This cheesy shrimp and grits recipe is an easy low-country classic. We’re talking shrimp and bacon smothering a puddle of Cheddar grits. Need we say more?
This southern shrimp and grits recipe is a classic low-country dish adored by just about everyone on the planet–and if someone says they don’t love it, they’re lying. You can certainly count The One and me among its fans. We first had a plateful of this divineness at a lovely little restaurant in Charleston. – David Leite
Shrimp and Grits FAQs
What exactly are grits?
Grits are basically ground corn, usually made from starchy, less sweet varieties. The corn is processed in an alkali solution in order to remove the tough outer hull. The corn is washed and dried, giving us hominy. The hominy is then stone-ground and the result is grits.
Are grits and polenta the same thing?
Well, yes and no. While grits are from the American South and polenta is from Italy, both are made from ground corn. One difference is the type of corn used to make each: Grits are usually made from white corn (hominy)–but not always, which adds to the confusion–while polenta is made from yellow corn.
The biggest difference, though, is texture. Polenta is usually ground coarsely and that lends a pleasant chewy texture prized in Italy. Grits, on the other hand, are typically ground finer, making it smoother.
What toppings go with grits?
Being mildly flavored, grits are marvelously versatile. They can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. And they can be simple (just a few pats of butter and salt and pepper) or elaborate (smothered in cheese). Even better, they can be topped with all sorts of things, such as maple syrup, jam, herbs, shrimp, pulled pork, poached eggs, bacon, sausage–you name it. And you can even blanket grits with any sauce you’d top pasta with, although you might get strange looks from true Southerners.
Shrimp and Grits
- 1 cup stone-ground grits
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup (2 oz) butter
- 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1 pound shrimp peeled and deveined, left whole if small and roughly chopped if medium or large
- 6 slices bacon chopped into tiny pieces
- 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup thinly sliced green onions white and green parts
- 1 large garlic clove minced
- In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a roiling boil. Pour in the grits, add a goodly amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper, and stir well with a whisk. Turn down the heat to the lowest setting. (A flame tamer is a great idea if you have a particularly aggressive stove.)
- Cook the grits until all the water is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter and Cheddar cheese. Cover the pot and keep it warm until ready to serve.
- Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a skillet until crispy and brown, then transfer to a paper towel to drain. Dump the shrimp into the skillet and sauté them in the bacon grease over medium heat until they just turn coral pink, about 3 minutes.
☞TESTER TIP: Whatever you do, don't overcook them. You don't want rubbery shrimp. Immediately drizzle in the lemon juice and mix in the parsley, green onions, and garlic. Take the skillet off the heat.
- To serve the shrimp and grits, ladle the grits into a large serving bowl. Scrape the shrimp mixture over top the grits. Sprinkle with bacon and hightail it to the table!
What should I serve with shrimp and grits?
Let’s face it: This shrimp and grits recipe with its cheese and bacon is a rich dish. And we’re not saying there’s anything wrong with that! Still, you might want to round out the meal with a salad with a lip-puckering dressing to cut through the richness. Your favorite pickled vegetables are also a way to go. Keeping with the Southern theme, okra is also good as is sautéed greens.
I think we fell in love in Charleston, The One and I. Not with each other--that happened twenty-something years before--but with shrimp and grits. It was at Slightly North of Broad, S.N.O.B. for short.
We were having lunch with Sita Krishnaswamy, one of our recipe testers, and her husband. The shrimp and grits were good enough to cause The One and I to exchange a look that said--we have to make this when we get home. And we did.
We tried a lot of recipes, but this shrimp and grits recipe is the one we like the most. It's cheesy, studded with plump shrimp, and scattered with salty bites of bacon. On a few occasions, I took out some shrimp shells I'd frozen and made a shrimp stock to cook the grits in. A little extra layer of flavor worth trying.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
My first experience eating grits was not the best. Then I tried some at a small restaurant in North Carolina and realized that if the grits are properly cooked, they really could be amazing. When I finally decided to make grits at home, this shrimp and grits recipe was my first try, and it couldn’t be any easier to make. The grits came out wonderful—filled with strong cheese flavor yet not so overwhelming that I couldn’t enjoy the shrimp and bacon. This is extremely filling and better suited to lunch so you can enjoy a little nap afterward.
Originally published May 8, 2010