Make this classic dish of Cajun Shrimp and Cheesy Grits for dinner tonight! This recipe is ready in under 30 minutes and features a side dish of sauteed greens to balance out the meal.
Guys, I am obsessed with Cajun flavors, and I think it is starting to show on my blog. I've got a TON of Cajun flavored recipes, I'll link to them at the bottom, so keep reading!
This time I am sharing a simple, classic recipe of Cajun shrimp with cheesy grits. And I throw in some sauteed spinach for good measure.
I like to make sure there's a serving of veggies in most of my meals, and spinach is the quickest cooking vegetable known to mankind.*
*Note: I haven't verified this, but it feels true!
This whole dish - the shrimp, grits, and greens - takes less than 30 minutes to make from scratch - including prep, thanks to quick cooking grits. Make sure you get quick grits - the kind that cook in 5 minutes. Otherwise this recipe will take you a bit longer to cook.
I am not claiming that these are Louisiana style shrimp and grits. I am just claiming that these are DANG GOOD and make a super easy shrimp dinner.
Related recipe: Cheesy Grits Fritters Appetizer
How to make grits taste good
If you're not a grits fan, I encourage you to try these cheesy grits. They are about infinity times better than the plain grits that you would make if you followed the instructions on the grits packaging, which say salt is optional. Salt is NOT optional for grits.
Plain grits suck. That's the plain truth. But add some cheese or cream to make them creamier, and it's a game changer. This recipe uses lots of cheddar cheese to flavor the grits and make them rich and cheesy.
If you want to see a recipe super creamy grits made without cheese, check out my vegetarian grits with Cajun spiced sweet potato. You can mix and match the grits toppings, but these two grits recipes just show that there is more than one way to make grits taste really good.
Good toppings such as spicy shrimp or Cajun-seasoned roasted vegetables like in my vegetarian grits recipes are key to making grits feel like a gourmet side dish instead of poor man's food.
Related recipe: Easy Instant Pot Sausage Gumbo
The game plan to cooking this easy shrimp dinner
You need to cook three separate dishes for this recipe, there's no other way about it. But each one takes only about 5 minutes, so it's very quick.
Here's the game plan: Start cooking the grits, as they take the longest (all of 5 minutes)
Then season the shrimp with Cajun seasoning (see below on which ones I recommend) and cook those over high heat. The high heat and hot oil is KEY to getting that beautiful spicy-looking color in the shrimp instead of having it just turn pink.
Remove the shrimp from the skillet and cook the spinach in the same skillet, so the spinach picks up some of the flavor from the shrimp and some of the remaining Cajun seasoning.
EASY! It's about 10 minutes of cooking, overall.
Related recipe: Cajun Chicken Pasta
Which Cajun seasoning to use
Which one should you choose??
Healthy solutions is spicier. Badia is a bit more mild in spice but more flavorful. Badia has tricalcium phosphate added to prevent caking - this is because it's a larger packaging and it will need to stay nice and powdery in your kitchen for a while. Healthy solutions doesn’t have any chemicals added. It's a smaller package (enough for several meals!), and the point is not to have old spices hiding out in your kitchen for years. Healthy solutions is a small business owned by a woman. Badia is a huge company.
You decide what’s right for you and your kitchen. I'd love to hear which one you chose! Let me know in a comment at the bottom of this recipe!
Is Cajun shrimp spicy?
Both seasoning are pretty spicy. If you don't want spicy shrimp, one option for this recipe is to use a homemade blackened seasoning, such as the one I use in my blackened chicken recipe. This way you can control the spice and end up with not-so-spicy shrimp. Blackened shrimp is an excellent choice on grits. It will still taste spicy and smoky which complements cheesy grits very well.
What is a good side dish for shrimp and grits?
Traditionally, you would probably serve sauteed collard greens with shrimp and grits, but ain't nobody got time for that! Collar greens take a while to cook and need a little TLC to become nice and tender (psst, check out my sauteed collard greens with spicy cottage cheese recipe!)
Another Cajun Louisiana classic side dish is butter beans.
In this recipe, I use simple sauteed spinach as the side for Cajun shrimp. It's just the quickest, and one of the best ways to eat a large serving of vegetables in just a few bites because spinach cooks down so much as it cooks. Just pile it on top of the cheesy grits next to the shrimp. They'll get along nicely, I promise.
Other Cajun shrimp sides you might want to try are:
- Roasted Cajun okra (yes, okra is actually quite good if you cook it right! I'll show you how to make it not slimy)
- Bacon roasted vegetables - these vegetables are flavorful and stand up nicely to spicy shrimp and cheesy grits
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Cajun Shrimp and Cheesy Grits
- 1 lb shrimp , peeled and de-veined, thawed if frozen
- 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (or less, to taste if you don't like things too spicy - read the blog post for some other seasoning ideas)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil , divided
- 1 cup quick cooking grits
- 4 cups water (or as much as the grits instructions require)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used yellow sharp cheddar)
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 4 handfuls baby spinach or other baby greens
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Optional: Chopped scallions or cilantro leaves for garnish
- Cook the grits according to the package, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in shredded cheese while the grits are still hot.
- Toss the shrimp with the Cajun seasoning. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, and add the seasoned shrimp. Cook the shrimp about 2-3 minutes per side, or until fully cooked. Remove from pan and set aside.
- While the grits are cooking, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and minced garlic to the same skillet where you cooked the shrimp saute for 1 minute, and then add the baby spinach. Season with salt and pepper (no other seasoning needed, as the greens will pick up the Cajun spices from the skillet). Cook stirring occasionally for ~5-7 minutes or until the greens have wilted.
- Serve the Cajun Shrimp and Sauteed Greens over the Cheesy Grits.