Authentic Southern Shrimp and Grits

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Shrimp and grits are a true Southern classic! Learn how to make the most flavorful, creamy, southern grits and the best way to season plump, tender shrimp.

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Shrimp and grits are a true Southern classic! Learn how to make the most flavorful, creamy, southern grits and the best way to season plump, tender shrimp.

Don't think this is just a breakfast item anymore, people are enjoying shrimp and grits at all times of the day and all types of ways.

Alright, y'all come and sit down and figure out how to make shrimp and grits.

*looks at you in old southern woman*

The meal comes from the South, period.

There may be different twists to the low country dish, but this is how I was taught how to make it by my family in Georgia. Though I will say this is the authentic Southern shrimp and grits, shrimp and grits most definitely weren't created in the 'South' as its origin.

Side view of easy southern shrimp and grits backlit on a grey wooden table

Shrimp and grits comes from this 'low country' area, the Carolinas and Georgia, but has been a staple for the Gullah-Geechee culture for hundreds of years before it ever became popular or trendy. They fished and cast nets for shrimp off the islands they lived on, eating them with a mainstay: grits.

The Gullah are Africans who were stolen and enslaved from different parts of Africa, mainly West and Central Africa, who lived (and still live) on the islands on the east coast from North Carolina all the way to St. John's County in Florida. They were able to keep closer to their African roots than enslaved Africans in the inland Southern states, they created their own Gullah language, and have a completely different culture than most other African Americans.

If you want to learn more about the Gullah-Geechee and their culture, click here.

For now, I'm showing you the southern meal. Maybe one day I'll be well-versed enough to bring you some Gullah-style shrimp and grits. *makes mental note to run up to the coast and meet people*)

Close up of a pile of seasoned shrimp in a bowl of traditional shrimp and grits

How to make Southern Shrimp and Grits

First, get some nice, plump shrimp

You want the nice, big, pretty shrimp: a 15-20 count like in my shrimp scampi recipe. These babies are the main star of our shrimp and grits so we want them to be a nice size.

I used wild-caught Red Royal shrimp since they're local and fresh here in Florida, but I do suggest you use frozen shrimp if you're not comfortable with fresh, since health and safety is incredibly important when dealing with seafood, especially shrimp since it goes bad quickly.

To learn how to choose fresh shrimp and what's up with frozen shrimp, click here.

Season your Shrimp and Grits well

There are plenty of ways to season your shrimp, don't be afraid to play with some old bay, some cajun seasoning, add in that holy trinity, whatever you want. I like giving it some flavor with a little bacon fat.

It's optional, but since I'm usually making bacon with a big breakfast anyway, I melt in the butter with my reserved bacon fat and it's just amazingly delicious.

Seriously, don't skip the bacon. Put some chopped bacon in your shrimp and grits, too; it's a delicious addition and adds a nice crunchy texture to those tender, plump shrimp and the creamy grits.

Overhead shot of authentic southern shrimp and grits in a wide lipped bowl

Flavor every aspect, including your grits

As for the grits, you can use whatever you're comfortable with. Quick grits, stone-ground grits, whatever you feel good about. Just make sure you use stock, a little milk, and plenty of butter. We don't do grits with just water here, there's no flavor in that, it's a fact.

How do I know it's a fact? Because someone on Masterchef made shrimp and grits with water in their grits and Gordon Ramsey didn't give them an apron. The people who made it with stock did. So that should be solid enough for you, it's Gordon Ramsey approved.

Also, because grits don't really have a flavor themselves, you need to add in flavor. Just like you need to salt your pasta or make soup with stock or broth, grits get their flavor from what they're cooked in. Just because you're covering it with gravy or sauce and protein doesn't mean you shouldn't season it (like your pasta!).

Also, cheese. Is it a must? Maybe not, but I love it. Cheddar cheese adds so much in texture and flavor, so don't be afraid to mix a good handful in your serving bowl.

Make your grits creamy and rich, and make them before you start on the shrimp since they take longer than the shrimp do. And please, for the love of God, when you're done with your pot of grits, pour water into it immediately.

Otherwise, you will be stuck with concrete in your pot and it will be impossible to remove. Well, almost impossible.

WANT MORE AMAZING SOUTHERN RECIPES? GO CHECK OUT...

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📖 Recipe

Authentic Southern Shrimp and Grits

Eden Westbrook
Shrimp and grits are a true Southern classic! Learn how to make the most flavorful, creamy, southern grits and the best way to season plump, tender shrimp.
4.60 from 220 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Brunch and Breakfast Recipes
Cuisine African American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 607 kcal

Ingredients
  

Grits:

  • 2 cups 473 mL chicken stock or broth, low sodium
  • 2 cups 473 mL whole milk
  • 1 cup 197 g stone-ground grits
  • 3 tablespoon 42 g unsalted butter
  • 2 cups 226 g sharp white cheddar, shredded

Shrimp:

  • ½ lb thick-cut bacon
  • 2 lbs large shrimp 15-20 count, peeled and de-veined
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 large garlic clove minced
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Kosher salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley

Instructions
 

  • In a medium pot or soup pot, bring the broth and milk to a boil. Add the grits, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, whisking well. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the liquid is absorbed, 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, cheese, and more salt and pepper to taste. Cover until ready to serve.
  • In a large cast-iron skillet, fry the bacon over medium-high heat. When crisp, remove the bacon and place on a paper towel-lined plate to remove the excess grease and oil.
  • Add the shrimp and red pepper flakes to the bacon grease in the cast iron skillet, turn the heat down to medium, and saute the shrimp, flipping them over after a minute or so, and letting the other side cook, cooking about 3 minutes total.
  • Turn off heat and add minced garlic, stirring for about 30 seconds; the residual heat will cook the garlic through. The shrimp should be opaque entirely, and gently curl in. Stir in lemon juice and parsley, and season to taste.
  • Divide the grits into serving bowls and top with the shrimp and chopped bits of bacon, if preferred in dish. Garnish with more chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Notes

If you have extra grits that won't be used, scoop it out of the pot and pour water into the pot, otherwise the residual grits turn into grits-cement and will be tough to wash out.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 607kcalCarbohydrates: 34gProtein: 65gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 531mgSodium: 2813mgFiber: 1gSugar: 10g
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30 Comments

  1. Made this multiple times; it's a great recipe!

    1. Eden Westbrook says:

      Hi Eva!

      We love a happy, repeat reader! Thanks so much for making my recipe, shrimp and grits are near and dear to my heart so I'm glad you enjoy it, too. xo, Eden

  2. Can almond milk be substituted for the whole milk? I can’t drink cow milk.

    1. Eden Westbrook says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      While I've never done it myself, I think you can! If you do it, let me know how it went. Just make sure it's unsweetened/unflavored! xo, Eden

  3. Scrumptious!! Luckily I still had some stone ground grits a friend had sent me from South Carolina a while ago that I'd kept frozen. Otherwise I would have had to use instant ones and somehow I don't think they would have been as good.

    This was so creamy and tasty and YUMM! Thank you for sharing.

    Oh and anyone who loves grits should watch the documentary "It's Grits"!

  4. Scharlene Torres says:

    SCORE...HIT..OUT THE PARK..
    CHICKEN STOCK or broth for the grits is a must. Bacon on top at the end..HIT...Creamy cheezy grits ABSOLUTELY. PLUMP JUICY SHRIMP..Creole seasoning a splash of Ole Bay... I would have taken a picture but this dish couldn't wait for a camera shot. No tweaks needed ,enhanced what I already knew. Yeah, watch that salt the broth and shrimp bring their own. I'm gonna do this again with green onions n bacon topping..
    Breakfast, Brunch,BRINNER...#1
    THANKS

  5. This is sooooo good! I did not like grits until this recipe so that should tell you something. My husband loved it. Thank you so much! I have made this dish now twice. HUGE HIT!

  6. This recipe was absolutely DELICIOUS! We have made shrimp & grits with another recipe, and the grits came out chunky and bland. NOT the case with this recipe - both the grits & shrimp were beautifully flavored and SO incredibly yummy! We used Cajun seasoning instead of red pepper flakes - SO good! Adding this to our dinner rotation! Thank you ☺️

  7. So, I am most decidedly *NOT* Southern by any stretch of the imagination - and I had never made grits before. This recipe was PERFECT. Hubs made the shrimp, I did the grits, and this was an amazing Valentine's Day dinner - thank you!!! We will most decidedly be making this again.

  8. Yes girl, Yes! If I see one more person making “southern” grits with water, I’m going to lose my mind.

    Thank you for bringing the flavor!

    1. I come from the north and never had shrimp and grit….now living in NC I had a chance to try them in a restaurant and they were good. So I decided to try this recipe! Now I no longer have to go out to have them….I make my own and this recipe is the best one I’ve tried! Even my husband loved it and he’s fussy, since he is a great cook! Thank you for sharing this!

  9. Jessica McLaughlin says:

    My husband and I made this for our one year wedding anniversary tonight. He is from Georgia and we wanted to make something delicious and southern. Thank you for such a delicious recipe! It made our evening.

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  12. YUM! I made this for dinner and everyone loved it! Didn't have bacon on hand (it was frozen solid in the freezer) but I did have bacon fat! Used that and will always make grits with veggie broth, butter, milk, and cheese now! You are so right! And Gordon Ramsey too, lol!!! The shrimp were SO flavorful! I didn't have cajun spice but used red, black, and cayenne pepper. So delicious we made sure to get every last drop of sauce in the pan!!

  13. Made this tonight and it was delicious. My husband, who normally wouldn’t even consider grits, devoured it.

    Thank you for this recipe!

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  16. tandrea tarver says:

    Can you use turkey bacon?

    1. Shaneis Housey says:

      I've used turkey bacon before and it was delicious

  17. This was amazing! My first shrimp and grits that I ever cooked! Next time I cook it I’ll use 1 cup of white cheese. I used 2 cups of extra sharp cheddar because that’s what I had on hand. It was a little too much. Also I think I’ll only use a half a tsp of kosher salt. Over all, I think it is a really great recipe.

    1. Gloria Wilson says:

      Just made it so good cant stop eating it

  18. Jessica Tillman says:

    AMAZING recipe! My first time cooking grits with chicken broth and also cooking shrimp in bacon grease! Thank you so much! It IS perfect!

  19. Cynthia | What A Girl Eats says:

    Such a great southern classic! yours looks and sounds delicious!

    1. Eden Westbrook says:

      Thank you so much!

  20. Wow, these shrimp & grits look better than the shrimp & grits I can get at most restaurants in Nashville! Great recipe

  21. This Shrimp + Grits recipe looks amazing! I love a good well seasoned dish! Pinned!

  22. I live in New Zealand so shrimp and grits is new to me, I have never tried it but it looks very tasty indeed! The shrimp look very plump and juicy!

  23. David @ Cooking Chat says:

    In addition to reminding me of a good Southern dish (I lived in KY for 5 years for a taste of Southern culture), interesting to learn about the history of your area, and how African Americans in the area were able to retain / create their culture.

  24. You're right, such a classic Southern dish but for good reason because it's tasty and comforting. I love the idea of using some bacon fat to cook the shrimp. Yum!