Shrimp and Grits
Shrimp and Grits is a classic Southern dish bursting with flavor, that’s perfect for a simple weeknight meal. It only takes 30 minutes to make the entire recipe, plus, you can cook the grits hands-off while you prepare the shrimp.
Shrimp and grits. Jambalaya. Biscuits. Fried chicken. Pecan pralines. These are a few of my favorite quintessential Southern dishes that I came to love during my few years living in the South and visiting New Orleans. But the shrimp and grits, I was shocked when I discovered how easy it is to make, because it’s such a typical restaurant dish. When I think restaurant, I think it must be fussy and involved, but nope, not here.
For this recipe, you’re really bringing two components together for one harmonious pairing, but each one is minimal with only 6 ingredients. That’s part of why I think this is such an amazing recipe to have in your arsenal. The key is to use quality ingredients, but especially the shrimp and the bacon. You want to make sure the shrimp is plump and the bacon is flavorful and meaty.
What’s Great About this Recipe
You can use farmed or wild shrimp – If you can get it, wild shrimp is a bit more flavorful than farmed, but there are enough supporting ingredients here that you’ll still get excellent results with farmed shrimp.
30 minutes to cook – This is pretty good, considering you’re really cooking two things. The grits can be made pretty hands off, and the shrimp cooks quickly.
Minimal ingredients, but still flavorful – We only add 5 ingredients to the shrimp, and one is actually optional. You won’t need a huge array of ingredients for this recipe.
Tips for Best Results
Choose the right grits – Grits come in a wide variety of options and quality. This is not the time to use Quaker or Aunt Jemima quick grits or “instant grits.” I personally like stone-ground grits that are medium in coarseness, so there’s texture there but it still ends up creamy. I like Palmetto Farms grits and Bob’s Red Mill, and white corn and yellow corn varieties are equally as delicious to me, though white grits are usually harder to find.
Get the big shrimp – It’s the right time to splurge on the larger shrimp here, and I recommend going no smaller than 16/20 (meaning 16 to 20 pieces per pound). Bigger shrimp have a more lobster-like texture and eating experience that is important to the dish.
Use good bacon – I tend to like thinner and crispier bacon, but I actually think thicker-cut, more artisanal bacon is better here for its meaty bite. I like Neuske’s, Niman Ranch, and pasture-raised bacons.
Step by Step Overview:
You want to get the grits going before you start the shrimp, and you can either cook them in a rice cooker or in a pot on the stove. Then, you can quickly cook up the shrimp and enjoy them piping hot with grits that finish right around the same time.
As far as the grits go, I’m going to show you how to make them on the stove below, but I’ve also successfully made them in my rice cooker, which is nice for making it completely hands-off.
Rice Cooker Option for Grits
The stovetop is a great choice for making the grits, as you’ll be able to see what’s going on and control the process well. However, I’ve made grits in two different models of rice cookers and it went great each time. Both are good options, but the rice cooker is easier. Here’s how I did it.
How to Make Grits in a Rice Cooker: I simply place grits, water, and a pinch of salt in the rice cooker, and turn it on. Then once the cycle is finished, I simply stir in the butter, cream, and cheese, and it’s perfect every time. A word of warning: results may vary depending on your model, but I’ve tried it in two rice cookers and it has been great in both models.
To cook the grits on the stove, bring water (or the liquid of your choice) to a boil in a medium saucepan. Some people like to use chicken broth or chicken stock, but I prefer a “cleaner” flavor. If you want to add extra flavor beyond water, I recommend using whole milk.
Then add the grits and salt. Simmer the grits with a lid on for about 20 minutes, until the water has absorbed. Then, turn the heat off and add heavy cream and butter:
This will cool the mixture slightly, and then you can add some shredded cheddar cheese:
Remember that cheese can break and get grainy if overheated, so that’s why we let the residual heat melt the cheese.
Stir that through until you get a creamy, thick texture, then make any necessary seasoning adjustments. You may want to add more salt, butter, or cheese, to your taste.
If you’re not ready to serve the cheese grits right away, make sure you keep the lid on to keep the grits warm, otherwise it will get stiff. However, if this happens, simply add a little water or milk, turn the heat back on low, and stir for a couple minutes until it’s smooth and flowy. It’s very easy to fix grits.
Now let’s make the shrimp! In a large skillet, cook some sliced bacon over medium heat until it’s crisp and cooked through:
I generally find that there’s enough fat from the rendered bacon that I do not need to add any olive oil or butter. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving all the brown bits and bacon grease behind in the bottom of the pan.
Add shrimp to the pan in a single layer, and season with salt and pepper. If you wish to add any extra seasonings, like a sprinkle of Cajun Seasoning, Creole seasoning, or a touch of cayenne pepper, do that here. Because I add a touch of Tabasco at the end, I do not add anything but salt and black pepper here:
For this recipe, I recommend using high-quality wild and raw shrimp. They are much more flavorful than farmed, though farmed shrimp are just fine too. Peeled or unpeeled both work, though I do not enjoy having to peel the shrimp shells before eating, so I tend to opt for peeled. The most important thing is to not use shrimp that are too small.
Cook for 60 seconds on the first side, then give them a flip. They should have a nice brown color and be coated with the brown bits of flavor from the bacon:
Make sure to season the other side of the shrimp with salt and pepper, if you haven’t done so already.
Then add fresh garlic, sliced green onions, fresh lemon juice, and the crisped bacon back to the pan:
You can also add a couple dashes of Tabasco (or your preferred hot sauce) to the shrimp mixture if you enjoy the heat. I do!
Stir everything around and keep cooking for another minute or two, until the shrimp are just barely cooked through:
It is SO, so important to be really careful about not overcooking the shrimp. You actually want to aim for slightly undercooked here, as they will keep cooking slightly from carryover cooking. Making the best shrimp possible is mostly about cooking properly.
How to Serve
When you’re ready to serve, spoon some cheesy grits onto the bottom of a shallow bowl or plate, then add the shrimp on top. You may want to garnish with extra sliced scallions on top.
This is certainly a whole meal on its own, but adding a side of Drop Biscuits or Cheddar Scallion Biscuits would pair nicely. I’ve seen this served as a breakfast dish, for lunch, and for dinner, so feel free to make it for any time of day.
Recipe FAQ and Tips
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. It’s really important to make sure the container is airtight because the grits will easily absorb off flavors from the fridge.
Technically yes, for up to 2 months in an airtight container, but it’s not my favorite dish to freeze because I find the grits are not as creamy after the dairy has been frozen.
The microwave works best, but you have to be careful not to overdo it. Heat in 30 second intervals at 60% power until warmed through, making sure that if you start to hear lots of popping, that you check to make sure the ingredients aren’t overcooking. You may want to stir often to redistribute, as well. Microwaves tend to reheat unevenly.
Shrimp and Grits
For the grits:
- 1 cup yellow grits
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp butter (salted or unsalted)
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or asiago)
For the shrimp:
- 4 ounces high-quality bacon sliced or chopped into small pieces (about 5-6 strips)
- 1 lb 16/20 size wild shrimp peeled and deveined
- 4 scallions sliced
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 dashes Tabasco sauce optional
How to Make the Grits:
- I have great success cooking the grits in the rice cooker, though this may depend on the model used. If you want to give it a try, simply combine the grits, water, and salt in the rice cooker, and run a normal white rice cycle. When the cycle is over, stir in the butter and cream, then stir in the cheese. Season to taste and make any necessary adjustments.
- To make the grits on the stovetop, bring the water to a boil in a nonstick saucepan and add the grits and salt. Cover the pot with a lid, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Then stir in the butter and cream, then the cheese. Taste and make any necessary seasoning adjustments.
How to Make the Shrimp:
- Place the bacon in a cold skillet, and turn the heat to medium. Render out the fat and cook the bacon until crisp, about 10 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the bacon bits, leaving the bacon grease and brown bits in the pan. Add the shrimp in a single layer, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 60 seconds.
- Flip the shrimp over, season with salt and pepper, then add the scallions, garlic, lemon juice, Tabasco (if using), and the reserved crisped bacon.
- Let the shrimp cook for another minute or two until cooked through, tossing the ingredients gently to meld the flavors. Take care not to overcook the shrimp, and keep in mind there will be a little bit of carryover cooking, so I undercook them slightly.
- To serve, place the grits on the bottom of a bowl and scoop the shrimp on top. They taste best eaten together. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.