shrimp and grits

Shrimp and Grits

Spicy Cajun shrimp with creamy cheese grits. This is comfort food at its best.


Shrimp and Grits

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Have you ever had one of those moments where you’ve been doing something one specific way (or eating a dish in one particular fashion) for, say, four years only to find out that it’s not the standard way to do it?!

I recently had one of those moments in a big way. It involved a fantastic Southern dish called shrimp and grits.

The short version of the story is that I worked in a Southern-themed restaurant for awhile and they served shrimp and grits there. I’ve also had the dish on occasion in a DC establishment, Georgia Browns. These are the only real experiences I’ve had with shrimp and grits. I figured I’d try to remake it like they served it (which was very good by the way).

When I set the plate down in front of Betsy, she more or less told me to jump off a cliff if I thought that what I was serving her was real shrimp and grits. Turns out, and you will not see me admit this in writing very often, she was right.

You see, this is traditional shrimp and grits and it is unbelievably delicious:

The version that I’d had in the restaurants had shrimp. And grits. But instead of the lovely thick sauce pictured above, they were served with more of a broth. It was a tasty broth and actually lightened up the dish a bit, but I guess it wasn’t what shrimp and grits traditionally is.

So this is how you make the real stuff.

Shrimp and Grits

Serves 2.
Prep Time:
Total Time:
Rated 2.7 out of 5
2.7 out of 5 stars (based on 50 reviews)
Very good16%
shrimp and grits
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Spicy Cajun shrimp with creamy cheese grits. This is comfort food at its best.

Loosely based on this recipe. I changed many things though.


3/4 lb. large shrimp, peeled to the tail, de-veined
1 Teaspoon paprika
1 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 Teaspoon cayenne
Pinch of salt and pepper


1 Cup grits (I used real yellow corn grits. But you could use any really.)
2 Cups water
1 Cup heavy cream
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 Cup grated cheddar cheese
Pinch of salt and pepper


2 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon garlic
1 scallion, minced (divide the green and white part)
1/2 Cup clam juice (or you could use any stock or just water)
1/2 Cup water (or you can do a full cup of stock if you aren't using clam juice)
1/2 Cup heavy cream
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Teaspoon hot sauce
1 slice country ham (optional)

Show Directions

1) Peel and clean the shrimp but leave the tails on. Toss shrimp with your seasoning.

2) For grits, cook according to package but I recommend using at least one cup of cream to get the grits very creamy. Once your grits are thick, whisk in the cheese.

3) If your grits ever get to thick, just whisk in a few tablespoons of milk.

4) Add butter to a skillet over medium-high heat. Once melted, add shrimp. Cook shrimp for 3-4 minutes per side depending on the size. I used 16-20 count and they cooked in about 6-7 minutes.

5) Once the shrimp come out fo the pott, add butter straight to it and scrape up as many bits as possible. Add scallions and garlic and stir. Cook for a minute or two to soften the veggies.

6) Add flour to the pan and whisk together. Cook for a minute or two until the flour starts to turn a very light tan color. This is the roux for the sauce.

7) Next add clam juice or stock to the pan and stir slowly.

8) Once the juice has cooked down and is simmering, add cream, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Continue to whisk until it has the consistency of a light gravy.

9) Plate this dish with a bed of the grits, add some shrimp on top, and finish with the sauce. Garnish with chopped scallions and/or hot sauce.

Prepping the shrimp

The original recipe called for a Cajun seasoning for the shrimp. If you have a good Cajun seasoning you can definitely use that. I just mixed up a quick spice mix with these guys.

spices for shrimp
Makeshift Cajun.

If your shrimp aren’t already cleaned, peel them up to the tails. Then use a paring knife to slice up the back and wash out the vein. Then toss them with your seasonings.

shrimp with spice
Don’t be afraid of the spices!

Cooking the Grits

This meal actually comes together really quickly. Before you start cooking the shrimp, get your grits going. You can prepare the grits according to the package if you are using instant ones or just assume about a 3-1 ratio of liquid to grits. Use at least one cup of cream to get the grits very creamy.

Combine all your liquid in a sauce pan and bring it to a simmer, then slowly add your grits while whisking. Continue to whisk it and after a few minutes it should thicken up. Then you can whisk in your cheese!

Cheesy grits
Overkill? Nah.

You can keep this over low heat while you prepare the other parts of the dish. If you notice it’s getting to thick, just whisk in a few tablespoons of milk and it should loosen up.

Cooking the shrimp

Shrimp are very easy to cook. Just remember that they cook pretty fast and overcooked shrimp are not the best.

Just melt your butter in a skillet over medium-high heat and once it’s melted and hot, add your shrimp to the pan. Leave them untouched on one side for 3-4 minutes, then turn them and cook for the same amount of time on the other side. The exact cooking time will vary based on the size of your shrimp. I used large (16-20 count) shrimp and they cooked in about 7 minutes.

They should look like this.

cooked shrimp

Making the sauce

The sauce for this dish is really what makes it decadent. I must admit that I loved the thicker sauce over the broth version that I tried.

After the shrimp come out of the pan, you’ll have some bits of seasoning still in the pan. Leave all that in there! That’s flavor. Just add your butter for the sauce straight in and scrape up any little bits. Once the butter is melted, add the scallions and garlic and stir. Let them cook and soften for a minute or two.

starting gravy
Scallions and garlic and butter.

Then you’ll need these things. I used clam juice which has a great flavor. You could honestly use any stock you wanted though.

Gravy ingredients
Interesting mix.

Next, add your flour to the pan and combine it with the butter, scallions, and garlic. Cook it for just a minute or two. It should start to turn a very light tan. This is your roux for the sauce.

Next add your clam juice or stock slowly and stir. It will steam and hiss but should stay pretty thick. This is right after I added my clam juice.

almost there
Just needs the cream.

Then add your cream, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and you should be good to go. It should have the consistency of a gravy basically. If it looks too thin, let it simmer for another minute or two. If it looks too thick, add a bit more liquid (stock, milk, or cream).

To plate the dish, you want a big serving of cheesy grits.

Creamy grits
Creamy and cheesy.

Then add 6 or 7 shrimp to each plate.

shrimp added
Tails must face the same way!

Then add some sauce on top and garnish with scallion greens and a few dashes of hot sauce.

finished dish
Serve with a cold beer.

I really liked this version of the dish. I know the original also has ham on it, but that seemed a bit like overkill to me. It’s plenty flavorful as is.

If you’re curious, this was my other version of the dish that I didn’t think was quite as good.

Version two
Just to be thorough…

So there ya go! Shrimp and grits. Am I from the South? No. Did I possibly screw it up the first time I made it? Yea.

Did I finally do it justice though? I think so!

17 Responses to “Shrimp and Grits” Leave a comment

  1. Shrimp and grits is one of my favorite dishes. I live in the south and from I can tell there is no real traditional recipe. I order it everytime it's on the menu and it's always different. I also had a hands on lesson which took it totally somewhere else. We cooked the grits in same pot as shrimp mixture. Shrimp and grits is so personal and no two restaurants serve it the same. So if Betsy likes this version, you've found your winner!

  2. Oh my gosh, I am freaking out over the "proper" version of that dish. It looks amazing! (FWIW, the one you used to make looks pretty damn good too!) Thanks for the inspiration and recipe.

  3. Adding Shrimp to my grocery list this week.

    Hey, I don't have clam juice. I will try it with stock. Oh, what about Fish Sauce?

  4. 86 the flour and I am in love (a little gluten intolerance here!). Having lived in 4 below-the-Mason-Dixon- line states, I have made shrimp and grits 26 ways to Sunday and they are always good. It doesn't matter if you are Southern or not… with ingredients like these you do us all proud!

  5. Wow, that looks really delicious! I’ve never tried it before (or heard of it) but as soon as I saw the picture, I wanted it! I’ll definitely have to try this one.

  6. I’m from Australia and we don’t really have southern American style restaurants here. I was wondering what ‘grits’ are? Looks to me like something here we call ‘polenta’. Wouldn’t mind trying this recipe out for myself.

  7. These look excellent but my experience with shrimp and grits, which was one of the best things I have ever stuck in my mouth, was a bit less traditional. But I think Betsy’s reaction just shows you that something like “shrimp and grits” is an extremely personal experience.

    It was at Puleo’s Grille, one of the best local restaurants, and it is amazing. They use extremely coarse ground grits so they are more thick, used peppers and onions, and they have a rich tasso gravy. Sigh, I know where I’m going this week.

  8. We made this the other night after finding it on Wow. We used two slices of chopped bacon in the pan after pulling the shrimp out and starting the roux, which rocked. I really can’t wait to make this again. Well done.

  9. Love shrimp + grits + this looks better than any I’ve had in restaurant… I’m just waiting til I get some cream. But – where does the ham come in?

  10. We have come full circle. I first discovered your site while searching for shrimp and grits and here it is eons later when I am again referencing your recipe for my NYE dinner. You are wonderful. Have a happy New Year….

    1. I’ve made it a few times now and seriously make extra gravy to put on steak, or heat up the grits and gravy and eat it for breakfast with a poached egg on top ….mmmmmm #deliciousness

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