Along with boiled peanuts and fried chicken, shrimp and grits are nearly synonymous with southern cooking. The funny thing is, the dish isn’t nearly as classic as you might think. Serious Eats explained it started off as a humble breakfast meal folks in Charleston, S.C., ate during shrimp season. It wasn’t until the 1980s that shrimp and grits made a restaurant debut, featuring cheese-spiked cornmeal mush and sautéed shrimp with bacon and mushrooms. The rise to fine dining happened in the 1990s, and now you can find versions at eateries across the country. Though chefs like to add their own twist, most versions stay true to the dish’s southern roots.
Yet, both shrimp and grits, or similar corn products, appear in dishes all over the world. It seems kind of silly to limit the combination of the two ingredients to flavors from one geographic area. Now, you don’t have to. We found five fantastic recipes that bring something new to shrimp and grits. And just like southern versions, these recipes taste great whether it’s morning, noon, or night.
1. Shrimp and Grits By Way of Spain
Serrano ham is sort of like the bacon of Spain. It adds a rich, salty flavor to just about any dish, and pretty much everyone loves it. Introduce the cured pork to some new ingredients with Food52’s Spanish-inspired recipe. The shrimp cook in a blend of spices, wine, and tomatoes, which creates a delicious stew. Ladle the mixture on top of some Parmesan grits, top with the ham, and dig into a soul-satisfying meal.
- 1 cup coarse cornmeal
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups, plus 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled, and deveined
- 3 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 pinch cayenne
- ¼ garlic powder
- ½ cup diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon white wine
- 1 ounce Serrano ham, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine milk, 2 cups water, and salt, and bring to a boil. Whisk in cornmeal, and let simmer 30 to 40 minutes, whisking frequently. Keep extra 1 cup water warm and add, as needed, to keep polenta loose.
Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add ham, and cook until crispy. Set aside.
Toss shrimp with olive oil, oregano, paprika, cayenne, and garlic. Using same skillet, cook in oven 4 minutes. Remove pan, and increase heat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Flip shrimp over, and add tomatoes and wine. Return to oven to finish cooking, about 5 minutes longer.
About 5 minutes prior to serving, whisk butter into polenta, followed by cheese. Spoon into bowls, and top with shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with ham, parsley, and green onions.
2. Mexican Shrimp and Grits
Tacos and tamales pretty much prove chorizo and corn belong together, so give the combination a new spin by making chef Richard Sandoval’s Mexican Shrimp and Grits, which was featured on The Daily Meal. This recipe is perfect for days when you don’t have tons of time to spare, because it replaces the slowly cooked grits with canned hominy. It’s every bit as tasty, but a lot speedier.
Begin by browning the chorizo, then add some onion and peppers. Make a quick roux right in the bottom of the pan, whisk in the clam juice and hominy, and allow the mixture to thicken. Let the shrimp cook right in the hot broth, then whisk in a bit of cream and lime juice. A sprinkle of cilantro makes a great finishing touch.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 8 ounces Mexican chorizo, diced
- ½ cup diced white onion
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch cubes
- 1 poblano pepper, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch cubes
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- 1 quart clam juice
- 2 (15-ounce) cans hominy, drained, and rinsed
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled, and deveined
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Juice of ½ lime
- Cilantro leaves
Directions: Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add chorizo. Cook 3 minutes, then add onion and peppers, and cook 2 minutes longer. Add flour, and mix well, and cook just a bit.
Slowly stir in clam juice and hominy. Bring mixture to a simmer, and let thicken slightly. Add shrimp, and cook until just cooked through. Remove from heat ,and stir in cream and lime juice. Serve garnished with cilantro.
3. Coconut Curry Shrimp and Grits
If you’re a little bit tired of resorting to rice for your stir-fries and stews, this curried shrimp and grits recipe from builicious is a great alternative. A fragrant broth made with lemongrass, ginger, and chiles only takes about 15 minutes thanks to some purchased chicken stock. Though you can use a traditional low-and-slow recipe for the grits, opt for quick-cooking polenta to speed things along.
- 4 servings of prepared grits
- 1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled, and deveined
- 6 cayenne peppers
- 3 lemongrass stalks
- 1 small ginger root, peeled
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Thai basil, chopped
- Red pepper flakes
Directions: Chop ginger into ¼-inch-thick slices. Cut chiles into ½-inch diagonal slices. Remove outer layer of lemongrass, and remove root and leafy tops. Chop into 2-inch pieces.
In a small pot, cook garlic until lightly golden. Remove from heat, and add broth, ginger, chiles, lemongrass, curry, salt, and sugar. Cover, and simmer over medium heat 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, strain broth, and return to same pot.
Add shrimp to broth and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until just cooked. Stir in coconut milk. While stirring constantly, stir in cornstarch mixture. Let simmer just until thickened. Serve over grits, and garnish with basil and pepper flakes.
4. Italian Shrimp and Grits
There’s long been confusion about the difference between grits and polenta. Apart from knowing one comes from the southern U.S. and the other from Italy, not many people seem to have an answer. According to The Kitchn, polenta is made from flint corn while grits are usually ground from a variety called dent corn. Once cooked, polenta tends to retain more of a toothsome texture. But really, you can use whatever your grocery store carries.
Whether you pick team polenta or team grits, the creamy corn base tastes fantastic with some Italian cheeses and a pinch of spicy pepper flakes. Try the recipe from A Spicy Perspective, then top the delicious base with a simple sauté of pancetta, shrimp, and garlic. Southern-Italian fusion might not be trendy, but it’s tasty.
- 1 cup quick-cooking polenta
- 4 cups chicken stock, plus 1 cup water
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cups shredded Italian cheeses, such as Asiago and fontina
- 3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled, and deveined
- ½ pound pancetta, diced into small cubes
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ cup sliced sun-dried red peppers
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained
- ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Directions: In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups stock, 1 cup water, and pepper flakes to a boil. Add polenta, and whisk to combine. Reduce heat to lowest setting, and cook until water is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Turn off heat, and stir in cheeses and cream. Season with salt, to taste. Cover, and keep warm.
Fry pancetta over medium heat in a large skillet. Once crisp, add garlic and shrimp, and cook until just done, 3 to 4 minutes, flipping once. Add lemon juice, peppers, capers, and parsley. Toss to combine, and remove from heat.
Divide polenta among plates, and top with shrimp mixture. Drizzle with olive oil, and serve.
5. Ginger-Garlic Shrimp and Grits
Savory soy and miso give this Asian-inspired shrimp and grits recipe from Country Living a savory flavor that’s irresistible. Unlike most other recipes combining the shellfish and cornmeal, this version doesn’t contain any other meat, so it’s perfect to make for friends who stick with seafood. Chives are a nice garnish, but we also like cilantro.
- 1 (1-inch) piece of ginger, grated
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white miso paste
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled, and deveined
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup uncooked, stone-ground grits
- ½ cup crumbled goat cheese
- 1 small jalapeño, minced
- 2 tablespoons unslated butter
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Chopped chives
Directions: In a small bowl, whisk ginger, oil, miso paste, soy sauce, and garlic to combine. Transfer to a 2-gallon zip-top bag, and add shrimp, Massage to coat, and refrigerate 1 to 4 hours.
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 4 cups water, milk, and grits to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring often, until grits are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, chile, butter, pepper, and salt. Set aside.
Heat skillet over high heat. Cook shrimp just until pink, about 2 minutes on each side. Divide grits among four bowls. Top with shrimp. Serve, garnished with pepper and chives.