Southern Shrimp and Grits (2024)

The phrase shrimp and grits alone conjures images of soul-warming Lowcountry comfort food. The best way to enjoy this southern staple is by making it at home with this easy recipe. You don’t have to be from the South to enjoy a bowl of creamy grits with lightly spiced shrimp. Plus there’s bacon, which makes everything better!

Sometimes called breakfast shrimp, it’s quite a popular dish for brunch or later. And it’s hard to say which is the star—the smoky, spiced shrimp or the creamy grits. We’ll say both. It’s one of many easy shrimp recipes for weeknight dinners, thanks to the quick-cooking shellfish.

Ingredients for Shrimp and Grits

  • Old-fashioned grits: For a true southern shrimp and grits recipe, seek out old-fashioned hominy grits, sometimes sold as regular grits. They take longer to cook than instant grits but have a superior texture (you’ll use them in cheesy grits, too). Stone-ground grits retain more of the corn’s whole grain, making them even more nutritious, but they can take twice as long to cook as old-fashioned grits.
  • Milk, butter and cheddar cheese: You’ll need all three for deliciously creamy, flavorful grits.
  • Bacon: Chopped bacon provides a smoky flavor to the dish, and drippings for cooking the shrimp.
  • Raw shrimp: Raw shrimp are your best choice for juicy shrimp recipes because they will stay tender and moist. They’re less likely to become rubbery and chewy like precooked shrimp can when reheated. Frozen cleaned uncooked shrimp are easy to use in this recipe; just thaw in cool water first (keep the shells to make a quick stock for the shrimp and grits).
  • Cajun or blackened seasoning: Keeping homemade Cajun seasoning in your spice collection will let you easily add heat to many dishes. Blends can vary, but most rely heavily on an array of peppers and garlic. Blackened seasoning often resembles a cross between Cajun and Creole seasoning mix, working in dried herbs and onion powder.

Directions

Step 1: Cook the grits

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In a large saucepan, bring the broth, milk, butter, salt and pepper to a boil. Slowly stir in the grits, reduce the heat, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.

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Stir in the cheese until melted, and then set aside and keep warm.

Editor’s Tip: Watch the milk mixture carefully as it starts to bubble, stirring and reducing the heat as needed to prevent the pot from boiling over. Slowly pouring and stirring in the grits helps to keep them from clumping.

Step 2: Cook the bacon

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In a large skillet, cook the chopped bacon over medium heat until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to move the bacon to paper towels to drain. Reserve 4 teaspoons of the drippings before draining and wiping down the skillet.

Step 3: Cook the shrimp

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Return the reserved bacon drippings to the skillet and saute the shrimp, garlic and seasoning over medium heat until the shrimp turn pink. Stir in the reserved bacon until heated through. Serve with grits, and sprinkle with green onions.

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Shrimp and Grits Variations

  • Pescatarian version: To increase the shrimp taste, cook the grits with shrimp stock. Make a quick one by simmering the shrimp shells in about 4 cups of water, with a pinch of the Cajun seasoning, until the liquid is reduced by half and then straining out the shells. When sauteing the raw shrimp, choose butter or olive oil instead of bacon grease and include 1 cup of chopped mushrooms to increase the dish’s umami.
  • Sausage version: Add chunks of smoky and spicy Andouille sausage when sauteing the shrimp. This style of sausage is typically cured and fully cooked, so you just need to heat it. If you use fresh sausage instead, cook it with the bacon or follow the package directions.
  • Tomato version: Dice a small onion, green bell pepper and a couple of plum tomatoes and saute until softened before adding the shrimp to the skillet. For more of a tomato gravy, make a roux before adding the vegetables; mix all of the tomato juices and even a little tomato paste into the sauce, letting it thicken before adding the shrimp.

How to Store Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and grits taste best when freshly made and served hot. If you have leftovers, let them cool completely and then store the grit base and shrimp topping separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to four days.

The shrimp need just a minute or two to reheat in a skillet over medium heat; they are more likely to turn rubbery if reheated in a microwave. Grits firm up as they sit and congeal when chilled, so add a couple of tablespoons of water or stock as you reheat them in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until they are warmed through.

Leftover grits can also be spread in a baking dish, refrigerated until firm and then cut into squares and fried in an oiled skillet until golden. Need more inspo? Here are a bunch of other tasty grits recipes.

Shrimp and Grits Tips

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How do you peel and devein shrimp?

To peel shrimp, cut and pull the head (if it’s still attached) and legs off. Using your thumb, release the shell from the meat by pulling the shell, starting where the legs were attached to the tail. You can leave the tail on or off: It’s easier to eat without the tail in shrimp and grits, but it looks nice with the tail on. To devein shrimp, use a paring knife to make a shallow incision down the back of the shrimp to expose the dark-colored string. Use the tip of your knife to slowly lift it up and release it from the meat and discard. Our guide on how to clean shrimp walks you through the full process.

Are grits and polenta the same?

Standing beside a store shelf, grits vs. cornmeal vs. polenta may seem confusing. They all start with corn that is ground into cornmeal, but the type of corn and processing result in different cooked textures. Grits typically come from white corn that is treated to soften the kernels before they are dried and ground. Polenta is traditionally made from firm yellow corn and ground more coarsely than grits.

The cooking process for grits and polenta is quite similar, which is good news if you live outside of southern states and have a hard time finding hominy grits. This southern shrimp and grits recipe won’t have quite the same texture if you replace the grits with polenta, but it will retain all of the flavor. If grits are a staple in your area, you may find white and yellow corn variations and have the choice of instant, old-fashioned (aka regular) or stone-ground grits. Much like instant oats vs. old-fashioned oats, coarser grits take longer to cook.

Are grits gluten-free?

Raw grits are naturally gluten-free because they’re made from corn, but some brands are processed and stored with wheat products, putting the grits at risk of cross-contamination. Check for a gluten-free label on the packaging to find those that meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards, and avoid those with a cross-contamination warning or no mention of where they were processed. You can also check out our gluten-free guide to learn about more gluten-free foods and download a free printable version.

Watch how to Make Southern Shrimp and Grits

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Southern Shrimp and Grits

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Prep Time15 min

Cook Time20 min

Yield4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1/3 cup butter, cubed
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup uncooked old-fashioned grits
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • SHRIMP:
  • 8 thick-sliced bacon strips, chopped
  • 1 pound uncooked shrimp (31-40 per pound), peeled and deveined
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun or blackened seasoning
  • 4 green onions, chopped
Text Ingredients

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, bring the broth, milk, butter, salt and pepper to a boil. Slowly stir in grits. Reduce heat. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in cheese until melted. Set aside and keep warm.
  2. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon; drain, reserving 4 teaspoons drippings. Saute the shrimp, garlic and seasoning in drippings until shrimp turn pink. Stir in reserved bacon; heat through. Serve with grits and sprinkle with onions.

Nutrition Facts

1 cup grits with 1/2 cup shrimp mixture: 699 calories, 44g fat (22g saturated fat), 240mg cholesterol, 1835mg sodium, 36g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 2g fiber), 41g protein.

Author

Julie Laing

Julie is the author of “The Complete Guide to Pickling” and has been working for two decades as a writer and editor with a focus on food and original recipes since 2016. A food columnist for the Flathead Beacon, Julie covers pickling, comfort food recipes and more for Taste of Home. In her free time, she experiments with different ways to ferme...

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Southern Shrimp and Grits (7)

A southern specialty, sometimes called breakfast shrimp, this shrimp and grits recipe tastes fantastic for brunch or dinner, or anytime company’s coming. It’s down-home comfort food at its finest. —Mandy Rivers, Lexington, South Carolina

Recipe Creator

Southern Shrimp and Grits (2024)

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