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What are Grits?

Grits are a comforting staple in Southern cuisine, made from ground corn and simmered until they reach a creamy consistency. This versatile dish can be savory or sweet, often enriched with butter, cheese, or even shrimp. They embody tradition and simplicity, offering a taste of home. Curious about how to incorporate grits into your meals? Let's explore the possibilities together.
A Kaminsky
A Kaminsky

Grits are historically known as a food of the Southeastern United States, but they’ve been around much longer than the USA, in one form or another. They are a traditional breakfast food made of ground dried corn kernels. In consistency, they are rather like Cream of Wheat.

The first settlers in the US were offered “rockahominie” by the friendly Indians, and this mixture of dried corn probably kept many of the settlers alive during those cold winters. Hominy grits are made from corn that has been soaked in weak lye water to make the kernels swell. The kernels are then dried and ground. Grits were also a vital part of the Southern diet during the Great Depression since they are inexpensive and require only water and perhaps some oil or butter to make.

Grits are made of ground dried corn kernels.
Grits are made of ground dried corn kernels.

Although some people desecrate grits by putting sugar and butter over them, as with oatmeal, a proper bowl has butter, salt and black pepper for seasoning. They are more savory than sweet. People have their individual tastes, some preferring a thinner consistency, some liking a consistency almost like polenta — good for slicing, in other words. One use for leftovers, in fact, is slicing cold grits like bread and frying the slices.

Hominy grits are prepared from corn soaked in weak lye water.
Hominy grits are prepared from corn soaked in weak lye water.

Grits are also popular away from the breakfast table in the South, and cheese grits might appear on a supper table with pork chops or ham. In the Carolinas, dishes with shrimp and cheese are popular for eating any time of day, but especially for breakfast. Casseroles featuring them are also widely favored in the Southeast.

Depending on the variety, grits take about 15-20 minutes to cook. They usually come prepackaged and all the cook really has to do is follow directions. Grits are also available at some working grist mills. When they are cooked, seasoning is the most important step. Many people feel that nothing, absolutely nothing is worse than bland grits. They need quite a bit of salt to be really good. Pepper may also be added, or diners can add it when served.

When cooked, the grits are ladled into bowls and finished with a nice pat of butter on top. The butter melts, creating a truly delicious dish.

Grits can be served in a variety of ways, with numerous add-ins, including cheese, bacon, tomatoes, gravy, shrimp, chicken, ham and other ingredients. They are a delicious, inexpensive comfort food worth sampling.

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Discussion Comments


I buy grits every time they are on sale because there are so many different ways to make grits.


This is a great recipe for grit casserole with cheese that I have been making for years. My whole family loves it. You need the following ingredients: 4 cups milk, 1 cup stone ground grits, ½ cup butter, 2 eggs (well beaten), ½ tsp. baking powder, ¼ tsp. salt, and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Bring 3 ½ cups milk to a boil. Gradually stir in the grits. Be sure to stir constantly. Cook over medium heat until thick, usually about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the butter and stir until melted. Stir in the beaten eggs, salt, baking powder, and remaining milk. Pour into a lightly buttered casserole dish.

Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top and bake for 15 more minutes.

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    • Grits are made of ground dried corn kernels.
      By: rimglow
      Grits are made of ground dried corn kernels.
    • Hominy grits are prepared from corn soaked in weak lye water.
      By: Africa Studio
      Hominy grits are prepared from corn soaked in weak lye water.
    • Cheese is a common add-in for grits.
      By: yellowj
      Cheese is a common add-in for grits.