Is it time to level up your shrimp and grits game?

Shrimp and grits have long been a breakfast boon, and for good reason—but could your recipe be even better?

Shrimp and grits. That’s all you have to say to get my mouth watering. It’s a dish you would think might take more effort, considering its deliciousness.

And there are ways to make it even better.

Shrimp and Grits theGrio.com
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I wouldn’t be surprised if this is your meme reaction:

via GIPHY

Because how can something so good get better? You can elevate your shrimp and grits game by using these easy tips. But first, remember the basics for the stars of the dishes.

  • It’s best to use old-fashioned grits. Regular grits have a medium grind, and quick grits have a fine grind that helps them cook faster. I personally prefer regular grits because I find I can get them creamier. Yes, regular grits take more time because you stand over the pot and stir for 15-20 minutes to ensure the grits don’t thicken too much and stick. If you don’t want to take that extra step, then the quicker grits will do.
  • Use extra large shrimp. I like bigger shrimp because they hold their shape nicely. Smaller shrimp tend to shrivel up easier and overcook, ruining the taste. You, of course, can use any shrimp you want. Just be careful.

So here are four ways you can kick up your shrimp and grits. Most of the recipes below are for four people and carry the same basic measurements unless noted:

  • four cups of water
  • one cup of grits
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ stick (eight ounces) of butter
  • 12-16 extra-large shrimp, cooked (more if using smaller shrimp)

Shrimp and Grits with Jalapeno and Cilantro Cream

This gives the dish a silky, spicy feel. Dice four small jalapenos (remove seeds) and set them aside. There are lots of cilantro cream recipes online, but the base is the same — sour cream (1 cup), cilantro (one small bunch, rough chopped), and a tablespoon of lime pureed in a small blender. Some add a little garlic, but I wouldn’t because that doesn’t go well with grits.

Place the grits evenly in four bowls, and mound the shrimp in the middle. Sprinkle the jalapeno on top — how much will depend on your spice tolerance — and drizzle cilantro cream on top of the shrimp. A tablespoon’s enough, but that cream is so good I find myself drenching my food with it.

BBQ Shrimp and Grits with Collards

Just writing that makes my mouth water. It’s my favorite way to eat shrimp and grits.

Prepare the collard greens. I’m not suggesting fresh with this recipe — that’s a whole ‘nother column — but canned works fine because collards can be simple and delicious. Here’s how:

One can of seasoned collard greens; two tablespoons of Frank’s Red Hot; one tablespoon of white wine vinegar; salt and pepper to taste.

That’s it. The combination of red hot and vinegar gives a nice spicy bite. I like a little more vinegar and you might too — but hey, you’re the master of your greens (you can use turnip or mustard if you prefer).

While those simmer on the stove, place the shrimp in a bowl and toss with your favorite rub until well coated, using about three tablespoons, maybe a little more. Cook over medium heat until done, about five to seven minutes. Immediately toss in about two tablespoons of your favorite BBQ sauce (more if you like it saucy)

In a bowl, add the grits, the collards on one side, and the shrimp on the other,. Dig in.

Shrimp and Grits Foo Young

Remember that meme from earlier? This is a good spot for it, too.

This isn’t as crazy as it seems. Lots of people eat grits for breakfast. Egg Foo Young is a traditional Chinese breakfast food also eaten for lunch and dinner. Why not eat the grits with Egg Foo Young? Here’s what you need, again for four people:

  • Four eggs
  • 1 cup cooked bean sprouts (if you can find them)
  • ½ cup of diced mushrooms, cooked (you want to get all the water out)
  • ½ cup diced broccoli
  • 8 cooked, diced jumbo shrimp
  • Chopped scallions, parsley (optional)

Mix together the above ingredients. In a medium skillet, drop in ¼ of the mixture at a time (you can use a ½ cup measuring cup if that’s easier). Cook about 90 seconds a side until done.

Traditional Egg Foo Young sauce doesn’t go well with this dish so I don’t use any. Place the egg patty on a plate, use a scoop to mound the grits on top, and then sprinkle your favorite cheese over the grits. (I like a robust, flavorful cheese and therefore use two tablespoons of shredded smoked gouda). You can then garnish with scallions or parsley for additional color, if desired.

Shrimp and Grits with Bourbon Bacon Jam

This is a showstopper. You already have parts one and two down (make the grits; cook the shrimp). Put the grits in a bowl, add three to four shrimp per serving, and top with bourbon bacon jam. 

There are several excellent recipes online like this one. But if you don’t want to do the work — the jam takes about an hour — you can always cheat by buying a jar.

There are lots of other variations, but these give a nice range from standard (BBQ shrimp) to different Shrimp and Grits Foo Young).

Regardless of which you choose, your kitchen will turn into the place you get your grits on.


Ray Marcano

Ray Marcano is a longtime, award-winning journalist who has written and edited for some of the country’s most prominent media brands. He’s a former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists, a two-time Pulitzer juror, and a Fulbright Fellow.


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