How To Make Classic Southern Shrimp and Grits in Just 30 Minutes

Spicy, sausage-studded and piquant shrimp over creamy savory corn grits is the dish I make most often when I’m homesick for the South. After living in Georgia for 12 years (but recently relocating to the Pacific Northwest), this stunning but humble dish is the one I crave most.

Timing is everything when it comes to cooking shrimp and grits at home. While it can feel like a laborious meal, since you’re essentially cooking two dishes at once — creamy boiled grits and quickly sautéed vegetables and shrimp — this step-by-step method will simplify things. Here’s how you can make super-flavorful shrimp and grits in just 30 minutes on any weeknight.

How to Make Faster (but Still Flavorful!) Shrimp and Grits

This recipe for shrimp and grits starts with a clever tip for jump-starting the grits that I learned from Southern chef Sean Brock. You combine the grits and their cooking water (plus bay leaves for aroma) and bring them quickly to a boil. Then, remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let the warm water soften the grits. While the grits are soaking, you’ll peel and devein the shrimp. Then, you’ll flavor the shrimp by sautéing it with a few shortcut ingredients, namely canned tomatoes, green onions, and creole seasoning (which saves you from using oodles of individual spices).

The first time you cook this recipe it might take you more like 35 minutes to pull it off, but the dish’s flavors and textures will make the five extra minutes worth it. Then, when this recipe becomes a weeknight standard in your house (which it will), you can speed up the steps for an even faster weeknight dinner.

What to Buy for Classic Shrimp and Grits

In an ideal world, we’d all be getting fresh coastal shrimp for our shrimp and grits — but we’ll settle for frozen shrimp with the shell on. Shell-on shrimp require more work from you, the home cook, but the shell protects the shrimp during freezing, shipping, and thawing, and it keeps them flavorful. Buy at least one pound of large shrimp (31/35 per pound) whose large shape will help keep them from overcooking in the pan.

Get more peeling info: How To Peel & Devein Shrimp

Skip quick-cooking grits — they have less flavor — and instead buy stone-ground corn grits. You can make these grits cook faster by soaking them, even for just 10 minutes, before boiling them.

Lastly, take a shortcut in seasoning your shrimp by investing in creole seasoning. I’m a life-long fan of Tony Chacheres Seasoning Creole, which is easy to find in most grocery stores or can be ordered online. This spice blend packs a powerful punch of peppers, chilis, garlic, and more.

Shrimp and Grits, Step by Step

There’s a bit of “meanwhile” cooking that happens when making shrimp and grits. Let’s take a look at the steps that happen at the same time.

  • Get the grits started on their quick soak. While they soak, peel and devein the shrimp.
  • Bring the grits to a boil and let them simmer. While they get creamy, sauté the vegetables for the shrimp.
  • Wait to cook the shrimp in the tomato mixture until the grits are tender. You don’t want to overcook the shrimp while waiting on the grits to finish.

Serving Shrimp and Grits

The final step in shrimp and grits is bringing the two together. Finishing the grits with a little butter and cheese makes them super creamy and helps mellow the spices of the shrimp. Be sure to serve the shrimp with lots of the saucy tomatoes and a sprinkle of green onions over the grits — it brings these two dishes together in a comforting fast and flavorful dinner.

How To Make Classic Southern Shrimp and Grits in Just 30 Minutes

Ingredients

For the grits:

  • 4cups

    water

  • 1 1/2 cups

    corn grits, preferably stone-ground

  • 2

    bay leaves

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 4 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup

    finely grated Parmesan cheese

For the shrimp:

  • 1 pound

    raw, large (31/35 per pound), shell-on shrimp

  • 1 teaspoon

    olive oil

  • 4 ounces

    Andouille sausage, sliced into half-moons

  • 1

    large green bell pepper, small dice

  • 4

    medium scallions, thinly sliced, dark green parts reserved for garnish

  • 2 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can

    petite diced tomatoes

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon

    Creole seasoning

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Equipment

Measuring cups and spoons

Chef’s knife and cutting board

Large saucepan with lid

Kitchen shears

Large skillet

Paring knife

Colander

Wooden spoon or spatula

Instructions

  1. Heat and soak the grits. Combine the water, grits, bay leaves, and salt in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Immediately turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, clean the shrimp.

  2. Peel and devein the shrimp. Clean the shrimp: insert the tip of a pair of kitchen shears between the shrimp and the top of its shell, and begin cutting through the shell down the length of the shrimp. Stop when you get to the tail. Peel back the shell from either side and discard. Pinch the tail where it meets the body of the shrimp and gently pull. The rest of the shrimp should pull cleanly out of the tail. Gently run your paring knife along the back of the shrimp. Gently pull up the vein with the tip of your paring knife, starting near the top and continuing to the bottom, and remove the vein.

  3. Boil the grits. Return the grits to medium-high heat and boil uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir the grits occasionally, scraping the bottom to prevent clumping or burning. While the grits cook, get the shrimp mixture started in another pan.

  4. Cook the sausage and tomato mixture. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the sausage and cook until browned, about 1 minute per side. Add the bell pepper, scallions, and garlic, and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices, oregano, Creole seasoning, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the juices thicken, about 6 minutes. You can keep the sauce warm over low heat until the grits are ready.

  5. Finish the grits. The grits are done when all of the water is absorbed and the grits are al dente (tender with a toothsome bite). Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaves. Add the butter and cheese and stir until melted and combined.

  6. Cook the shrimp just before serving. When the grits are ready, add the shrimp to the tomato mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are opaque and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.

  7. Serve the shrimp mixture over the grits. Divide the grits between serving bowls and top with a generous spoonful of the shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with the reserved scallions greens and serve hot.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 3 days.

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