Shrimp and Grits

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?

A white plate filled with cheesy shrimp and grits with bacon

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

A white plate filled with cheesy shrimp and grits with bacon

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

A white plate filled with cheesy shrimp and grits with bacon
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?

Prep 15 mins
Cook 15 mins
Total 30 mins
Mains
Southern
4 servings
736 kcal
4.92 / 24 votes
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Ingredients 

  • 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

Directions
 

  • 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!
Print RecipeBuy the Paula Deen and Friends cookbook

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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 736kcal (37%)Carbohydrates: 35g (12%)Protein: 46g (92%)Fat: 45g (69%)Saturated Fat: 24g (150%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 397mg (132%)Sodium: 1458mg (63%)Potassium: 357mg (10%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 1g (1%)Vitamin A: 1434IU (29%)Vitamin C: 14mg (17%)Calcium: 600mg (60%)Iron: 4mg (22%)

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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.

David Says

David Leite caricature

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.

A Fiesta bowl filled with cheesy shrimp and grits with bacon

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

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    So amazing! Very good. I omitted the bacon for sodium reasons (used evoo instead), but it still turned out great.

    1. Terrific, Brittany! We are all about the bacon, but we can (almost) understand why you opted to ignore it. Lovely to hear it was still phenomenal. Thank you for letting us know….

  2. Took the advice above and used 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup cream to cook the grits. I also added just under a tablespoon of tomato paste to give the grits a bit of acid and tomato flavor…..I think it was a good call! Cut the sharp cheddar in half…..used only 1 cup. Still plenty “cheesy”. Finally, after cooking the shrimp, they still tasted like they needed something. I sprinkled the pile of cooked shrimp with the low sodium Old Bay Seasoning. Not too much, but enough to give it that good seafood flavor.

    1. Hi David,
      Here at home there are as many different versions of this recipe as there are grits! Another suggestion to bump up the flavor level of your shrimp is to put a few drops of the liquid Shrimp and Crab boil in there (just a FEW drops unless you really like this flavor) and this will give it some zing. Some of the original recipes around here (South Louisiana) rely on grits cooked plain with some cheddar and butter stirred in at the end until cheese melts. We used to be able to buy Garlic Cheese (the old kind in the plastic tube) that we would stir in instead of cheddar. The shrimp were cooked in a saute pan in butter and seasoned with parsley, garlic, green onion, cayenne, paprika and some lemon juice. Sounds as if your Old Bay is a good suggestion! Crab Boil and Old Bay seem to always be in a contest around here – Old Bay being too sweet for the taste buds around here that have been raised on HOT sauce over ice cream. And of course, the Louisiana Gold Hot Sauce bottle is always on the table!
      Karen

    1. Darlene, we’ve heard of folks making grits in a slow-cooker. Although we haven’t tried it ourselves, we’ll tentatively say yes to that part of the recipe. As for the shrimp, we fear they’d turn quite mushy. But the shrimp and sausage comes together so quickly, you could easily toss it together at the last minute, especially with the time you saved not stirring the grits…

  3. 5 stars
    I made this for Valentines Day Dinner for my boyfriend…and he said it was the BEST he’s ever had. I wish I could comment, but my aversion to seafood kept me at bay. But he ate the WHOLE thing (and wasn’t this supposed to feed 4? 🙂 )

    1. Janet, I try to be objective, but I have to say that this may be my very favorite reader comment ever! I’m sorry to hear that you weren’t able to enjoy the dish, although it sounds as though your boyfriend reveled in it for both of you–and then some. Here’s hoping he knows how lucky he is…

    1. Just to add to Beth’s suggestion–we’ve had raves galore on that biscuit recipe–our intrepid cook and recipe tester, Karen Depp, also chimed in. She hails from Louisiana and suggests a big green salad, unless the shrimp and grits is intended as a breakfast dish. She deviates from Beth’s approach, prefering a baguette to biscuits, but she says really, with grits, you don’t NEED bread or biscuits. (But when has that ever stopped us?!) And lots of beer, yes!

    2. Hi Don,

      Coming from Charleston, South Carolina, the land of shrimp and grits, I would have a basket filled with biscuits. Here is a link to a fast and easy biscuit.

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