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Shrimp and Polenta

Treat yourself to summer comfort food – shrimp and polenta. Plump shrimp, smothered in a fresh herb lemon garlic dressing, and served over creamy, cheesy Polenta. Quick and easy with a good shortcut.

You may have heard of the more common ‘shrimp and grits’. Hugely popular in southern USA. Grits are essentially the same as polenta except they are made from white cornmeal called hominy instead of yellow cornmeal. For this recipe, you can use either.

polenta on plate topped with herb shrimp p

The recipe only takes about 15 minutes to make. That’s because we’re using quick cooking polenta which only takes a few minutes. I know purists may cringe, but I find if you add lots of Parmesan and butter to the polenta, most will not be able to tell the difference.

The herb mixture for the shrimp is very similar to the one I used for Lemon Herb Chicken (with a cool easy technique). The key is to use herbs that go well with shrimp.

Bottom line: Make this recipe for shrimp and polenta for a delicious dinner tonight. Herb-y, zesty, juicy, garlicky shrimp on a bed of cheesy soft polenta. Pure comfort food in 15 minutes!

How to serve shrimp and polenta

I serve this dish as a main lunch or dinner with a side salad like fig salad with pomegranates. Or just a simple green salad.

I also like to serve the herb shrimp as an appetizer without the polenta . Toss the shrimp with the herb dressing, stick them with toothpicks and good to go.

If you love polenta and prefer a vegetarian dish, try our creamy polenta with tomato herb salad. A perfect summer lunch.

What kind of shrimp to buy

Size: For this shrimp and polenta recipe, I like to use smaller 30-50 shrimp or even 90-130. The number on the package refers to how many shrimp in a pound. Large shrimp would be 16-20 (per pound/450g). The higher the number, the smaller the shrimp.

Convenience: To save time, you can buy shrimp that are already shelled and deveined. They cost more, but what a convenience!

Frozen or fresh? Frozen shrimp are safer and usually ‘fresher’ believe it or not. They are frozen immediately after being caught. Freshness of unfrozen shrimp is hard to guarantee when buying at a store unless you know and trust your fish monger.

Wild or farmed? Check the label on the package. This is a personal preference. Wild caught such as Argentine shrimp (seen in the pictures) have a shrimp-ier stronger taste. The package should also indicate if the farmed shrimp are raised with sustainable farming methods.

Here’s a good article from Epicurious with more details on how to buy shrimp.

FAQ – Good to Know

How can I tell when shrimp is cooked?

When the end of the thicker part of the shrimp (opposite the tail) turns opaque, the shrimp is done. The inside should just lose its translucency. The outside will turn bright pink or white depending on the type of shrimp. Cut off a little piece and check for doneness. Don’t overcook the shrimp or they will turn rubbery.

What herbs go with shrimp?

Parsley, basil, tarragon, oregano, dill, chives, cilantro. Lemon and garlic are great compliments.

If I can’t find quick cooking polenta, can I make regular polenta?

Absolutely. Here’s a recipe for making polenta from scratch with tips for success. You can use polenta or cornmeal (I use Bob’s Red Mill Cornmeal). It will take 30-40 minutes instead of 5 minutes with instant polenta.

How do I keep my herbs fresh?

It depends on the herb. Here’s a quick 101 on herbs: the bare essentials – how to store herbs, how to keep them fresh for longer, how to use them in cooking and more. Just the basics.

Tailor To Your Taste

Here are several variations and substitutes to try.

Herbs

  • Choose the herbs you like best and that complement the shrimp well. Parsley, basil, tarragon, oregano, dill, chives, cilantro are good choices.

Polenta

  • Use the instant polenta (as per the recipe) or make your own Parmesan Polenta.
  • Substitute grits for the polenta.
  • Skip the polenta and serve the shrimp over rice, pasta or as an appetizer with toothpicks.

Shrimp

  • I use small white Pacific or wild Argentine shrimp from Costco for this recipe (90-130 count or 30-50), but medium would be fine too. Even large are OK, cut in half.
  • For medium or large shrimp, you can roast them at 425F for 5-7 minutes depending on the size, instead of pan frying them if you prefer.

Shortcuts

  • The key shortcut, built into this recipe, is quick-cooking polenta. This will save you at least 30 minutes.
  • If you don’t mind splurging, buy shrimp that are peeled and deveined to save you the time.
  • Use a processor or immersion blender if you have one to make the herb dressing in1 minute. Dump everything in and blend.

Make Ahead

  • The herb dressing can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for a day or two. It may lose its bright green vibrance though.
  • The polenta can be made a couple of hours ahead. Just add some water and heat on medium-high, stirring, until it becomes soft and smooth again.

Other shrimp recipes for dinner you might like

How to make shrimp and polenta

bowl or raw shrimp, green onions, herbs, spices, lemon, oil
Shrimp ingredients: small-medium shrimp, green onions, herbs, spices, lemon, garlic, oil
herb dressing in processor bowl
Make herb dressing by pulsing ingredients in food processor. Or chop/grate ingredients by hand.
quick cooking polenta, water, grated Parmesan, butter, salt
Polenta ingredients: quick cooking polenta, water, grated Parmesan, butter, salt
cooked polenta in pot with cheese and butter
Make quick cooking polenta in a few minutes according to package directions in a medium saucepan. Add Parmesan cheese and butter. Stir until creamy smooth.
pan fried shrimp
Pan fry shrimp in a large skillet for 2-5 minutes total, depending on size of shrimp, just until opaque. Don’t over cook.
polenta on plate topped with herb shrimp
Turn off heat. Add herb dressing to pan and toss with shrimp to coat. Spoon polenta onto a plate or bowl with shrimp on top. Serve.
polenta on plate topped with herb shrimp p
Herb Shrimp on Polenta on a black plate 5
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5 from 12 votes

Shrimp and Polenta

Treat yourself to summer comfort food – shrimp and polenta. Plump shrimp, smothered in a fresh herb lemon garlic dressing, and served over creamy cheesy Polenta. Quick and easy with a good shortcut.
Prep Time6 mins
Cook Time9 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Servings: 3 main dish
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

Shrimp

  • 1 pound (450g) shrimp, shelled and deveined, Note 1
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or half oil, half butter)
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Herb Dressing

  • 1/2 cup (30g) fresh herbs, packed eg parsley, basil, tarragon, chives, oregano, cilantro and/or dill
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon minced or grated garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1 lemon (zest plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon -1/2 red pepper flakes for spicy shrimp (optional)
  • 6 tablespoon olive oil (or a bit less if preferred)

Instant Polenta, Note 2

  • 2 1/2 cup (335ml) water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup (80g) instant Polenta/Cornmeal (1 minute or quick cooking polenta)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup (90g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • MAKE HERB DRESSING: Finely chop herbs and green onions. Stir together with other dressing ingredients except oil. Slowly whisk in oil. Alternatively (I do this): put all herb dressing ingredients in a processor and pulse to blend well. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  • MAKE POLENTA: Follow directions on package. I use 1/2 cup instant Polenta (for 2-3 servings) plus 2 1/2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. (Typically: boil water and salt. Stir in Polenta slowly, stirring constantly. Turn heat to low. Cook for a minute or two until thickened.) Remove from heat and stir in butter and Parmesan cheese. If too thick, add a bit more water and stir. Polenta should be creamy, smooth and loose. It will thicken more on standing. Cover and keep warm. Note 2 to make regular polenta.
  • SAUTE SHRIMP: Rinse and pat shrimp dry with paper towels. Make sure they are dry. Heat oil (or oil-butter combination) in non-stick pan to medium high until sizzling. Add shrimp. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute for 2 minutes, turn over, then saute for another 1-3 minutes, depending on size of shrimp. Don't overcook. They're done when they are just turning opaque (pink or white). TURN OFF HEAT. Add herb dressing and stir to coat.
  • SERVE: Rewarm polenta if needed on medium-high heat, adding a bit of water if needed. Stir rapidly until smooth again. Spoon Polenta into bowls or plates. Top with shrimp and serve.

Notes

  1. Shrimp:
    • I use small white Pacific or wild Argentine shrimp from Costco for this recipe (90-130 count or 30-50), but medium would be fine too. Even large are OK, cut in half. 
    • For medium or large shrimp, you can roast them at 425F/218C for 5-7 minutes depending on the size, instead of pan frying them if you prefer.
  2. To make regular polenta (not instant): Here’s a recipe for Parmesan Polenta. It will take 30-40 minutes. 
  3. Make Ahead: 
    • The herb dressing can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for a day or two. (It will lose it’s bright green color though)
    • The Polenta can be made a couple of hours ahead. Just add some water and reheat on medium high, stirring, until it becomes soft and smooth again.
 
Nutritional values are estimates. To reduce calories, reduce amount of Parmesan cheese or skip the polenta altogether. 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Shrimp and Polenta
Amount Per Serving
Calories 664 Calories from Fat 396
% Daily Value*
Fat 44g68%
Saturated Fat 10g63%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 6g
Monounsaturated Fat 26g
Cholesterol 406mg135%
Sodium 2053mg89%
Potassium 319mg9%
Carbohydrates 27g9%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 41g82%
Vitamin A 1250IU25%
Vitamin C 41mg50%
Calcium 440mg44%
Iron 5mg28%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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5 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thanks for one of the Best
    Best
    BEST
    recipes I’ve ever discovered!

    The herbal sauce is amazing. I cheated and did microwave polenta to save time, and the flavors made amazing shrimp.

    1. Thanks so much for leaving a comment Polly! So glad you liked the herb shrimp. (And cheating is fine – I do it all the time. I call it shortcuts)

    1. The comment you posted is under Herb Smothered Shrimp instead of Chicken With Herb Garlic Lemon Smear, but thanks very much for commenting. Glad you like the chicken!

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