This Classic Shrimp and Grits recipe is SO easy, SO simple, and the ULTIMATE Southern comfort food.
Shrimp and grits is a Southern staple. It originated in the Lowcountry of the South Carolina coast, during the season when shrimp were plentiful. It’s traditionally a breakfast dish, but I ate it for dinner. Other Southern regions have developed their versions of shrimp and grits- for example, you can find blackened shrimp and grits in New Orleans.
In this version, the grits are cooked with milk, butter, and chicken broth, with cheese melted in at the end. The shrimp is cooked in bacon fat and then mixed with a buttery sauce, then served on top of the grits with crumbled bacon and green onions. It’s so insanely delicious!
I love the simplicity of this recipe. Often, shrimp and grits recipes are made with peppers and onions, or with blackening seasoning for extra flavor. When it comes to comfort food, I like mine to be simple.
This version of shrimp and grits keeps things simple. I used salt and pepper only for seasoning, with a garnish of green onions at the end. The smoky bacon flavor stands out and the chicken stock and butter makes it super savory and creamy tasting.
First, let’s talk about the grits.
I used stone-ground yellow grits to make these classic shrimp and grits. You can use white if you want, and they are more traditional- the only reason I used yellow is because it’s the only thing my grocery store had. I DO recommend that you use stone ground, however.
Stone ground grits are classic. They are the steel cut oats of the grit world. The texture has some bite to it, and the flavor is, for lack of a better word, super “corny.”
They do, however, take longer to cook than quick cooking grits or instant grits. If you are pressed for time, you can certainly use one of these as a substitute.
Here’s my time-saving trick for cooking up these delicious grits: you don’t have to whisk them continuously. Some traditional Southern cooks may be rolling in their graves right now. Many people think that you do have to whisk or stir them for almost the entire cooking time.
The thought is that the more you whisk the grits, the more starch is released, and the creamier the grits become. Kind of like when you cook risotto. And while this may be true, I find that grits will get creamy no matter what, and it’s not worth the labor of constantly attending to them.
Instead, I whisk them every 5 minutes or so during the 15-20 minute cooking time. This allows plenty of time to prepare the shrimp portion of the shrimp and grits!
First of all, while we’re on the subject of what’s worth the time and what’s not, I recommend buying already peeled and deveined shrimp.
I spent a good 20 minutes peeling and deveining the shrimp myself, after which my hands smelled bad and I had a bunch of shrimp peels that were left to rot away in the garbage in my hot Texas summer garage. (Although, you CAN save the peels to boil to make seafood stock, if you want.)
You can save a bit of money buying shrimp with the peels on, but I don’t think it’s worth it. The grits are so cheap, so spend a little more money on some already peeled and deveined shrimp.
I DO recommend buying large or jumbo shrimp. They are easier to cook, and have a meatier texture that holds up well with the creamy soft grits. And I think the flavor is better, since they are harder to overcook.
Just cook up some bacon until it’s crispy, then remove it from the pan and chop it up when it’s cool. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, and sauté it in the bacon fat.
And now – here’s what makes it REALLY good – add a bit of butter and some more chicken stock to the shrimp. The butter will melt into everything and the chicken stock will help deglaze the pan, making a super flavorful sauce to spoon over the grits. SO GOOD!
When all is done, serve the shrimp mixture over the grits, making sure to spoon some of that delicious pan sauce over everything. Then, top it off with the chopped bacon and some sliced green onions. This is a dish best eaten immediately- see my notes below for my recommendations for making in advance or reheating leftovers.