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This quick Southern shrimp and grits recipe is an easy dinner for busy weeknights or a special brunch for a slow Sunday morning! Best of all, the flavorful down-home comfort food is ready in about 30 minutes. Serve the Cajun shrimp and cheese grits with a simple salad, collard greens, cornbread, or biscuits for a delicious meal.

Overhead shot of hands eating a bowl of shrimp and grits

How to Make Shrimp and Grits | 1-Minute Video

Cajun Shrimp and Grits

You just can’t beat the combination of creamy, buttery, cheesy grits topped with zesty, smoky shrimp and bacon. This traditional Southern shrimp and grits recipe is a basic dish that can be adjusted to suit your family’s tastes. Jazz it up with Cajun hot sauce and spices, add sausage to the skillet, throw in some mushrooms, or finish the dish with fresh herbs. With this one recipe in your pocket, a classic dish is just about 30 minutes away…

Making cheese grits in a saucepan

What are Shrimp and Grits?

Shrimp and grits is one of my mom’s favorite meals, so the dish has made a regular appearance on our weeknight dinner table for as long as I can remember. When I asked for her exact recipe, I got the usual response…“I don’t really use a recipe…” Instead, Mom and I chatted about the process of making our shrimp and grits, and I wrote down a more specific recipe from there.

If you’re not familiar with this gem, shrimp and grits is a traditional dish in the Lowcountry of coastal Georgia and South Carolina. These days, you can find shrimp and grits in restaurants all over the south, including here in Virginia. While the combination was originally served as a breakfast dish, we’ve always enjoyed the meal for an easy weeknight dinner. The bottom line? You can eat these all day, every day!

Grits are made from boiled cornmeal, and have a thick consistency that’s similar to cream of wheat. Cooked grits are often topped with sautéed shrimp, which can be seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices. This classic shrimp and grits recipe is simple, using just a handful of basics like bacon, garlic, green onion, lemon juice, and Cajun seasoning for a rustic, uncomplicated, yet flavorful meal.

Frying chopped bacon in a skillet.

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a traditional shrimp and grits recipe. As always, specific measurements and complete step-by-step cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Grits (plus kosher salt and water for cooking): I use quick-cooking grits in this recipe, since they’re ready in about the same amount of time as the shrimp. If using instant grits or stone-ground grits, you’ll need to follow the instructions on your specific package. Simmer the grits in chicken broth instead of water for even more flavor!
  • Butter: gives the grits rich flavor and a smooth texture at the end.
  • Cheese: grated sharp cheddar cheese is a classic addition to make cheesy grits, but you can use white cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, Pepper Jack, Colby, Colby-Jack, mozzarella, American cheese (like Velveeta) or just about any other good melting cheese that you like.
  • Bacon: adds salty, smoky flavor and a nice crispy texture to the dish.
  • Garlic: for savory flavor.
  • Green onions: for a mild onion flavor.
  • Lemon juice: an acidic note to brighten up the dish and cut through the richness.
  • Shrimp: use peeled and deveined shrimp. I like the shrimp with the tails-on, but you can remove them if desired. Any size is fine — just adjust the cooking time accordingly. Larger shrimp will require an extra minute or two in the pan.
  • Cajun or Creole seasoning: a flavorful blend of spices that often includes paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, oregano, and basil. It gives the shrimp a spicy kick!
  • Hot sauce, kosher salt, and ground black pepper: to season the shrimp at the end, if desired. Use the salt sparingly, though, since most Cajun seasoning blends already include some salt.
Adding shrimp to a cast iron skillet

How To Make Shrimp and Grits

You’ll love how quickly this meal comes together! Don’t forget to peel and devein the shrimp before you get started, because the process moves quickly. With just a few basics, you can have a hearty and satisfying brunch or dinner on the table in about 30 minutes.

  1. Cook the grits in a saucepan. Add a cup of grated cheddar cheese and a couple of tablespoons of butter at the very end for a smooth, rich consistency!
  2. While the grits are cooking on the stovetop, fry the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving the drippings in the pan.
  3. Sauté the garlic, green onions, lemon juice, and shrimp with the Cajun seasoning in the bacon drippings, just until the shrimp turn pink. This only takes a few minutes, so keep an eye on the shrimp as they cook.
  4. Return the cooked, crispy bacon back to the skillet. Taste and season the mixture with hot sauce, salt, and pepper, if desired.
  5. Divide the cheesy grits among the serving bowls and top with the shrimp mixture. Garnish with extra sliced green onion, fresh thyme leaves, or chopped fresh parsley. Serve immediately.
Overhead shot of a bowl of Cajun shrimp and grits on a wooden table

What goes with Shrimp and Grits?

This spicy, smoky, cheesy shrimp and grits recipe pairs nicely with so many different Southern sides. Here are some ideas to try:

If you’re pairing wine with your shrimp and grits, look for a light, dry white wine to balance the rich, buttery meal. Try a Sauvignon Blanc (which is perfect with the garlicky shrimp) or a Pinot Grigio, for example.

Southern shrimp and grits recipe served with cornbread

Preparation and Storage Tips

  • This dish is best when served fresh. While you can certainly reheat the grits and the shrimp separately just before serving, the texture of both of these components is not ideal when prepared ahead of time and then re-warmed.
  • Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. I recommend storing the grits and the shrimp in separate containers, because they will need different amounts of time to properly reheat.
  • Store cooked grits in one container and cooked shrimp in a separate airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months.
  • How to Reheat: Again, it’s not my preference to prepare shrimp and grits in advance. However, if you don’t want your leftovers to go to waste, you can place cold grits in a bowl and add a splash of water or milk. Reheat in the microwave a minute at a time, stirring frequently, until it warms and becomes creamy again. When nearly ready, add the shrimp to the bowl and microwave about another minute or so until hot.

Recipe Variations

  • You can purchase instant grits, quick grits, or stone-ground grits. I use quick grits in this recipe, but any variety will work — you’ll just need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  • Make creamy shrimp and grits by adding a splash of heavy cream to the skillet with the shrimp at the very end. Allow the cream to bubble and thicken slightly before serving.
  • Instead of sharp cheddar, use just about any variety of good melting cheese that you like. Try white cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, Pepper Jack, Colby, Colby-Jack, mozzarella, or American cheese (like Velveeta).
  • Replace the lemon juice with a dash of red wine vinegar.
  • Finely diced yellow onion is a fine substitute for the green onion. It might require a few extra minutes in the skillet to soften, so add it before adding the rest of the ingredients.
  • Add about 2 cups of sliced mushrooms, celery, or chopped red bell peppers to the skillet with the garlic and green onions; sauté until tender, and then add the shrimp as instructed.
  • Add ½ package of thinly sliced kielbasa sausage or andouille sausage to the skillet with the garlic and green onions; sauté until browned, and then add the shrimp as instructed.
Side shot of a bowl of the best shrimp and grits recipe on a wooden table

tips for the best shrimp and grits recipe

  • We prefer extra large or jumbo shrimp in this recipe (16-20 count per pound), but any size shrimp will work. Leave the tail on the peeled shrimp for a “fancy” touch!
  • The total cooking time will vary depending on the size of your shrimp. You know the shrimp are done when they turn pink and opaque. Be careful that you don’t overcook the shrimp or they will become tough and rubbery.
  • Garnish the dish with sliced green onion or chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme, or rosemary for a colorful, bright finishing touch and extra flavor.
  • This shrimp and grits recipe has 438 calories per serving and it’s packed with filling protein for a hearty, satisfying meal. The dish is not low-carb or Keto-friendly. The ingredients in this recipe are naturally gluten-free — just make sure that you check your specific ingredients to make sure that they are not contaminated with gluten.
Overhead image of hands eating a bowl of cheesy shrimp and grits
Square overhead shot of a bowl of shrimp and grits.

Southern Shrimp and Grits Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 438 kcal
This quick Southern shrimp and grits recipe is an easy dinner for busy weeknights or a special brunch for a slow Sunday morning!

Ingredients
  

FOR THE GRITS:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup quick-cooking grits (not instant grits)
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cubed

FOR THE SHRIMP:

  • 6 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • ½ cup sliced green onions (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • Optional garnish: additional sliced green onions, chopped fresh parsley, chopped fresh rosemary, or fresh thyme leaves

Instructions

COOK THE GRITS:

  • In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk in the grits and salt. Return to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for about 5-7 minutes (or until thick and smooth), stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat. Add the cheese and butter; whisk or stir until melted and smooth.

COOK THE SHRIMP:

  • While you cook the grits, fry the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving the drippings in the skillet.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the garlic, green onions, lemon juice, and shrimp to the skillet. Sprinkle with Cajun seasoning. Cook just until the shrimp are pink and opaque, about 2-4 minutes.
  • Return bacon to the skillet. Taste and season the dish with salt, pepper, and hot sauce, to taste.
  • Divide the grits among serving bowls. Top with shrimp mixture, garnish with green onions or herbs, and serve immediately.

Video

Notes

  • We prefer extra large or jumbo shrimp in this recipe (16-20 count per pound), but any size shrimp will work. Leave the tail on the peeled shrimp for a “fancy” touch!
  • The total cooking time will vary depending on the size of your shrimp. You know the shrimp are done when they turn pink and opaque. Be careful that you don’t overcook the shrimp or they will become tough and rubbery.
  • You can purchase instant grits, quick grits, or stone-ground grits. I use quick grits in this recipe, but any variety will work — you’ll just need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  • Make creamy shrimp and grits by adding a splash of heavy cream to the skillet with the shrimp at the very end. Allow the cream to bubble and thicken slightly before serving.
  • Instead of sharp cheddar, use just about any variety of good melting cheese that you like. Try white cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, Pepper Jack, Colby, Colby-Jack, mozzarella, or American cheese (like Velveeta).
  • Replace the lemon juice with a dash of red wine vinegar.
  • Finely diced yellow onion is a fine substitute for the green onion. It might require a few extra minutes in the skillet to soften, so add it before adding the rest of the ingredients.
  • Add about 2 cups of sliced mushrooms, celery, or chopped red bell peppers to the skillet with the garlic and green onions; sauté until tender, and then add the shrimp as instructed.
  • Add ½ package of thinly sliced kielbasa sausage or andouille sausage to the skillet with the garlic and green onions; sauté until browned, and then add the shrimp as instructed.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 of the recipeCalories: 438kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 15gFat: 29gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 66mgSodium: 1185mgPotassium: 207mgFiber: 2gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 1011IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 227mgIron: 2mg
Keyword: shrimp and grits, shrimp and grits recipe
Course: Breakfast, Brunch, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in April, 2020. It was updated in April, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I had always been intrigued by Shrimp and Grits, mostly because I love, love, love Shrimp. I had grits once at a restaurant in Arkansas many years ago (my husband’s family is from there), but it was boring!!!! I finally mustered up the courage and went searching for a recipe. I am so so happy I found this recipe. It was a huge hit. In fact, there were no leftovers. One change I did make was to take a big spoon sized helping of the bacon grease out because it seemed like so much. I did use thick-sliced bacon so maybe that made a difference. I will definitely add this to my GO TO recipes. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi, Connie! Yes, thick-sliced bacon will definitely yield more drippings, so I’m glad you thought to make that adjustment. I’m also thrilled that you enjoyed the recipe — it’s one of my mom’s favorites, and she’s passed the love down to me! 🙂