The Horseradish Swap That's The Perfect Addition To Cocktail Sauce

Ever since cocktail sauce boomed during the Prohibition era, horseradish has remained one of its vital ingredients. It not only provides the signature kick but cuts through the strong, slightly sweet flavor of the ketchup, creating a balanced condiment as a result. However, if you run out of the spicy paste, any homemade cocktail sauce is going to lack that specific punch that we're all looking for when we dip our shrimp. Thankfully, there are a few viable substitutes for this picante root vegetable — the best being hot mustard or mustard powder.

Horseradish is one of many species under the Brassicaceae family of plants, which are sometimes known for their sharp, fiery taste. Like horseradish, mustard produces a natural chemical called isothiocyanate when it comes into contact with water. This gives the root that signature nostril-unclogging heat that many people appreciate.

In the context of cocktail sauce, hot mustard can act as an exact replacement for horseradish without the need to tweak a recipe's ratio, as the two have near-identical consistencies. Hot mustard powder, on the other hand, needs to be mixed with water to mimic that texture. You should also use less of it if you're using it as a substitute for horseradish, as its kick is typically more potent.

Season your mustard cocktail sauce to elevate its flavors further

At its most basic form, cocktail sauce consists of ketchup, lime juice, and horseradish (or mustard, if you're using it as a substitute). While that combination remains solid on its own, you should never feel discouraged from seasoning this condiment even further. For example, a small amount of minced garlic will not only add some nice textural contrast but may help balance out the spicy and acidic flavors with some bold savoriness. On the other hand, an extra splash of hot sauce can add some complexity (and potency) to the kick of your cocktail sauce.

If you want to keep things relatively traditional, a dash of salt, pepper, and Worcestershire should be more than enough to bring some depth to your cocktail sauce. But should you really want to shake up this recipe, add mayonnaise to the mix. The store-bought stuff should be more than enough to do the trick, and you can easily upgrade its flavor with many of the ingredients that are already in cocktail sauce, such as citrus juice or mustard. 

Other useful horseradish swaps for cocktail sauce

If you're in the middle of making a cocktail sauce, and you're out of both horseradish and mustard, don't run to the grocery store just yet. Wasabi may also be used as a substitute for this condiment, as this green root comes from the same Brassicaceae family of plants and provides a similar kick. Since it also has a similar consistency to horseradish paste, you don't need to tweak its ratio when using it as a swap. In fact, many store-bought wasabi might just be dyed horseradish paste, so you might just be using the actual ingredient you're trying to replace.

Alternatively, a dash of hot sauce or chili powder both work as a last-minute replacement for cocktail sauce. They do the job of providing some heat, but keep in mind that their kick and texture will not resemble horseradish as closely as hot mustard or wasabi paste. If this isn't an issue for you, feel free to use this common swap for your next cocktail sauce.

Regardless of what alternative to horseradish you use, keep in mind that certain acidic ingredients could eventually cause your cocktail sauce to congeal. A few vigorous stirs should be all you need, but feel free to add a splash of water to loosen things up further.