Shrimp ‘n’ grits. Need I say more?

November 27, 2006

For the uninitiated (are there any poor, deprived souls out there?), grits are good. And of course, shrimp is good. Therefore, shrimp and grits are really, really good. It makes perfect sense, and causes me to wonder why I didn’t do better on the damn logic portion of the GRE.

I had never had grits before I attended college in the South, and the school cafeteria didn’t really do them justice. It wasn’t until I ventured to order grits in a restaurant that I acquired a rabid taste for them. Now, I’m slowly eating my way through the (usually shrimp ‘n’) grits offerings at our favorite haunts.

But my husband here has just made it a little bit harder for those establishments: He has set the shrimp ‘n’ grits bar astonishingly high with his latest creation. His shrimp ‘n’ grits combines my favorite sauce for shrimp (spicy and Cajun) with creamy, delicious grits. And the two do play well together: The heat from the buttery cayenne-laced sauce infuses its goodness into the shrimp and veggies, and then mellows out when it hits the thick and creamy grits. If you have a crusty bread roll and a fork, you’ll be a happy camper.

Tuck in, folks. Tuck in.

Click here to download the recipe for Spicy Shrimp and Grits.

This recipe poses two interesting culinary issues. The first is regarding grits. Some of you, if not most of you since you are sophisticated cooking folks, will know that what Americans in the South revere as the kitchen-staple grits is also known as polenta. While there are some distinctions like the color of the corn used to make them (grits tending to be white while polenta is yellow), both polenta and grits are just milled corn. So, if you want to call this shrimp and polenta, I think you should go right on and do it. We here at MHC try not to stand on ceremony too much.

The second is people’s familiarity with Lowcounty cuisine. This cuisine is associated with the costal areas of South Carolina and Georgia, and is bound to the rich culture and heritage of cities like Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC. Shrimp and Grits is one of those signature dishes that people who love Lowcounty cookin’ can tell you all about. They take their food in those two cities as serious as any New Yorker or Chicagoan might go on about pizza.

Yet, in recent years, Shrimp and Grits has emerged out of its home region to appear on menus and in cookbooks everywhere. Why? Because it’s simple to make, filled with flavor, and quick. These are things we like at MHC. This recipe takes little prep time and you can make a significant amount. You can also easily adapt this to be a starter with just portion control. You have to love a dish that is quick and flexible to fit your needs.

Finally, while this dish celebrates Lowcountry tradition, I’m also throwing a bit of it out the window. The shrimp I am making are spicy and have more of a New Orleans/Cajun influence. I like the shrimp’s kick against the smoothness of the grits. So, if you are looking for an accurate portrayal of this classic, I’m going to slightly disappoint you. But, I hope you still enjoy it as much as we do.

Spicy Shrimp and Grits
Servings: 4
Time: 30 min
cheese grits:

6 cup water/chicken stock
2 cup stone ground grits/polenta
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup mild cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp. salt

1. In a large pot, add the water/stock and the salt. Bring the water to a boil.

2. Turn down the heat to medium or medium low. Add the grits and whisky regularly. Cook for 5-10 min. You are look for a creamy consistency.

3. Turn down the heat to a simmer. Add the cheese and whisk until integrated. Cover until ready to serve.

spicy shrimp:
1 lbs. shrimp
3 carrots (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
2 ribs celery (chopped)
1 shallot (diced)
1 jalapeño (sliced)
1 cup beer (light/wheat) or white wine
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro (finely chopped)
juice of 1 lime

spice mix:
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. red pepper flake
1 tsp. salt

1. In a medium-sized pot over high heat, add the olive oil. Once the olive oil is hot enough to shimmer (about 30 seconds), add the carrots, celery, shallots, and jalapeño. After about 3 min, turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic. Cook for another 2-3 min while stirring regularly.

2. Add the spice mix, and cook for another 2-3 min. You are trying to toast the spices. Be careful not to let them burn. By the end of this period, the shallot should be nearly transparent and the other vegetables should be soft.

3. Add the beer or wine. Turn up the heat to bring to a boil.

(NOTE: I’ve made shrimp with both beer and wine. My recommendation is that you choose a beer that is light in color and flavor. My preferences are towards a wheat beer like a hefeweizen or a pilsner—something light and refreshing. As for wine, my preference is towards a chardonnay on the dry side. Experiment or use what you have on hand. I also suspect if you don’t use alcohol, a chicken stock will serve the purpose of the dish as well.)

4. Add the cilantro, lime juice and shrimp. Stir until the shrimp are integrated. The shrimp should already begin to turn pink. Turn down the heat to medium low, cover the pot with a lid and let cook for 5 min or until the shrimp are done.

(NOTE: I peel my shrimp before cooking. I like this being a one bowl dish, and I can take care of the mess of the shells before cooking. However, I can see an argument that leaving the shells on the shrimp will likely protect the meat better and leave it more tender. I think this is a choice you can make.)

5. Turn off the heat. Serve the shrimp, including the liquid, over the cheese grits. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!


  1. Although Luna shook her head when I showed her this post, I must say that I was so intrigued that she urged me to comment. Being a Southerner myself, I’ve long appreciated the unique qualities of grits (and being from the Gulf South, I also have a liking for shrimp, especially from Biloxi, but that’s another story).

    The question I have for you is this: have you ever had Grits and Grillades? That’s an old New Orleans creole dish, kinda like what you’ve done here, but with thin cuts of steak cooked to melting tenderness in a creole sauce. Serve at a Jazz Brunch with lots of Bloody Marys.
    Also, have you ever encountered the cooking together of grits and oysters? This delicacy from the Mobile Bay area is even more exotic (in fact, you’d have to go to Bon Secour — the Bon Secour river, to be exact — for the most authentic version). How to make it? I’m not sure, since I had it served to me for Xmas dinner, it being a particular favorite on that occasion in those parts. My guess is that you’d poach the oysters in white wine and stir into the cooked grits (just plain, the kind that has to be boiled forever) before serving. Anyway, that’s what it seemed like at the time.

    For the ultimate grits-related experience, tho, I’d recommend (and Luna would agree, although she does not have fond memories of this) hominy prepared by the women of the Choctaw Indian Fair in July every summer on the reservation near Philadelphia, Miss. To die for. If you survive.
    Keep on cookin.
    PS. Luna and I are immigrants to Catalunya del Nord (the department of Pyrenees-Orientales in France) and are devoted to learning to enjoy what’s grown and fermented locally. We love reminders of life lived well in the Old Country.
    We are new to this blogging thing and hope the comment is of interest.

  2. Loved your site, by the way, the concept and the doing of it. Great photos.

  3. Thanks Grillman. I’ve heard of grits and oysters, though I’ve never had the pleasure. I’ve a friend from college from Mobile and this was something he really enjoyed. I think the only reason that would hold me back from trying is that I’m utterly clueless when it comes to most bivalves like oysters. All I know is to throw them back and enjoy them sliding down. If they are like many things like that, you really do have to be careful about how you cook them because they can turn into rubber erasers fast.

    I’ll definitely check out your blog. I’m rather fond of the region you are in. I spent the better part of summer when I was a kid in Perpingan with a childhood friend’s family. I suspect your intense sunshine and mild Med climate are making for great drinking and eating.

  4. Grits are good, I don’t utilize them as much as I should. I have also done ‘polenta’ and love that as well. Six of one, half a dozen of the other…..it’s corn, it’s ground and it’s good. ‘Nuf said.

  5. Shrimp ‘n Grits are damned hard to beat, but the last time I did I not only gave it a Cajun cast with the spices, as you did, but also substituted crawfish for the shrimp. Good stuff!

  6. Let’s be honest. Grits are good. I mean real good. I’m really surprised that we don’t see more of them. I’m not even a big eater of grits.

    I’m definitely on your side Kevin. I remember the first time I went to a crawfish boil. I was still not much of an eater, much less a cook They were amazing.. There is something about those little guys that makes me think of happiness in a shell–but this is the way I feel about shrimp, crab and lobster.

    Until recently, meaning a few years ago, part of me thought it would be interesting to go out to sea to catch those chitinous bags of food (as a writing/filming experience). Yet, have you seen “Deadliest Catch”? Let me just say thank you to all those fishermen. But I’ll be eating all they can bring in.

    Keep the suggestion coming!

  7. oh. my. gosh. this is decadent. we LOVE grits, but now can only have the cheeseless kind (allergies) — sniff:(

  8. Aww. Sorry about the allergies. I’m completely sympathetic. I can’t eat peanut for the exact same reason. Here, the grits are creamy and the cheese is just for flavor not texture, so taking them out will do little to hurt the recipe. I hope you still enjoy!

  9. How yummy… I just heard about this combo from a Holiday Food Network Show called Road Tasted. The Dean brothers (of Paula Deen) took a trip to Gullah Gourmet. Very interesting history there!

    Great pictures 🙂

  10. YOur recipe looks wonderful -love grits- however there are pictures covering up the ingredients for the grits, could you share?

  11. Mary, it’s an issue with using Internet Explorer. But we’ve come up with a solution and just hadn’t gotten to this post yet. But we’ve added PDF’s to the post so people can download the recipes. I’ve updated this post so just click on the link above and you’ll have the recipe. Let me know how it goes! Thanks for reading.

  12. You lucky girl…I stumbled upon your website and I am truly amazed at the creativity and passion for preparing and consuming good food.

    First, let me say, that I am a northern girl, but people have always asked me if I was born in the south because of my mannerisms, the way I cook, and my basic down-home no nonsense approach to life. I first heard of shrimp and grits on an edition of A&E’s “Flip This House.” television show. Real Estate investors in Charleston, SC were hosting an Open House to showcase the property they had just rehabed, and low and behold, shrimp and grits was on the menu. I watched them prepare this delicacy. I literally dreamed about this dish for 3 nights, then I awakened from a deep sleep to start surfing for recipies. I had printed about 30 recipie variations of the dish when I came upon yours. I immediately stopped surfing, and put yours on the very top of the stack. THIS IS THE ONE! It has everything I could hope to Taste in this dish. Yours is the one I am going to make for my son. Everyone else in my family absolutely loves grits for breakfast on the weekend. He hates grits, but he loves Shrimp. I am hoping to convert a grit-hater. I will update you.

    Wonder website –quality, content, visability, user-friendly, vivid use of visuals…..excellent!

  13. I just made shrimp and grits tonight and I did a little twist on the recipe. I wrapped the shrimp in thick cut top quality bacon and cooked them together in a little bit of butter and then poured the gravy over them on the grits. My wife, who loves grits, could not stop herself from eating all the shrimp first. Happy gritt’in.

  14. THANK YOU!!! I am from the south and have lived in the Carolinas, Florida, Georgia, and New Orleans. I am an eater of shrimp and grits, but I have to say this is the best version I have ever had! My traditional family recipe doesn’t work for me anymore as it calls for and the flavor depends on pork/bacon, which I choose not to eat anymore. This recipe has all the flavors plus some. It is HEAVEN! I currently live in Los Angeles and made this for a bunch of friends that looked at me as if I was insane when I told them what I would be cooking, they are all now lovers of shrimp and grits. I can’t wait to try more of your recipes. Thank you again for such a great site.

  15. We served this recipe to future inlaws. – a little worried at first because I had never cooked it before, but it was wonderful. Lots of flavor and texture.

  16. Oh my goodness, this is good……….

  17. It’s a great looking dish, but IMO, perhaps a bit too “busy” with so many ingredients. I would leave out the cheese; although it’s certainly tasty, I think it would tend to cover up the taste of the shrimp.

    However, unlike many shrimp and grits recipes, this one uses no cream in the shrimp part. I think the omission is a good idea. I might use some cream, or at least, some evaporated milk in the grits.

    I like the idea I’ve seen elsewhere of first making a shrimp stock from the shells and heads to use instead of the chicken stock in the grits.

    Thanks very much for sharing. It’s a wonderful looking dish, and your photographs are a real plus to an attractive blog.


  18. I have a riddled past of failures when it comes to southern food. but once I heard of this particular dish for some reason I became intrigued. upon further investigation I came upon this page. having never read this blog, i was delighted to find lovely photos and little notes on personal touches you make to each dish. I have made this recipe 4 times now and am planning it again for tonight’s dish. bookmarked/copied whatever…i love it and thank you.

  19. Hey!

    Made this dish,for two friends, in which, neither of them really enjoy spicy foods nor have had shrimp n grits!

    They enjoyed it!

    And thought that by adding cheese to the grits it actually helps off set the spicyness of the shrimp…we agree that by adding milk or some type of cream to the grits makes it creamier. But overall a great Saturday brunch meal with friends and love ones!

    Thanks for sharing this recipe and look forward to preparing and enjoying many more!!!


  20. You really MUST make a stock from the shells. I’ve done many variations on S and G working with whatever was around and sometimes surrounded by people telling me what they didn’t want me to do.
    I like to steer clear or milk or cream in the grits or the shrimp…if you use good grits and cook them a long long time they’ll be plenty creamy and taste like grits, not milk.
    I’ve also done with and without bacon or some other part o’ pig and both have been good. (the former works better with the non pig eaters.)
    Have fun with this good.

  21. Loved this recipe! Delish. I adjusted it to our tastes by adding heavy cream to the grits cooking liquid. Served it with a Gewürztraminer wine.

  22. This is the best — and healthiest — recipe for shrimp and grits I’ve tried. I lightened it up even further by using canola oil and reducing it to two teaspoons. I also used reduced fat cheese. Yum!

  23. Thank you! We just finished eating and I wish I had not made only half a recipe (late night snack). My husband is from Thailand and misses rice porridge, so I suggested he try grits. He suggested I find a good recipe, and I thought “recipe? grits are just grits.” (I’m from North Carolina.) As soon as I saw the words “shrimp and grits” I knew he would love it, especially a spicy version. I chose your recipe over others because I like including veggies in every meal. I upped the spiciness a little for him, didn’t have cilantro and used a mixture of dark beer and chicken stock for the shrimp. Still licking my lips!

  24. This has been our Christmas dinner for the last 3 years. We love it. My husband is from the South and this is a little touch of home for him. It is absolutely delicious. Thank you.

  25. Great recipe and blog! I ran a link to my food blog. Here is the post:


    Best wishes,


  26. For Thanksgiving potluck dinner last year, my fiance and I were in charge of bringing a dish and decided on your recipe.

    At first, when we told our friends we were bringing shrimp n’ grits, they scoffed at us and said “That’s not Thanksgiving food!” Also, we have serious southerns in our crew, so I knew my northern a$$ was going to be up for a good deal of scrutiny.

    Well, it turned out it was the favorite of ALL THE DISHES. Everyone brought home tons of leftovers…except the shrimp n’ grits were licked clean. This year, we were asked to bring it again.

    Thank you both for doing such a great job at sharing your food passions with us!

    • Jenny — Wow! You made our evening! So glad that bona-fide southerners approved — and requested more! This reminds me: The husband has not made this dish for me in an age. Hmmmmm….

      Happy Thanksgiving, happy eating, and thanks for giving us one more thing to be grateful for!

  27. Wow is all I have to say. I needed something to cook last night for a special someone and it was a huge hit. I would like to experiment by adding some diced tomatoes to the mix about the same time the shrimp are added. I will def make this again. Thanks for the great recipe!

  28. You mention whiskey in the recipe, yet there’s no mention of whiskey in the ingredients.

  29. This is a very good recipe. I used to make Shrimp and Grits for brunch at a cafe in Winston-Salem and it was one of the favorites among the southerners who came to eat. After long hiatus of not cooking this dish, I forgot how I made it, though I remember I preferred the extra sharp Cheddar and tequila and lot of cayenne peppers. I was Googling for a recipe and found yours the best. Thanks for the recipe.

  30. The recipe looks delicious and made me realize I have a big monster bag of yellow hominy grits in the pantry. These really take closer to 30 minutes to get the nice and creamy though as I got them at the farmer’s market in Baton Rouge and I think they are a little courser grind. Just one thing I had to mention being born and raised in Southern Louisiana, and that is that New Orleans and the old surrounding plantation areas is more Creole cooking as a rule while Lafayette and Acadiana in general is more Cajun cooking. I have lived in the New Orleans area for over 35 years and was in culture shock when I was relocated to Lafayette after Katrina. I still have a hard time as I am very partial to Creole style. There are a lot of similarities and probably a mojority of people think of them as the same thing. Believe me they are not. I have to give it to them though, as much as I love my Creole roots, the Cajun’s do make some good Boudin. Anyway, great recipe and great blog. I agree with some other post in that I might make a little shrimp stock with the shells and maybe a dash of dairy in the grits if I had it handy. Can’t wait to try it however.

  31. Reblogged this on MBSIB: The Man With The Golden Tongs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: