The first time I ever experienced coctel de camarones (Mexican shrimp cocktail) was 21 years ago when my husband and I drove all the way from Chicago to Ensenada, Mexico on the Baja peninsula. Talk about a road trip! We sat down to dinner at one of the local restaurants, and Mike ordered this vibrant, bright and spicy dish comprised of poached shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice and avocados, and thank goodness he did because it was incredible.
Coctel de camarones is quite different from the American style of shrimp cocktail we’re all familiar with. The only similarities they share are the shrimp and tomato components, with the rest of the Mexican version being much more open to creativity and regional interpretation. With the amazing abundance of super fresh seafood found everywhere up and down the Pacific and Gulf coasts of Mexico, anywhere you travel you’ll find a slightly different execution of this iconic dish. It reminds me a little bit of gazpacho, the famous chilled tomato soup of southern Spain, and although the dish can be served in a shallow dish or bowl, it’s traditionally served in a glass or cup.
As mentioned before, the main ingredients are shrimp, avocado, hot sauce, tomato and lime, but after that every cook has their own favorite recipe. Some cooks add a dice of onion, jalapeño, celery and/or cucumbers. Some add a touch of the cooled down shrimp poaching liquid to achieve the correct consistency, while others add a splash of clam juice. For the tomato component, some cooks add a dice of fresh tomato in addition to ketchup and/or tomato juice or Clamato (clam juice cocktail). So, be as creative as you like! This recipe can be served as an appetizer or main course, and is traditionally served with saltine crackers on the side, but tortilla chips are great, too.
There’s also a version of this recipe called coctel de mariscos that can include a number of fresh poached seafood options such as squid, octopus, mussels, clams, crab and lobster in addition to the shrimp. You can’t go wrong whichever way your palate leads you! This is the perfect dish to enjoy all year round, but especially this spring and summer. Double or triple the recipe, and you’ll have your own fiesta!
Coctel de Camarones (Spicy Mexican Shrimp Cocktail)
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 4 servings as an appetizer
Active time: 30 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes (includes shrimp chilling time)
8 cups water
1 lemon, quartered
1 bay leaf
Pinch of salt
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
1/3 to 1/2 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 cup ketchup
1 to 2 tablespoons Mexican hot sauce
1/4 to 1/3 cup cooled down poaching liquid (from step #2)
1/4 of a seedless cucumber, small dice
1 ripe avocado, medium dice
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, rough chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Tortilla chips or Saltine crackers
1. To cook the shrimp, measure together the water, lemon, bay leaf and salt in a saucepan. Bring the poaching liquid to a boil, and add the shrimp. Bring the water back up to a gentle simmer, and cook the shrimp until they are just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Using a skimmer, transfer the shrimp to a sheet tray or baking dish and refrigerate until cold, about 45 minutes. Tip: You can do this step a day in advance. Reserve 1/3 cup of the poaching liquid, and refrigerate. You can discard the remaining poaching liquid. Once the shrimp are cold, remove the tail segment if it’s present.
3. In a large bowl, measure together the chilled shrimp, 1/3 cup lime juice, ketchup, hot sauce, 1/4 cup of the chilled poaching liquid, cucumber, avocado and cilantro. Taste the sauce adding more lime juice if necessary. The mixture should also be saucy enough so there’s enough to dip your chips or saltines into, so add a splash more if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Portion the coctel into glasses of your choice, and serve with tortilla chips or Saltine crackers.
Note: Let the assembled mixture chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours for maximum flavor. It’s still incredibly delicious if you serve it right away!
Looking for a fun night out to enjoy the delicious flavors of Mexico? Join us on May 5th for our hands-on Grilling Fiesta class on the patio. Or, if you’re looking to learn more about shrimp cookery, don’t miss our Virtual Sunday Dinner: Cioppino class on Sunday, May 23rd.