright, tangy, and vibrant! If you are in a hurry and want something quick and dirty, a half cup of ketchup and a tablespoon of ground horseradish will do the trick. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Spicy Cocktail Sauce
For my fellow heat fanatics, I also want to quickly touch on how you can easily transform this into a spicy cocktail sauce. Hot sauce pairs exceptionally well with shrimp and cocktail sauce in particular.
To spice up the sauce, I would start with a ½ teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce and add more to taste. Tabasco sauce (affiliate link) is a great one to start with, but any of your favorites will work fine. For me personally, I love the flavor of ghost pepper hot sauce mixed in!
Homemade Cocktail Sauce
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1-2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
- Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix to combine.
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