Only love for this easy Creamy Cajun Shrimp and Grits recipe! A classic southern dish of fresh shrimp, crisp bacon, garlic and veggies cooked with cajun seasoning in a buttery sauce over cheesy grits. Super flavorful, gluten-free and on the table in 40 minutes!
Transport yourself to New Orleans and make any day Mardi Gras when firing up the skillet for this favorite southern shrimp dish. It’s the perfect comfort food for an easy weeknight dinner that’s sure to please. And just basic pantry ingredients are needed to make the best shrimp!
In the north, we typically have shrimp and grits for lunch or dinner, but in southern regions it’s also served as a breakfast dish or at brunch. Just add a fried or poached egg and you’re good to go!
Why You’ll Love this Recipe
- Fast and Flavorful!
- Enjoy any time of day!
- Gluten Free!
- Freezer Friendly!
- Shrimp – The best shrimp to use are large or jumbo shrimp. Look for 21-25 count per pound or bigger at the grocery store.
- Bacon – Thick cut works best for this recipe so there’s plenty of bacon fat for the shrimp and veggies to cook in.
- Vegetables – I like the mellower, sweeter flavor of shallots to contrast the spiciness of this dish along with red bell pepper for its sweetness and pop of color.
- Seasoning – Garlic, cajun seasoning, smoked paprika, and of course, some cayenne pepper to live up to your taste buds expectations!
- White Wine – Used for deglazing the skillet. You can substitute chicken broth too.
- Grits – I prefer finer quick cooking grits made of white corn, but you can always use coarser stone ground grits for more texture or instant grits when in a hurry. Yellow cornmeal grits always work too.
- Liquid – I combined whole milk with water to make a lighter version of creamy grits, but you can use all milk or replace the water with chicken stock.
- Cheese – Add a cup (or two!) of white cheddar cheese for amazing grits.
The best cajun shrimp and grits recipe has layers of flavor from the bacon, shrimp and seasonings served over steaming cheesy, creamy grits. Here are the basic steps:
Prep Shrimp: Peel and devein shrimp if they’re not already. Then coat with cajun seasoning, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper.
Cook Bacon: Heat a cast iron skillet or other large skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped bacon and cook until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crisp. Remove bacon pieces with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.
Cook Shrimp: Notch up skillet to medium-high heat. Add shrimp in a single layer to the bacon grease. Cook until shrimp are just opaque, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes per side then transfer to a clean plate.
Cook Vegetables: Add olive oil to the skillet if needed and cook shallots, bell pepper and lemon halves until softened and slightly charred.
Add Garlic and Deglaze: Stir in garlic and green onions. Cook a minute or two until fragrant. Add white wine to deglaze the bottom of the pan.
Return Shrimp and Bacon: Over low heat melt butter into the skillet and combine the shrimp and bacon with the vegetable mixture.
Boil milk and water: In a medium saucepan, slowly stir in grits and add a pinch of salt. Reduce to medium-low heat and cook grits until soft and tender. Stir occasionally so the grits don’t burn and stick to the bottom of the pan.
Stir in cheese: Add cheese a handful at a time until fully melted into the grits. Season to taste with salt and black or white pepper.
Top creamy grits with a healthy helping of tender shrimp, squeeze charred lemon juice over the bowl and garnish with fresh parsley. Dig in and enjoy!
- Room temperature shrimp will cook more quickly and evenly.
- Have all ingredients prepped as the recipe moves quickly.
- Cook shrimp in batches if needed so the pan isn’t overcrowded.
- Don’t overcook the shrimp! They become chewy and rubbery when overcooked.
- When boiling milk for the grits, keep an eye on the pot so it doesn’t boil over.
- Keep the grits warm before serving so they don’t stiffen up.
- Don’t stir and store leftover shrimp and grits together. They need to be stored separately because they require different reheating methods (see below).
Spiciness – Dial the heat to your liking with cayenne, hot sauce or crushed red pepper flakes.
For Bacon – Substitute andouille sausage or a smoked pork sausage.
Change Cheese – Use another good melting cheese like cream cheese, gouda or a smoked cheese.
Protein Options – Chicken, crab, or medium-density fish like salmon or halibut.
Add Heavy Cream – To make a creamy sauce for the shrimp and for the richest, creamiest grits!
How to Store & Reheat Shrimp and Grits
Should you have leftovers, store the shrimp and grits separately in airtight containers in the fridge up to 5 days. You want to keep them separate because they reheat differently. You can microwave, but the texture may be altered.
To reheat shrimp: Melt unsalted butter or olive oil in a skillet over low heat. Add the shrimp mixture and heat until warmed through, stirring occasionally. Low heat ensures the shrimp won’t overcook.
To reheat grits: Over medium-low heat, add leftover grits to a saucepan large enough for stirring. Pour a half cup of milk, chicken broth or water into the pan. Gently stir to incorporate the liquid into the grits.
The liquid will eventually absorb and add more by a ¼ cup until a creamy consistency is reached and the grits are hot. This could take up to ten minutes depending on how much you’re reheating.
What goes with Shrimp and Grits
This dish checks all the boxes to be a complete meal on its own, but times arise when you’ll want to expand the menu. Here are a few sides that’ll feed a bigger crowd, plus an entire roundup of 23 side dishes for shrimp!
Cajun Shrimp and Grits FAQs
Raw shrimp is gray in color. When cooked, shrimp become opaque with pink and coral accents. If shrimp still look gray, cook a little longer. Also, cooked shrimp will hold their shape and not be flimsy.
If your grits seem thin, cook them a bit longer. Maintain medium-low heat while cooking. Avoid the temptation of turning up the heat because the grits won’t bond with the liquid and will be runny. You can also add a little cream and butter to thicken them.
Yes, you can! Freeze the shrimp and grits separately in freezer safe containers or resealable plastic bags up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and follow the reheating instructions above.
More Shrimp Recipes to Try!
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Creamy Cajun Shrimp and Grits Recipe
- 1 ½ pounds large shrimp (21-25 count), peeled and deveined
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 8 ounces thick-cut bacon slices , chopped
- 1 red bell pepper , diced
- 3 shallots , diced
- 1 lemon , halved
- 4 green onions , thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons garlic , minced
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped , plus extra for garnish
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups water or chicken broth
- 1 cup quick-cooking grits
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups cheddar cheese
- Pat shrimp dry and place in a medium bowl. Sprinkle shrimp with Cajun seasoning, paprika and cayenne; toss to coat. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté bacon until brown and crisp, about 7 minutes.
- Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Pour all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat into a mug or ramekin.
- Sauté shrimp in 2 batches, cooking about 1 ½ minutes per side. Add more bacon grease if needed for second batch. Keep shrimp in a clean bowl or plate tented with foil to stay warm.
- Add bell pepper, shallots, and lemon halves cut side down to skillet. Season pepper and shallots with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Remove lemon halves from skillet and add ½ cup green onion and garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Pour wine into skillet to deglaze the pan and scrape up brownings with a wooden spoon. Cook 2 minutes then melt in butter.
- Stir the bacon and shrimp into the vegetable mixture and let heat through for a couple minutes. Remove skillet from heat and squeeze in juice from seared lemon halves.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle remaining green onion slices on top and garnish with extra parsley.
- Serve hot over cooked grits. Enjoy!
- Bring water and milk to a low boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Slowly stir the grits and salt.
- Reduce heat to low, cover saucepan, and cook 5-7 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in cheese 1 cup at a time until melted and smooth.
- Serve grits in shallow bowls topped with Cajun Shrimp.
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