Grilled Shrimp + Polenta with Calabrian Chili Cream Sauce requires little effort but makes a big impact! It’s a quick, easy and delightfully delicious appetizer…everyone will think you’re so fancy!
Shrimp and Polenta and Calabrian Chiles, Oh My!
I’ve long been a fan of polenta in all its forms! I’m not always a fan of stirring a pot of it…over a hot stove…for what seems like an eternity. Not that I won’t, but now and again shortcuts must be taken!
And, when you pair ‘shortcut’ polenta with quick-cooking shrimp, and a spicy sauce that comes together in mere minutes, you’ve got an elevated appetizer that will wow your guests (with nary a bead of perspiration forming on your brow)!
Oh…it’s so yummy, too! Savory, tender corn cakes, perfectly grilled sweet shrimp, silky sauce with just enough heat. Bring it on!
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Easy Ingredients for a Grilled Shrimp and Polenta Appetizer
In addition to pantry staples like olive oil, kosher salt + fresh cracked black pepper, you’ll need to gather…
- Wild caught jumbo shrimp — a pound should be enough. I like to serve two shrimp with each polenta round, and you may have a couple extra shrimp. Purchase wild caught when possible, and if fresh isn’t available, buy frozen wild caught.
- Organic pre-made polenta — the kind that comes in a roll / tube. I tend to purchase organic corn products when possible. If you can’t find organic, no biggie.
- Calabrian chili paste — Calabrian chiles are a spicy, smoky, fruity pepper used in Italian cuisine. They bring a complex flavor and slow heat to dishes. It’s delicious! It’s available in many main stream grocery stores now and you may find it chopped up in paste form or as whole chiles. If you can only find the whole chiles, it’s ok…run a knife across it or zip some up in a mini food processor.
- Dairy — unsalted butter and heavy cream for the sauce.
- Spices — paprika to season the shrimp and garlic for the sauce.
How to Make Grilled Shrimp + Polenta with Calabrian Chili Cream Sauce
- Preheat a grill (or grill pan or skillet, you can totally do this indoors if you don’t have a grill…or it’s the middle of a blizzard).
- Toss the shrimp (deveined + shelled) with olive oil, salt, pepper + paprika. To make it easier to grill, thread the shrimp onto metal skewers (or bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water for 30 minutes). Brush the polenta with olive oil and season with salt + pepper.
- Make the sauce by melting butter in a small pan. Toss in some chopped garlic and cook until it’s really fragrant. Stir in the Calabrian chili paste. Finally, whisk in the cream and cook to thicken. Season to taste with kosher salt, then remove from the heat and cover to keep it warm.
- Add the polenta to a prepared grill and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Add the shrimp after you’ve turned the polenta over as it only needs to cook for a couple minutes on each side.
- Arrange the polenta on a platter, place two shrimp on top of each round, then drizzle over some cream sauce. If you want to add a little color, add some chopped fresh herbs to garnish.
These are best when they are hot (or at least fresh and warm), so grill the shrimp and polenta just before you plan to serve.
Related video: watch how to make this easy appetizer!
Variations on This Recipe
Here are a few swaps you can make to customize the dish to your taste:
- Grilled scallops would be delish, too. If you’re not a seafood fan, grill and slice some Italian sausage to top the polenta.
- Make polenta from scratch using your favorite recipe. Spread it into a thin layer (1/2” to 3/4” thick) to set, then cut into circles, squares or triangles for this recipe.
- Adjust the amount of spice by decreasing or increasing the amount of Calabrian chili paste in the sauce.
- Can’t do spicy food at all? Instead of chiles, add roasted red pepper (mashed into a paste), sun-dried tomato pesto, or basil pesto for an equally delicious sauce.
Check Out These Other Party Appetizers!
- Three flavors of Easy Homemade Hummus
- Red Pepper Jam + Goat Cheese Crostini
- Basil + Lemon Burrata with Ciabatta Toasts
- Party Hack: Make Your Own Flavor Kettle Chips
- Baked Hawaiian Roll Sliders with Chorizo + Cheese
- Baked Lemon Ricotta Dip with Blackberries + Honey
- White Bean Salad with Spanish Chorizo + Manchego
Easy Grilled Shrimp + Polenta Appetizer with Calabrian Cream Sauce
- grill or grill pan or skillet
- 16 wild caught jumbo shrimp peeled + deveined (about 1 lb)
- 1 tbsp olive oil divided
- ½ tsp paprika
- kosher salt + fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 lb pre-made organic polenta the kind that comes in a log, sliced into 8 equal pieces
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp Calabrian chili paste* or finely chopped whole Calabrian chili
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Preheat your grill.
- Toss the shrimp with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil and season with paprika, salt + pepper. Thread the shrimp on skewers so they are as flat as possible. Brush the remaining olive oil on both sides of the polenta slices and season with salt + pepper.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute to release its fragrance. Stir in the Calabrian chili paste. Slowly whisk in the cream and cook for two to three minutes to thicken slightly. Season to taste with salt. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.
- Clean and grease the grill grates. Cook the polenta about 3 minutes on each side. Cook the shrimp for 2 minutes on each side.
- Arrange the polenta rounds on a platter (or plate them individually). Top each piece of polenta with 2 grilled shrimp. Drizzle about 2 tbsp of Calabrian cream sauce over each.
Nutritional values are estimated and provided as a general guideline only. I earn a commission from Instacart from qualifying ingredient purchases.