Go totally ’70s and make a retro shrimp Christmas tree appetizer for your holiday party! Here’s how

Woman with a vintage shrimp appetizer tree in 1965

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How to make a shrimply delicious shrimp Christmas tree (1974)

This scene-stealer is a real buffet beauty, certain to cast a special charm over any holiday party — yet so easy to do!

Simply select a styrofoam cone of any height you wish, attach curly endive for the holly, and hang on those ornaments of shrimply delicious, shrimply elegant, and shrimply inexpensive shrimp. A Christmasy red cocktail sauce will add additional sparkle to the scene.

Vintage shrimp Christmas tree recipe card

Shrimp Christmas tree is attractive and delicious

Holiday entertaining will be at its height in the weeks ahead. Hostesses always need good ideas for festive foods and decorations. One to consider is the shrimp Christmas tree. It is attractive and delicious.

Raw shrimp range in color from greenish grey to royal red. When cooked, all have the familiar pink color, which makes shrimp dishes a delight to the eye as well as the taste buds.

The unusual shrimp tree is certain to capture the eye. Guests may say it’s too pretty to eat, but after the compliments, they’ll enjoy undecorating it.

Shrimp Christmas tree from 1964

How to make a shrimp Christmas tree at home

This shrimpy dazzler is easy to make with materials from the variety store and supermarket. It is constructed on a Styrofoam cone about 30 inches high, set into a 12-inch square Styrofoam base with a hole cut out to fit the cone securely.

Other materials needed include toothpicks, velvet ribbon, a spring of holly, several bunches of very crisp green endive, and about 3 pounds of shrimp.

Drop the shrimp in well-seasoned boiling water. Bring water back to a boil and allow shrimp to simmer. Shrimp is naturally tender and moist. Simmer the shrimp just a few minutes, until it is pink and opaque. Drain. If you are using in-shell shrimp, peel and remove the dark vein. Refrigerate.

Separate and wash endive. Dry and chill. Begin attaching endive at the base, overlapping the leaves and fastening them with toothpicks until the cone and base are completely covered.

Next, attach shrimp with toothpicks. Make even rows that encircle the tree in ribbon effect. Top with bow of ribbon and spring of holly.

Shrimp Christmas tree - Bon Appetit 1974

Above image from Bon Appetit magazine, 1974

Holiday hostess tree! A retro-style Christmas tree with meat ornaments (1961)

A shrimp tree is “An exotic tree with pink fruit” (1965)

Treat to eye as well as palate, this shrimp tree graced a buffet table at the dedication of the [National Geographic] Society’s new headquarters in Washington last year. Sue Bonine samples the luscious pink “fruit.”

A shrimp tree from 1965

Above image from National Geographic magazine, 1974

How to make a shrimp tree or shrimp Christmas tree

What you need

3 pounds shrimp, fresh or frozen
2 quarts water
1/2 cup salt
4 large bunches curly endive
1 styrofoam cone, 2-1/2 feet high
1 styrofoam square, 12″ x 12″ x 1″
1 small box round toothpicks
Cocktail sauce


Thaw frozen shrimp; place shrimp in boiling salted water. Cover and simmer about 5 minutes or until shrimp pink and tender. Drain. Peel fresh shrimp, leaving last section of tails on. Remove sand veins and wash. Chill. Separate and wash endive; chill.

Place cone in center of styrofoam square; draw a circle around base of cone. Cut out circle and insert cone.

Cover base and cone with overlapping leaves of endive, fastening leaves of endive with toothpick halves. (Stick toothpicks into endive and styrofoam.) Start at the outside edge of the base and work up. Cover fully with greens to resemble Christmas tree.

Attach shrimp artistically to the tree with toothpicks.

Provide cocktail sauce in several dishes for dunking shrimp. Place tree on large plate or tray, and add leftover shrimp around the base.

Top tree with ribbon, tinsel, or your favorite ornament. Provide cocktail sauce for dunking.

Recipe makes about 12 servings

Note: Chili sauce with horseradish blended into it makes a good shrimp dip. Blend to taste, adding cream if blander dip preferred.

Shrimp Christmas tree from 1974

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Shrimp Christmas tree appetizer recipe - 1970s

Step-by-step illustrated shrimp tree how-to

1A. Cook, peel, and devein shrimp.

1B. Wash and clean endive.

2. Assemble styrofoam cone, endive, shrimp, and toothpicks.

3. Fasten endive to tree with toothpicks beginning at base.

4. Arrange shrimp on tree working from the base up. Attach the shrimp in a spiral around the tree, form a geometric pattern, or create your own artistic pattern.

How to make a shrimp Christmas tree - step-by-step from 1974 (2)

How to make a shrimp Christmas tree - step-by-step from 1974 (1)

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