Summer may still be a long way from now, but if you are already craving something refreshing, you can make your own campechana — a seafood starter that bursts into a wide array of flavors in your mouth and that reminds you of the ocean. Just think about a light dish with a sweet tomato and zesty citrus salsa, avocado, shrimp, and crabmeat. This Mexican cocktail dish would certainly transport you from your couch or dinner table to a beach club where you just enjoy the salty sea breeze on your face, the sound of waves crashing to the shore, sand in between your toes, and probably some lively mariachi music playing in the distance.
What is Campechana?
Campechana or campechana de mariscos is a traditional Mexican cocktail recipe usually served as a light dinner or an appetizer. It is mainly made of fresh shrimp, diced tomatoes, crabmeat, avocado, lime juice, olives, and a lineup of herbs and spicy ingredients. This cocktail is quite similar to ceviche, but the shrimp and other seafood in campechana are cooked in heat instead of brined in lime juice.
Campechana got its name from a coastal state in Mexico called Campeche, which is known for its seafood dishes. In Campeche, the shrimp cocktail is sold in paper cones on street carts by the beach.
You can eat campechana just like how you’d eat a typical Mexican dip. It is usually served in sundae or cocktail glasses or in festive bowls, along with some tortilla chips or saltine crackers.
Campechana Shrimp Cocktail Recipe
- 1 pound medium or large shrimp preferably wild-caught
- 1 avocado, cubed
- ½ avocado, sliced into wedges
- 2 tbsp salt (Zatarain's Shrimp & Crab Boil seasoning or Old Bay Seasoning)
- ¼ cups lime juice
- 2 cups tomato juice or Clamato
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 1 medium-sized tomato, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp green olives, chopped and pitted
- ½ cups white onion, minced
- 1 stalk celery, minced
- ¼ bunches cilantro, chopped
- ¼ medium-sized cucumber, minced
- ¼ jalapeno minced
- ¼ green bell pepper, minced
- 2 dashes hot sauce
- chile powder and black pepper
- Tortilla or corn chips or saltine crackers (for serving)
- Peel and devein the shrimp and remove the tails.
- Prepare a pot with 2 quarts of water and put the shrimp and crab boil seasoning in it. Bring water to a boil and add the shrimp.
- Cook the shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes until they turn opaque and pink.
- Take the shrimp out using a slotted spoon to drain excess water, let it rest for 3 minutes, and chill. Keep 4 to 8 pieces of shrimp for garnish and chop the rest.
- In a large glass bowl, mix onions, salt, and lime juice. Let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. This is enough time to chop or mince the rest of the ingredients.
- Combine the cucumber, green olives, tomato, celery, green bell pepper, jalapeno, and tomato juice in a bowl.
- Fold in the campechana shrimp. Add several dashes of hot sauce, depending on how hot you prefer your salsa to be. Cover the bowl and chill for 1 to 2 hours, or until serving time.
- Before serving your campechana, stir in the cilantro and the chopped avocado.
- Scoop portions into a cocktail or tall sundae glass or into a serving bowl. Garnish each with a whole shrimp, a slice of avocado, and/or a lime wedge. Sprinkle with chili powder and freshly ground black pepper.
- Serve alongside tortilla chips or saltine crackers.
* This recipe from Lea Ann Brown makes about 6 servings of la campechana.
* You can also use 1/2 pound of shrimp and 1/2 pound of crabmeat in this recipe. Others also toss in slices of scallops, oysters, octopus, or squid.
Tips and Tricks for Campechana Shrimp Cocktail
You can make your campechana salsa base one day ahead in case you are throwing a dinner party at home and would want enough time to cook other dishes. The salsa base means your campechana recipe without the shrimp, crabmeat, cilantro, and avocado. All you need to do is put the salsa inside a resealable container and place it in your refrigerator to chill. Take it out when you’re ready to serve it, and add your shrimp, crabmeat, and avocado.
Other recipes use New Mexico (Anaheim) or poblano chile peppers instead of green bell pepper. If you use chile peppers, you’d need to grill, roast, or broil them directly over the flame, turning every now and then, until they are blackened all over and very tender. Place cooked chile peppers in a large bowl and cover it with plastic wrap for 15 minutes to let them steam. Peel the chiles, cut them lengthwise into halves, take out the seeds, and chop them into quarter-inch pieces. Grilled chiles will give your campechana a smoky flavor.
Nutrition Information of Campechana Shrimp Cocktail
This recipe contains the following nutritional value:
Saturated Fat: 1.27g
Vitamin A: 807.97IU
Vitamin C: 37.35mg
This recipe falls within keto-friendly standards at under 25g of net carbs. It may, however, be high in sodium according to the Food and Drug Administration’s standard for daily percentage value. The healthy range for daily maximum sodium consumption for most adults is 1500mg to 2300mg, and food items should be within 5%-20% DV per serving.
Campechana would make a great addition to your dinner-hosting menu or to your appetizer repertoire. With its fresh ingredients, savory flavors, and combination of creamy, crunchy, and slightly chewy textures, this chilled seafood salsa is the perfect starter for any meal, Mexican or otherwise. It is very quick and easy to whip up, and you can even prepare it way ahead of time, allowing you to focus on preparing other dishes. What’s more, campechana is packed with a lot of nutrients. You serve campechana to your guests and they would surely be asking you for the recipe.
Very good flavor.
After so many rave reviews, I was pretty confident that this would be a fantastic recipe.