With a creamy, brown butter-tomato-wine sauce, this Shrimp and Grits recipe is easy enough for weeknights but also VERY dinner party-worthy! This fabulous meal in a bowl also features barely cooked fresh cherry tomatoes, sweet, tender shrimp and smoky Andouille sausage served over a bed of white cheddar grits.
Earlier this month, Scott and I spent a week on the coast of South Carolina. We weren't far from Charleston and had originally intended to do some low country recipe research with a cooking class and lots of visits to local restaurants. A classic low country shrimp and grits recipe for the blog was one of my goals (as this dish is thought to have its origins in the Charleston area). The pandemic put a nix on much of that, but we did enjoy a few dinners out (one of us always ordered shrimp and grits!) and I spent time exploring local restaurant menus online.
To each his own...
I discovered something interesting. There really isn't a single "classic" low country shrimp and grits recipe. Instead, there are a zillion renditions of this popular Charleston specialty dish. It seems that each chef has taken the liberty of creating his or her own interpretation. One restaurant we visited served this dish with a tasso (a spicy, smoky cured ham) gravy and another's presentation included lots of melted cheddar cheese and shrimp swimming in barbecue sauce.
Online research of well-known and highly regarded Charleston restaurants revealed shrimp and grits featuring bacon, bell peppers, red miso gravy, kale, summer beans, smoked Gouda, red-eye gravy, lump crab, sea scallops, lobster, fried spinach, green onions, crispy Brussels sprouts, fennel, fried eggs, sweet and spicy jelly, creole tomatoes, shishito peppers, buttermilk broth... and on and on. Oh my, the ingredients listed are just a small sample from the numerous restaurant menus I checked out!
It seems to me that the only common denominator in Charleston shrimp and grit recipes are the shrimp and grits themselves. And to be perfectly honest, neither Scott nor I were super impressed with any of the shrimp and grits that we sampled on our little getaway trip to the low country. I'm not saying they weren't good, just not mind-blowingly delicious. So, I decided to take a cue from the Charleston chefs and come up with my own recipe for shrimp and grits.
Scott has eaten A LOT of shrimp and grits since we've been home from our trip. And anyone who's graced our door lately has also sampled one of my many renditions of this recipe-in-the-making. I'm finally quite happy with it and I believe it's ready for your dining pleasure!
So that's how this Brown Butter Tomato Shrimp and Grits recipe came about. My top priorities were to create a recipe that was really easy, unique, and, of course, delicious.
Grits plus two ingredients
The grits are super simple. I've tried both traditional grits and the 5-minute variety and found that for this recipe there isn't much difference, so I used the quick-cooking grits. Simply bring some chicken broth to a boil and slowly stir in the grits. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add a handful of white cheddar cheese and stir until melted. That's it! Just cover until ready to serve. Super simple!
A heavenly sauce
Being a huge fan of brown butter, I knew early on that this would be the base for my sauce. I love how cooking butter until it becomes golden in hue, fragrant and nutty-flavored can elevate a simple dish to almost a nirvana status.
With this recipe, after the shrimp and andouille are quickly sautéed and removed from the pan, the butter is added and the magic begins. After melting, it just takes a few minutes for the butter to sizzle, brown and become deliciously fragrant.
Onions, garlic, tomato paste and herbs come next and caramelize a bit in the delicious butter before being joined by a cup of dry white wine. The wine cooks down quickly and then chicken broth and a splash of cream finish off the sauce.
I also wanted to include some fresh veggies in my rendition. That's one thing that was lacking in the shrimp and grits that Scott and I sampled in Charleston. They were heavy and lacked the freshness we love. I almost always have a big bowl of multi-hued small tomatoes on my kitchen counter so that was an easy choice.
In addition to shrimp, I'm including another common low country ingredient, andouille sausage. Andouille sausage is a smoky, sometimes spicy sausage that originated in France. It's commonly found now at most larger grocery stores and comes either pre-cooked or raw. I employ the pre-cooked variety in my recipe as it can be enjoyed with minimal prep. I really love the andouille chicken sausage that Costco sells. It's lean with lots of protein and not many calories.
So that's my Brown Butter Tomato Shrimp and Grits story. I think you'll really enjoy this recipe. Everyone I've served them to has LOVED them and has licked their bowls clean.
Café Tips for making this Brown Butter Tomato Shrimp and Grits recipe
- Although Scott and I bought some wonderful fresh shrimp right from a shrimping company on the docks when we were at the coast, I generally purchase frozen shrimp when I'm here in the mountains of North Carolina. We're a good seven hours from the coast and I feel that frozen shrimp are fresher (they're usually frozen right on the boat) than the "fresh" shrimp that are sold here.
- If I can find them, I love to buy shrimp that are already peeled and deveined. I just have to pull off the tail and they're ready to go.
- Shrimp can easily be overcooked. That's when they get tough and rubbery. It's surprising how little time it takes to cook shrimp. Cook the shrimp just until they change color and follow the times carefully to ensure truly tender shrimp.
- Andouille sausage is a delicious smoky, sometimes spicy sausage that can be purchased at most larger grocery stores. Look in the area where they sell the pre-cooked sausage like kielbasa and Polish sausage.
- This shrimp and grits recipe calls for a half-cup of tomato paste. If you open up a small, 6-ounce can, you'll have a little left. Tomato paste can be frozen in a small ziplock bag for later use. (It makes a great pizza sauce if you simply add some Italian seasoning, a pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil.)
- This recipe calls for grits. If you're not from the south here in the USA, you may not be familiar with grits. Grits (similar to polenta) are made from corn that has been stone-ground. They can generally be found in the cereal aisle of most larger grocery stores near the oatmeal. You can also purchase grits online.
- I like to use 5-minute grits to make things easy. If you have regular grits, you'll just have to cook them longer. Follow the package instructions for cooking time. I use more liquid than the package calls for as I find that grits tend to thicken up more than you think.
- Grits always thicken up when they cool. If you're ready to serve and your grits look thick, just warm them up a bit, stir well and, if needed, add a splash of extra chicken broth.
P.S. If you love shrimp and low country/cajun style recipes, you'll also love this Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo. It's delish!
Thought for the day:
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
What we're listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear other’s results and ideas for variations.
- 4 ½ -5 cups chicken broth
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup 5-minute white grits
- 1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound large shrimp 21-25 count shelled and deveined, tails removed
- 2 andouille sausages thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoon butter
- ½ medium onion finely diced
- 2 medium cloves garlic finely minced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- ½ cup tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 cup chicken broth
- ½ cup heavy cream or half & half
- 2 cups halved yellow and red cherry and/or grape tomatoes divided
- ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil and fresh leaves (or 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary)
- fresh basil leaves (or fresh rosemary sprigs) for garnish, if desired
- toasted pine nuts for garnish, if desired
Combine 4 ½ cups of chicken broth and the salt in a medium-size pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and slowly add the grits stirring continuously. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Stir well, cover again and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until thickened and creamy. Add the shredded cheese, stir, cover and set aside. (When ready to use, thin as needed with additional chicken broth.)
Combine the garlic salt, paprika, basil, oregano and black pepper in a small bowl. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and place in a medium-size bowl. Sprinkle with the garlic salt mixture and toss to coat.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. When hot, swirl the oil then add the shrimp, all at once. Spread quickly to a single layer. Cook for 45 seconds to 1 minute, until shrimp start to curl a bit and the underside just begins to turn golden. Flip with a tongs and cook for another 45 seconds to 1 minute. (Don’t overcook!) Transfer the shrimp to a clean bowl and cover loosely.
Add the andouille sausage slices to the pan and spread out to a single layer. If the pan seems dry a little extra splash of olive oil. Cook for 1 minute then stir and cook for 30 seconds longer. Transfer to the bowl with the shrimp, cover loosely and set aside.
Add the butter to the pan and swirl the pan until the butter is melted. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter begins to turn deep golden brown and has a nutty, toasted aroma, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until it begins to soften, about 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste, dried basil and oregano and stir well. Cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the wine and bring to a boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce has been reduced by one half.
Add the chicken broth and cream (or half and half) and simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered until sauce thickens a bit. Stir in the fresh basil (or rosemary) and one and one-half cups of the tomato halves.
Return the andouille and shrimp to the pan and stir gently to combine. Turn off the heat.
Warm the grits over very low heat, if needed. If the grits seem thick (they should be spoonable), add some additional chicken broth to thin. Stir well to combine.
Scoop the grits into bowls to serve and top with the shrimp mixture. Garnish with remaining tomato halves, fresh basil leaves and toasted pine nuts, if desired.
See Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and extra tips.
I've made this recipe with both fresh rosemary and fresh basil stirred in at the end. Either are delicious!