The History of Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and grits are the darling of the brunch menu, and here at The Old Mill we know the best Shrimp and Grits begin with our stone-ground grits.

You can use either white or yellow grits in making shrimp and grits, and there are lots of different recipes for how to prepare this classic Southern dish. Some recipes suggest you sauté the shrimp with onions and peppers to spoon over the cooked grits. Other recipes advise you to tuck raw shrimp in the hot grits mixture and let them cook to doneness in the oven. Both methods are delicious. Shrimp and grits is a favorite on the menu at our Pottery House Cafe.

Plate of Shrimp and Grits

The origin of this popular dish is thought to be Charleston, SC, and the Low Country, more than 70 years ago, when fresh, local, small, peeled shrimp were fried in bacon grease with onion and green pepper and served alongside grits at breakfast.

In fact, the recipe for “Breakfast Shrimp” on page 49 of the Charleston Receipts cookbook, published in 1950, is the first place shrimp and grits were noted in a cookbook. After sautéing the onion and green pepper pieces until golden in a skillet, you begin making what is like a shrimp gravy to serve with grits.

You add 1 1/2 cups of these small fresh shrimp to the pan, turn a few times, and then add about a cup of water, but not so much as to cover the shrimp with water. Simmer a couple minutes, then stir in a big tablespoon of flour stirred into enough water to make a paste – to thicken the mixture.

Now you season. Add salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and a tablespoon of tomato ketchup. “Cook slowly until sauce thickens. Serve with hominy.”

Hominy, by the way, is the word for “grits” along the South Carolina coast. Both hominy (grits) and shrimp have been breakfast favorites along the coast. The rest of world is just slowly catching on to how delicious they are together.

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