Lightened-Up Shrimp and Cheesy Grits is the ultimate comfort food. Creamy, cheesy grits topped with Cajun-seasoned shrimp cooked with smoky bacon in a delicious tomato-based sauce. This meal is so comforting and indulgent-tasting, it ‘s hard to believe its lightened-up.
What you’ll need to make lightened-up shrimp and cheesy grits
Here is the ingredient list for the shrimp and pan sauce:
- shrimp – raw and cleaned
- Cajun seasoning
- center cut bacon
- lemon juice
- diced tomatoes (you can used canned diced tomatoes, or fresh)
If you do not have (or can not find) Cajun seasoning, here is a link with a resource to make your own. This spice blend uses things you probably already have in your pantry.
Here is the ingredient list for the cheesy grits:
- instant grits (I use the Quaker brand, which comes in individual packets)
- spreadable light swiss cheese, like The Laughing Cow
- fat free cheddar cheese, I use this one
All about the shrimp and how to prepare it
You can buy either fresh shrimp or frozen. If I can get to the fish counter at the store, I prefer to do that, but I always have a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer for when I am in a pinch. For this recipe, I like to use jumbo shrimp; you’ll see them sold as 16/20, which means that you’ll get anywhere from 16-20 shrimp per pound. This is how the shrimp size is measured.
Regardless of whether you buy fresh or frozen shrimp, they will need to be prepared before cooking. Even if shrimp is sold as “cleaned and deveined,” typically one of the two veins in the shrimp will be left in-tact. It is personal preference whether you want to remove this second vein or not; for me, I prefer to remove it.
When I get the shrimp home from the store, I remove the vein by running my paring knife down the center and pulling it out. It is also personal preference whether or not to leave the tails on shrimp when you cook them. I like leaving them on just for presentation, I find them to be prettier this way! But of course, feel free to remove them.
If you are using frozen shrimp, you can quickly defrost them by submerging them in a bowl of cold water. Once they are defrosted, you can clean and devein them.
If you’ve never cleaned shrimp before, here is a quick article on how to do so: How to Devein Shrimp
How to cook the shrimp and make the pan sauce
Making the pan sauce starter
First, chop up your bacon and onion. Put a large frying pan over medium heat.
We are going to start by sautéing the bacon and onion in a frying pan over medium heat until the bacon gets nice and crispy, and the onion becomes slightly caramelized with delicious and flavorful brown bits. This process should take about 12-15 minutes. You can add a bit of cooking spray, but don’t worry; the fat from the bacon will render down and help the onions along.
Once the bacon and onion looks like this, it’s time to remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon. Place the cooked bacon and onion to the side in a dish, and leave all the grease and drippings in the frying pan so we can cook the shrimp and build a sauce.
Cooking the shrimp
Take your shrimp, and season it with the Cajun seasoning. Toss it around so each piece is fully coated. Now, in the frying pan that is coated in delicious bacon grease and onion flavor, add a bit of cooking spray, and add your shrimp to the pan.
Cook the shrimp for just a couple of minutes on either side. Shrimp take no time at all to cook. This should take about 5 minutes, tops. All you’re looking for is a nice, pink color. The shrimp should be opaque (which means that instead of that translucent look they have when they’re raw, they will be nice and firm and pink in color). Try to get some good color on them too. They should have some nice char marks from the frying pan.
Building the pan sauce
Once the shrimp are cooked, we can build the sauce. Start this by adding the lemon juice to the pan, while the shrimp are still in the pan over the flame. This will help deglaze the pan. Deglazing simply means you’re taking a liquid with either acid or alcohol, and allowing it to pick up all the bits of flavor that have collected on the bottom of the pan. You can help this process along by scraping the pan gently using a wooden spoon or spatula.
Next, add in the tomatoes, followed by the bacon we cooked earlier.
Cover the pan with the lid, and cook this mixture for 5 minutes. This will allow the tomatoes to break down and create a luxurious sauce with all of the other ingredients.
Notice, we don’t use salt here. Between the Cajun seasoning on the shrimp, and the salt from the bacon, we don’t really need any other seasonings. That’s what makes this dish so easy and foolproof.
This is what the shrimp and sauce will look like after just 5 minutes of simmering together.
How to make the lightened-up cheesy grits
If you thought cooking the shrimp and pan sauce was easy, wait until you see this part! Instant grits are just that: instant. There’s not much to do here.
Now, if you are from the South, don’t hate me for using instant grits. I am from Long Island, and grits aren’t much of a thing here. Once I discovered how easy instant grits are, there was no turning back! You literally just combine them with liquid and microwave them for minutes flat, and they are done.
Maybe instant grits aren’t anything spectacular on their own, but when mixed with multiple cheeses and some fresh herbs, you really can’t go wrong. So that’s all we are going to do!
First, add the grits packets to a microwave-safe bowl, and then add your liquid of choice. I just use water here, and they come out great. If you follow the package directions, you can’t go wrong. Next, cook the grits according to the directions, and then stir them once they are done. I had Alena help me with this part.
Finally, add in your Swiss cheese wedges and cheddar. Stir to combine. If the mixture feels too thick, thin it out with some water. And that’s it, you’ve made the most deliciously cheesy grits in under 5 minutes!
Putting it all together
All you need to do here is plate the grits (the serving size is 3/4 cup) and top with the shrimp and sauce mixture (the serving size is 1 1/2 cups). Next, garnish with some fresh chopped scallions for some color and extra flavor.
Lightened-Up Shrimp and Cheesy Grits
- frying pan
- 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
- ½ tsp Cajun seasoning
- 4 slices center cut bacon, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 14.5 oz diced tomatoes, canned with juices
- 2 packets instant grits, I use Quaker
- 2 wedges spreadable light Swiss cheese, like The Laughing Cow
- ½ cup fat free cheddar cheese
- 1 scallion, chopped
- Chop the bacon and the onion.
- Add the bacon and onion to a frying pan over medium heat with a little cooking spray.
- Cook them for 12-15 minutes or until the onions are caramelized and browned, and the bacon is crispy and all fat has rendered off.
- Once cooked, remove the bacon and onion from the pan with a slotted spoon and place into a bowl to the side.
- Keep the residual grease in the pan for the next step.
- Season the shrimp with the Cajun seasoning in a bowl, and toss to coat.
- Add the shrimp to the same pan with the remaining grease, and cook for a couple of minutes on each side until firm, pink and opaque. (Approximately 5 minutes).
- Once the shrimp is cooked, add the lemon juice followed by the diced tomatoes.
- Add the bacon and onion back to the pan. Stir to combine.
- Cover with a lid for 5 minutes allowing everything to simmer together and the tomatoes cook down.
- Cook the grits according to package directions using water.
- Once cooked, stir in the two cheese wedges and the cheddar.
- Plate the grits with the shrimp, and chopped scallions for garnish.
- 11 WW points (green plan)
- 8 WW points (blue and purple plans)
Other shrimp recipes: