Lemon-and-Garlic-Poached Shrimp with Barbecue Cocktail Sauce

Tender chilled shrimp are paired with a smoky twist on classic cocktail sauce. Serve them together as a shrimp cocktail or as part of a seafood tower.

Lemon-and-Garlic-Poached Shrimp with Barbecue Cocktail Sauce
Total Time:
25 mins

Gently poaching shrimp in a combination of wine and water, plus seasonings like lemon, garlic, and bay leaf, deeply flavors the shrimp while also keeping them tender and succulent. To prepare the shrimp, use small scissors to open the shell along the back of the shrimp, carefully cutting into the flesh to expose the vein. (We recommend Joyce Chen Scissors for this task. They have narrow tips, which make deveining shell-on shrimp a breeze; $29, jbprince.com). Once the vein is exposed, use a paring knife to lift out the vein and discard it.

For the smoky barbecue-based cocktail sauce, look for a barbecue sauce that’s not overly sweet or tangy. For hot sauce, we prefer Tabasco in this recipe, as it adds the perfect level of heat plus bright acidity. For the punchiest cocktail sauce, purchase refrigerated prepared horseradish, which is typically more pungent and spicy compared to shelf-stable prepared horseradish.

This recipe comes together quickly, for an easy yet elegant appetizer on its own, or as part of a next-level seafood tower.



  • 2 cups water

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) dry white wine

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • 4 garlic cloves, lightly smashed

  • 2 dried bay leaves

  • 1 lemon, halved

  • 1 pound unpeeled raw jumbo shrimp, deveined with shells left on


  • 1/2 cup bottled barbecue sauce

  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

  • 2 to 4 drops hot sauce (such as Tabasco)

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Black pepper, to taste


Make the Shrimp

  1. Stir together 2 cups water, wine, salt, peppercorns, garlic, and bay leaves in a medium saucepan. Squeeze lemon halves over mixture; add lemon halves to saucepan. Bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

  2. Fill a large bowl with ice and water; set aside. Add shrimp to saucepan, and bring mixture to a boil over high. Cover pan; remove from heat, and poach until shrimp are just firm, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer shrimp to ice bath using a slotted spoon; let cool 2 minutes. Drain well.

Make the sauce:

  1. Whisk together barbecue sauce, horseradish, lemon juice, and hot sauce in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with shrimp.

To Make Ahead

The barbecue cocktail sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Any leftover shrimp can be used to make shrimp dip or shrimp toasts.

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