Shrimp and Grits

DinnerSouthernGritsShrimp

Shrimp and grits is an iconic Southern dish and easy to make at home. Grits topped with shrimp, onions, peppers and bacon come together for this classic dish with great flavor.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

A Classic Southern Dish

Shrimp and grits is one of those iconic Southern dishes that stir something deep inside those who grew up with them.

Originally from the oceanic South—Georgia, the Low Country coast of the Carolinas and Gulf Coast states all have their versions—this homey bowl of awesome was historically a simple fisherman’s breakfast: Grits, with some bacon and a few shrimp tossed on top.

If you’ve ever eaten it, you can understand why shrimp and grits has burst from the seaside shrimp shanties.

The grits are soft, buttery, and often cheesy, with a savory, bacon-studded sauce surrounding them, and lots and lots of shrimp. Maybe some parsley or green onions for color and crunch.

My recipe is an amalgam of all my best experiences with shrimp and grits. If it has a direct inspiration though, it would be the rendition I ate in 2011 made by Chef Linton Hopkins of the Atlanta restaurant Holeman & Finch.

I never got his recipe, and I make no claim to have the One True shrimp and grits recipe, but I can vouch for how this one tastes.

Shrimp and Grits on plate

How To Make Shrimp And Grits

And while it may seem obvious, shrimp and grits all starts with the grits. Please, please, please try to get coarsely ground white corn meal for this. When Elise and I tried to find real grits (stone ground are best), or even coarse ground white corn… or any white corn, for that matter, we struck out here in Sacramento.

Other than Mexican masa harina, it’s all yellow corn in these parts. And I’ve heard more than one Southerner threaten violence when the topic of making grits with yellow corn comes up. (Here are the white grits we use.)

The best grits come from hominy, a large-kerneled, white corn that has been alkali processed just like that Mexican masa harina. The key difference is that in grits the corn be coarsely ground, ideally by a stone grinding wheel. It actually makes a huge difference in flavor.

Good grits come out smooth, delicate and flecked with bits of the corn hulls that makes for a radically different experience compared to its Italian cousin polenta (which I also love).

How To Make Shrimp and Grits

Keep in mind that almost all cooks who make shrimp and grits have their own variation on the dish. This one is mine, and I hope you like it.

Check out more Southern Shrimp Recipes

This post has been updated. Originally published in June 2013.

Shrimp and Grits Recipe

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup stone-ground white grits
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 thick slices bacon
  • 1 cup chopped white or yellow onion
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3 green onions, chopped (white and light green parts only)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • Juice of a lemon, about 1-2 Tbsp

Method

1 Sauté bacon, render fat: Fry the bacon in a large sauté pan on medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon and chop. Pour off all but about 3 tablespoons of the fat. Turn off the heat.

2 Boil the grits: Bring the water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the salt. Slowly pour the grits into the boiling water while you stir with a wooden spoon. Stir and pour gradually so you don't get any lumps. When all the grits are incorporated, turn the heat down to a low simmer and cook the grits, stirring often, for 35 minutes.

3 Chop the shrimp: Reserve about 1/3 of the shrimp whole and cut the rest into 3-4 pieces each. Set aside.

4 Sauté onions, peppers, bacon, garlic, shrimp: When the grits have cooked for 30 minutes, heat the sauté pan on medium high. When the bacon fat is hot, sauté the onion and green pepper over medium-high heat until soft, about 4 minutes.

Add the bacon, garlic cloves and shrimp and toss to combine. Let this cook another minute.

5 Add stock, let boil to reduce: Add the chicken stock and let this boil down for 5 minutes.

6 Add cheese and butter to grits: Meanwhile, stir the cheddar cheese and butter into the grits. The dish might not need any more salt, but add some if you'd like.

7 Serve: To serve, spoon out some grits in individual bowls. Add to the shrimp the green onions, parsley and lemon juice to taste. Add salt if it needs it. Spoon some shrimp over the grits and make sure at least one whole shrimp is on everyone's plate. Serve at once.

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Hank Shaw

A former restaurant cook and journalist, Hank Shaw is the author of three wild game cookbooks as well as the James Beard Award-winning wild foods website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. His latest cookbook is Buck, Buck, Moose, a guide to working with venison. He hunts, fishes, forages and cooks near Sacramento, CA.

More from Hank

Links:

How to Peel and De-vein Shrimp a visual guide, here on Simply Recipes

Homemade Shrimp and Grits

44 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Andrew

    Nice recipe, I use Andouille instead of bacon, or a little combo of both. The best grits I have found are Red Mule from GA.

  • [email protected]

    Delicious. I use goat cheese instead of cheddar because of a cow milk allergy and that gives it a nice tang. You can also substitute vegetable broth for chicken.

  • Steven Bradley

    The only thing I would do different is I wouldn’t add the cooked bacon until the very end. I think having a crispy element (especially bacon) adds to the texture. The chicken stock made the bacon soggy. Other than that it was a great tasting dish.

  • Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    If you have a hard time finding decent grits — get polenta. Delicious and they have the stone ground which gives you that special taste. Another hint from an Italian who’s made lots of polenta and grits. Start cold. Yep!! Throw the grits in with the cold salted water and bring to a simmer. You’ll never get lumps and it will be just the consistency you want. Of course, I named our Shrimp and Polenta.

  • sara

    lacking in flavor

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