I could have called this recipe simply Shrimp and Grits, but that would be undermining the complexity and downright deliciousness of the recipe. Instead, let me present to you, New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp and Cheesy Grits. Plump shrimp are marinated in a rich, New Orleans style BBQ sauce that is filled with bold and spicy flavors. The shrimp are served on a bed of sinfully rich, creamy, cheesy grits that will convert you to a grits-lover.
Now the internet is filled with different iterations of Shrimp and Grits, so why then did I choose to pile on and add to the recipes already out there? Well, I thought I could create a uniquely tasty version of Shrimp and Grits based on my Southern experiences, but I also wanted to pay homage to a dish that is close to my heart.
I say that Shrimp and Grits is close to my heart because the dish originated in the low country of South Carolina and can be found all over Charleston, one of my favorite cities of all time. It’s a city dripping in history, culture, and f*cking AMAZING food.
Be sure to also check out my Buttermilk Biscuits recipe which was also inspired by my time in Charleston.
Those characteristics are also part of the fabric of one of my other favorite cities, New Orleans. I spent a summer living in New Orleans while I interned with the Brennan family. I could write an entire post simply about my experiences that summer, but for the sake of time, I’ll just say that food was central to my time in New Orleans.
New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp was one of my absolute favorite things to eat for lunch when I worked in the French Quarter.
What is New Orleans style barbecue?
The style of Nola BBQ Shrimp is nothing like smoky, red sauce barbecue. New Orleans BBQ sauce is packed with plenty of herbs, spices, lemon and garlic, and the most important ingredient of all, butter; lots and lots of butter.
My shrimp and grits recipe incorporates those BBQ flavors with a couple of unexpected twists. I include Worcestershire, soy and oyster sauce in my shrimp marinade for added umami, or savory notes. There is also plenty of bacon and mushrooms in my shrimp and grits which is unique to many recipes.
I’ve never had grits. Are there other options for serving?
There really is nothing more appropriate or delicious to serve with shrimp with than grits. It honestly would be like putting meatballs and red sauce with rice to try to substitute a different starch here. Even if you’ve never had grits before, or worse yet, have had poorly prepared grits, I promise you, you will LOVE my cheesy grits.
The secret to grits is plenty of dairy to bring the richness and flavor grits naturally lack.
My recipe includes tons of fresh shredded cheddar-jack cheese, heavy cream for the right texture, and a bit of buttermilk for a nice tangy addition.
For those of you who have made grits before, you might be thinking, “Buttermilk in my grits?!?” It may sound crazy, but buttermilk is delicious in cheesy grits. Buttermilk adds a creamy texture and tangy flavor to the grits which is a perfect balance to all the richness from the heavy cream and cheese.
Don’t try to use quick or instant grits for Shrimp and Grits
One mistake you should avoid making is using instant or quick grits. They are just not the same as stone ground grits. I’m all about a shortcut, but this is not worth it for what you sacrifice in flavor. Stick with stone ground grits for this shrimp and grits recipe.
Cajun seasoning recommendations
The shrimp marinade and the cheesy grits both include Cajun seasoning. If you’ve ever shopped the spice aisle for Cajun or Creole seasoning, you already know that there are a lot of options out there.
Two of my favorite Cajun spices are Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Seasoning Blend and Tony Chachere No Salt.
Prudhomme’s is my absolute favorite. It’s subtle enough that you can add other flavors to it, but the flavors are strong enough to stand on their own too.
Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Seasoning Blend is not widely available as Chachere’s though, so feel free to use it instead. Go for the No-Salt version though so you can control how much salt is in the recipe. The original version is super salty in my opinion.
Is marinating the shrimp required for good Shrimp and Grits?
It’s not required, but it will make a significant difference in the flavor your shrimp have. The marinade serves as the sauce for the shrimp and grits so you’re going to have to make it either way, and the added two hours of marinade time add an incredible amount of flavor to the shrimp.
Shrimp can sometimes lack in the flavor department, so I think marinating makes this dish so much tastier. Also, you don’t have to make the marinade in any sort of electronic gadget even though I use a blender.
The marinade will taste just as good if you whisk it by hand instead of blending, so don’t let the recipe’s call for a blender scare you away!
New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp and Cheesy Grits was a recipe I originally created for my feature in the January/February issue of Edible OKC, but it has now become a regular request by my family.
I even made it for my mom for Mother’s Day. That’s how special the flavors in this dish are! Try out the recipe to treat your family and friends to a restaurant-quality comfort food classic.
10-inch cast iron skillet- perfect for cooking any Southern classic recipe
Shun Paring Knife- the knife you need for delicate jobs like de-veining shrimp
New Orleans BBQ Shrimp and Cheesy Grits
BBQ Shrimp Seasoning (makes about ½ C)
- 1 Tb ground black pepper
- 1 Tb cayenne pepper
- 1 Tb kosher salt
- 1 Tb Cajun seasoning
- 2 Tb Italian seasoning
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 cloves garlic smashed
- 2 Tb BBQ Shrimp Seasoning (see above) see recipe above
- 1 Tb oyster sauce
- 1 Tb soy sauce
- 1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tb honey
- 1 lemon
- ¼ C butter melted and cooled
- 4 slices thick cut bacon
- 8 oz mushrooms*
- 1 red bell pepper
- 6 green onions divided
- ½ C finely diced celery hearts
- 1½ lb shrimp 16-20 size; peeled, deveined, and tail removed
- 1 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes drained
- 3½ C chicken stock
- 1 C stone ground or old fashion grits
- ¾ C heavy cream
- ½ C buttermilk
- 1 C shredded colby jack or cheddar cheese
- reserved green onions
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tsp Cajun seasoning
To make the seasoning
- Combine all of the ingredients. The seasoning will keep for up to 12 months in an airtight container.
To marinade the shrimp
- Zest the lemon and reserve for garnish. Juice the lemon and reserve 2 Tb for the marinade.
- Chop the garlic into ¼-inch pieces and combine the garlic cloves, 2 Tb BBQ Shrimp Seasoning, oyster sauce, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, 2 Tb lemon juice, and honey in a blender or food processor. Blend the mixture on high speed until smooth.
- With the blender or processor on, slowly drizzle in ¼ C of melted, cooled butter. You're looking for an emulsification, like salad dressing.
- Once the marinade has emulsified, add the marinade and shrimp to a mixing bowl. Toss to coat the shrimp in marinade. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.
To make shrimp
- Core the bell pepper and slice into thin strips. Cut the strips into 1-inch pieces.
- Finely slice the green onions, separating the green and white portions. Reserve the green portions- half for garnish and half for the grits. Finely dice the celery including any leaves.
- Start by placing 4 strips of bacon in a cold, large nonstick pan. Turn the heat on to medium and allow the bacon to cook until totally crisp, turning as needed.
- Turn off the heat and remove the cooked bacon. Place the strips on a paper towel to soak up any excess grease. Reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon fat and discard the rest.
- Prepare the mushrooms by wiping clean with a damp cloth, removing any tough part of the stem and slicing into ½-inch pieces.
- Add 2 Tb of bacon drippings back to the same large nonstick pan used to crisp the bacon. Turn the heat onto medium-high. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 3 minutes.
- Once the mushrooms start to brown, add the peppers, celery, and white portion of the green onions. Saute for another 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Once cooked, pour the mushrooms and vegetables into a bowl and set aside.
- Turn the heat down to medium and add a drizzle of olive oil along with the shrimp and marinade to the pan. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until the shrimp becomes firm and the marinade starts to boil.
- Turn the shrimp over and add the drained can of diced tomatoes and mushroom-vegetable mix to the pan. Cook for another 5 minutes or until the vegetables and tomatoes are warm.
To make grits
- Bring chicken stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Once the stock is rapidly boiling, add dry grits and stir. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for about 5 minutes, whisking constantly.
- Once the grits have thickened to about the consistency of pudding and the mix starts to pull away from the sides, add the heavy cream and buttermilk. Cook for about 10 minutes, whisking constantly.
- Add the cheese, reserved green portion of the scallions, salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning. Stir to combine and cook until the cheese is totally melted or about 2 minutes.
- Keep the grits warm on the very lowest heat setting, stirring occcassionally. If the grits get too thick, add a touch of chicken stock to loosen the mix.
- Chop the cooked bacon into small pieces. Serve with about 1 C of grits topped with shrimp and sauce, green onions and crumbled bacon. Finish with lemon zest.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Just be sure to thaw before marinading.
I typically use 16-20 count shrimp (meaning there are 16-20 shrimp to a pound), but you can use whatever size you like.
No. I only recommend stone ground grits for this recipe.
I like Paul Prudhomme's Magic Seasoning Blend or Tony Chachere No Salt.
Yes, but every minute the shrimp spend in the marinade adds to the flavor of the finished dish. Even just 30 minutes in the marinade would be great.