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Served with a loaf of crusty bread, this makes a delicious one-bowl dinner!

My creamy shrimp and grits are seasoned with bacon, garlic, and fresh lemon juice. Enjoy buttery flavor in every bite, plus extra tang from cream cheese!

shrimp ladled on top of a bed of stone ground cheese grits with a lemon wedge and parsley.

Nothing says comfort food like cheesy shrimp and grits. There are so many flavors and textures to experience, and each bite is better than the last!

This classic Southern dish can be made in a variety of ways, and everyone seems to have their own favorite recipe. My version uses simple, fresh ingredients so you’re left feeling satisfied but not overstuffed.

Not a fan of seafood? You can still enjoy cheesy grits in my Rustic Sausage and Egg Skillet, or use them as a crust for an incredible Bacon Cheddar Quiche.

ingredients for creamy shrimp and grits on a table.

Key ingredients & substitutions for Creamy Shrimp and Grits

  • Shrimp — Use fresh or frozen for this recipe, just be sure to defrost frozen shrimp and pat dry before cooking. I buy mine peeled and deveined so there’s less to prep.
  • Bacon — Fry up your favorite slices as long as they don’t have extra flavor or seasoning. You could also use pancetta for a bolder pork flavor!
  • Garlic and fresh parsley — These simple ingredients add loads of flavor to any recipe.
  • Onions — You’ll need green onions for both the shrimp and grits, as well as a regular yellow onion when making the base of the dish.
  • Lemon — This brightens up the whole dish! I always recommend freshly squeezed over concentrate.
  • Grits — A staple in the South, you’ll want to use regular stone-ground grits and not the quick cook variety. Made with chicken stock, half & half, cream cheese, and Parmesan, this is the perfect base for our cheesy shrimp and grits.

How to make shrimp and grits?

stirring cheddar cheese and cream cheese into a pot of cooked stoneground grits.

STEP 1 | Start with the grits

In a medium saucepan, sauté chopped onion in butter until softened. Stir in the chicken stock and half & half, then bring to a boil. Add the grits while whisking constantly to avoid any clumps. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Once the grits are cooked, season with salt and pepper and melt in the sharp cheddar and cream cheese. Stir in Parmesan and green onions, then cover and keep warm while you work on the shrimp.

bacon pieces frying in a skillet.

STEP 2 | Fry the bacon

Cook until crisp, using your preferred method of cooking. Drain on a paper towl, then chop or break into crumbles with your fingers.

tip

  • Often when I’m cooking bacon that I plan to crumble, I’ll cut the slices into 1-inch pieces before I toss them into my skillet. Once the bacon is crisp, I use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

cooked shrimp in a fry pan with bacon and green onions.

STEP 3 | Cook the shrimp

Heat olive oil (or the leftover bacon grease) in a large skillet. Cook your shrimp just until they are pink — overdo it and they’ll turn out rubbery and tough.

Stir in the garlic and green onions, cooking for another minute or two. Add the bacon crumbles, chopped parsley, and lemon juice, then remove from heat.

STEP 4 | Serve

Add a healthy scoop of cheesy grits to each plate, then divide the shrimp over the top. Don’t forget the liquid from the pan too — there’s tons of flavor in that lemony butter!

tips

  • Because shrimp cook quickly, you’ll want to prepare the grits first and keep them warm.
  • Creamy shrimp and grits is best served fresh, but you can refrigerate leftovers for a day or two if needed. Store the shrimp and grits in separate containers and reheat on the stove for best results.

Frequently asked questions

Is this recipe spicy?

My cheesy shrimp and grits has a tiny bit of heat from the garlic and onion, but overall the dish is pretty mild. You could easily add some cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, or a dash of hot sauce to the shellfish if you’d like an extra kick!

Can I make creamy shrimp and grits without the cheese?

Technically, yes, but the flavor won’t be quite the same. The cream cheese adds a distinct tang and makes the texture deliciously rich and creamy. If you must omit it, simply add a little extra half & half to make up for it.

Is polenta the same as grits?

While both are made from ground corn, each starts with a different variety. Polenta is made from yellow corn and tends to have a finer texture. Grits are made with hominy, which is white corn that is treated with a special solution to remove the hull.

shrimp ladled on top of a bed of stone ground cheese grits with a lemon wedge and parsley.

Serving suggestions

There’s a bit of debate over what goes best with shrimp and grits — I love to serve mine with a loaf of crusty bread for mopping up all that extra flavor! This dish is also delicious with homemade biscuits or my Mexican cornbread muffins.

You can also enjoy the grits as a side for beef filet, or combine the two for a delicious surf and turf meal!

Cheesy shrimp and grits: behind the recipe

I used a Paula Deen recipe as inspiration for this dish, but chose to cook the shrimp in just a little olive oil and forgo the bacon grease for my version. There’s still plenty of flavor, but with a lot less guilt!

This creamy stone-ground grits recipe is an original from The Fresh Market & Friends cookbook (2003) and is my all-time way to make grits.

Please share!

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shrimp ladled on top of a bed of stone ground cheese grits with a lemon wedge and parsley.

Smokey Shrimp and Grits

My creamy shrimp and grits are seasoned with bacon, garlic, and fresh lemon juice. Enjoy buttery flavor in every bite, plus extra tang from cream cheese!
3.2 from 5 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 559 kcal

Ingredients
  

Grits

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons onion finely diced
  • 1 2/3 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons half & half
  • 1/2 cup stone-ground grits not quick cook
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup green onions sliced

Shrimp

  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 lb. shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 large lemon
  • 2 tablespoons parsley chopped
  • 1 cup green onions thinly sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions
 

Grits

  • In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the chicken stock and half & half and bring to a boil.
  • Quickly whisk the grits into the hot liquid and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and stir in cream cheese, cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper, until melted.
  • Remove from the heat, then add the Parmesan cheese and sliced green onions. Cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

Shrimp

  • Cook the bacon until crisp; drain on a paper towel lined plate. When cool, crumble into small pieces.
  • Rinse the shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. Add to a small bowl and toss with the smoked paprika until evenly seasoned.
  • In a large skillet over medium high, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil (or reserved bacon grease). Add the seasoned shrimp and cook just until they turn pink — do not overcook — about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic and green onions and cook another minute until the onions begin to soften and the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the crumbled bacon, parsley and lemon juice.
  • Serve the shrimp spooned on top of cheese grits with lemon wedges and extra parsley if you like.

Notes

  • Because shrimp cook quickly, you’ll want to prepare the grits first and keep them warm.
  • Creamy shrimp and grits is best served fresh, but you can refrigerate leftovers for a day or two if needed. Store the shrimp and grits in separate containers and reheat on the stove for best results.

Nutrition

Serving: 1ServingsCalories: 559kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 39gFat: 34gSaturated Fat: 13gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 240mgSodium: 896mgPotassium: 695mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 1013IUVitamin C: 24mgCalcium: 308mgIron: 2mg
Keyword grits, shrimp
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was.
sheila thigpen in her kitchen

About Sheila Thigpen

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

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