Southern Shrimp and Grits are a longstanding Southern staple. Creamy grits made with milk and cheese are topped with sautéd shrimp in a flavorful sauce. An Iconic dish that’s simple to make for a fabulous weeknight dinner, or impressive enough to serve for friends.
My study abroad child will be coming home soon and has requested Southern food, which for her means grits and biscuits. I went with Southern shrimp and grits, there’s nothing that says Southern comfort food than a dish made with grits.
Why you’ll love it
- You start with the creamiest grits
- The shrimp and sauce come together in the same time it takes to cook the grits
- Easy enough for a weeknight dinner
- Special enough to server at a dinner party
I’m not talking about instant grits, no self-respecting Southerner would make instant grits. If you live north of the Mason-Dixon line you may have to order them. My favorite come from The Old Mill at Guilford where they are stone ground. They come white and yellow, I always go white.
What are Grits
Grits originated with Native Americans and are now a staple for breakfast in the South. Grits are made from ground corn, either yellow or white. They have a mild corn taste, not as strong as cornmeal which makes them great by themselves with butter or cheese but also a fabulous choice to pair with more flavorful dishes like shrimp!
There are basically two types of grits to choose from:
- Stone Ground Grits: This is ground corn with the germ intact so that you get a coarser texture and more flavor. They are less processed than the offer types. These are going to take 20 minutes to cook.
- Quick-cooking grits or Instant Grits: These have been processed and dehydrated so that they will cook quicker which results in a bland tasting product with very little flavor or texture. These can cook in 10 minutes.
I hope you always choose stone ground grits and avoid the instant variety, but remember it will take you 20 minutes to cook the grits.
Do you remember the grit discussion in My Cousin Vinny, it’s what broke the case:
Vinny Gambini: How could it take you five minutes to cook your grits when it takes the entire grit-eating world 20 minutes?
Mr. Tipton: Um… I’m a fast cook, I guess.
Vinny Gambini: What? I’m sorry I was over there. Did you just say you were a fast cook? Are we to believe that boiling water soaks into a grit faster in your kitchen than any place on the face of the earth?
Mr. Tipton: I don’t know.
Vinny Gambini: Perhaps the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove. Were these magic grits? Did you buy them from the same guy who sold Jack his beanstalk beans?
The trick to good southern grits, is first to not use the instant kind, and follow Joe Pesci’s advice and cook them slow this allows the milk to be absorbed creating a creamy texture.
If you don’t want to mess with the grits on the stove, you can cook them in a slow cooker.
Where did shrimp and grits originate from
Shrimp and cheesy grits are a Southern creation, thought to have originated in Charleston South Carolina where shrimp were plentiful and they were added to grits for breakfast. Since, grits with shrimp has become a dinner time specialty and became well known around here from a local restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC, Crooks Corner.
What you’ll need
- Stone Ground Grits – these can be found in the baking aisle next to the cornmeal. Chose stone ground grits over instant or quick-cooking grits.
- Shrimp – you can use fresh or frozen but they will need to peel and devein them.
- Andouille sausage -the raw variety will add more flavor, it can be found in the same area as the Italian sausage. You can use the precooked variety, it just doesn’t have quite as much flavor.
- Whole milk – this makes the grits creamy, you can use 2% or make it decadant and use half-and-half or cream. I find that whole milk makes it creamy enough.
- Parmesan cheese – for the grits and a little sprinkled on top.
- White wine and cream – these create a wonderful sauce for the shrimp.
- Onion, tomato and green onions and butter
- Optional – cayenne pepper or hot sauce to make it spicy
How to make Southern Shrimp and Grits
Step 1 – Grits
Boil milk and gradually add grits. Turn to low and simmer for at least 20 minutes and they are creamier if you can cook them for 30-45 minutes stirring frequently. Before ready to serve, add butter, cheese and extra milk if needed.
Pro tip: While you can use water and still have fairly good grits, if you use whole milk they are so much better, and if you want to be decadent, use cream. Since I used milk, I added a little fresh Parmesan which I think is just right with shrimp.
Step 2 – Shrimp and Sausage
First remove the shells and devein the shrimp. Season them with salt and pepper. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until melted and foamy. Add sausage and onion and sauté until the onion is tender and the sausage is browned, 5-6 minutes.
Add the shrimp and cook for 1 minute per side on medium heat. Once they are opaque, remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Add the tomatoes to the pan with a big pinch of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until they have softened another 3-4 minutes.
Stir in wine and reduce until almost dry, about 3 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and reduce slightly.
Return the shrimp to the pan and cook for another minute, just to warm them up.
How to serve
Place grits on a plate and top with the shrimp mixture. Garnish with green onions. It’s a meal in itself, although a mixed green salad is a nice compliment.
- If you want your grits really creamy, cook them for 30-45 minutes.
- You could use cheddar cheese in place of parmesan cheese in the grits.
- I use pre-cooked andouille sausage but raw would add more flavor.
- This will reheat if you have leftovers, you just need to be careful not to cook it so long that the shrimp get tough. To avoid this, let it come to room temperature first so that the shrimp and grits will be hot at the same time.
- If you want to make this more of a cajun shrimp dish, add some red bell peppers to the onions.
The sauce on this is so creamy and flavorful which is why it’s scrumptious over grits. My motto is a little flavor goes a long way. This was a hit for my homesick Southerner.
FAQ and tips
Ground corn, made from yellow or white corn that is cooked slowly with milk or water to create a creamy hot cereal like dish typically served for breakfast with butter or cheese.
Both ingredients are made from dried and ground corn but grits are more coarse, cornmeal is more finely ground.
The humble meal came from a mixture of cultures, from sailors and African americans cooking it up for their families. It is common to see in restaurants in the South especially those ares close to the coast.
A crusty loaf of bread pairs well with this meal. But shrimp and grits can be served on its own as well.
Grits are not the same as polenta. Polenta is made from a different type of corn and are therefore the texture is not as creamy as grits.
Enjoy some other delicious Southern dishes
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Southern Shrimp and Grits
- 1 cup grits
- 4 cups whole milk
- salt and pepper
- 4 tablespoons parmesan cheese freshly grated
- 2 tablespoons butter
Shrimp and Sausage with Sauce
- 1 lb shrimp peeled and deveined
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 ounces andouille sausage uncooked
- ½ vidalia onion chopped
- 1 tomato diced
- ½ cup white wine
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 3 green onion chopped
- Boil milk and gradually add grits. Turn to low and simmer for at least 20 minutes but better if you can cook for 30-45 minutes stirring frequently. Before ready to serve, add butter, cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
Shrimp and Sausage with Sauce
- Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until melted and foamy. Add sausage and onion and sauté until the onion is tender and the sausage is browned, 5-6 minutes.
- Add the shrimp and cook for 1 minute per side just until they are opaque. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, add some salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until they have softened another 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in wine and reduce until almost the pan is almost dry, about 3 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and cook until it has reduced slightly. Return the shrimp to the pan and cook for another minute.
- Place grits on plate and top with shrimp and sauce. Garnish with green onions and more parmesan if desired.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- You can add cayenne pepper or hot sauce if you want a spicier version.
- You can use fresh or frozen shrimp.
- If you have leftovers, let them come to room temperature before re-heating so that the shrimp to not overcook.
- For the creamiest grits with more flavor, use stone ground grits.