Let’s go on a mouthwatering journey through the vibrant and soulful flavors of the South with this fabulous Spicy Shrimp and Creamy Cajun Polenta – a symphony of spice, creaminess, and a whole lot of bayou flair!
Why You Will Love This
Your family will absolutely adore this Spicy Shrimp and Creamy Cajun Polenta recipe.
It’s a culinary masterpiece that’s guaranteed to become a weeknight favorite. The succulent plump shrimp, bathed in a rich, Cajun-infused butter sauce, delivers a fiery kick that’s simply irresistible.
Paired with the creamy Cajun polenta, generously studded with fresh corn, the holy trinity (green bell peppers, onion, and celery), and the indulgent notes of Parmesan cheese, this dish offers a medley of flavors and textures that will satisfy every palate at the table.
It’s a true crowd-pleaser that transforms any dinner into a delightful Cajun celebration without needing any special occasion.
This is a pretty solid stand-alone dish. But, if you wanted to have additional sides, breads and salads would be my go-to.
Check out our Creole Cornbread to keep it cajun or our Easy No Knead Overnight Focaccia Bread because it rocks! If you want a crusty bread (and who doesn’t), you have to try our sourdough. We’ve been making it for years!
Preparing this delectable dish is a breeze as you’ll find these readily available ingredients at your local grocery store, allowing you to effortlessly bring together the vibrant flavors of Cajun cuisine in the comfort of your own kitchen.
- Shrimp (peeled and deveined): The star of the show, shrimp offers a succulent and seafood-rich base for the dish. When cooked to perfection, it’s tender, juicy, and beautifully soaks up the flavorful Cajun seasoning and garlic-infused butter sauce. Stick with large shrimp. Jumbo shrimp is ok if you plan on just serving a few shrimp per dish. It’s not a good idea to use small shrimp for this particular dish.
- Butter: Butter adds a touch of indulgence, bringing richness and a creamy texture to the spicy shrimp. It forms the luscious base for the Cajun seasoning to cling to, creating a mouthwatering coating.
- Garlic: Minced garlic infuses the dish with a savory and aromatic flavor. It complements the heat of the Cajun seasoning and adds a delightful depth to the overall taste profile.
- Cajun seasoning: Cajun seasoning is the heart and soul of this dish, delivering the characteristic spicy, smoky, and aromatic essence of Cajun cuisine. It transforms the shrimp into a flavorful and fiery delight.
- Black pepper: Black pepper enhances the overall spiciness and depth of flavor in the dish. It works in harmony with the Cajun seasoning to give your taste buds a tantalizing kick.
- Thyme and Parsley: The addition of thyme and parsley to the shrimp infuses the dish with herbaceous depth and freshness. Thyme contributes earthy and slightly floral notes, complementing the spiciness of the Cajun seasoning for a more complex flavor profile. Meanwhile, parsley adds a burst of freshness and brightness, acting as a vibrant contrast to the richness and spiciness, balancing the overall taste and enhancing the visual appeal of the dish. Please use fresh herbs!
- Lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice provides a refreshing citrusy brightness that balances the heat and adds a zesty, tangy note, making every bite a delightful explosion of flavors.
For the Creamy Cajun Polenta:
- Stone-ground Cornmeal: Cornmeal serves as the foundation for the creamy Cajun polenta, creating a hearty and satisfying base. It thickens and texturizes the dish while absorbing the savory chicken stock. You can use quick cooking polenta. Just adjust the cooking time.
- Chicken stock: Chicken stock is the flavorful liquid that brings the polenta to life. It infuses the dish with a savory essence, enhancing the overall taste and providing a creamy consistency. Chicken broth works just as well.
- Olive oil: A touch of olive oil adds a mild, fruity undertone to the polenta while helping to prevent sticking during cooking. It contributes to the overall richness and texture.
- Garlic: Minced garlic in the polenta infuses it with a subtle garlic aroma, adding depth and complexity to the dish.
- Butter: Butter plays a dual role by enhancing the creaminess and richness of the polenta. It contributes to the velvety smoothness that contrasts beautifully with the spicy shrimp.
- Corn: Fresh corn or frozen corn kernels provide sweet bursts of freshness and texture to the creamy polenta, creating delightful pockets of flavor.
- Onion, Green Bell Pepper, and Celery (Holy Trinity): This trio, known as the Holy Trinity in Cajun cooking, is the flavor backbone of many dishes. The onion adds sweetness, the green peppers impart a slight bitterness, and the celery contributes earthiness, resulting in a balanced and complex flavor profile in the polenta.
- Parmesan cheese: Parmesan cheese adds a layer of indulgence, imparting a salty and nutty note that elevates the creaminess of the polenta, making it a genuinely irresistible accompaniment to the spicy shrimp.
- Kosher salt and Black pepper: These seasonings are the final touches, ensuring the polenta is perfectly seasoned, and all the flavors harmonize beautifully.
How To Make Spicy Shrimp with Creamy Cajun Polenta
In a large skillet, heat up the olive oil over medium low heat then add the holy trinity: the onions, celery, and green bell pepper.
Allow them to cook over medium low heat until softened, about 7-10 minutes.
While the vegetables are sweating, bring to a boil the chicken stock over medium high heat in a medium saucepan.
Whisking, slowly add the cornmeal. Keep whisking to prevent clumping, and continue to add the cornmeal until it is fully incorporated.
Reduce the heat to a simmer (medium heat) and continue to cook the polenta for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally with a whisk or wooden spoon.
When the holy trinity is soft and the onions are translucent, add the corn and butter to the skillet. Toss in a pinch or two of salt and pepper to taste.
Increase the heat a bit to a simmer. We want that butter to brown but not burn.
Continue to cook the corn and vegetables for about 5-7, and you notice the butter is beginning to brown.
Next, add the minced garlic to the dish and stir in the garlic. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute.
Remove from the heat and set aside. You can leave it in the skillet.
When the polenta is done, add the parmesan cheese and stir to incorporate.
Next, add the butter and stir that in.
For the last step of the polenta, go ahead and pour the cajun corn mixture from the skillet into the polenta.
Give a couple of stirs to incorporate. Grab a spoon, give it a taste, and add additional salt and pepper to your preference.
Remove the polenta from the heat and set aside.
Wipe the skillet that you cooked the vegetables and corn in (or grab a clean one), and heat to medium high heat.
Add the butter and when melted, add the peeled and deveined shrimp. Next, add the cajun seasoning, black pepper, minced garlic, and fresh thyme. Give them a stir to incorporate the herbs and spices.
This recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons of cajun seasoning. We found that 1 tbsp made the shrimp too spicy and too salty. If you like it spicy but not salty, consider adding a dash of cayenne or red pepper flakes for an additional kick.
Cook for about 3-4 minutes, 1 1/2 minutes to two minutes on each side, depending on the size of the shrimp.
When about done, toss in the parsley and the juice of half a lemon and stir to incorporate.
Remove the shrimp from the heat when done cooking and immediately plate.
In a bowl or on a plate, portion out the cajun polenta, then top with the shrimp. Spoon over a bit of that brown butter in the skillet. Follow that up with a garnish of additional parmesan cheese and serve.
What you end up with this shrimp and polenta dish is a masterpiece on your plate, a harmonious marriage of flavor and texture that will have you dancing with delight.
The creamy Cajun polenta, with its rich, cheesy undertones and the sweetness of fresh corn mingling perfectly, provides a luxurious base that’s as comforting as it is indulgent.
On top of this velvety canvas, you’ll find the star of the show – the spicy shrimp glistening with that irresistible Cajun-seasoned brown butter sauce. Each bite is a symphony of heat, spice, and succulence, beautifully complemented by the creaminess of the polenta.
And don’t forget the finishing touch – a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, adding that final layer of savory umami.
Together, it’s a culinary experience that will take your taste buds straight to the heart of Cajun country. Serve it up, savor every mouthful, and let the flavors take you on a delicious journey you won’t soon forget.
Tips and Variations
- Prep Your Ingredients Beforehand: Before you start cooking, ensure all your ingredients are measured, chopped, and ready to go. This includes having your shrimp peeled and deveined, your garlic minced, and the Holy Trinity (onion, green bell pepper, and celery) diced. Preparing everything in advance will make the cooking process smoother and more enjoyable.
- Control the Spice Level: Cajun seasoning can vary in spiciness from brand to brand. Taste the seasoning before adding it to the shrimp and adjust the quantity to your preferred heat level. If you prefer milder flavors, start with a smaller amount and gradually add more as needed. Remember, you can always add more spice, but it’s challenging to tone it down once it’s too hot.
- Patience with the Polenta: Cooking the creamy Cajun polenta to perfection requires patience. Stir continuously and slowly add the chicken stock to avoid lumps. Be prepared for it to take a bit of time to reach the desired creamy consistency. If needed, you can add extra chicken stock to achieve your preferred texture. It’s worth the effort for that velvety, restaurant-quality finish.
- Cajun Crawfish and Corn Polenta: Swap out the shrimp for crawfish tails, a beloved Cajun delicacy. Sauté them in the Cajun-spiced brown butter sauce just as you would with the shrimp.
Enhance the creamy polenta with sweet corn, diced Andouille sausage, and a touch of smoky paprika for an extra layer of flavor. Garnish with chopped fresh scallions and a drizzle of hot sauce for a true taste of the bayou.
- Blackened Catfish and Creamy Cajun Polenta: Opt for blackened catfish fillets as the star protein. Season the catfish fillets generously with a homemade blackening spice mix for an authentic Cajun kick.
Continue with the creamy Cajun polenta, but this time, incorporate sautéed okra slices and diced tomatoes for added depth and a hint of Southern charm. Finish with a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon to cut through the smoky richness of the blackened catfish.
- Cajun Shrimp and Grits: Transform the dish into a classic Cajun Shrimp and Grits by replacing the creamy polenta with stone-ground grits cooked with chicken stock for richness.
Season the shrimp with Cajun spices and cook them in a skillet with a rich and smoky bacon and green onion gravy. Serve the Cajun-spiced shrimp over a mound of creamy grits, generously spooning the flavorful gravy on top. Finish with a garnish of crispy bacon bits and freshly chopped chives.
To prevent overcooking shrimp, keep a close eye on them while cooking. Shrimp cook quickly and become tough if overcooked. Sauté them on medium-high heat for just 1-2 minutes per side until they turn pink and opaque. Remove them promptly to avoid overcooking.
Yes, you can use instant polenta for creamy Cajun polenta to save time. Follow the package instructions, but generally, you’ll whisk the instant polenta into simmering chicken stock and cook for 3-5 minutes until it thickens. Add butter, Parmesan cheese, and corn butter mixture as per the recipe.
Making Cajun seasoning at home is easy. Combine 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to taste), 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix these spices thoroughly, and you’ll have a homemade Cajun seasoning ready for your shrimp and polenta recipe. Adjust the heat level by adding more or less cayenne pepper.
Other Delicious Shrimp Recipes
Spicy Shrimp with Creamy Cajun Polenta Recipe
- 1 lb Shrimp 24-30 count (24 shrimp), peeled and deveined.
- 4 tbsp Butter for the shrimp
- 2 cloves Garlic minced, for the shrimp
- 1 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
- 3 sprigs Fresh thyme
- 1/4 tsp Black pepper
- 2 tbsp Parsley chopped
- 1/2 Lemon juice squeezed
Creamy Cajun Polenta
- 1 cup Cornmeal
- 4 cup Chicken stock extra, if you want it more creamy
- 1 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 clove Garlic minced, for the polenta
- 4 tbsp Butter for the corn
- 2 tbsp Butter for the polenta
- 1 cup Corn cut off the cob, or frozen
- 1/4 cup Onion diced
- 1/4 cup Celery diced
- 1/4 cup Green bell pepper diced
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese plus a bit extra, for garnish (optiona).
- Kosher salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese
- In a large skillet, heat up the olive oil over medium low heat then add the holy trinity: the onions, celery, and green bell pepper.Allow them to cook over medium-low heat until softened, about 7-10 minutes.1 tbsp Olive oil, 1/4 cup Onion, 1/4 cup Celery, 1/4 cup Green bell pepper
- Bring to a boil the chicken stock over medium-high heat. Whisking, slowly add the polenta. Keep whisking to prevent clumping, and continue to add the cornmeal until it is fully incorporated.4 cup Chicken stock, 1 cup Cornmeal
- Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook the polenta for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When the holy trinity is soft and the onions are translucent, add the corn and butter to the skillet. Toss in a pinch or two of salt and pepper to taste. Increase the heat a bit to a simmer. Continue to cook the corn and vegetables for about 5-7, and you notice the butter is beginning to brown.4 tbsp Butter, 1 cup Corn
- Add the minced garlic to the dish and stir in the garlic. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Remove from the heat and set aside.1 clove Garlic
- When the polenta is done, add the parmesan cheese and stir to incorporate. Next, add the butter and stir that in.2 tbsp Butter, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- Pour the cajun corn mixture from the skillet into the polenta. Give a couple of stirs to incorporate. Grab a spoon, give it a taste, and add additional salt and pepper to your preference.Kosher salt, Black pepper
- Remove the polenta from the heat and set aside. Wipe the skillet that you cooked the vegetables and corn in (or grab a clean one), and heat to medium-high heat.
- Add the butter and when melted, add the shrimp. Next, add the cajun seasoning, black pepper, minced garlic, and fresh thyme. Give them a stir to incorporate the herbs and spices.1 lb Shrimp, 4 tbsp Butter, 2 cloves Garlic, 1 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning, 3 sprigs Fresh thyme, 1/4 tsp Black pepper
- Cook for about 3-4 minutes, 1 1/2 minutes to two minutes on each side, depending on the size of the shrimp.
- When about done, toss in the parsley and the juice of half a lemon and stir to incorporate. Remove the shrimp from the heat when done cooking and immediately plate.1/2 Lemon juice, 2 tbsp Parsley
- Optionally, garnish with grated parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.