Store-Bought Cocktail Sauces Ranked From Worst To Best

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Cocktail sauce is one of the most popular condiments used for seafood and the primary ingredient in a popular shrimp cocktail dish. According to Chicago Tribune, this sauce surfaced in the late 19th century, but historians debate its exact origins. Furthermore, although most modern seafood connoisseurs associate this tangy sauce with shrimp, diners more commonly enjoyed it with oysters at first. This sauce has several variations, but the classic recipe includes a rich sweet tomato base, a spicy horseradish kick, and an acidic component such as lemon juice or vinegar. 

When cocktail sauce first gained popularity, it was featured in cookbooks and primarily made from scratch. Today, most major condiment distributors offer some form of pre-made, shelf-stable cocktail sauces in supermarkets. These options make it easy for seafood lovers to enjoy their favorite sauce without having to purchase multiple ingredients. 

Some distributors stick to the original tried-and-true recipe, while others put a spin on the classic with unique flavors. Whether consumers prefer their cocktail sauce sweet, spicy, or somewhere in between, there is an option available to suit every taste. However, not all store-bought cocktail sauces are created equal. Some fall short of meeting expectations, while others offer satisfying flavors and textures nearly as good as homemade renditions. 

12. McCormick Golden Dipt Seafood Cocktail Sauce

For decades, McCormick products have been a common sight in groceries stores worldwide. Consumers probably know this brand for its wide array of spices and seasoning blends, however, it also produces condiments such as Golden Dipt cocktail sauce. McCormick offers this sauce in original and extra-hot varieties at most grocery store chains. Like many cocktail sauces, both options have a sweetened tomato base enhanced with horseradish and lemon juice. The extra-hot version has a more concentrated horseradish flavor for those who prefer spicier flavors. Consumer reviews of this product are decidedly mixed, especially regarding spice level and texture.

For example, although both varieties have been on the market for years, some Influenster reviewers explain that the brand changed its original recipe for this sauce. Unfortunately, many customers are unhappy with the change, noting that the sauce used to be more flavorful and the new consistency is too thick. A few reviews even implore the brand to change the recipe again. 

Meanwhile, two blind taste testers on YouTube found this sauce to be bold and smoky, with plenty of horseradish kick to balance the other flavors. However, they noted that this product lacks the traditional sweetness many cocktail sauce connoisseurs enjoy. As a result, Golden Dipt is more of an acquired taste than a widespread favorite in the world of ready-made cocktail sauces.

11. Private Selection Coastal Cocktail Sauce

Some grocery store private label products quickly become favorites among their shoppers, while others fail to capture a broad fan base. For example, many of Kroger's Private Selection products receive high customer marks on social media, but the brand's coastal cocktail sauce doesn't earn the same praise. This condiment has a tomato paste base blended with lemon juice, horseradish, and cayenne pepper sauce. The ingredient list also includes distilled white vinegar, onion powder, and sugar. These are all classic ingredients in store-bought and homemade cocktail sauce recipes, so this option has a straightforward taste that cocktail sauce purists may enjoy. 

However, some consumers feel that the basic sauce doesn't deliver the delicious taste they expect from their preferred seafood condiment. For instance, Influenster users have given this cocktail sauce mixed reviews due to its lack of bold flavors. While some reviewers appreciate the simplicity of its taste, others find it bland. The sauce could use more spice or lemon juice to balance out the tomato flavor. Meanwhile, several reviews note that the consistency is perfect for dipping shrimp and other seafood, and nearly every reviewer agrees that this product is reasonably priced. 

10. Trader Joe's Cocktail Sauce

Typically, consumers who shop at Trader Joe's fall in love with the chain's unique private-label products. However, some items don't perform well enough to earn a permanent spot on customers' must-buy list. For example, the brand's cocktail sauce features fresh horseradish and a slightly spicy taste. 

Although many Trader Joe's fans enjoy this condiment, mixed reviews are plentiful. There is a significant divide between users who love or hate the product on Trader Joe's Reviews. Some comments praise the texture and taste, while others claim that the grocery chain updated the recipe to include too much sodium. These reviewers explain that the new formula has a thinner consistency and less flavor than the original.

Nevertheless, some professional taste testers still recommend this newly-formulated cocktail sauce to their followers. Shopping With Dave gives this product a near-perfect score, noting that the blend of horseradish and cayenne provides the sauce with the perfect amount of zing. However, like other reviewers, the outlet agrees that the distributor could improve the consistency, and the flavor would benefit from added tanginess. The final ruling is that this product isn't exactly earth-shattering, but it's worth buying for established Trader Joe's customers.

9. Kraft Cocktail Sauce

The Kraft Heinz Company encompasses some of the world's most well-known packaged food companies, including Kraft. This famous brand began as a Chicago-based cheese distributor in the early 20th century and now lines shelves in most grocery store chains. Among its many product offerings, Kraft produces a bottled cocktail sauce. Like other pre-made options, Kraft cocktail sauce is made following a straightforward recipe and uses sugar as a sweetener. This cocktail sauce has a smooth texture similar to ketchup, which some consumers prefer over chunkier styles.

A pair of YouTube reviewers agree that Kraft's cocktail sauce has a pleasantly thick, jelly-like consistency. However, the reviewers were very divided in their opinions on the flavor, which they described as intense and slightly fishy. One reviewer found the taste very off-putting, while the other appreciated the high level of spice and tang. 

Reviewers on GoToChef note that this sauce has a bold flavor that can pair well with various ingredients. For example, one person suggests using this sauce with grilled vegetables instead of limiting it to seafood dishes. The lack of consensus on this product indicates that the recipe has room for improvement, but it is still a go-to choice for many cocktail sauce fans.

8. Primal Kitchen Cocktail Sauce

Ketogenic diets have steadily gained popularity in recent years, but most cocktail sauces aren't appropriate for this manner of eating. However, Primal Kitchen has a solution for keto seafood lovers. The brand prides itself on using all-natural ingredients and offers a variety of products that are certified gluten-free, paleo, or keto. 

The brand's cocktail sauce is both keto and paleo, making it an excellent choice for consumers following either of these diets. The unsweetened sauce contains organic ingredients, including tomato puree and horseradish. The ingredient list also includes balsamic vinegar, which is relatively uncommon in store-bought cocktail sauces but adds depth to the flavor.

Most customers on Primal Kitchen's website recommend this cocktail sauce to others, and many praise its well-balanced flavor. However, some consumers feel that the sauce's unique combination of flavors isn't very successful. For example, Shopping With Dave explains that the balsamic vinegar and cinnamon are unexpected components that give the sauce a strange, non-traditional taste. Nonetheless, the outlet praises this sauce for being low-calorie and free of artificial ingredients. This product may be a worthwhile experiment for consumers who like unique flavors and want a healthier alternative to classic cocktail sauce.

7. Sau-Sea Cocktail Sauce

New York-based Sau-Sea Foods started as a small family business in 1948 and specializes in ready-made cocktail sauce. The brand's classic cocktail sauce combines horseradish and white vinegar with slightly sweetened tomato paste and other subtle flavor notes. The brand recommends using it with shrimp or fried seafood such as clams. In addition to its shelf-stable sauce options, the brand also offers refrigerated cocktail sauces in select stores. These contain the same ingredients as their bottled counterparts but are preservative-free.

Customers on Amazon have given this cocktail sauce mostly positive reviews based on its flavor and thick consistency. Several reviewers also like that Sau-Sea Foods uses sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup in its recipe. They enjoy the subtle zingy taste that horseradish adds to the sauce, though some people feel it could use a little more spice. 

However, the biggest complaint about this product is the cost, which is significantly higher than many commercially available cocktail sauces. The price difference is partially due to quality, but it's also a result of product availability. As a small distributor, Sau-Sea Foods has less brand representation in stores than larger corporations. Since the recipe is similar to many other cocktail sauces, it may not be worth the extra expense for every customer.

6. Bookbinder's Cocktail Sauce

Bookbinder's began as a seafood restaurant in 19th-century Philadelphia and started selling restaurant-inspired grocery items in the 1970s. Today, the company offers a curated selection of condiments, including specialty mustards, tartar sauces, and two varieties of cocktail sauces. The brand's seafood cocktail sauce features a classic mixture of tomato paste, lemon juice, and horseradish, with high-fructose corn syrup for sweetness. The recipe also includes distilled vinegar, which gives the sauce a tangy taste. The hot and spicy version features red peppers for an extra dose of heat. Bookbinder's suggests pairing these sauces with crab cakes, fried clams, or steamed shrimp.

Reviewers on the product page note that the sauce is delicious paired with shrimp, fried seafood, and even cauliflower. Many customers enjoy the sauce's consistency and are pleased with the level of heat the hot and spicy variety delivers. However, the biggest complaint among reviewers is that their favorite cocktail sauce is hard to find in stores and somewhat expensive on Amazon. 

Much like the brand's website, Amazon has many positive reviews of the traditional cocktail sauce. Multiple customers consider it to be the best store-bought version available and describe being loyal to this brand for years. Nevertheless, even Amazon customers express complaints about this sauce's limited availability.

5. Heinz Cocktail Sauce

The multinational distributor Heinz is well-known for its signature ketchup, so it's no surprise that its cocktail sauce is a favorite among consumers. After all, many cocktail sauce recipes call for ketchup to achieve the classic condiment's rich, sweet flavor. The brand's original cocktail sauce has a simple recipe that lists tomato concentrate as its first ingredient, which gives the sauce a similar consistency to ketchup. Many reviewers on Influenster praise it for its balanced flavor and suggest trying it on crab, shrimp, and even crawfish. However, some people comment that this cocktail sauce is too sweet and needs more spice. 

Nevertheless, most Influenster reviewers agree that it is a good value. This product is an excellent choice for those who enjoy mild cocktail sauces that are more sweet than spicy. For seafood lovers who prefer more heat, Heinz also offers a zesty cocktail sauce with a more robust horseradish flavor. Reviews for this variety are mostly positive on Influenster, and many consumers agree that it delivers on its promise of a bold, zesty taste. Furthermore, most reviewers enjoy the richer consistency, so it's a solid choice for fans of thick cocktail sauces.

4. Legal Sea Foods Spicy Cocktail Sauce

The New England-based specialty foods company, Stonewall Kitchen, began with a small selection of hand-crafted products and is now featured in thousands of grocery stores. The brand's spicy cocktail sauce was born out of a partnership with Legal Sea Foods, a popular chain that features this condiment in its restaurants. The brand's website suggests a traditional pairing of chilled seafood such as oysters or shrimp. However, Stonewall Kitchen's YouTube channel also includes the sauce as part of a Fisherman's Platter recipe, pairing it with deep-fried seafood instead.

Customers have awarded this sauce a nearly perfect score on the producer's website and praise how well it pairs with shrimp dishes. One of the best aspects of this sauce is its combination of ingredients, which provide a bold taste that sets it apart from other store-bought options. For example, it includes a zesty kick of jalapeños, making this product perfect for seafood fans who enjoy spicier sauces. Furthermore, many prepackaged cocktail sauces include high-fructose corn syrup, but this one features a combination of cane sugar and brown sugar for sweetness. This difference gives the sauce a less processed taste that is more similar to freshly prepared options.

3. Old Bay Cocktail Sauce

Most consumers think of Old Bay as a classic seafood spice blend, but the popular McCormick brand also offers seafood cake mixes, hot sauce, and a pre-packaged cocktail sauce. This sauce includes a traditional tomato base, lemon juice, and a generous amount of Old Bay seasoning. The ingredient list also features a hint of molasses, which is a unique sweetener among cocktail sauces and helps create a thick consistency. The brand suggests using this rich sauce in a traditional shrimp cocktail and includes several other recipes to try, such as a creamy cocktail sauce-based dip.

Multiple Influenster reviews describe Old Bay's cocktail sauce as one of the best examples of this product, and an overwhelming majority have awarded it a perfect score. The reviews cite an excellent balance of spice and tang as one of the best features of this sauce, and many agree it's a reasonably priced product. Reviewers recommend trying this sauce on everything from fried shrimp to crab legs and note that it's a perfect option for classic shrimp cocktails. Just as the traditional seasoning mix has been a consistent fan-favorite over the years, this Old Bay cocktail sauce is sure to be a hit with consumers who enjoy seafood with intense Cajun flavors.

2. St. Elmo Steak House Cocktail Sauce

The Indiana-based restaurant St. Elmo Steakhouse opened in 1902 and quickly became famous for its signature spicy cocktail sauce. Now, the brand offers several of its in-house condiments at stores and online, including remoulade, horseradish sauces, and its popular cocktail sauce. This zesty cocktail sauce consists of a straightforward recipe with a generous amount of horseradish. The brand offers several ideas for serving this sauce, such as pairing it with coconut shrimp or using it as a Bloody Mary cocktail ingredient. St. Elmo customers have given this sauce a perfect score on the brand's website, noting that the intense heat is unique and delicious.

This cocktail sauce has also won the hearts of consumers on social media. For example, one Reddit user dedicated a whole thread to recommending St. Elmo to their fellow users. Comments on the thread explain that the bottled sauce has a very similar flavor to the famous restaurant's fresh-made version, and many love the strong kick of horseradish. In addition to the original comment, several users encourage consumers to buy this product. Another Reddit thread echoes these sentiments and offers other suggestions for using this sauce. For example, one user notes that it is an excellent condiment for eggs, while another recommends adding ketchup and lime juice to tame the spice level.

1. Crosse & Blackwell Cocktail Sauce

Few cocktail sauce distributors have been in business for as long as Crosse & Blackwell. This business began in England in 1706 and continues to offer a curated line of sauces and condiments inspired by England's culinary traditions. One of the significant differentiators between this seafood cocktail sauce and other brands is the inclusion of Worcestershire sauce in the recipe. This ingredient adds a unique complexity and tang to the traditional flavor base, which also features horseradish, garlic, and distilled vinegar. Cocktail sauce fans generally approve of this product, which has also caught the attention of several professional food reviewers.

For example, in a blind taste test, two YouTube reviewers praise the rich smooth consistency. They describe the flavor as fresh and perfectly balanced, scoring it 9 out of 10. Of the six cocktail sauces featured in their review, Crosse & Blackwell earned the highest overall score. 

A New England-based television show, "Phantom Gourmet," sampled four leading brands' cocktail sauces to determine which option is best (via CBS News). The Crosse & Blackwell cocktail sauce won the taste test because it was the most balanced and flavorful. The taste tester also noted that the sauce's thick consistency is perfect for shrimp. Clearly, being in business for over 300 years has given the brand plenty of time to perfect its cocktail sauce recipe.