Classic shrimp and grits are a southern specialty that can now be found nearly everywhere in the United States. We love them in the traditional style, but this dish lends itself to so much creativity and we just couldn’t resist twisting the basics with some international flavors. The result is a flavor-packed Red Chile Spiced Shrimp and Grits dish that is a simple and easy dinner and a great variation on the traditional southern shrimp and grits.
North African Flavors
We love and appreciate the different flavors from all over the world and we especially like to incorporate them into dishes we are familiar with. We hope you enjoy this flavorful twist on shrimp and grits incorporating North African flavors!
There are two very non-traditional (to shrimp and grits) flavors that we incorporated into our dish: harissa and Ras El Hanout.
Harissa-Inspired Red Chile Sauce
The first is a hot pepper sauce inspired by harissa. Harissa is a red chile sauce that originated in North Africa (sources say Tunisia) and can be found throughout North Africa and the Middle East in various forms. In basic terms, it is a pepper sauce with a very vibrant and spicy flavor.
Our harissa-inspired sauce is a red bell pepper sauce with ingredients that are easier for us to find at our local grocery store here in Houston. It has a wonderful flavor that is similar to a spicy harissa sauce. Although not an authentic harissa, it takes that inspiration and allows us to have some similar and wonderful flavors.
Can I buy Harissa for this recipe?
Harissa can be found in jars and cans in various stores, so feel free to use that in the same way if you want to skip the step of making the sauce from scratch. Either way, the flavor added to the shrimp is a winner!
Ras El Hanout Spiced Grits
The second flavor added to the grits is Ras El Hanout. This is another spice from North Africa that is a beautiful mix of many spices. There are so many variations that we decided to make our own as well. But, again, if you don’t want to make your own, it can be found in grocery stores, for the most part, or order our favorite packaged blend of Ras El Hanout online.
The Ras El Hanout deepens the color of the grits, but the flavor is ramped up significantly. The combination with the red chile shrimp works well and brings this dish to a different place!
Homemade Ras El Hanout
If you want to make this tasty version or are unable to find Ras El Hanout, here is our homemade recipe:
- 2 Cardamom pods (green)
- 5 Cloves
- 1 teaspoon dried cilantro
- 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
- ½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds (brown or yellow)
- 1 teaspoon dried orange peel
- 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
- 8 Allspice berries
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon paprika – sweet or hot
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground mace
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Add everything from the cardamom to the allspice to a spice grinder or small blender or mortar. Grind to a relatively fine consistency – it doesn’t have to be a superfine powder. Add the remaining ingredients and combine. Keep in an airtight container and use within a couple of months for best flavor.
We chose to use yellow stone ground grits from South Carolina for this recipe. This type of grits is relatively uncommon as far as grits go. You can find them, but they just are more of a throwback artisan grind. We chose yellow ones for their looks in the dish, but the more common white stone ground grits will work just as well in this application since the grits are flavored by the Ras El Hanout seasoning.
We also chose stone ground grits for their texture and flavor, which we think is the best of all of the varieties of grits.
As far as using other types of grits, they will work, but you'll need to dramatically adjust the cooking time per the instructions.
Quick grits are commonly found and are ground finer than the stone ground variety. Different companies grind them in a varying coarseness, so follow package instructions when using quick grits because the cook times will vary.
Instant grits are precooked and dried, but we find that their flavor and texture are inferior so we do not recommend them.
Polenta, although quite similar, is actually different from grits. Grits are made from dent corn and polenta is made from flint corn. Polenta is ground to a much more uniform texture than grits. However, polenta will work in this recipe, and would taste great as well (it just wouldn't be "shrimp and grits”).
Tips for Delicious Grits
Grits are much less fussy than people seem to think. However, we've had some pretty awful grits over the years! Here are some very simple tips to make sure you get what you want out of your grits:
- Make sure you stir or whisk in the grits to the boiling water thoroughly as soon as you add them to the pot. This will keep them from becoming lumpy (ugh).
- Stir them often as they will tend to stick to the bottom of the pot if left alone - even more so than rice!
- Use the ratio of liquid to grits on the packaging as a guideline. I prefer my grits to be a bit thinner than average and not so pasty. You can add more water at intervals throughout the cooking period if needed to thin them out. The longer grits cook, the thicker they'll get.
Looking for a cheesy grits recipe? Check out our Blood Orange Shrimp and Creamy Cheese Grits!
We hope that you enjoy this recipe for Red Chile Spiced Shrimp and Grits, a flavorful twist on a classic southern recipe! If you give this recipe a try and like it, leave us a 5 star rating and comment below, or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!
Looking for more recipes like this? Check these out:
- Achiote Marinated Shrimp and Couscous
- Chicken and Shrimp Stir Fry
- Scallops with Golden Romesco Sauce and Black Rice
- Spicy Ginger Garlic Shrimp Skewers
Red Chile Spiced Shrimp and Grits
Harissa Inspired Red Chile Sauce
- 2 large red bell peppers (about 500g) – trimmed and seeded (see note)
- 10 serrano peppers (about 115g) – trimmed and seeded
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and halved
- 2 lemons zest and juice
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ cup + 3 tablespoon water (165 ml)
- ¼ cup olive oil (60 ml)
For the Shrimp
- 1 Pound large shrimp (U-20), peeled and deveined
For the Grits
- 4 ¾ cups water
- 2 tablespoon Ras El Hanout (see write-up above for a homemade version)
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup stone-ground grits, yellow or white
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
For Garnish (optional)
- Green onion tops
- Additional harissa sauce as desired
Make the Red Chile Sauce
- Cut both red peppers into medium chunks. Add all ingredients except the oil to a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer and let the mixture simmer for 25 minutes.
- Put the mixture in a blender and very carefully (see note) blend until smooth. Transfer entire mixture to a large sauté pan and stir in the olive oil. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring often to prevent scorching and sticking, to evaporate most of the water content. This should take about 30 minutes.
Prepare the Shrimp
- Place the shrimp in a zip top bag with ⅓ cup of the Harissa Inspired Red Chile Sauce and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Once the shrimp have marinated, remove them to a plate. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook until done, about 4-6 minutes.
Prepare the Grits
- Before the shrimp are done marinating, you can start the grits. Bring the water, Ras El Hanout, and salt to a boil in a large pot. Add the grits and stir. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Stir often to ensure the grits do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Cook for 30 minutes. Stir in the butter and season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve in a bowl and top with the spicy shrimp. Garnish with green onions or parsley if desired.
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