Shrimp + Grits = A Southern Match Made in Heaven
I was born and raised in the South, and I can’t see myself living anywhere else. Aside from the (almost) year-round warm weather, Southern comfort food is another guilty pleasure I have about living in this part of the country. Cities like Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, are the epitome of Southern culture: amazing food, magnolia trees, sweet tea, and scorching hot summers.
But let’s stick to the food here. I’ll admit: Charleston was where I tasted the most amazing shrimp and grits. And to this day, I have yet to successfully mimic the recipe—but I’m trying! You’ll find multiple variations of shrimp and grits across the South, some healthier than others. Some have cheese grits; some have bacon; some have sausage; some include so many vegetables that you might as well call it a shrimp and grits vegetable stew.
This recipe is my favorite to make at home (until I find the recipe for the dish I tasted in Charleston). It’s quick, easy, packed with flavor, and provides your carbs, protein, and vegetables needed to make a balanced meal. And while yes, it does take a few pots and pans, the cleanup is worth it. Make this for your next potluck brunch or lazy afternoon get-together. Mimosas and Bloody Marys are optional.
Who Invented This Combination?
According to several Southern publications, this dish has some Native American roots and was seen to have been a breakfast dish in low country marsh areas (that's where the shrimp came from).
But we know now that this dish doesn’t just stick to brunch hours. Across the nation, multiple chefs have provided their own twist to shrimp and grits. I’ve even seen some variations with a barbecue flare while others have a Cajun twist. One thing’s for sure: shrimp and grits will always remain a fundamental Southern staple. Try this recipe, but be sure to add your own flare (I've provided some suggestions, below).
Yield: 4 servings
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup uncooked polenta
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 pound extra-large raw shrimp
- 4-5 slices turkey bacon, chopped
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1½ cups chicken broth
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan. Stir in grits and cook until toasted.
- Add 3 cups water, stirring constantly to ensure no lumps form. Bring to a boil, stir in salt and pepper, then let simmer for 30 minutes.
- Peel the shrimp while the grits are cooking. Heat a large skillet and add bacon, stirring as needed and cooking for 5 minutes until bacon is crisp. Remove bacon and set aside.
- Add shrimp to skillet with bacon drippings and cook for 2 minutes, until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp from skillet.
- Add last 2 tablespoons butter to skillet. When melted, whisk in flour. Add onion and green bell pepper and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook for 4-5 minutes.
- Stir in chicken broth and bring to a light boil. Add shrimp and bacon, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Spoon grits into 4 bowls and top with shrimp mixture.
Variations and Substitutions
- Heavy cream or cheese: Feel free to add 1 cup heavy cream into the grits if you prefer creamier grits, or a ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese if you prefer cheesy grits. Add either of these ingredients after taking the saucepan off the stove top.
- Chicken broth or wine: You can substitute a ½ cup of the chicken broth for white wine if you want to change up the flavor.
- Seasonings: For spicier shrimp and grits, add a ½ to 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning.
- Vegetables: Feel free to mix up your vegetables by using carrots or different peppers.
Mary Rebecca Says
Shrimp and grits is an easy, versatile dish that can be modified to your tastes: spicy, meaty, cheesy, or something else. And don’t forget that you can serve this as a brunch dish or afternoon/dinner dish—after all, versatility is part of what makes this dish so amazing.