Kentucky Derby Shrimp and Grits with Tasso Gravy Recipe

Southern Kitchen

Serves: 6

Hands On Time: 1 hour and 0 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour and 0 minutes



1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


2 cups water

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 cup stone-ground white grits, such as Louismill

8 ounces grated white cheddar cheese (2 cups)

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

Tasso Gravy

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

8 ounces Tasso ham, diced

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup strongly brewed coffee

2 dashes Tabasco

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish


To make the shrimp: In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the shrimp and cook just until they turn pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to a plate. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside.

To make the grits: In a medium saucepan, combine the water, milk and salt, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Slowly add the grits, stirring to combine. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring frequently to prevent the grits from sticking, until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, stirring until smooth. Season with the white pepper and more salt as needed.

To make the gravy: In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter is foamy, stir in the Tasso ham and sauté until the ham is just browned. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is lightly browned. Whisk in the broth, coffee and Tabasco and let simmer. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens and becomes smooth, about 15 minutes. Taste and add salt and black pepper as needed.

To serve: Place the grits on a large platter. Place the shrimp on top of the grits and ladle on the Tasso gravy. Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.

About the recipe

Lots of Southern shrimp and grits recipes call for the addition of bacon, but we like the aromatic smell and taste of Louisiana tasso, a Creole ham that you’ll find as the foundation (along with the Holy Trinity of sautéed onions, peppers, and celery) of any respectable gumbo or jambalaya. This recipe is actually a riff on redeye gravy, an old Southern gravy using coffee and country ham. This dish is served to thousands of guests each Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Reprinted with permission from The Bourbon Country Cookbook by David Danielson and Tim Laird, Agate Surrey, 2018.