The Mexican Shrimp Cocktail is a Central American version of the classic U.S. dish. Also called Coctel Camerones, this starter is so simple and delicious that you’ll forget all about the American version.
Have you ever been to Jackson Heights in Queens? If so, then you already know that the eclectic NYC neighborhood has become ground zero for global food in America. Available cuisines include Pakistani, Japanese, Colombian, Brazilian, Bengali and, of course, Mexican.
Sure, Mexican food has become ubiquitous in America. However, the regional Mexican cuisine served in Jackson Heights is unique with dishes like aguachile – a unique version of ceviche from Mexico’s Sinaloa region – on the menu.
Our journey to Jackson Heights to eat aguachile was successful. Not only did we find and love the fish dish, but we also discovered an unexpected dish that we loved even more… Coctel Camerones.
To be honest, ordering Coctel Camerones, also known as Mexican Shrimp Cocktail, at the über popular Mariscos el Submarino on Roosevelt Avenue was an afterthought. However, after it arrived in a parfait glass, all we could think about was eating it.
It was big. It was loaded with shrimp and a potpourri of tomato, avocado and other Mexican vegetables. Plus, it was covered with a spicy, sweet, ketchupy sauce.
Once we ate it, we knew that we had to make this bloody shrimp cocktail at home. It was just a matter of time until we rolled up our sleeves to make this recipe happen.
What Is a Mexican Shrimp Cocktail?
Usually served in parfait glass, a Mexican Shrimp Cocktail sidesteps the traditional shrimp cocktail accoutrements. Combining shrimp with a spicy sauce forms a united cocktail nation. But that’s not all.
Adding sweet vinegary ketchup and large chunks of avocado as well as standard Mexican ingredients like chili, Clamato, cilantro and tomato plus veggies like cucumber and celery turns this shrimp dish into a shrimp fiesta.
Traditionally served with crackers, this is a party appetizer that also can be multi-purposed as a light lunch or a dinner appetizer. We typically eat our Coctel Camerones with tortilla chips instead of crackers because that’s how we roll.
History of the Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
Chef Jose Ortiz gets credit for inventing the Mexican Shrimp Cocktail in 1954 at Cantina Jose, a beachside bar in Topolobampo in the coastal region of Sinaloa, Mexico. While making shrimp cocktails, guacamole and bloody Marys for hungry guests at the bar, Ortiz accidentally dropped the shrimp and guacamole into the bloody Mary mix. And so the Mexican shrimp cocktail was born!
Ok. The above paragraph is a lie. Nobody is certain where the Mexican variation of the shrimp cocktail originated but many believe that its origins are indeed in Sinaloa. We choose to believe this too.
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail Ingredients
These are all of the required ingredients in our Mexican Shrimp Cocktail recipe:
Shrimp is the centerpiece of this recipe but not just any shrimp. We like to use large shrimp.
We buy our shrimp with the head and shell on. We then shell and devein the shrimp. (We show you how to do this in our Gambas al Ajillo recipe.) If you can find headless deveined shrimp then more power to you.
If you’re in the United States, look for 16-20 count shrimp (which means that there are 16 to 20 shrimp per pound). If you’re elsewhere in the world, look for 20-30 count shrimp (per kilo).
For this recipe, as opposed to a standard shrimp cocktail where you leave the tails attached, you’ll want to completely peel your shrimp before boiling it.
We cook our shrimp by boiling them for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes in well salted water (27 grams or about 1 ounce for every 1.5 quarts or about 1.5 litres of water). We know the shrimp are done once they feel firm to the touch of a spoon.
Once the shrimp are done, we transfer them immediately to an ice bath to cool and then place them on ice if we’re planning to use them immediately. Otherwise, we move them to the fridge where they can be stored up to three days.
For this recipe, we recommend against brining the shrimp or treating them in baking soda or cornstarch. Well-salted boiling water imparts plenty of flavor and texture to the shrimp. In our experience, brining can result in tough shrimp when you boil them.
We buy one Hass avocado for every two cocktails and we buy them a day in advance. Our goal is for the inside of each avocado to be green and firm without being too ripe.
Save your greenest avocado to fan as garnish. (See below.)
Clamato could be called the first of this recipe’s ‘bloody shrimp cocktail’ elements. After doing a bit of research, we found Clamato at our local Mexican shop. If you can’t find Clamato, you can create a similar product using tomato juice and clam juice in a 1:1 ratio. Another option is to buy a bottle from Amazon.
Make sure the Clamato or clam/tomato juice mixture is cold before mixing it into the recipe.
Ketchup adds a signature combination of sweetness and vinegar acidity to this Mexican Shrimp Cocktail recipe. It also acts as a thickener.
You probably already have ketchup in your pantry. If not, you should be able to find the popular condiment at your local market.
Our recipe calls for a tablespoon of Valentina, our go-to Mexican hot sauce. Mindi would add more but Daryl feels that this amount is correct. He wins since this recipe is his baby.
You can substitute another Mexican hot sauce like Cholula or Tapatío, however, you may need to adjust the amount since sauces vary in piquancy.
Living in Portugal means that good, fresh, hot jalapeños are not always available. Accordingly, we use pickled jalapeños in this recipe and the result is fine.
Use fresh jalapeños if you make this recipe in the United States.
Dicing a small vine ripened or plum tomato provides a fresh tomato texture and flavor against the cooked tomato flavors found in ketchup and Clamato.
Cilantro provides the herbaceous backbone in most Mexican recipes. This recipe is no exception.
Cucumber gives this recipe an almost gazpacho-like flavor. We like it and hope you do too.
Celery is the second ‘bloody shrimp cocktail’ element in this recipe.
Thinly sliced red onion adds texture and pungency to the saucy mix.
We use salt twice in this recipe. First, we add a generous amount of salt to the shrimp boil. We later add salt to taste as we compose the sauce.
How to Make Mexican Shrimp Cocktails at Home
Creating Mexican Shrimp Cocktails at home is easier than you might think. The first step is to boil the shrimp.
Boiling the Shrimp
Start this recipe by fully peeling and then boiling the shrimp for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes in well salted water. Transfer the shrimp from the pot to an ice bath once the shrimp are firm to the touch.
Place the shrimp on ice for up to an hour to keep them cold If you’re using the shrimp right away.
Mixing the Sauce Ingredients
Simply add all the ingredients to a metal mixing bowl once you’ve prepped them. You’ll want to mix everything together before adding the shrimp.
Adding the Shrimp
Once you’ve salted the sauce to your taste, add the shrimp and mix gently. You can then place the entire mixture in the fridge to keep cold if you’re not going to be serving the Mexican Shrimp Cocktails right away.
Plating the Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
We like to plate our cocktails in lowball glasses – a perfect dinner party appetizer size. We add three whole jumbo shrimp to each since nothing beats a big bite o’ shrimp before we finish each cocktail with a squeeze of lime.
Plate your cocktails with a large spoon, alternating shrimp with sauce in order to create equal distribution.
Garnishing the Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
We were inspired to garnish our Mexican Shrimp Cocktail with a fanned sliced avocado half, similar to the way that they do it in Jackson Heights. You’ll want to do the same.
Use a sharp knife to cut a quarter of skin from the halved avocado. This method should keep your avocado intact.
Next, peel each quarter from the avocado, leaving an intact half ready for slicing. You can then easily slice the avo into 1/8 inch slices and create a beautiful fan.
Storing Mexican Shrimp Cocktails
The best part of making Mexican Shrimp Cocktails is that you can store the finished cocktails, even garnished, for up to three days.
Wrap the tops of the finished cocktails tightly and directly with plastic wrap to keep the avocado fans from oxidizing.
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail FAQs
The Mexican Shrimp Cocktail’s ingredients include shrimp, Clamato, ketchup, avocado and a host of aromatic vegetables.
The best way to eat a Mexican Shrimp Cocktail is with a spoon.
As far as we’re concerned, this answer is yes. However, we’ve read that shrimps are high in cholesterol.
Mexican Shrimp Cocktails should stay good in the fridge for three days.
Yes. However, freezing the shrimp may cause them to lose their texture once defrosted. You may want to make the sauce, defrost it and add freshly cooked shrimp instead.
We recommend serving Mexican Shrimp Cocktails with either crackers or tortilla chips. We also recommend serving them with Mexican beer.
No. The Mexican Shrimp Cocktail is alcohol-free.
In ceviche, raw seafood is marinated in an acid based sauce. The shrimp is boiled and chilled in a Mexican Shrimp Cocktail.
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail Recipe
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
This Mexican Shrimp Cocktail puts a spicy spin on the classic shrimp dish. It makes an excellent appetizer or light lunch.
- 12 large shrimp, fully peeled and deveined
- 1 1/2 cups chilled Clamato juice
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1 avocado, pitted, cubed and chopped
- 1 avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced in 1/8" slices
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
- 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup of cucumber, peeled and seeds removed, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup of celery rib, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 ripe plum or small vine ripened tomato, diced
- 1 oz (27 grams) of salt for the shrimp boil plus additional salt for the sauce to taste
- 1/2 fresh lime
- Bring 1 1/2 quarts or 1.5 liters water to a boil. Add salt
- Add shrimp to the boiling water. Boil shrimp for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until shrimp are firm when touched with a spoon. Transfer to an ice bath to cool.
- Add Clamato juice and ketchup to a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly
- Add hot sauce, chopped avocado, onion, celery, cucumber, cilantro and tomato. Mix thoroughly
- Add the shrimp and gently mix until just combined
- Spoon into large lowball/rocks glasses by alternating shrimp and sauce until you have 3 shrimp in each glass and the glasses are full.
- Squeeze lime onto the top of each glass.
- Fan the avocado slices and gently place the fanned slices on top of each glass.
- Serve to eager guests.
- We like to use Valentina hot sauce but you can use your favorite hot sauce instead. Be aware that the amount of heat may vary in each sauce. Flavor to taste
- Make sure to slice the avocado garnish just before serving to avoid oxidation.
- Cocktails can be stored by placing plastic wrap directly over each cocktail with the plastic wrap in direct contact with the avocado slices in order to avoid oxidation.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: November 2, 2022
Tuesday 27th of December 2022
You missed the most important part of shrimp cocktail…the shrimp should be wild not FARM RAISED…farm raised shrimp has an awful glaze… there is no crunch and god only knows what they’re fed!!!
Thursday 3rd of November 2022
Mexico isn’t in Central America….smh
Daryl and Mindi Hirsch
Thursday 3rd of November 2022
On second look, according to the United Nations, Mexico IS part of Central America. We'll go with the United Nations over Wikipedia on this one.
Daryl and Mindi Hirsch
Thursday 3rd of November 2022
I looked at wikipedia and you, indeed, are correct. We never realized that was the case.