Cold Marinated Shrimp Appetizer

Chilled marinated shrimp appetizer takes traditional shrimp cocktail to the next level with this easy make-ahead recipe. Large cooked shrimp marinates in an Italian dressing mixture and is served cold. It’s the perfect way to elevate your cocktail party menu, or serve as an hors d’oeuvre at dinner parties.

cold marinated shrimp piled onto oval platter with lemon slices, serving tongs, and shell picks.

Shrimp cocktail has always been a symbol of elegance and luxury when entertaining, but this alternative is even better! This appetizer recipe has been satisfying our party guests for over 20 years. In fact, it gets rave reviews every time we serve it.

Make it for appetizer parties, summer gatherings, a seafood feast, girls night in, and showers. It’s the perfect bite for an elegant cocktail party, add it to a shrimp boil menu, make it a cold appetizer for dinner parties, or toss with pasta to turn it into a main course.

Why You’ll Love It

  • Tried and true recipe. If 20 years of happy party guests doesn’t convince you that this is a must-make finger food, then I don’t know what does! People love it; it’s that simple.
  • Make-ahead. The key to the taste is to make it up to a day ahead or at least 8 hours ahead so the cooked shrimp can soak up the flavor. This means one less thing to do on the day of the party.
  • Easy. It starts with cooked shrimp that you can buy or cook yourself, and uses bottled dressing that gets dressed up with fresh herbs and other seasoning.
  • Large batch. This recipe makes hosting easy because you get a lot of food without a lot of effort. Plus, you can easily double or triple the recipe for a larger crowd.

*Post contains affiliate links. I earn commission from Amazon purchases.

marinated shrimp piled on oval platter, with lemon slices.

PARTY TIP: You can buy cooked shrimp by-the-pound at the seafood counter in many grocery stores. It’s fresher than what you find in the refrigerated meat section, and tastes like you cooked it yourself. Use it to save time and effort.


  • Cooked shrimp. You can use a 1-pound bag from the freezer section, that’s been cooked, peeled, and de-veined. Use large, extra large, or jumbo size shrimp. You typically get about 31 to 35 Large shrimp, or 21 to 25 Jumbo shrimp, in a pound. Or you can purchase it in the refrigerator section, usually as shrimp cocktail, or you can cook it yourself.
  • Bottled Italian dressing. Starting with bottled dressing makes this super simple, especially if you’re hosting and have lots of other things to do. I suggest using Kraft Zesty Italian because it’s got all the flavor and a little zing. Ken’s Italian Vinaigrette is also pretty good here.
  • Green chilies. You need the smallest can which you typically find in the Mexican food section.
  • Honey. Adds a tiny touch of sweetness to balance the tanginess of the dressing.
  • Hot Sauce. For this recipe, Texas Pete is my go-to brand. The flavor is just so good and complex without adding too much heat to this recipe.
  • Fresh green onion. This gives the marinade a fresh flavor boost.
  • Fresh cilantro. This adds that undeniable flavor of freshness. If you have an aversion to the flavor, you can substitute with flat leaf parsley.

Plan on 5 shrimp per person for an appetizer party.

cooked shrimp in ziplock bag with seasoning.

How to Make It

*See full instructions plus how to cook raw shrimp, in the recipe card below.

  1. Add cooked shrimp (poached or boiled) to a wide baking dish or large freezer storage zipper bag.
  2. Whisk together all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and pour it over the shrimp. Toss the shrimp with a large spoon to coat it with the marinade and cover tightly with foil, or close the zipper and gently massage the shrimp with the marinade to evenly coat it. Refrigerate over night.
  3. When ready to serve, use a slotted spoon to scoop shrimp into a serving bowl or ice bowl.

Quick Tip

While the shrimp is marinating in the fridge, give it another toss or massage after a few hours to make sure every piece gets coated.


Keep any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

How to Serve Shrimp Appetizer at a Party

cold shrimp in ice bowl lined with leafy lettuce and lemon garnish.
Ice Bowl

Serve shrimp in a DIY ice bowl to keep it chilled and attractive during the party. You’re guests will be impressed!

See How To Make It Here

Mini stem glasses

For a seated dinner party serve shrimp in a mini martini glass with crushed ice in the bottom.

Get The Glass Set Here

shrimp appetizer in stem glasses with lemon on the side.
cold shrimp served in a small wooden boat tray, with shell picks and lemons on the side.
Coastal style

For a baby shower, bridal shower or seafood themed party, serve shrimp on ice in a sushi boat.

Get The Boat Here

More Expert Tips

  • Line the ice bowl with large lettuce leaves as a barrier between the shrimp and the ice.
  • Garnish with lemon slices. Sprinkle chopped cilantro, parsley, or chives on top if you like. You can offer a dish of cocktail sauce or remoulade on the side if you want, but you really don’t need to. There’s so much flavor you don’t need dipping sauce.
  • For a small group you can use a platter like I did here. Pile it full of shrimp and sliced lemon, and chill it all together until ready to serve so the entire dish stays cold. Keep extra in the fridge and replenish as needed.
  • Make a sheet or block of ice. Simply fill a large rectangle baking dish with water and freeze until solid. Keep at least 1 inch between the top of the water and the top of the pan so the water has room to expand as it freezes, and you still have a lip around the edge to hold in the shrimp. Pile the shrimp on top to serve.
  • Add 2 or 3 shrimp on a skewer for easy pickup, and to control portion size.
  • Make sure you provide small shell themed picks or forks for individual pickup. Small tongs are also a good tool to have. Also, have a small bowl available to hold discarded tails. Put a couple in the bowl so guests know what it’s for.
  • If you want to serve the marinated shrimp as a starter for a dinner party menu, you can use small compotes, shot glasses, stemmed margarita glasses, or coupe glasses.
cold marinated shrimp on oval platter with lemon and wine bottle.

More Seafood Appetizer Recipes

I know you and your guests are going to love this cold marinated shrimp appetizer. It’s juicy, tender, bite-size finger food that’s been a crowd pleaser for decades!

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Marinated Shrimp Appetizer Recipe

Marinated Shrimp Appetizer Recipe

Yield: 5 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 10 minutes

Easy chilled marinated shrimp appetizer gives your party menu an elegant touch. Make it ahead so the cooked shrimp soaks up all the flavor, and make hosting a breeze. Perfect for cocktail parties and dinner parties.


  • 1 pound shrimp, cooked, peeled, and de-veined
  • 1/2 cup bottled Zesty Italian dressing
  • 1 (4-ounce) can green chilies
  • 1/2 cup thin-sliced green onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon Texas Pete
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro


    1. Whisk together all ingredients except shrimp, in a bowl.
    2. Add shrimp to a wide bowl so they can be spread out. They don’t need to be in a single layer.
    3. Pour the marinade all over shrimp and give it a good tossing to coat shrimp. Cover and refrigerate over night or at least 8 hours.
    4. Use a slotted spoon to transfer marinated shrimp to a serving dish or ice bowl and serve.


To Cook Raw Shrimp - Bring a large stock pot filled with water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to the water. Add shrimp to the pot, cover with the lid, and remove from the heat. Let sit for 3 minutes or until the shrimp are pink. Strain the shrimp and then transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Use a large slotted spoon to remove shrimp onto a clean towel or paper towels and pat to dry.

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