This Creamy Shrimp and Grits recipe is the perfect meal if you want to serve an impressive dish that is super simple to throw together and packed with flavor. The rich bacon and shrimp sauce is served on a bed of creamy, smooth grits and topped with sliced green onions and hot sauce. Plus, it’s ready in 30 minutes or less! It’s a total New Orleans culinary experience in the comfort of your own home.
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Homemade Creamy Shrimp and Grits Recipe
This shrimp and grits recipe is surprisingly simple and a lot easier to make than it looks. The lemon, white wine, and chives keep the dish fresh and light. Shrimp and grits can sometimes be too heavy and saturated with butter. Using herbs and citrus gives the dish flavor without packing on the calories.
Shrimp and grits is a popular Creole dish served in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, but it is actually believed to have originated in the Gullah region and Low Country of Charleston, South Carolina, more than 70 years ago when fresh, local, small, peeled shrimp were fried in bacon grease with onions and green peppers and served alongside grits at breakfast. While it got its start as a pauper’s dish,
This dish can be served as breakfast, brunch, or dinner, and is simple enough to make on a busy weeknight or as a late-morning delicacy on the weekends. It’s delicious all on it’s own, but you can complete the meal with a side salad and some homemade biscuits.
What’s the Difference Between Grits and Polenta
Making my shrimp and grits got me thinking what is the true difference between grits and polenta?
From my research, I found it really just depends on who you ask. Southerners refer to it as grits, whereas the Italian version is known as polenta. Both are made from stone-ground cornmeal, which is corn that is dried and then ground into a small grain. Grits are typically made from hominy, whereas polenta is made from a corn called flint. Sound confusing? It’s not. If your wandering around the grocery store aisle here is what to look for: if you can’t find something labeled grits or polenta grab the stone ground cornmeal. The differences between grits and polenta are pretty slim. I would suggest giving them both a try to see which you prefer!
Shrimp and Grits Ingredients
There is nothing worse than hard dense grits. I used milk, broth and butter to make sure my grits are smooth and creamy!
- Milk: I like to use whole milk to keep the grits nice and decedent.
- Chicken broth: Is added for flavor as well as thinning out the grits.
- Quick cooking grits: Are a finer texture than regular or old fashioned grits and they cook up a lot faster. You can use old fashioned or regular grits but make sure to cook them for 10-15 minutes longer. Learn more about the different types of grits here.
- Butter: You can’t have grits without butter! I like to use unsalted butter and adjust to taste.
- Cheddar cheese
Shrimp and bacon sauce
- Bacon: Adds a nice smokiness to the sauce. Save the bacon grease! That’s what we cook our shrimp in!
- Shrimp: I like to use medium or large shrimp deveined. For presentation I like to peel the shells except for the tail but you can always peel the whole shrimp with tail if you prefer. The quickest and best way to defrost shrimp will still preserve the taste and texture is to run cold water over it until it’s defrosted.
- Cajun seasoning: Make your own cajun seasoning (it’s super easy and all of the ingredients are pantry staples!) Or use store bought.
- Garlic: I like to add 2 cloves of minced garlic to the sauce.
- White wine: Use good quality white wine that you would drink for best flavor. If you don’t want to use wine chicken broth could be substituted.
- Lemon juice: Adds a nice acidity to the sauce and helps to balance out the richness of the bacon.
For the shrimp and bacon sauce, you’ll need the following ingredients: 4 slices of bacon (I like thick-cut, but use whatever you prefer), 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 20 medium shrimp (deveined and shells removed, except for the tail), 1 teaspoon cajun seasoning (or more to taste), 2 minced cloves garlic, 1/4 cup white wine, and 1/2 juiced lemon. The best part of this shrimp and bacon sauce is that the flavors are built on top of each other, getting better with each ingredient. The foundation is built on the bacon and bacon grease, which gives the shrimp a rich, savory flavor profile. Then the garlic, butter, white wine, and lemon juice are added to deglaze the pan and meld with the shrimp and pork flavors. Simply put, this sauce is divine and pairs perfectly with the creamy, mellow grits.
Serve the shrimp and bacon sauce on a bed of the grits, then garnish with sliced green onions and a few dashes of hot sauce. Perfection!
How To Make the Best Homemade Shrimp and Grits Recipe
- Cook the Grits: First, bring the milk and chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly add in grits while whisking continuously to prevent lumps. Over medium heat, cook grits for about 4 to 5 minutes, until they’re thick.
Remove from heat and stir in the salt, pepper, 2 tbsp butter, and cheese. Whisk until smooth and incorporated. Cover and turn the heat to low until you are ready to serve.
- Cook the Bacon: Once your grits is made, add the bacon to a large skillet, and cook until golden brown and crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan, and transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. When the bacon is completely cooled, crumble or chop it into smaller bite size pieces. Do not drain the bacon grease or wash that pan!
- Cook the Shrimp: Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the same pan the bacon was cooked in withe the leftover bacon grease. Heat over medium-high heat until melted, and add the peeled, deveined shrimp. Sauté until pink and no longer opaque, 3-4 minutes. Add in garlic, and cook for an additional minute, until aromatic.
- Prepare the Sauce: Remove the shrimp from the pan, and set aside on a plate. Add in the white wine, and scrape the brown bites off the bottom of the pan. Stir in the lemon juice, and add the shrimp and crumbled bacon back to the pan.
- Serve: Spoon grits in individual bowls and top with the shrimp mixture. Drizzle each bowl with extra sauce from the bottom of the pan. Serve with green onions and hot sauce, if desired. Enjoy!
PRO TIP: Grits will thicken up the longer they cook. If you have them on low heat for a while, you may need to add additional milk or broth to thin them out before serving.)
Variations on Traditional Shrimp and Grits
- Craving some spice? Add some diced jalapeños, crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or dice poblanos to the bacon sauce.
- Not a fan of cheese grits? Leave out the shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Just keep in mind you may need to add more butter, milk, and/or broth to compensate.
- Looking for more protein? Add some sliced or diced smoked sausage like Connecuh or even turkey sausage.
- Change up the cheese in your grits! Pepper jack, gouda, or white cheddar (or a combo of any of these) would be delicious!
- Add more vegetables! In addition to the garlic, you could use shallot, onion, diced bell or sweet peppers, or even minced mushrooms to pack in more veggies.
- Swap the bacon for diced pancetta for an even richer pork flavor!
How To Store, Freeze, and Reheat Shrimp and Grits
- To Store: Allow leftover grits and shrimp to cool completely, then store in separate airtight containers. The grits will keep for 4-5 days, and the shrimp with keep for up to two days in the fridge.
- To Freeze: We did not test freezing this recipe, but cooked shrimp tends to have a weird texture when frozen and then thawed. So, if you’re making this ahead of time and plan to freeze, you could try making the shrimp and bacon sauce and freezing all together, but we would recommend just making the bacon sauce without the shrimp, then preparing the shrimp on the day you plan to serve the dish. Do not freeze grits; just make on the day you plan to serve.
- To Reheat: Allow frozen sauce to thaw in the fridge overnight, then heat it in a saucepan over medium heat until it’s simmering, then add thawed shrimp and cook until pink, 3-4 minutes. Prepare the grits as instructed above. If reheating from the fridge, simply plate the grits with the sauce and shrimp, then microwave for 1-2 minutes until warmed through.
More Recipes To Try
If you enjoyed this Homemade Shrimp and Grits recipe, then you’ll love these other simple, savory dishes:
- Huevos Rancheros
- Cilantro Lime Shrimp and Rice
- Cajun Chicken Pasta Bake
- Kung Pao Shrimp
- Hoisin Glazed Salmon and Veggies in Foil
- 20-Minute Teriyaki Shrimp
Creamy Shrimp & Grits
- Bring the milk and chicken broth to a boil. Slowly add in grits while whisking continuously. Over medium heat, cook grits for about 4 to 5 minutes until they thicken up.
- Take off of the heat and add in salt, pepper, 2 tbsp butter and cheese. Whisk until smooth and lump free. Turn the heat to low until you are ready to serve. (Note: grits will thicken up the longer they cook. If you have them on low heat for a while you may need to add additional butter or milk to thin out the grits).
- Meanwhile add bacon to a large skillet and cook until golden brown and crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. When the bacon is cool crumble or chop it into smaller bite size pieces. Do not drain the bacon grease!
- Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the same pan the bacon was cooked in. Heat over medium high heat and add in shrimp. Sprinkle with cajun seasoning and saute until fully cooked and no longer opaque, 3-4 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside on a plate. Add in the wine and scrape the brown bites off the bottom of the pan.
- Stir in the lemon juice and add the shrimp and crumbled bacon back to the pan.
- To serve place grits in individual bowls and top with the shrimp mixture. Drizzle each bowl with extra sauce from the bottom of the pan. Serve with green onions and hot sauce, if desired.