You know those shrimp rings from the grocery store? They’re the ones that are shrink wrapped in plastic with a tiny cup of cocktail sauce? And almost always on some ridiculous sale like buy one get 43 free? And you see them absolutely everywhere around the holidays? Yeah, you know, those?

Promise me you aren’t going to buy one. Promise me you aren’t going to be that person that brings one to the holiday pitch-in. Promise me you won’t embarrass yourself. Promise me you’re going to make these shrimp instead.

The shrimp in those rings are painfully overcooked, rubbery and flavorless. They are sad little shrimp. These shrimp are packed full of layered flavor. They are happy delicious shrimp. They are tender and perfect for dipping in homemade cocktail sauce (please make your own, it is incredibly easy and the results are much better than the jarred kind). Actually, these are so good, no cocktail sauce is even needed.

I obviously can’t offer you a recipe as convenient as picking up a plastic package of shrimp, but I can tell you that this recipe is ready, from start to finish, in about 15 minutes. Which is pretty darn speedy, if you ask me. Especially when you consider the spectacular results.

This recipe originates from my spectacular father. These shrimp were part of an amazing spread of food my parents and I gorged ourselves on every Christmas Eve. My family is a blended family, which means my siblings were always elsewhere on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and that left just me and my parents to celebrate. It sounds sad, but it was actually pretty amazing. We got to make our own traditions and these shrimp were always part of that meal.

As with most recipes from Dad, the original has a lot of “pinch of this” and “shake of that” and “do it until it looks right.” And while I know exactly what he means, that doesn’t translate very well into a printable recipe for you folks. So I translated Dad-ese into a usable recipe.

Beer Boiled Peel-and-Eat Shrimp

Beer Boiled Peel-and-Eat Shrimp

Yield: 1 pound shrimp
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 13 minutes

Peel-and-eat shrimp is one of my favorite dishes because it feels decadent and fancy, but is incredibly healthy. Shrimp is low calorie, delicious and full of amazing fats and nutrients. Avoid using Tiger shrimp for this dish, we've found they are difficult to peel once cooked.


  • 1 bottle brown ale (recommended: Newcastle Brown Ale)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped into large chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 pound large raw shrimp, unpeeled, tail on, deveined
  • 1 lemon, sliced into wedges, for serving
  • Cocktail sauce, for serving


  1. In a large stock pot, combine beer, water, onion, celery, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and garlic cloves. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. While coming to a boil, prepare an ice bath (water and ice) in a large bowl near the sink. Also put colander in sink.
  3. When beer mixture comes to a rolling boil, add in shrimp. Stir once and cook, for 1-3 minutes or until pink and opaque. They will cook very quickly, do not walk away!
  4. Once cooked, remove from heat, and strain in colander. Pick shrimp out and drop into ice bath to stop cooking.
  5. Once shrimp are cold, plate and serve with lemon wedges and cocktail sauce.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 82Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 71mgSodium: 446mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 9g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

Do you have any holiday food traditions?

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  1. Hi,

    Just discovered this blog/post searching for shrimp recipes 🙂

    At my house we have a tradition of Crab-Corn Chowder on Xmas Eve before church! I love living in Northern California because the Dungeness Crab are in season this time of year.

    God Bless and Happy Holidays!


  2. Sounds sooo good! Great recipe!… I never understood why people would buy those pre-made shrimp cocktails either. A little unappetizing — plus it’s so easy to make it so much better!

    We have a Christmas morning tradition of potato pancakes, strong coffee and a wonderful baked dish that has a crust of baguette slices. It’s filled with eggs, fontina, roasted red peppers and sausage… delish!

  3. We usually do shrimp on Christmas Eve/Day (whenever we eat), but as I don’t eat seafood, I have no idea how my grandmother makes them, but people seem to like them!

    We have ALWAYS had Polish sausage from a deli in Milwaukee on Christmas morning. My grandma boils it and then browns it in a skillet. Some people eat it plain, others with ketchup, others on a roll with horseradish. It’s just fantastic and wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

    1. Oooh Polish sausage! My sister’s husband is Polish and we had a few Thanksgivings with his family and they always brought free Polish sausage from a deli in South Bend. So yummy!

  4. Haha, we always ordered Chinese food on Christmas Eve because we always celebrated my birthday on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day! And, well, holiday food traditions have pretty much gone out the window since I became a vegetarian, so I need to make some new ones. I do miss peel and eat shrimp something fierce, though!

  5. Mmm, I love it! My Dad makes these same shrimp every year for our New Year’s Eve dinner. For as long as I can remember, we’ve done steak with these peel and eat shrimp on New Year’s Eve, followed by game playing! In the past several years we’ve been able to begin the tradition again, which is fantastic!

    1. That sounds like an awesome way to spend NYE! We don’t really have any NYE traditions in my family. Might have to change that. 😀

  6. We make cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning: one pan of homemade and one pan of Pillsbury Orange because we just haven’t found a comparable homemade version for orange rolls. Then we all (spouses and grandkids too!) climb into my parents’ bed to eat them, drink coffee, and talk before starting the day. Its one of my favorite moments of the year 🙂

  7. My family always starts our holiday meals (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, whatever) with Escarole (Italian Wedding) Soup and some sort of baked pasta. It’s not a holiday without them!