Southern Shrimp and Grits

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Southern Shrimp and Grits is a classic dish featuring cheesy shrimp drizzled with BBQ sauce and topped with bacon! The smoky flavor creates the best shrimp and grits recipe you've ever tasted!

gouda cheese grits topped with BBQ shrimp, bacon and green onions in a seafood bowl
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Why You'll Love This Dish

  • there's BACON!
  • great breakfast dish that's also delicious for brunch or dinner
  • restaurant quality recipe that's perfect for company
  • flavorful sauce that will tickle your taste buds
  • did I say there's BACON?

How This Recipe Stands Out

The addition of barbecue sauce makes this recipe stand out and get noticed. It's the perfect comfort food...with a whole lot of sass!

Most folks top their grits with pan gravy or a type of creole sauce, but this recipe ramps up the southern flavor by adding barbecue sauce and bacon to the mix. It's a close match to the first shrimp and grits recipe we ever tasted.

You'll love the crunchy topping of bacon and green onions ladled over creamy grits filled with smoked gouda cheese. It's southern food that's quick and easy from start to finish!

shrimp and grits in a sea themed bowl on a blue cloth

Where Did Shrimp and Grits Come From?

Shrimp and Grits was originally created in Africa and migrated to southern plantations along with many favorite southern-style recipes.

The first time my hubby and I tasted classic shrimp and grits was on vacation in Charleston, South Carolina. At the time, we had no idea this low country city was where this dish became popular. Since then, we've come a long way in our appreciation of Charleston's incredible food scene.

We fell in love with the taste of creamy, smoked gouda grits so much that I came home and immediately tried to recreate the recipe. The savory, garlicky shrimp coated in barbecue sauce and topped with crispy bacon helped seal the deal!

Over the years, this iconic southern dish has moved its way down to New Orleans, Louisiana, which introduced different spices like creole sauce and cajun seasoning.

What Type of Shrimp Is Best?

Fresh shrimp is preferred, but unless you live on the coast, you may not have access to a fish market. It's perfectly acceptable to use frozen shrimp, but make sure they are wild caught and completely thawed beforehand.

Wild shrimp are actually caught on boats by fisherman in natural ocean water, while farm raised shrimp are imported and can contain traces of antibiotics. Always choose wild caught shrimp for the best quality. In North Carolina, wild caught shrimp from the Outer Banks is a great choice.

As far as size is concerned, I like to use jumbo shrimp which are 21 to 25 count, but extra large shrimp ranging from 26 to 30 count works equally as well.

Just remember plump shrimp can shrink in size considerably after cooking. If using frozen, choose shrimp that are peeled and deveined, or plan to handle this task beforehand.

The Best Grits to Use

Stone-ground grits made from hulled white corn are the grits usually recommended in this dish. They're coarse in texture, and rich in corn flavor, making them the perfect choice for this cheesy grits recipe.

I like my grits smoother, so I use yellow grits made from yellow ground corn. White corn grits are also smooth and delicious.

You'll get different opinions from most chefs about the type of grits to use, but one thing's for sure...instant grits or quick grits are not recommended. They don't have the correct consistency to compliment the ingredients in this recipe.

ingredients for shrimp and grits including bacon, shrimp, bbq sauce, grits, cheese and onions

Ingredient Notes

Quantities are listed in the recipe card.

  • stone ground or yellow grits - stone ground are heartier, while yellow grits are smoother
  • minced garlic - adds intense flavor but garlic salt can be substituted if needed
  • butter - use plenty of butter to make the grits extra flavorful
  • smoked gouda cheese - the best cheese for this recipe since it has a smoky flavor
  • cream cheese - adds creaminess to this dish
  • garlic salt & pepper - for flavoring
  • heavy cream - cream makes a big difference
  • bacon - crumbled or chopped bacon adds a salty finish
  • shrimp - the best shrimp are always fresh from the ocean
  • barbecue sauce - use your favorite bottled BBQ sauce
  • green onions - a great accent and garnish
  • water or chicken broth - either can be used but watch the salt if using broth

How to Make BBQ Shrimp and Grits

Smoked Gouda Grits

Bring water or chicken stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Add grits and garlic salt. Stir and reduce heat to low.

Cover and simmer grits about 20 to 30 minutes until done. Whisk frequently while cooking to reduce lumps and avoid sticking. When thick and creamy, take grits off of heat.

Add butter, cream cheese, shredded gouda, and black pepper. Whisk until cheese is melted. Add heavy cream and salt to taste. Stir, and cover grits until ready to serve.

BBQ Shrimp

Cook bacon pieces in skillet over medium heat until crispy. Transfer to a paper towels to drain. Remove bacon fat from skillet, reserving 2 tablespoons for shrimp.

bacon pieces frying in a cast iron skillet

Peel and devein shrimp if needed and add to a cast iron skillet (ad). Saute' until pink on both sides over medium heat (about 2 minutes). 

shrimp being sautéed in a cast iron skillet

Mix in minced garlic and BBQ sauce. Stir a couple of times until shrimp is coated, then turn off heat.

barbecue sauce covering shrimp in a cast iron skillet

Ladle grits into serving bowls, then use a slotted spoon to place shrimp mixture onto grits. Top shrimp with crumbled bacon and green onions to garnish. 

BBQ shrimp and grits with a fork and a spoon on the side of  sea themed bowl on a blue napkin.

What to Serve With Shrimp and Grits

Southern Shrimp and Grits is a great brunch entree served with a side of fruit, blueberry muffins or buttermilk drop biscuits.

Many folks in the southern region like to eat Shrimp and Grits for lunch or dinner alongside a southern veggie like collard greens or brussels sprouts.

Other sides that go great with shrimp and grits are Rainbow Salad and Strawberry Pecan Salad.

Variations

  • add andouille sausage instead of bacon
  • mix green pepper and vidalia onion into white grits
  • sprinkle a dash of hot sauce, cayenne pepper or sriracha on top
  • use creole seasoning for an extra boost of flavor
  • substitute sharp cheddar cheese or pepper jack for gouda
  • use a dash of garlic powder instead of minced garlic if preferred

Storage and Freezing

I don't recommend serving leftover shrimp and grits because the shrimp doesn't taste the same after being reheated. It can become rubbery and nobody likes that! It's also not a good dish to freeze for the same reason.

Recipe FAQS

What is the secret to good grits?

The secret to making good grits is to cook them low and slow. Stir grits while adding salted water, and stir frequently while they're cooking to avoid lumps. The longer they cook, the better they taste, especially if using the stone ground type.

Are grits better cooked with milk or water?

If cooking grits alone, it's best to cook them with milk. They will be creamier and the flavor will be noticeably different. In this recipe, since we're adding a great deal of cheese, we cook them with water first and add cheese and cream at the end.

More BBQ Recipes

Creamy cheese grits with smoky shrimp and chopped bacon is southern comfort food at its best. When you add barbecue sauce, it takes regular grits to a whole new dimension! Try these other barbecue recipes the next time you're in the mood for some sassy southern cuisine...

 

Recipe Card

gouda cheese grits topped with BBQ shrimp, bacon and green onions in a seafood bowl

Southern Shrimp and Grits

Southern Shrimp and Grits is a classic dish featuring cheesy shrimp drizzled with BBQ sauce and topped with bacon!
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Seafood
Cuisine: Southern
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 623kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.

Ingredients

SMOKED GOUDA GRITS

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup stone ground grits (can use yellow or white)
  • ½ tsp. garlic salt
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 8 oz. smoked gouda cheese (shredded)
  • ¼ tsp. cracked black pepper
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • salt to taste

SHRIMP

  • 6 slices bacon (cooked and crumbled)
  • 1 lb. wild caught shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • ½ cup tangy BBQ sauce (any flavor)
  • ½ cup green onions (chopped)

Instructions

SMOKED GOUDA GRITS

  • Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add grits and garlic salt. Stir and reduce heat to low heat.
  • Cover and simmer grits about 30 minutes until done. Whisk frequently while cooking to avoid lumps.
  • Take grits off of heat.
  • Add butter, cream cheese, shredded gouda, and pepper. Stir until cheese is melted.
  • Add heavy cream and salt to taste. Stir, and cover grits until ready to serve.

SHRIMP

  • Cook bacon pieces in skillet over medium heat until crispy. Transfer to a paper towels to drain. 
  • Drain grease from skillet, reserving 2 Tbsp. for shrimp.
  • Add shrimp to skillet and saute' until pink on both sides over medium heat (about 2 minutes). 
  • Add minced garlic and BBQ sauce. Stir a couple of times until shrimp is coated, then turn off heat.
  • Ladle grits into serving bowls, then spoon shrimp onto grits.
  • Top shrimp with crumbled bacon and green onions to garnish. 

Notes

  • Shrimp and Grits are best when eaten fresh.
  • Shrimp can take on a 'rubbery' consistency when reheated, so this dish isn't a good choice for leftovers. 
  • The secret to making good grits is to cook them low and slow. Stir grits while adding salted water, and stir frequently while they're cooking to avoid lumps.
  • View the Google Web Story about Southern Shrimp and Grits!

Nutrition

Calories: 623kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Sodium: 1813mg | Potassium: 436mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 537mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Can't wait to try this. Looks wonderful, love shrimp and grits. Thanks Debi!

    1. Now that I know that you love shrimp and grits, I'll have to whip some up for you one day! 🙂

  2. WOW... WOW... WOW! Absolutely wonderful combination of flavors that compliment each other so well. Definitely a keeper! 😋

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