Shrimp and Grits

updated Jan 18, 2024

Learn how to make the best classic Southern shrimp and grits at home with creamy, cheesy grits.

Serves4 to 6

Prep15 minutes

Cook30 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Saucy, bacon-studded and piquant shrimp over creamy, savory corn grits is the dish I make most often when I’m homesick for the South. After living in Georgia for 12 years (but recently relocating to the Pacific Northwest), this stunning but humble dish is the one I crave most.

Timing is everything when it comes to cooking shrimp and grits at home. While it can feel like a laborious meal, as you’re essentially cooking two dishes at once — creamy boiled grits and sautéed vegetables and shrimp — this step-by-step method will simplify things. 

The first time you cook this recipe it might take you more like 35 minutes to pull it off, but the dish’s flavors and textures will make the five extra minutes worth it. Then, when this recipe becomes a weeknight standard in your house (which it will), you can speed up the steps for an even faster weeknight dinner.

Here’s how you can make super-flavorful shrimp and grits in just 30 minutes on any weeknight.

Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

What Is Shrimp and Grits?

Shrimp and grits is a traditional Lowcountry dish popular in the coastal Carolinas and Georgia.

As the name suggests, the dish is composed of creamy grits topped with saucy, spiced shrimp. While traditionally shrimp and grits is a breakfast dish, many eat it for lunch or dinner as well.

Ingredients in Shrimp and Grits

  • Grits. Skip quick-cooking grits — they have less flavor — and instead buy stone-ground corn grits. You can make these grits cook faster by soaking them, even for just 10 minutes, before boiling them.
  • Cheese. Shredded cheddar cheese flavors the grits, but you could try grated Parmesan instead.
  • Butter. Stir butter into the cooked grits for richness.
  • Heavy cream. The key to the creamiest, most luxurious grits.
  • Bacon. Rendered bacon flavors the shrimp sauce and adds a boost of smoky flavor.
  • Aromatics. Green bell pepper, scallion, and garlic create a flavorful sauce base.
  • Tomatoes. Canned diced tomatoes and their juice make the sauce come together quickly.
  • Seasoning. Take a shortcut in seasoning your shrimp by investing in Creole or Cajun seasoning. I’m a life-long fan of Tony Chacheres Seasoning Creole, which is easy to find in most grocery stores.
  • Shrimp. Opt for fresh, large shrimp (26 to 30 per pound) to avoid overcooking in the pan.
  • Hot sauce. A few dashes of hot sauce add a little heat and acid to balance out the rich grits.

How to Make Shrimp and Grits

There’s a bit of “meanwhile” cooking that happens when making shrimp and grits. Let’s take a look at the steps that happen at the same time.

  1. Get the grits started. This recipe starts with a clever tip for jump-starting the grits that I learned from Southern chef Sean Brock. You combine the grits and their cooking water and bring them quickly to a boil. Then, remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let the warm water soften the grits. While the grits are soaking, you’ll prep your other ingredients. 
  2. Bring the grits to a boil and let them simmer. While they get creamy, cook the bacon and sauté the vegetables.
  3. Wait to cook the shrimp until the grits are tender. You don’t want to overcook the shrimp while waiting on the grits to finish.
  4. Bring the shrimp and grits together. Finishing the grits with a little butter, cream, and cheese makes them super creamy and helps mellow the spices of the shrimp. Be sure to serve the shrimp with lots of the saucy tomatoes and a sprinkle of green onions over the grits — it brings these two dishes together in a comforting fast and flavorful dinner.

Shrimp and Grits Recipe

Learn how to make the best classic Southern shrimp and grits at home with creamy, cheesy grits.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the grits:

  • 5 cups

    water

  • 1 1/2 cups

    corn grits, preferably stone-ground

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 4 ounces

    medium or sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 cup shredded)

  • 3 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1/3 cup

    heavy cream

For the shrimp:

  • 1

    large green bell pepper

  • 4

    medium scallions

  • 3 cloves

    garlic

  • 4 ounces

    sliced bacon (4 to 6 slices)

  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can

    diced tomatoes

  • 1 teaspoon

    Creole or Cajun seasoning

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    granulated sugar

  • 1 pound

    raw peeled and deveined large shrimp (26 to 30 per pound)

  • 1 to 3 dashes

    hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Crystal, plus more for serving

  • Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place 5 cups water, 1 1/2 cups corn grits, and 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, over high heat. Take the saucepan off the heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, grate 4 ounces medium or sharp cheddar cheese on the large holes of a box grater, or measure out 1 cup store-bought shredded. Trim and dice 1 large green bell pepper (about 1 1/2 cups). Thinly slice 4 medium scallions (about 1 cup). Reserve 3 tablespoons of the dark green parts for garnish. Mince 3 garlic cloves. Cut 4 ounces sliced bacon crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.

  3. Uncover the grits, place over medium-high heat, and bring back to a boil. Boil uncovered, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom to prevent clumping or burning, until all the water is absorbed and the grits are tender, 15 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, start cooking the shrimp mixture.

  4. Place the bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium heat until browned and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat in the skillet. Add the bell pepper, remaining scallions, and garlic, and cook over medium heat until the pepper is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.

  5. Add 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes and their juices, 1 teaspoon Creole or cajun seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat.

  6. When the grits are ready, remove the pan from the heat. Add the cheddar, 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, and 1/3 cup heavy cream. Stir until the cheese and butter are melted and the mixture is combined. Taste and season with kosher salt as needed. Cover to keep warm.

  7. Return the tomato mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Add 1 pound raw peeled and deveined large shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are opaque and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the bacon and 1 to 3 dashes hot sauce, and stir to combine. Taste and season with kosher salt as needed.

  8. Divide the grits between serving bowls and top with a generous spoonful of the shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with the reserved scallion greens and serve with hot sauce and lemon wedges for squeezing if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover shrimp and grits can be refrigerated in separate airtight containers for up to 2 days.