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This shrimp and polenta dinner serves sautéed harissa shrimp over creamy, cheesy polenta, all finished with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of fresh basil. Think “shrimp and grits,” but with more Mediterranean flavours. It’s super easy to make, and so cozy to eat!

Harissa shrimp served over creamy polenta.

Harissa paste is one of my favourite seasonings to cook with, as evidenced by this creamy harissa tahini pasta, my baked harissa salmon over lemon quinoa, and these roasted carrots with harissa yogurt!

Made from red bell peppers and smoked chili peppers, the flavours of harissa are rich, tangy, slightly sweet, and smokey. They pair beautifully with sautéed shrimp and this creamy, parmesan polenta.

As a dietitian, I love how simple this meal is to prepare and how the ingredients pack in a number of nutrition benefits. You will love it for a cozy dinner or date night meal at home. Enjoy!

Recipe ingredients in small bowls.

About the ingredients

  1. Shrimp: You may use fresh or frozen shrimp (prawns) for this recipe. If you’re purchasing frozen shrimp, you will just need to defrost the shrimp prior to cooking. You may do this by taking the shrimp out of the freezer and letting it thaw overnight in the fridge, or by running the shrimp under cold water in a colander. I typically do it the latter way – it only takes a few minutes!
  2. Harissa paste: Harissa is a chile paste that originates from North Africa. It’s typically made with ingredients like red bell peppers, smoked hot chili peppers, and various seasonings. I recommend using a MILD harissa paste, rather than a hot one for this recipe. I personally love the brand Mina Harissa, which is the product I’ve linked.
  3. Polenta: To make the creamy polenta, you will want to purchase the loose corn grits, rather than the polenta that is packaged into a round loaf.
  4. Yellow onion
  5. Garlic
  6. Parmesan: I recommend using freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano for the best flavour. You’ll stir the parmesan into the polenta, making it cheesy and creamy!
  7. Olive oil
  8. Basil: Freshly chopped basil is used to garnish this dish, adding both colour and flavour.
  9. Lemon: I love finishing this dish with a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It adds a touch of acidity and helps the flavours pop!
  10. Red pepper flakes (optional): You may omit these, but feel free to add in a sprinkle to the sauce if you’d like an extra kick of spice.

Full ingredient measurements and detailed instructions are located in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post!

Can you serve harissa shrimp with something else?

Yes! If you don’t want to serve these harissa shrimp over polenta, you may choose to serve them over another starch like:

…I think all would pair deliciously, too!

Visual guide: how to make shrimp and polenta

Creamy polenta cooked in a large pot.

You’ll want to start this recipe by cooking the polenta, which only takes a few minutes! All you do is bring water to a boil and stir the corn grits in until they become thick and creamy – as shown above. Cover the cooked polenta and let it steam while you prepare the harissa shrimp.

Shrimp sautéed in harissa sauce in a pan.

On a separate pan, you’ll start by cooking the shrimp in batches. Once done, you’ll set the shrimp aside and add the diced onion and garlic to the pan. Sauté for a few minutes, then stir in the harissa paste. Toss the cooked shrimp in everything, and serve over the polenta!

Shrimp nutrition benefits

Shrimp is an excellent source of high-quality, complete protein. A standard 3-ounce or 85-gram serving provides 18 grams of protein.

This popular shellfish is also a good source of micronutrients like: 

  • selenium
  • vitamin B12
  • phosphorus
  • niacin
  • zinc
  • magnesium
  • iron

Like other seafood, shrimp is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support the health of your heart and brain.

Polenta nutrition benefits

Polenta (corn grits) is a source of:

  • dietary fiber
  • plant-based protein
  • complex carbs
  • antioxidants

From a micronutrient standpoint, polenta is a source of:

  • vitamin B6
  • magnesium
  • iron

Polenta is also naturally gluten-free, making it a good choice if you follow a gluten-free diet. Just be sure to purchase polenta from a certified gluten-free manufacturer to prevent the risk of cross-contamination.

Harissa shrimp served over creamy polenta.

More shrimp dinner recipes

Did you give this Harissa Shrimp & Polenta Recipe a try? Let me know by leaving a comment and recipe rating below!

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Get the Recipe: Harissa Shrimp & Polenta

This shrimp and polenta dinner serves sautéed harissa shrimp over creamy, cheesy polenta, all finished with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of fresh basil. Think "shrimp and grits," but with more Mediterranean flavours. It's super easy to make, and so cozy to eat!
Harissa shrimp served over creamy polenta.
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Ingredients

Harissa shrimp:

  • 18 large shrimp, thawed, peeled + tails removed
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (divided)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup harissa paste (mild, not spicy)

Polenta:

  • 2.5 cups water (or more, if desired)
  • 1/2 cup polenta, dry (corn grits)
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano, grated
  • Salt + pepper, to taste

To serve:

Instructions

  • PREP: Thaw shrimp (if frozen) and remove tails and shells. Pat dry with a paper towel. Place dried shrimp in a small bowl and toss with 1 Tbsp of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mince garlic and dice onion. Grate parmesan. Set all ingredients aside.
  • COOK POLENTA: Bring 2.5 cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add in polenta, stirring until it starts to absorb the liquid, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in freshly grated parmesan and season with salt and pepper. You may add more liquid if you want it even creamier. Cover and turn off heat – let it steam while you cook the shrimp.
  • COOK SHRIMP: Heat a separate large pan over medium-high. Cook shrimp, 1-2 minutes per side, until opaque. Remove from pan and place into a clean bowl, working in batches as needed.
  • MAKE SAUCE: To the same pan, add remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Cook minced garlic and diced onion for about 3-5 minutes, until fragrant and starting to brown. Stir in harissa paste.
  • Turn off heat and add cooked shrimp back in the pan, tossing in the harissa mixture.
  • Give the polenta one more stir, then serve it into bowls. Top with shrimp and sauce. Garnish with chopped basil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and (optional) red pepper flakes if you want some extra heat. Season with salt and pepper, and serve warm!

Notes

*COOKING POLENTA: These directions to cook polenta may differ from the package directions. I find that much more liquid is required than what is called for on the package! This will help create a creamier consistency 🙂
*INGREDIENT NOTES:
  • Please use a MILD harissa paste, not a spicy one. With the amount of harissa used, a spicy version may be very overpowering! If you enjoy more heat, a pinch of red pepper flakes or even cayenne pepper can be added.
  • I used “large” sized shrimp (prawns), which are about 26-30 pieces per pound in size (this is often indicated on the packaging). You may use fresh or frozen shrimp, just be sure to thaw them completely. To defrost, you can place them in a colander under cold running water for a few minutes, or remove them from the freezer the night before/morning of.
 
*LEFTOVERS: This recipe is best enjoyed fresh, but leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. You can easily reheat it in the microwave.

Nutrition

As a dietitian, I create recipes with whole food ingredients that provide the nutrients needed for optimal health. My nutrition philosophy does not focus on numbers; however, I understand that this information can be helpful.

Do note that the nutrition info provided is an estimate and I cannot guarantee correctness of the displayed values. These numbers will differ depending on brands used, recipe modifications, and amount eaten. If you require specific nutrition information due to medical reasons, please consult with your dietitian or physician.

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know by leaving a recipe rating below, or by tagging @walderwellness on Instagram. I love seeing your beautiful creations!

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Pinterest graphic for a garlic harissa shrimp recipe with cheesy polenta.
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