This Classic Shrimp and Grits recipe is SO easy, SO simple, and the ULTIMATE Southern comfort food. This traditional low country recipe uses bacon and is served with a simple sauce and uses stone-ground grits with cheese (but it’s easy to adapt to have no bacon, or other flavors and ingredients). And the whole thing only takes 30 minutes to make!
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 love it for a quick dinner.
Other Southern regions have developed their versions of shrimp and grits- for example, you can find blackened shrimp and grits in New Orleans with a creole/cajun spin.
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 simple 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.
What kind of grits to use for Shrimp and 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, whether they are white or yellow. I used Bob’s Red Mill Yellow Corn Grits/Polenta. Make sure you don’t buy cornmeal by accident- it’s not the same!
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.
How to save time cooking stone-ground grits
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 bacon, shrimp, and sauce portion of the shrimp and grits!
What kind of shrimp to use for Shrimp and Grits
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.
How to make shrimp and grits
Cooking shrimp and grits is easy- just cook the grits and add some cheese. While they’re cooking, sauté some bacon, cook the shrimp in the bacon grease, then make a simple butter sauce in the same pan!
- Cook the grits in a mixture of chicken stock and milk. I also added a little butter for extra richness.
- Then, cook up some bacon until it’s crispy, then remove it from the pan and chop it up when it’s cool.
- Pat the shrimp dry and season it with salt and pepper, and sauté the shrimp in the bacon fat. This will only take a few minutes, since shrimp is really fast to cook.
- Add some butter and chicken stock to the shrimp. Once the butter is melted, turn off the heat so the shrimp doesn’t overcook. 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!
- Stir in some shredded cheese into the grits. YUM. I used cheddar.
To serve, spoon some grits into a shallow bowl, and scoop some of the shrimp and some of the sauce on top. Then, sprinkle with the chopped bacon and some sliced green onions. It’s so simple and delicious!
FAQs and Variations
- Can this be reheated? This is a dish best eaten immediately. But if you do have leftovers, they are salvageable! The grits may clump together, so I recommend reheating them on the stovetop with a little extra water or chicken stock to thin them out. Reheat the shrimp in the microwave for only a few seconds, so they don’t get rubbery/overcooked.
- Can I make this without bacon? Absolutely! You can make it completely meat-free by sautéing the shrimp in olive oil or butter instead of bacon fat. You may want to season the grits and shrimp with a little extra salt, since bacon is salty. And you can always add some other meat, such as andouille sausage or chorizo.
- Can I add veggies? This would be great with sautéed mushrooms or other veggies such as peppers and onions. I recommend cooking them in the bacon fat before adding the shrimp.
- Can I make it dairy free? Yes! Use all chicken stock for the grits instead of milk, and omit the cheese.
- How do I make it EXTRA saucy? You can make a thicker, more luxurious sauce by making a simple gravy. Remove the shrimp from the skillet and sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of flour into the leftover bacon fat along with a tablespoon of melted butter. Whisk together for a minute or so to make a roux. Then, add one cup of chicken stock and whisk together, continuing to cook until heating.
Other Southern Comfort Food Recipes
- Southern Style Oven-Fried Catfish
- Southern Style Green Beans
- Easy Chicken and Dumplings
- Oven BBQ Chicken
- Spicy Tomato Pie with Spinach
Other Easy Shrimp Recipes:
- 15-Minute Shrimp Scampi
- Shrimp and Zucchini Fritters with Yogurt Sauce
- Shrimp and Couscous with Peas and Mint
- Blackened Shrimp Tacos
Easy Classic Shrimp and Grits
- Bring 2 cups of the chicken broth, the milk (2 cups), 3 tablespoons of the butter, and a pinch of salt to a gentle boil in a medium sized pot. Add the grits and whisk together. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until grits are fully cooked, soft, and creamy, whisking again every 5 minutes or so.
- Meanwhile, cook the 4 bacon strips until crispy in a nonstick or cast iron skillet. Set aside on a paper towel lined plate. Once cool, chop into small pieces.
- Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the skillet.
- Rinse the shrimp with cold water and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Cook in the bacon grease until only just cooked- about 2 minutes per side.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and 1/2 cup of chicken broth to the shrimp and stir until melted and broth is heated.
- When grits are finished cooking, remove from heat and stir in the cheese (1 cup) until melted.
- Serve the shrimp mixture over the grits, making sure to spoon some of the liquid from the skillet over the grits, and sprinkle with the bacon pieces and sliced green onions. Serve immediately.
- Money Saving Tip: Buy frozen shrimp and defrost them yourself. Most "fresh" shrimp you buy at the store has actually been previously frozen, but is marked up anyway.
- This recipe is best served right away, since shrimp get rubbery from reheating and grits turn more solid after they cool. If you have leftovers, the grits can be reheated on the stovetop with some extra water to break them up, whisking them as they reheat. Heat the shrimp only for a few seconds in the microwave- as little as possible. Or, enjoy the leftover grits plain and add the cold cooked leftover shrimp to a salad to prevent overcooking.
- You can use water instead of chicken broth to cook the grits.
- To save time, you can use quick cooking grits instead of stone-ground (but the texture will be different).
- I used yellow grits, since it's all I could find. You can use white if you want to!
- The provided nutrition information does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. Feel free to calculate it yourself using this calculator or by adding the recipe to Yummly.