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.