This homemade cocktail sauce is quick to make and sure beats anything out of a jar. Smoked spices add an unexpected twist of flavor. Adjust the ingredients to your taste, like more heat or spice. Enjoy it with roasted garlic shrimp for a terrific appetizer. In fact, I just made this again today to take to a Christmas ornament swap party. Everyone loved it!
Homemade Cocktail Sauce: Let’s Talk Ingredients
Let’s talk about a few of the ingredients that make up homemade cocktail sauce: ketchup, horseradish, spices, and traditionally Worcestershire.
Ketchup – The base of cocktail sauce is ketchup. When you buy, choose organic and read labels for lower sugar and no bad ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Horseradish – Another one of those ingredients that you have to really search for something without HFCS. Look in the refrigerated dairy section for fresh options. And as horseradish varies in potency, start with less and add as you go if you are heat-sensitive.
Spices – Smoked paprika really give this cocktail sauce a nice, unexpected flavor. While you can find it at many stores, I order mine online from Chefs Warehouse. It has a strong, rich, smoked flavor that none other can compare to. If it is in stock, order the smoked black pepper too.
The other spices I add give this sauce a nice complexity and flavor – ground clove, ground allspice and ground chipotle. Clove and allspice are strong, so just a little will do. The ground chipotle, smoked ground jalapeno peppers, give this cocktail sauce a kick but also contribute to the smoky flavor.
Worcestershire – Many cocktail sauce recipes include Worcestershire. I don’t use it in my recipe as the classic brand (you may have in your refrigerator) contains HFCS. And even if you buy an organic brand without HFCS, such as Annie’s (which tastes great), it is not gluten-free. An alternative is using tamarind paste for it’s unique fruity-tart flavor. Read on.
Tamarind – In the U.S, tamarind is unfamiliar for many. It’s the fruit of a tropical evergreen tree from west Africa, usually seen in pods. The New York Times says “tamarind is the lemon of Southeast Asia, India and much of Latin America; its tart fruitiness sharpens and rounds out flavors wherever it is used.” The easiest way to use tamarind is to buy a paste or concentrate that comes in a jar. Be sure to buy one that is pure, like Laxmi or Neera brands (at Whole Foods and online).
The sweet-sour flavor of tamarind is great added to marinades and sauces, a fun new flavor and ingredient to play with in the kitchen. It takes just a little to lift the flavor of this cocktail sauce. I’ve listed it as optional, but it really adds flavor if you like to try new things.
Add freshly squeezed citrus juice, sea salt, or celery salt if you have it, minced fresh garlic and a little Balsamic vinegar. Whisk it all together and allow it to stand for an hour for the flavors to develop, or just use it right away. You can also make it ahead. it will last for the better part of a week in the fridge.
Homemade Cocktail Sauce
- 1 cup ketchup organic preferably
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice fresh squeezed
- 1 tablespoon horseradish
- 2-3 teaspoons lime juice fresh squeezed
- 2 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon tamarind paste optional
- 1 teaspoon chili powder preferably ancho
- 1-2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/8 teaspoon ground clove
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper more if you like heat
- sea salt
- ground black pepper smoked pepper if you like smoky flavors, to taste
- Combine all ingredients into a small bowl and whisk together. Taste and add more spices, citrus juice or chipotle for more heat.