This post is all about authentic southern shrimp and grits, a southern brunch delicacy that warms the soul. The grits and loaded with cream and cheese, topped with crisp bacon, seared shrimp, and drizzled in a flavorful buttery sauce made from the pan drippings.
There are two things that are true about southern cooking. We
heavily perfectly season our food and we overdo it on the butter, cheese, and all things comforting and decadent.
So if you are searching for an authentic low country southern shrimp and grits recipe it’s best to take it from someone who actually lives in the deep south and has too much experience eating southern cuisine.
These grits are indulgently cheesy and creamy, the shrimp is coated in a Cajun seasoning and seared to perfection. To those pan drippings we add some butter, aromatics, peppers, seasonings, and a dash of heavy cream. Then finally that luscious sauce gets spooned over this bowl of love.
This post is all about how to make the cheesiest, most indulgent and perfectly seasoned southern shrimp and grits.
Key Ingredients for Southern Shrimp and Grits:
Large Shrimp – large deveined and peeled shrimp. Medium-sized shrimp can work as well if large ones are unavailable.
Seasonings and Hot Sauce – the key to outstanding shrimp and grits is ensuring they are perfectly and liberally seasoned. You want this dish to be exploding in flavor.
Quick Grits – avoid instant grits but traditional grits work as well they just take a bit longer. Quick grits are my favorite go-to for any grit recipe.
Aromatics – garlic, green onions, and Calabrian peppers are used in this dish to intensify the flavor.
Butter – a no-brainer. Butter truly makes it better. And by “it” I mean everything on earth.
Cream – we use heavy cream in the grits and also a splash in the pan drippings to add a little creaminess.
Cheese – from cream cheese to cheddar and mozzarella, we use lots of cheese in these grits.
How To Make Southern Shrimp and Grits:
I’d consider this dish relatively easy. From start to finish, it took me about 30 minutes or less to pull this together. It’s perfect for a lazy Sunday since you can do this is just two pans/pots and be eating in no time.
- Prepare the grits by boiling chicken stock in a pot, slowly add in the grits, whisking quickly as you go to avoid clumping. Allow grits to cook until they are tender (about 5 minutes). As the grits cook, in a separate pan cook the diced bacon until crispy.
- Into the grits add the cream, cream cheese, butter and cheeses. Stir until melted and incorporated, season with salt and pepper and adjust as needed. Cover and keep warm while preparing shrimp.
- Set aside crispy bacon pieces and reserve half of the pan drippings and set aside. Cook the seasoned shrimp in the bacon fat over medium high to give them a little bit of color. Cook them on both sides, flipping only once, until they are no longer opaque, about 4 minutes total. You may need to cook these in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. If so, use the reserved bacon fat.
- Remove the shrimp and tent with foil. In the same pan, add butter, garlic, scallions and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the seasonings and peppers, allowing to cook another minute, scraping up all the brown pan bits. Add a splash of chicken stock, a squeeze of lemon, dash or Worcestershire, splash of cream. Whisk until it comes together as a sauce. Add the shrimp back into the pan, tossing to coat. Add a handful of chopped parsley.
- Add spoonfuls of grits into the bowl then top with shrimp and spoon over the pan sauce and enjoy!
Calabrian Chili Paste Substitutes:
Calabrian Chili paste can be tricky to find. However, a jar of whole or chopped Calabrian chilies is easily found at specialty markets like Fresh Market, Whole Foods, etc. You can use whole or chopped Calabrian chilies and just dice them finely to create the chili paste.
You can find Calabrian chili paste HERE on Amazon:
Harissa – a middle eastern red chili pepper paste can be used as a substitute
Chili Crunch – an Asian-inspired universal chili oil with crunchy garlic and shallots
Avoiding Clumpy Grits (A Big NO NO!)
Sometimes the simplest items can be the hardest to master (think, rice). Grits is one of those super easy items to cook that can be easily failed if you don’t follow an easy preparation method. Clumpy lumpy grits are a fail. They are chewy and awkward to eat. The good news is that we can easy avoid this by quick whisking as you slowly pour the grits into the boiling liquid.
Tools I Use for Southern Shrimp and Grits:
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The Best True Southern Shrimp and Grits
- 5 strips bacon, diced
- 3 tablespoons cajun seasoning, divided store-bought or mine is listed below
- olive oil
- salt, seasoning salt, and pepper
Shrimp & Pan Sauce
- 1.5 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced white and green parts
- 2 tablespoons calibrian peppers crushed/paste + a spoonful of it's oil any chili peppers in oil will work as a substitute or chili crisp, harissa, etc.
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh squeezed
- 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup quick grits you can use regular grits but avoid instant.
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
- 3/4 cup pepper jack or monterey jack, shredded
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 3/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
- 1/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper
Cook Grits & Bacon
- Prepare the grits by boiling chicken stock in a pot over medium-high, slowly add in the grits, whisking quickly as you go to avoid clumping. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow grits to cook until they are tender (about 5 minutes). In a large pan cook the diced bacon until crispy then set aside onto paper towels to absorb grease. Reserve half the bacon grease in a bowl and leave remaining drippings in the pan for shrimp.
- Into the cooked grits add the heavy cream, cream cheese and butter. Then add the cheeses and stir until cheese has melted, season with seasoned salt and pepper as needed. To thin out the grits to your liking, add a splash more cream and/or stock. Cover and keep warm while preparing shrimp.
Prepare Shrimp & Pan Sauce
- Toss the shrimp in a few dashes of olive oil then seaon your shrimp liberally with cajun seasoning, coating well on all sides. Reserve 1/2 teaspoon of cajun seasoning to add into your pan sauce.
- Cook the seasoned shrimp in the bacon fat (about 2 tablespoons) over medium high. Cook them on both sides, flipping only once, until they are no longer opaque, about 4 minutes total. Remove the shrimp and tent with foil. You may need to cook them in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. If so, use the reserved bacon fat.
- In the same pan, add butter, garlic, scallions and cook until butter melts and garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp cajun seasoning, red pepper flakes, and Calabrian peppers and their oil. Cook for another minute.
- Add chicken stock and scrape up any brown bits from the pan. Add lemon, worcestershire and cream. Whisk until it comes together as a sauce. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper as needed.
- Place the shrimp back into the pan, add the parsley then toss to coat and another dash of lemon juice over the shrimp. Serve this dish by spooning grits into each bowl then top with shrimp, spoon over the pan sauce, and finish off with crisp bacon.