Once upon a time, shrimp and grits was an obscure, humble breakfast dish found mainly in home kitchens around Charleston, South Carolina. But in 1985, New York Times food critic Craig Claiborne managed to change that almost overnight when he published a recipe for “Shrimp With Cheese Grits“ gathered from the pan-Southern chef Bill Neal. Since that turning point, the original has been tinkered with and reinvented time and time again by everyone from born and bred southerners to those well on the other side of the Mason-Dixon line. Shrimp and grits is no longer just a Charleston thing: it has gone through just about every makeover you can imagine, from pan-Asian flavor mashups to miniature versions that can be had in a single bite.
The iconic pairing has captured the imaginations of chefs everywhere for good reason: shrimp and cornmeal are two ingredients with distinctly southern associations, yet they can also adapt to whatever far-flung spices and seasonings you throw at them. Take these seven creative twists on shrimp and grits, for example, which prove that it’s possible to make it as strictly southern or as global as you want it to be.
1. Maxie's Shrimp and Grits
It’s hard to classify a recipe like this. Slices of andouille sausage take it toward the Cajun, while the smoky kiss of chipotle gives it a south-of-the-border accent. Get our Shrimp and Grits recipe.
2. Crispy Buffalo Wing Shrimp with Blue Cheese Grits
Here’s a shrimp and grits recipe that would fit right in on any bar food menu. Slathered in Frank’s Red Hot and sprinkled with blue cheese, it injects a bit of Buffalo heat into a dish full of southern charm. Get the recipe here.
3. Smoked Cheddar Shrimp and Grits Bites
These shrunk-down bites are more than just pretty little packages: with bits of bacon and shreds of smoked cheddar cheese, each and every inch bursts with smoky deliciousness. Get the recipe here.
4. Lightened-Up Shrimp and Grits Casserole
When you turn shrimp and grits into a casserole, all of its creamy, cheesy goodness gets baked right until it’s golden, hot, and delicious. Get the recipe here.
5. Fried Shrimp and Kimchi Grits
Talk about total reinvention: in this recipe, not only does the shrimp get coated, fried, and crisped, the grits are perked up by the completely unexpected addition of spicy kimchi. Get the recipe here.
6. White Quinoa Grits with Shrimp and Mexican Grilled Corn
To Mexico and beyond! In addition to swapping out the grits for a porridge-y quinoa, this dish is topped with rebelliously un-Southern ingredients like pepitas, cilantro, and cotija cheese. Get the recipe here.
7. Shrimp and Grits Fritters
Does regular shrimp and grits not have enough crispiness and crunch for your liking? These golden-brown fritters are the exact opposite of a bowl full of cornmeal mush, with all the edges and crevices you could possibly desire. Get the recipe here.
Header image: Maxie's Shrimp and Grits from CHOW
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.