Shrimp and Polenta

Shrimp and Polenta topped with asparagus is a snap to make but also is a comforting and healthy dish reminiscent of shrimp and grits.

Shrimp and Polenta topped with asparagus is a snap to make but also is a comforting and healthy dish reminiscent of shrimp and grits.

Some days it’s challenging to get a healthy and satisfying meal on the table. On those days, I need something comforting that won’t take a ton of effort to make. Something like this tasty Shrimp and Polenta.

What is Polenta?

First things first. While this is based on the Southern dish Shrimp and Grits, I like to use polenta. While both grits and polenta are made from cornmeal, they are a bit different. Polenta is made from yellow field corn and grits are usually made with dried hominy in white and yellow varieties. While they are prepared in similar ways, the process that happens before it gets to you is different and results in different textures in the end result.

Making Shrimp and Polenta

This recipe comes together in about 25 minutes which is perfect for a busy night. Start by bringing your broth or water to a boil while you prep your shrimp and asparagus. I use cumin and cayenne to toss the shrimp in for this recipe. By the time you’ve done this, trimmed the asparagus, and grated the cheddar, your liquid for the polenta should be boiling.

Remove the pot with the boiling broth from the heat, and whisk as you slowly add the cornmeal. It’s important to use a whisk here to prevent the cornmeal from clumping. Put the pot back on medium heat and stir while bringing to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low and stir often for about 5 minutes until it’s thickened. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar and butter and then cover and set aside.

Next, melt butter in a large skillet and add the asparagus. Cook 1-2 minutes until asparagus turns bright green. Then you’ll add the shrimp, stir, and cook until shrimp are pink all over, 3-5 minutes.

Scoop polenta onto plates (you can stir in some boiling water before serving if it’s set too much at this point) and top with shrimp and asparagus.

Adding a final zing, cutting the richness of the polenta and wedding it to the asparagus and shrimp is a final squeeze of lemon. (Note: the lemon is not a garnish. It is essential.)



Shrimp and Polenta

  • Author: Christine Pittman
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings


Shrimp and Polenta topped with asparagus is a snap to make but also is a comforting and healthy dish reminiscent of shrimp and grits.


  • 4 and ½ cups unsalted chicken broth (or use half water and half broth)
  • Salt
  • 1 lb medium or large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tail-on
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 6 oz aged cheddar cheese
  • 1 and 1/2 cups coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 of a lemon cut into 4 wedges


  1. Pour the broth (or broth and water) into a large saucepan. Add ½ teaspoon of salt. Cover the pot and bring the broth to a boil over high heat.
  2. While the liquid is coming to a boil, in a medium bowl combine the cumin and cayenne. Add the shrimp and toss to evenly coat them in the seasoning.
  3. Trim the tough ends off of the asparagus and cut them into 2-inch pieces. Grate the cheese.
  4. Once the liquid has boiled, remove the pot from the heat. Start whisking as you add the cornmeal in a slow stream (the continuous whisking and slow-streaming prevents clumping). Put the pot over medium heat and stir until it comes to a simmer.
  5. Reduce heat to low and stir often for 5 minutes, until the polenta is thickened and has had a chance to cook.
  6. Remove from the heat. Add the cheddar and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Stir until it is thoroughly combined. Taste. I find that it usually needs about ¼ teaspoon more salt. Cover the pot and set it aside.
  7. Fill a kettle with water and put it on to boil.
  8. Warm the remaining tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. A moment after it has completely melted, add the asparagus and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir and cook until the asparagus turns bright green, 1-2 minutes.
  9. Add the shrimp. Stir and cook until the shrimp have turned pink all over, 3-5 minutes. Transfer the shrimp and asparagus to a serving bowl.
  10. Give your polenta a stir. If it’s gotten really thick or has begun to set add ¼ cup boiling water. Stir. Add a drizzle at a time, stirring after each addition until it’s back to a soft creamy texture.
  11. Scoop polenta onto plates, top with the shrimp and asparagus, and give everyone a wedge of lemon to squeeze over their plates.
This post originally appeared in August 2012 and was revised and republished in May 2020.


Shrimp and Polenta

12 Responses to “Shrimp and Polenta”

  1. Dominique — May 26, 2017 @ 9:44 pm (#)

    Dear Christine,
    I want you to know that your recipe was not only delicious but helped me immensely. My mom was at the hospital to accompany my Nana all day for biopsies for her cancer.  I had to come up with dinner that was comforting and fast and found your site.
    Thanks so much for the yummy (and easy) food!!

    • Christine Pittman — June 2, 2017 @ 1:46 pm (#)

      Dominique, You’re welcome. Thank you for telling me!

  2. JulieD — September 21, 2012 @ 7:01 pm (#)

    Do you know that I love yellow grits/polenta better than white grits? It’s so good…this is definitely comfort food, I agree! I love your pictures, Christine, and the addition of asparagus!

    • Christine Pittman — September 22, 2012 @ 8:39 am (#)

      Thank you so much for your comment. A compliment from *you* on my pictures has made my month, honestly. It really means a lot to me. Thank you for the compliment and for commenting.

  3. Andrea @ Run, Eat, Date, Sleep — September 15, 2012 @ 8:16 pm (#)

    This looks so delicious! They serve a polenta dish at Olivia’s where I work, but now I have a recipe to duplicate it. Awesome!

    • Christine Pittman — September 16, 2012 @ 4:22 pm (#)

      Thanks Andrea! What do they serve the polenta with at Olivia’s? I’m always looking for new polenta ideas. :)

      • Andrea @ Run, Eat, Date, Sleep — September 16, 2012 @ 4:30 pm (#)

        They serve the polenta with pan-seared scallops and steamed asparagus, topped with a sun-dried tomato sauce. And the polenta is made with mascarpone cheese. Delicious!

        • Christine Pittman — September 18, 2012 @ 9:30 am (#)

          That all sounds *amazing*! I’ve never had mascarpone in polenta before. Guess what I’ll be trying very very soon!!!

  4. katie — August 31, 2012 @ 7:56 pm (#)

    Christine, this looks and sounds amazing. I’m trying to resist the urge of calling 1-800-PIZZA right now… maybe I’ll make this instead since I have everything on hand!!!


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