Shrimp and Grits


A Southern American classic with deep
historical ties to the Gullah Geechee people



As part of my series, “The Dish I Wish You Knew,” Rose’Leigh and her cat Casper debunk stereotypes about American food by explaining the history behind shrimp and grits. Shrimp and grits, or scrip and grits, as called by the Gullah Geechee people, is a creamy dish made with corn grits, cheddar, bacon, cilantro, and onion. 

While most people believe Americans do not have a food culture, and all Southern food is the same, Rose’Leigh shows us an excellent example of the great depth and history behind some of America’s most beloved dishes. 

As Rose’Leigh says, shrimp and grits is a traditional Southern American dish that originated from the Gullah-Geechee people. The Gullah-Geechee people were enslaved people taken from the West African country, Sierra Leone. They were brought to the low coastal areas of The United States, including Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, because of their knowledge of farming rice fields. While they worked the rice fields, they were largely secluded, and it was easier for them to preserve their African culture and even create their own language, Gullah. The dialect they spoke was Geechee. Rose’Leigh and many other African Americans living in the south still speak Geechee to this day.

Shrimp and grits were created when the Gullah-Geechee people used grits, a gift from Native Americans. They combined them with shrimp and other tasty ingredients. Back in the day, shrimp was considered an undesirable ingredient, and the slave masters fed it to the Africans. However, they made the most out of what they were given and were able to create an amazingly flavorful and creamy dish. If Rose’Leigh were to describe the taste of this dish in one word, she would say it is good. The grits combine perfectly with the cheesiness of the cheddar and the slightly smoky flavor of the bacon. Shrimp and grits almost have a sweet and salty combination from the natural sweetness of the crunchy shrimp.   

Shrimp and grits show the resiliency and history behind common American dishes. It is a perfect example of what I was aiming to achieve with this series. This dish has a strong history that represents the struggles African Americans faced and the beautiful dishes they created in the face of hardship. Although the stereotype is that African Americans do not have their own culture, this dish is one of the many that proves the stereotype wrong. African Americans are not without a culture or a country. Instead, they proudly say, “we be the Gullah-Geechee nation.”

Watch the Video

Shrimp and Grits


  • ½ cup corn grits 
  • milk or chicken Stock
  • ¼ cup grated cheddar cheese 
  • 2 slices bacon
  • ½ bell pepper chopped
  • ½ yellow onion diced
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • cilantro
  • cayenne a pinch
  • green onion chopped


  • Season your shrimp with "Slap Ya Mama" seasoning. It is a creole staple, but if you can’t find it, you can also use old bay or any type of Cajun seasoning. 
  • Cook regular bacon in a frying pan and chop it into small pieces. Use the oil in the frying pan to cook the shrimp. This was a common method the enslaved people used since it cut down on food waste and added flavor to the shrimp and grits. 
  • Cook bell pepper and onion in bacon grease
  • Cook the grits according to the package. You can find black-owned grits companies or use Quaker grits. 
  • Add chicken stock and/or milk to get the grits creamy and flavorful. 
  • Add some butter, cheese, and hot sauce if you like spicy food.
  • Garnish the grits with chopped green onions. 
  • Finally, top it all off with your freshly cooked shrimp. Enjoy warm!
Course: Breakfast
Region: North America


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