A traditional Shrimp and Grits recipe featuring seasoned shrimp and zesty sausage served over a bed of creamy cheese grits. It’s a true Southern delicacy and represents the very best of Southern comfort food!
We took a family trip to South Carolina two weeks ago to see some of the things we missed the previous times. This included giving the kids extra beach time (because our kids can never get enough), visiting the Charleston Tea Garden, the Angel Oak, and trudging through swamps in the hopes of seeing some alligators (our son’s bucket list item). We didn’t get to see any gators in the wild, only in captivity behind a well-built fence (thank heavens!) but the trip was nonetheless fun for everyone and on top of it all we enjoyed some great food.
After a day of beaching and swamping we visited the Acme Lowcountry Kitchen on the Isle of Palms for some Southern food. Our orders included pecan-crusted chicken with cheese grits, egg, and bacon jam and Cajun shrimp and grits with truffle grits. All delicious! I’ve been meaning to publish my recipe for shrimp and grits for several years and this gave me the needed reminder to do it as well as some added inspiration. (And by the way, if you’re in the Charleston area, Acme Lowcountry Kitchen deserves two thumbs up for some great food.)
What is Shrimp and Grits?
Shrimp and grits is a traditional Southern dish that consists of seasoned shrimp served over a bed of creamy grits. The shrimp are typically cooked along with andouille sausage, another Southern staple, onions, garlic, sometimes bell peppers, and spices. Cajun seasoning is a popular choice as is Old Bay seasoning. While not specifically a Cajun or Creole dish, shrimp and grits is popular in both cooking traditions and so variations exist. Some variations have a more saucy base and some variations include tomatoes, bell peppers, and/or mushrooms while others do not and some use bacon instead of andouille sausage. Likewise some prepare it spicy hot while others prefer it mild. Adjust the ingredients and spiciness level according to your preference.
Grits are a staple in Southern cuisine and made from ground dried corn that is simmered in water or milk until it reaches a thick consistency with a creamy texture. Butter and cheese is commonly added to enhance the flavor and creaminess of the grits. Other flavor variations exist such as truffle grits which we had in Charleston and is was excellent. To make truffle grits simply stir in 1-2 tablespoons of truffle oil with the butter and cheese.
Once the shrimp and the grits are cooked, the shrimp and its sauce are spooned over a serving of grits and additional garnishes can be added such as chopped green onions, parsley, or shredded cheese.
Shrimp and Grits is a popular comfort food that is served any time of day – for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. It’s a true Southern delicacy and represents the very best of Southern comfort food!
Where Did Shrimp and Grits Originate?
Shrimp and grits is a popular dish in Southern cuisine, particularly in the coastal regions of the southeastern United States. It is most closely associated with the region known as the Lowcountry, the coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia, which include the cities of Charleston and Savannah.
This region and this dish have their roots in African, Native American, and European culinary traditions. Native American tribes in the region were known to consume corn-based dishes similar to grits. African cooking emphasized spice blends and rubs to enhance flavors, including the blend of paprika, cayenne, garlic and thyme which are found in Creole and Cajun flavor combinations. European settlers, including English, Scottish, and Irish immigrants, introduced the concept of cooking shrimp with the locally available ingredients. And so with the merging of all of these culinary traditions we now enjoy what has been a Southern delicacy since at least the late 19th century known as Shrimp and Grits.
What to Serve with Shrimp and Grits
Shrimp and grits are often served on their own as a complete dish but there are many accompaniments you can choose from to further round out the meal. Here are a few ideas:
- Creamy Coleslaw: This brings cool and tangy element to the meal and provides a refreshing contrast.
- Cucumber Salad: This likewise provides a refreshing and crunchy contrast to the creamy grits and spicy warm shrimp.
- Veggies like steamed broccoli, sauteed bell peppers, zucchini, okra, roasted asparagus, or Chilled Asparagus with Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette for something more refreshing.
- Sauteed spinach with a squirt of lemon juice or Creamed Spinach.
- Southern collard greens
- Corn on the cob
- Leafy green salad with a refreshing vinaigrette.
- Biscuits are a classic accompaniment to shrimp and grits and can be used to scoop up the shrimp and sauce or enjoyed on their own. Our Buttermilk Biscuits are made in true Southern fashion and are the fluffiest ever.
- Garlic Bread: The garlic compliments the flavor of the shrimp and adds a delightful crunchy contrast to the creamy grits.
- Cornbread: Another Southern favorite, cornbread pairs well with shrimp and grits with a slightly sweet flavor that contrast nicely with the spiciness of the shrimp. Try our rustic Skillet Cornbread, Dang Good Cornbread muffins or our healthier Quinoa Cornbread.
- Fried Green Tomatoes: This Southern delicacy adds a touch of tang and a crispy texture contrast to the shrimp and grits.
- Fried Okra is another popular Southern side dish that pairs well with this, adding a nice crunchy texture contrast.
Shrimp and Grits Recipe
The seasoning used in shrimp and grits can vary based on personal preference and regional variations. Both Old Bay seasoning and Creole/Cajun seasoning can be used to add flavor to this dish, depending on the desired taste profile. For the best flavor results we highly recommend making your own seasoning blend as the flavors are much more vibrant. Check out our recipes for homemade Creole Seasoning and Old Bay Seasoning.
As mentioned earlier, some variations include tomatoes, bell peppers, and/or mushrooms while others do not and some use bacon instead of andouille sausage. Likewise some prepare it spicy hot while others prefer it mild. Adjust the ingredients and spiciness level according to your preference.
For more delicious Southern dishes be sure to try our:
- Corn Pudding
- Fried Okra
- Andouille and Greens with Cheese Grits
- Sausage Gravy and Biscuits
- Skillet Cornbread
- Southern Black Eyed Pea Salad
- Grillades and Grits
- Fried Catfish
- Chicken Fried Steak Burgers
- Boiled Peanuts
Shrimp and Grits
- For the Cheese Grits:
- 2 1/4 cups whole milk
- 2 cups water or low sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup stone-ground grits
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1-2 tablespoons truffle oil (optional for a tasty flavor variation), if using stir in at the end with butter and cheese
- For the Shrimp:
- 1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp , peeled and deveined (optional whether to leave tails on)
- juice of one lemon (2-3 tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoons Cajun/Creole seasoning (click link for homemade, highly recommended for best flavor)
- OR Old Bay Seasoning (for different flavor variation, click link for homemade, highly recommended for best flavor)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter , divided
- 1 pound andouille sausage (or very thick cut bacon) , diced or sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 green bell pepper , chopped
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (optional), e.g., sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, chardonnay
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 3 green onions (scallions) , chopped
- For the Cheese Grits: 2 1/4 cups whole milk 2 cups water or low sodium chicken broth 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 cup stone-ground grits 4 tablespoons butter 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheeseTo make the cheese grits, bring the milk and water or chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan and add the salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal then decrease the heat to low, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, whisking every few minutes to prevent scorching and lumps. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheese until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover until ready to serve.
- For the Shrimp:While the grits are cooking, toss the shrimp with the lemon juice and Cajun seasoning in a bowl and set aside to marinate. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until lightly browned. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet. Add the onion and bell peppers and cook until the onions are soft and translucent and the peppers are softened, 6-8 minutes. If using, add the white wine and boil for 1 minute. Add the shrimp and garlic and cook for one minute. Add the chicken broth, bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes uncovered, letting the liquid reduce slightly.
- To serve, divide the grits between the plates, spoon the shrimp mixture and sauce over the grits, and sprinkle with the chopped green onions. Have some lemon wedges at the table for guests to squeeze some more lemon juice over the shrimp and grits if desired as well as some hot sauce for heat-loving guests.