How to make the Best Prawn Cocktail

Prawn cocktail
shrimp cocktail on golden table. Copyright: marcomayer

The prawn cocktail is a starter that deserves to be more widely offered at the diner table. I usually have one at the beginning of an Indian meal in preference to samosas and poppadoms. The dish rose to fame with chefs like Fannie Craddock who popularised it in the 70s and it epitomises that culinary spirit of the age when the avocado first began to hit the retailer’s shelves. It needs a slightly piquant fruity sauce which Marie Rose provides to bring the flavour of what is often a bland tasting crustacean to the palate.

Serves 6

Ingredients for the prawn base:

  • 400g raw peeled jumbo king prawns if you want to cook from scratch or to save time use cooked and peeled prawns- about  350g to 400g of cooked, peeled cold water prawns or you can do combinations or say, 200g king prawns with 200g of other prawns.

  • a large pinch of paprika

  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, stoned and sliced. Depending on its ripeness it may be easier to dice.

  • 2 Little Gem lettuces or  an iceberg lettuce, sliced or shredded. Leave enough whole lettuce leaves for each glass if possible as these will form part of the display as well as hold all the pieces together.

  • ½ cucumber, deseeded and diced (optional)

  • a large pinch of cayenne to finish

For the Marie Rose sauce:

  • 200g mayonnaise

  • 1 tbsp chopped chives

  • 1 heaped tbsp (50g) Heinz tomato ketchup

  • ¼ tsp tabasco sauce or a 1/2 tsp pf Worcestershire sauce – you could even have both for a particularly fiery combination.

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

  • Lemon wedges for each pot to garnish


  1. If cooking with raw prawns: bring a large pan of water to the boil and tip in the prawns. Cook for a few minutes, until  pink and cooked through. Drain the prawns once cooked and spread out on a plate to cool down. 

  2. To prepare the Marie Rose sauce, mix together the mayonnaise, ketchup, tabasco sauce/ Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and paprika in a bowl. Taste and season with salt and pepper. This can be covered and chilled beforehand.

  3. If using cooked prawns, make sure they are chilled. Place all the cold water prawns and some of the king prawns into a bowl, add half the sauce and half the chopped chives. Mix well to combine.

  4. Line 6 cocktail glasses with the lettuce leaves. You can also add some avocado slices inside to hold the leaves together.

  5. Add the prawn cocktail mixture, add any cucumber, then add the remaining whole king prawns, top off with the rest of the sauce including any left over prawns and sprinkle with a little cayenne pepper and some chives. Serve immediately.

  6. Serve with the lemon wedges to squeeze over.

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1 Comment

  1. I thought this recipe worked well for our starter. I am often annoyed when celebrity chefs say its got to be one type of prawn over another. I like the fact you gave confidence to use either type of prawns and even mix them up. I had some shrimp too and that worked really well. For me, it is the avocado that is the best.

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