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Make our family’s favorite gluten-free and vegan “shrimp” and grits recipe in less than 30 minutes! With crispy, seasoned tofu as a substitute, this is Southern comfort food at its finest. You’ll savor every last soft and spicy bite of one of our signature dishes. Get the easy recipe below.

vegan shrimp and grits in a bowl.

Healthy Gluten-Free and Vegan Shrimp and Grits Recipe

  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Prep Time:  5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 4 cups gluten-free vegetable broth
  • 1 cup gluten-free grits
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 5 drops of liquid smoke
  • 1 bag or bunch of spinach
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 package of firm tofu, drained and cut into small one-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Hot sauce for seasoning (Cajun or your favorite brand)


  1. To cook the (drained and cubed tofu), place it in an air fryer at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or bake it in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Be sure to shake it once or twice while cooking to get all the sides brown.
  2. While the tofu is cooking, pour the broth in a medium saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Uncover and slowly add the grits, stirring frequently.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until the grits have thickened and cooked through (about 5-6 minutes).
  4. While the tofu and grits are cooking, stir-fry the greens in olive oil and garlic for 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, and liquid smoke to the grits and stir until incorporated. Season generously with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. When the tofu is done cooking, moisten it slightly with one tablespoon of water, vegetable broth, or oil, and toss it with the Cajun seasoning.
  7. Serve with a scoop of grits on the bottom, greens in the middle, and tofu “shrimp” on top.
  8. Season with your desired amount of Cajun hot sauce (or the hot sauce of your choice).

Why You’ll Love These Vegan Shrimp and Grits

These vegan shrimp and grits are one of my (non-vegan) husband’s two favorite things I make for him!  He attended college in New Orleans and loves the smoky Southern Cajun style of the dish, especially on chilly, rainy nights with a light red wine.

It gives you the feeling of Southern comfort without all the added calories of dairy. Dare I say you won’t miss it! (We certainly don’t.)

Pair it with the best books about New Orleans.

Getting Creamy Dairy-Free Grits and Cajun Flavor

You do not need butter or cheese to make delicious, savory, and comforting grits! Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast packs this cheesy flavor.

We recommend this specific Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning and this specific Louisiana Crystal Hot Sauce, which have been my husband’s favorite brand since he lived in New Orleans. (If you’re not into a lot of heat, both are fairly mild, so you can definitely season to your preferred spice level.)

Quick Tips

Make sure to use gluten-free grits if you are gluten-free.

I prefer air-frying the tofu because it gets more crispy.

Great Substitutions to Try

Sometimes I add a small diced yellow onion to the pot for more flavor.

Try kale, chard, or other greens for the spinach, especially if you want more bitter Southern flavors.

Replace the nutritional yeast with your favorite vegan cheese. (Cheddar is a good option.)

Add a tablespoon of vegan butter or oil to the pot for more richness.

For more milky creaminess, substitute a cup or so of your favorite unsweetened, unflavored vegan milk for a cup of vegetable broth.

Other options for vegan “shrimp” include mushrooms, hearts of palm, cauliflower, or tempeh.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I substitute for shrimp in shrimp and grits?

For a vegan substitute in shrimp and grits, try using mushrooms, hearts of palm, tofu, tempeh, or cauliflower. These options maintain the dish’s hearty texture and pair well with the creamy grits, offering a satisfying alternative to seafood.

What is vegan shrimp made of?

Vegan shrimp is typically made from plant-based proteins or vegetables such as tofu, tempeh, mushrooms, hearts of palm, and cauliflower. When cooked and flavored, these foods can mimic the texture and flavor of traditional shrimp.

What is a vegetarian substitute for shrimp?

A vegetarian substitute for shrimp includes options like mushrooms, tofu, or hearts of palm. These ingredients provide a similar texture and can absorb flavors well.


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