All I Want for Christmas Is a Shrimp Tree

How To Make A Shrimp Christmas Tree

How To Make A Shrimp Christmas Tree

MIND BLOWN! In early December, I was surfing the Twitter, as I do, with too much regularity and I saw this tweet by @thewayweate aka Noah Fecks:

BATTLE OF THE SHRIMP TREES!!! @bonappetit vs. @thewayweate #whoworeitbest

I click on it and I’m all WHAAAAATTT!!!!!!?!?!?!??!!!! A miniature Christmas tree decorated with SHRIMP!!!!!

I’d never seen anything like it before.

You see, I was asked to provide the appetizers for my boyfriend’s family’s Christmas dinner and decided to go with a vintage theme so I was thinking:

  • Marinated mushrooms
  • Gougeres
  • Giardiniera
  • Cheese balls
  • Rumaki
  • Devils on horseback

and shrimp cocktail which is ALWAYS on the Christmas menu. I even got a reminder call from the boyfriend restating that no matter what I made for Christmas don’t forget the shrimp cocktail.

This family already loves shrimp cocktail, so turning it into a TREE would be a spectacle—and we know I love a spectacle. Plus, it would be FUN to “trim” on Christmas Day with the whole family and it totally was.

*****UPDATE 2014 I recently sang and demonstrated how to make a shrimp tree on Arise and Shine on the Arise Network with hosts Rain Pryor and Priya Sidhar.**** See the video:


I did my homework and found pictures of shrimp trees (Google it ) — I had to exercise a lot of strength not to go with the palm tree version. I can definitely see me doing this for another event. On Pinterest I saw this picture of a shrimp tree with the insane caption:

“Every home in North America, except in Rhode Island, puts up a traditional shrimp tree on December 24th.  A large white clam shell containing Trader Joe’s cocktail sauce is optional. On Christmas day all visitors to the home have to eat a shrimp off the tree, without using their hands, or the host family will be insulted and a big fight will break out.”

Since I grew up in North America and I’ve never actually seen or heard of a shrimp tree, this made me laugh. Poor Rhode Island…

I added the shrimp tree to the menu and culled a couple of the other items. Then, I went a little crazy. It’s funny, I want to write that I was possessed by Martha Stewart - the go to gal for all things foodie and crafty;  but I was super creative before she ever got famous! I’m not sure she has ever done a shrimp tree, but just wait until she copies me because it’s FABULOUS!!!

Naturally, as the queen-of-overkill, I decided that a plain old shrimp was way too boring, so I created more of an appetizer tree.

I measure “fun for the whole family” when everyone, from the teenager—you know how they hate everything—to the seniors. Well they all got excited and lent a hand.

We loved the shrimp tree and the guests were almost speechless. It took us about an hour to eat our way through it. I even found a home for the shrimp tree base for next year. My friends are excited to have their first one. Having a shrimp tree every year might get old fast, but passing it on spreads the shrimp tree joy.

Who knows? Maybe one day every home in America WILL have one… except Rhode Island.

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How to Make a Shrimp Tree

Appetizers & Snacks, Gluten-Free
This is the most fun, interactive, edible holiday appetizer centerpiece I’ve ever made. Not only will it engage the whole family, but your guest’s faces with light up and twinkle like Christmas tree lights when they see it.
How to Make a Shrimp Tree


  • THE ORNAMENTSCooked shrimp with the tails intact (we bought 2 pounds—it didn’t all fit)
  • Radish—red and white carved ornaments*
  • Castelvetrano and Kalamata olives—green and black ornaments
  • Bocconcini—white ball ornaments
  • Jicama—white candy canes
  • Red pepper—red candy canes
  • Peppadews—red ball ornaments
  • Cheddar cheese—orange squares
  • Yellow pepper—star
  • THE TREEStyrofoam cone (the size is up to you. I used a 24” cone from Michaels)
  • Styrofoam base (round or square 1” thick and 3” bigger than the diameter of the base of the styrofoam cone)
  • Curly leaf kale to cover (I used two big bunches—get more than you need—you can cook it afterwards)
  • Toothpicks (plain wooden and the frilly kind)
  • Green cellophane or white food-safe plastic sheet to make a tree skirt.
  • THE PRESENTSPate with a peppercorn “bow” and chive “raffia” ribbon
  • Roasted garlic and feta spread tied with a scallion bow
  • Blue cheese log “wrapped” in cranberries with an apricot bow
  • Green Goddess Dip
  • Cocktail Sauce


  1. Glue the styrofoam cone to the styrofoam base, so it is centered. (I made a cardboard trunk for my own shrimp tree, but I don’t suggest it because it was more work and it made the tree unstable.)
  2. Working from the up, attach the kale leaves to the cone, using the wooden toothpicks, starting with the largest leaves first. Add kale leaves in a circular pattern, going from largest to smallest, until you get to the top of the tree.
  3. Place tree on a large cutting board and drape with cellophane or food-safe plastic to make a tree skirt and place to put the presents.
  4. Place the “ornaments” as you like, adding the shrimp last so you can keep them in the fridge as long as possible before serving—come to think of it, an ice tree would be kind of cool, too. I used the frilly toothpicks for the shrimp. I used wooden toothpicks for everything else because I wanted the toothpicks to be hidden.
  5. Place “presents” and sauces around the tree.
Total time:
Yield: One shrimp tree for 12 guests


I bought the pate and cut off the peppercorn top and trimmed it into a bow.

I served the Green Goddess Dip and Cocktail Sauce in bowls that I circled in cardboard wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper.