Cajun Shrimp and Grits with bursts of fresh corn, tomatoes and creamy white cheddar grits. This 30 minute meal uses simple, fresh ingredients for a flavorful brunch, lunch, or dinner.
Why You'll Love this Cajun Shrimp and Grits Recipe
Succulent creole-spiced shrimp, creamy white cheddar grits, and fresh summer produce: what's not to love?! While shrimp and grits is known to be a butter haven, this is somewhat of a slimmed-down version of the southern staple.
The addition of juicy tomatoes, fresh corn, and herbs adds enough richness, texture, and flavor so that you're not missing the extra butter. Traditional grits also often call for half and half, however I find the grits to be plenty decadent using a mix of milk and water.
This is the kind of meal that fill you up without weighing you down. It provides classic comfort while still delivering lots of good-for-you nutrients. It's also one that you'll want to make on repeat this summer, and every season that follows.
Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions
- Shrimp: Look for shrimp that are already peeled and deveined (or at least deveined and easy peel). Also, many are surprised to find out that the best shrimp are often in the freezer case. Usually what’s behind the seafood case was previously frozen anyway, so you can often get a better deal by purchasing frozen, and thawing on your own.
- Grits: Look for yellow corn grits, such as Bob's Red Mill brand. I do NOT suggest using instant/quick grits, which usually lead to a mushy, undesirable texture.
- Corn: Sweet corn is one of summer’s greatest pleasures. I love using fresh ears of corn, however you can also use canned or frozen when corn is out of season.
- Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes add sweet, umami-rich flavor to the shrimp mixture. They also lend a layer of freshness that brightens the dish.
- Spices: Use homemade or store-bought creole/cajun seasoning. I also like to toss in some smoked paprika to give the shrimp a smoky backbone.
- Butter: Many Cajun shrimp and grits recipes call for a whole stick of butter, however we're only using 3 Tbsp here. Just a dab goes into the grits for richness, and the remainder is used to sauté the shrimp.
- Milk: You can use any milk you prefer for the grits. The recipe calls for whole milk, however you can also use a plant-based alt milk such as cashew, almond, or soy milk.
- Cheese: I love using sharp white cheddar in the grits for nutty aroma and richness. Alternatively, you can use parmesan, Monterey Jack, or gouda cheese.
- Herbs: Fresh thyme gives the dish an earthy, woodsy backbone, and scallions sharpen each bite. You can also toss in some chopped chives or parsley.
Step 1: Marinate the Shrimp
Place shrimp in a large bowl. Add olive oil, shallots, garlic, thyme, Cajun spice, and smoked paprika; toss to combine. Let sit at room temperature while you prepare the grits.
Step 2: Cook Grits
Bring water, milk, and ½ tsp. salt to a boil in a medium pot. Add corn grits and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened and creamy. Add cheese, 1 Tbsp. butter, and ½ tsp. black pepper; stir continuously until melted and smooth. Stir in fresh corn, turn off heat and cover to keep warm.
Step 3: Sauté Shrimp
Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Pour marinated shrimp and residual oil into skillet, and arrange in a single layer. Let cook, undisturbed, for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and toss to combine. Cook 2 minutes, until tomatoes begin to break down and become jammy. Add white wine (or vinegar and broth mixture); cook 1 minute.
Step 4: Assemble Shrimp and Grits
Divide grits evenly between four bowls. Spoon shrimp and sauce overtop, and garnish with green onion.
What to Serve with Cajun Shrimp and Grits
- Salad: For a refreshing, crisp side salad, try this Shaved Brussels and Pear Salad.
- Broccoli: Whip up a quick side dish of Perfect Sautéed Broccoli.
- Cucumber Salad: Light, nutritious, and super easy to toss together.
Make-Ahead and Storage Tips
- Make-Ahead: Cut the corn from the cob up to 1 day in advance, and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. You can also start marinating the shrimp up to 5 hours ahead.
- Store: Transfer leftover cajun shrimp and grits to an airtight container and refrigerate for 2 days.
- Reheat: Transfer shrimp and grits to an 8x8-inch baking dish and bake at 350ºF until heated through.
More Delicious Shrimp Recipes to Try
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Cajun Shrimp and Fresh Corn Grits
- Small saucepan with lid
- Large skillet
- Mixing bowls
- 1 lb. raw peeled and deveined shrimp
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup finely chopped shallots
- 1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
- 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tsp. Creole seasoning (such as Tony Chachere's)*
- ¾ tsp. smoked paprika
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup whole milk (or milk of choice)
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¾ cup yellow corn grits (such as Bob's Red Mill brand)
- ¼ cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
- 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 1 cup fresh corn (cut from 1 cob) (sub frozen/thawed or canned corn)
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- ¼ cup dry white wine (sub 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar mixed with 3 Tbsp. broth)
- ¼ cup sliced green onion for garnish
- Pat shrimp dry with a paper towel and place in a large bowl. Add olive oil, shallots, garlic, thyme, Creole seasoning, and smoked paprika; toss to combine. Let sit at room temperature while you prepare the grits.
- Bring water, milk, and salt to a boil in a medium pot. (Watch closely so it doesn't bubble over.) Add corn grits and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and creamy. Add cheese, 1 Tbsp. butter, and black pepper; stir continuously until melted and smooth. Stir in fresh corn, turn off heat and cover to keep warm.
- Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Pour marinated shrimp and residual oil into skillet, and arrange in a single layer. Let cook, undisturbed, for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and toss to combine. Cook 2 minutes, until tomatoes begin to break down and become jammy. Add white wine (or vinegar and broth mixture); cook 1 minute.
- Divide grits evenly between four bowls. Spoon shrimp and sauce overtop, and garnish with green onion.