Shrimp and grits, a delightfully rich staple dish here in the South, they are something I never miss trying when I see them on a menu. Everyone creates this dish with a twist adding something like red-eye gravy or country ham. I find with most things in life, simple is best, and this recipe is that. I promise you, they may not be pretty, but this is the BEST EVER Shrimp and Grits recipe you will ever try!
You might be wondering, who first married the iconic ingredients Shrimp and Grits into a southern cuisine recipe.
Grits’ in America were a Native American dish; the Muskogee tribe prepared Indian corn by grinding it a stone mill, they cooked grits with water over heat to soften them and ate their grits topped with milk and honey. The idea then passed to American settlers as the Indian began trading goods. This is crazy, yes, hominy grits traded like money. They had value, and after you try this recipe you will know why!!
Now, the earliest written recipe came from descendants of West African slaves living in the Gullah coast region of South Carolina and Georgia. Often paid with grits, our low-country Gullah residents were the first known people to add shrimp as a protein to their grits as a meal.
Then, along came Bill Neal
As Resident chef in 1985 at Crook’s Corner, Chapel Hill, NC, Mr. Neal forever changed the status of the low country shrimp and grits recipe. Here’s where it gets good, using a simple recipe of grits fused with both Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses he topped his dish with sauteed’ jumbo shrimp and bacon. When Craig Claiborne tasted Bill Neal’s dish then published it in The New York Times Neal’s recipe started popping up on fancy menus everywhere with small changes here and there as chef’s embraced this yummy southern comfort food. Twenty-nine years and two chefs later, I encourage you to read about the two Bill’s at Crook’s Corner, fascinating story!
The recipe I am about to share is my husband Bill’s (maybe it’s a Bill thing?). It has turned grit haters into grit lovers. Based on an Emeril Lagasse recipe Bill’s been making this for years; adding foodie faves, bacon and garlic, he changed the original recipe, tweeking it to shrimp grits perfection!
Not like other recipes I will tell you right off, it isn’t pretty, but it IS decadent and delicious.
Each time I took this dish to a pot-luck it would get passed up for dishes more pleasing to the eye as people moved along the table taking a little of this-and-that. I’d watch as eventually one person would place a spoonful on their plate. I watched as they took a bite then opened their eyes wide turning to their neighbor to say something like, “Oh my gosh, did you try this! This is amazing!” Before long, my bowl would be empty, gone, scraped to the bottom and I could NOT bring anything but these shrimp grits to the next party. Bonus: Bill insists on MAKING them, so all I do is receive the praise!
I know I am treading on sacred ground for Southern Foodies when claiming this to be the best shrimp and grits recipe ever, but they are THAT good!
So I encourage you, even if you are not a lover of grits, give this shrimp and grits recipe a try. And, if you love shrimp and grits, you are in for a treat!
Easy to Make This IS the BEST EVER Shrimp and Grits Recipe
- 1½ pounds medium shrimp peeled, deveined and cut in half
- 1½ Tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
- Black pepper
- 12 slices of Bacon crumbled
- 2 - 3 Tablespoons Rendered Bacon fat
- 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 3 T chopped garlic (we use garlic in a jar)
- 2 cups beef stock
- 3 cups half and half
- 1½ cups quick cooking white grits
- ½ cup fresh grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
- Paprika (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- Place bacon side by side on an aluminum foil covered baking pan.
- Bake bacon in the oven for 8 minutes, turn and bake an additional 4-8 minutes checking it
- While bacon is cooking, in a mixing bowl toss together the cleaned and cut shrimp with Old Bay Seasoning and 1-2 Tbs. fine chopped garlic, set aside.
- In a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat add approx 2-3 Tbs. bacon fat.
- Add the onions and additional 1 Tbs. of garlic and cook till soft, seasoning with a little more salt and pepper, about 2 minutes stirring occasionally.
- In a separate frying pan gently saute the cut shrimp and garlic until shrimp lose their transparency, about 2 -3 minutes and set aside (this assures the shrimp do not overcook in the grits).
- Add the stock and half and half to the bacon fat, onion and garlic in the pot, taste for seasoning adding salt and pepper if needed.
- Bring the liquid to a gentle boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 2-3 minutes stirring constantly to not scald the half and half.
- Add the grits STIR CONSTANTLY until they begin to thicken at about 5 minutes.
- Add the shrimp and ¾'s of the crumbled bacon, continue to stir until the liquid is absorbed and the grits are thick and creamy, approximately another 5 minutes.
- Add the Parmesan cheese, stir to melt and mix it in thoroughly.
- Serve warm, , toss the remaining crumbled bacon on top and sprinkle with Paprika.
- If you want to add the gravy see the recipe in the post.
You can stop right here if you want. For a decade we served this without the gravy. It’s only recently we added it. If you like the idea of a gravy, continue.
1/4 cup diced onions
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme
1/2 pound shrimp – diced small
1/.2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 cup seafood stock
1-2 Tablespoon cornstarch to 1/4 cup Water to make a slurry
1 teaspoon chopped parsley (optional)
Melt butter, add onions, garlic and thyme sauté gently until soft and caramelized.
Add shrimp and saute an additional 5 minutes.
Add seafood stock and salt, simmer 10 minutes
Combine cornstarch with a little water, stir into simmering gravy base, bringing it to a gentle boil. Once it reaches boiling point it is as thick as it will get. If you prefer it thicker add a little more water and cornstarch mixture until you reach the thickness you like best.
Remove from heat, taste for seasoning adding salt and pepper if needed , stir in parsley.
I hope you enjoy this recipe for as many years as we have. It is one of those recipes that delights people, and for that reason is fun to make. I love pleasing people with exceptional food, and this Shrimp and Grits recipe is our favorite thing to make for guests.
As the Gullah would say, EENJY WIT YO FR’EN’
Please share: Easy to Make This IS the BEST EVER Shrimp and Grits Recipe on Social Media to spread the love and sign up as a V.I.P. so you do not miss a morsel. Bill is on a roll and going to share his Shrimp Risotto recipe too! Pure heaven, I promise!
With a smile, Bill and Carlyn 🙂