Shrimp and Grits: Iconic Dish of the South

Shrimp and grits have become an iconic dish of the South enjoyed by locals and visitors every day. This iconic dish originated in the Lowcountry when the Gullah people were exposed to corn and grits by the plantation owners who gave them a portion of their food allowance.

The Gullah people are West Africans enslaved to work the rice, cotton, and indigo plantations in the Sea Islands, including Edisto Island, in the 1700s. Many of them were purposely taken from Africa due to their superior skills in rice-growing.

They lived on coastal plantations and were isolated from the mainland, which allowed them to stay true to their African traditions, including food, music, language, basket making, art, and more. The plantation owners often left the Gullah people alone on the islands to care for the land while staying on the mainland during the summer and rainy months.

The Native Americans created grits by grounding corn to make this tasty and filling food. Traditionally the Gullah people added shrimp and other fresh seafood from the surrounding waterways around the island to the grits. Many of the delicious southern grits dishes you enjoy today originated with the Gullah people, and this includes shrimp and grits.

The Gullah people made the most of their local resources and caught shrimp in nets to cook with various dishes, including grits. The shrimp in Edisto Island is known around the world as being meaty, juicy, and flavorful, which can’t be matched anywhere else.

These tasty shrimp combined with spices, bell peppers, and grits make the best shrimp and grits dish you will ever taste. It’s best to eat this authentic dish on Edisto Island, but you can also make it at home at any time.

The following recipe will help you create an authentic shrimp and grits dish filled with Gullah history, hard work, and traditional West African cooking values. Let’s get started cooking this fantastic dish!

Here’s what you need:


2 cups of grits
1 pound of shrimp (peeled, cleaned, and deveined)
1 cup of vegetable oil
1 tsp of garlic powder
1tsp of ground black pepper
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of paprika
1 medium onion chopped into cubes or pieces
1 cup of self-rising flour
½ chopped red bell pepper
½ chopped green bell pepper
3 strips of bacon
1 stalk of celery chopped into pieces
1 cup of hot water

Now let’s put all these ingredients to work:


  1. Cook the grits and set them to the side until later.
  2. Use a heavy-bottomed skillet to heat the vegetable oil on medium to high heat.
  3. Get a zip lock bag and put the flour, garlic powder, paprika, pepper, salt, and shrimp inside and seal the bag. Shake the bag until the shrimp are completely coated with the flour and seasonings.
  4. Unseal the zip lock bag and put the shrimp into the hot skillet.
  5. Cook the shrimp until they are toasted and brown on both sides.
  6. Carefully remove the shrimp from the skillet and place it in a bowl and set it to the side for now.
  7. Carefully drain the excess oil in the pan but leave it lightly coated.
  8. Add the celery, red and green bell peppers, onion, and water to the pan and simmer on medium heat until the vegetables are tender.
  9. Add the cooked shrimp to the pan and allow it to simmer for 1 to 15 minutes until the gravy appears brown and thick.
  10. Pour the shrimp and other ingredients over the cooked grits and season with pepper and salt. Crumble the bacon and add it to the top of the shrimp and grits dish.

This recipe feeds up to four people depending on the serving size. It’s an excellent option when cooking for a large group since it’s easy to double the ingredients and still cook the entire dish quickly and easily.

The precise steps mentioned in the recipe produce maximum flavor from every ingredient used. You can choose to sauté the peppers and onions until tender for superior taste and a crisp texture or cook them a bit longer to your liking.

The crisp ingredients combined with the seasonings, delicious shrimp, and tasty bacon create the ultimate shrimp and grits dish that will surely become one of your staple dishes when cooking for your family and friends.

The Gullah people are not mentioned in history books but are an important part of American history. Their traditional cooking methods combined with using local ingredients are a fundamental part of history and southern cuisine.

An honorable and fun way to teach your children, family, and friends about Gullah history is to mention them at the dinner table while you enjoy their tasty recipe. Their recipes are the root of southern cooking and popular dishes we all know today. This includes shrimp and grits, of course, but also peaches and cream pie, fried corn cakes, Gullah rice, sautéed shrimp with okra, and many other dishes.

An impressive fact about Gullah cooking is they usually cooked everything in one pot. Many of the dishes were pot meals because they only had access to one pot in their quarters while they were enslaved. However, when they cooked in the main house for the plantation owners, they had access to multiple pots to be more creative.

Many Gullah people shared their private cooking with their fellow enslaved people to ensure everyone had a portion of food daily. Life was often difficult, and days were filled with hard work tending to the rice and indigo fields and other agriculture in the area and raising pigs.

The descendants of the Gullah people are working towards making sure everyone knows about their ancestors and protecting their history and lands.

An excellent way to enjoy authentic Gullah recipes, food, art, music, and culture is to visit Edisto Island to tap into history and indulge in Gullah cuisine. Start planning your next trip to Edisto Island today and get you some authentic yummy shrimp and grits!

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