What Are Grits? The Ultimate Guide With Recipes & Info
What are grits?
If you are like me and live in the northern United States, grits are not a dish that normally lands on my plate.
However, if you are from the South, grits are most likely a staple for you.
In the South, you can find grits on the table for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Extremely versatile, you can also choose to serve grits sweet or savory.
The choice is really up to you.
Regardless of whether you are a fan of grits or not, there is no denying that its versatility makes it a go-to for many.
Have you found yourself wondering what grits are?
Looking for both sweet and savory recipes to try?
Here is everything you need to know.
What Are Grits Made Of?
While I previously mentioned that grits are a staple in the southern United States, they actually originated from Indigenous people.
These tribes originally inhabited areas that we now consider Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
They would grind dried corn and essentially make it into a mush.
The word itself seems a bit weird, and that is because it comes from the Old English word “grit” which means coarse meal.
Many often mix up grits with cornmeal, and while both corn products, they are not the same.
Grits are actually made of whole dried white corn kernels.
These kernels come from dent corn – a corn variety that is higher in starch which allows for grits to have a creamier and softer texture than cornmeal.
Wide Open Eats describes dent corn as being treated with lime to remove the hull which makes them “hominy” or coarsely-ground.
All grits come from dent corn, but there are different types of grits, and that usually comes from how they are handled.
What Are The Different Types Of Grits?
Now, the differences between grits can get confusing, so let’s make it as simple as possible.
Grits can be broken down into different categories: stone-ground, hominy, regular, quick, and instant.
Also called traditional grits, stone-ground grits have the most flavor out of the pack.
They are made using either a stone ground or steel roller mills, and the manufacturing process of these traditional grits affects both the flavor and texture of the final product.
Because these types of grits are less processed than the rest we are going to list, they are known to have more flavor and texture.
Another thing to keep in mind about stone-ground grits is that because they are less processed, this also makes them more perishable, so they should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
Next, we have hominy grits.
MyRecipes explains hominy grits better than I ever could.
They describes hominy grits as being “made from hominy, which is a dried, whole-kernel corn that has gone through a process called nixtamalization, where it is soaked in an alkaline solution to remove the kernel’s outer coating and improve the flavor and nutrition inside.”
Hominy grits are typically found dried and ready-to-eat in cans.
Next, we have quick grits, which might also be referred to as regular grits.
While slightly different, they share more similarities.
The only difference between these types of grits is the texture.
Quick grits are literally quick.
They are finely ground and can be cooked in five minutes.
Regular grits, on the other hand, are slightly coarser being medium ground and cook in approximately 10 minutes.
The last type of grits you will find are instant grits.
This is usually used to refer to grits you would find in a packet.
Unlike regular or quick grits, instant grits already come cooked.
Having already been precooked and dehydrated, all you would need to add is boiling water.
Because these are significantly more processed than stone-ground grits, instant grits are lacking a lot of flavor compared to the alternative.
The differences in the types of grits also extends to how they are cooked.
As mentioned, quick and regular grits take a few short minutes to cook.
Stone-ground grits, on the other hand, can take up to an hour.
And while those are the big differences, there are still a few tricks to the trade when cooking grits.
One, stone-ground grits can be soaked overnight, but it is not necessary.
Two, whether you are cooking stone-ground, hominy, or regular grits, there is no right or wrong answer to consistency.
Many are tricked into believing that runny grits are a bad sign.
Whether you like thick grits or runny grits, that is up to you.
A few other tricks to be mindful of when you are cooking any type of grits are:
To get started, use a ratio of one cup of grits to four cups liquid.
When you are cooking, bring the liquid to a boil first and then gradually whisk in your grits.
Whisk for at least 30 seconds to prevent clumping.
Cover your grits to help them cook more quickly.
After liquid boils, grits should be cooked at a simmer.
And lastly, if you are using butter or cheese, stir them in at the end.
These four types of grits all have their differences, but they all come together in the cooking process.
Now, whether you are eating stone-ground grits every day, every week, or every month, you still have to ask yourself, are grits healthy?
Are Grits Healthy?
While I”ll break the nutrition value of grits down further in future sections, let’s just get right to it.
Are grits good for you?
They can be.
Depending on your dietary needs, grits could work for some and not others.
Another thing to remember is that grits are a food that is often combined with something else.
While grits have their own set of nutrition facts, most do not eat them by themselves.
Because of this, most grits dishes will have significantly higher calories than a plain dish.
But of course, later in this post, you can check out some great grits recipes if you are definitely settled on pairing grits with another side.
Calories In Grits
While we won’t dwell too much on the calories of grits, you would probably be happy to know that starting out, they are great for a low-calorie diet, if you are eating them by themselves.
According to the USDA, a serving size of grits, or 1 cup, is just 160 calories.
This is a great, low number to start with because like most, you will probably be adding the fixings to your dish to give it some flavor.
And while grits, with their additions, can start to border on being unhealthy, grits can still be good for you.
What Are Grits Good For?
Now, we have mentioned that grits are pretty low, calorie-wise.
Adding onto this, grits also have pretty good health benefits as well.
And with the good comes some of the bad, so let’s go over both.
Because grits come from starchy corn, you can expect that they are very high in carbs.
And while many people are still deluded into thinking sugar is the only thing that leads to conditions like diabetes, a high carb diet can also exacerbate this.
One serving of cooked grits contains about 36.3 grams of carbs, so if you are on the keto diet, grits definitely won’t work in your eating regimen.
Livestrong lists the rest of grits nutritional facts as follows:
3.4 grams of protein
1 gram of fat
1.9 grams of fiber
182 milligrams of calcium
17.9 milligrams of iron
14.5 milligrams of magnesium
62.9 milligrams of potassium
525 milligrams of sodium
Some things to take away from this is that grits are high in iron which is great.
The amount of protein in this starchy food is decent, but grits are also low in fiber.
Another thing to be mindful of is that grits themselves have about ¼ of the recommended daily amount of sodium.
So it is important to consider what you are adding to your grits so your meal is not too high in salt.
And lastly, another great thing about grits is the B vitamins that you will get from consuming them.
Grits contain niacin, vitamin B6, and folate – all great for supporting your metabolism.
According to Healthline, grits are also high in antioxidants.
They contain lutein, caffeic acid, and syringic acid.
While lutein is great for protecting our eyes, it also supports healthy skin, tissues, and blood.
Caffeic acid is said to potentially boost athletic performance and can help reduce blood sture levels.
Syringic acid is also said to help regular blood sugar levels as well.
Lastly, another added benefit is for those with celiac’s disease because grits are naturally gluten free.
And you will often find that many tend to get the nutritional facts confused when talking about grits because many often think they are the same as polenta or cornmeal.
Here are the differences.
Polenta Vs Cornmeal Vs Grits
When shopping around for grits, you might see polenta keep coming up.
That is because many producers of grits will label them as the same.
In fact, polenta and grits are different.
First, while grits are a southern staple, polenta is actually a staple in Italian cuisine.
And that is not where the differences end.
While polenta is also made from ground corn, these two products differ in type and texture.
Grits are often made from white corn while polenta is almost exclusively made from yellow corn.
You will also find that while often confused, cornmeal is also often thought to be grits as well.
Grits, polenta, and cornmeal all differ in their textures which is what sets them apart.
Out of all three, cornmeal has the finest texture which is why you will see it popularly used in baked goods like cornbread.
Grits, versatile in every aspect, often differ in their consistency.
While definitely thicker than cornmeal, it can range from finely ground to a thicker, porridge consistency.
Lastly, polenta is thicker than all three.
Similar to another popular Italian dish, risotto, polenta is often cooked to a thick, risotto-like texture.
With polenta, you will also find that Italians will bake, boil, or fry it.
Grits For Breakfast
Would you believe me if I told you that the ideas of grits for breakfast originally came from fishermen?
While most might think that grits started as a regular food that moved to breakfast, it actually began as a breakfast staple.
Fishermen started out by eating shrimp and grits which helped lead to the popular dish.
Plus, while completely different, many simply looked at grits as an alternative to oats.
Now you will find that tons of people are eating their creamy grits for breakfast with different sides.
Some might choose eggs, cheese, and bacon.
Others might keep it simple and just add butter.
While the versatility of grits allows you to play around with the recipe, there are a few foods that are commonly served with the dish.
What Are Grits Commonly Served With?
I have mentioned that grits are a staple of the South, so you can probably guess a few common foods that they are served with.
We’ve already discussed grits being served with shrimp, the idea courtesy of fishermen.
Can you guess a few other foods that grits are served with?
In the previous section, we mentioned the popular breakfast additions of eggs and bacon.
If you are feeling a little fancy, you might add cheese to this breakfast dish or just make a cheese grits meal.
You’ll also find grits being served with fried catfish, salmon croquettes, or country ham.
Now that you are probably a little hungry, like me, let’s share some delicious grit recipes from the internet.
How To Make Grits – The Best Recipes Online
Cheese grits are an exceptionally popular grit variety, and this recipe is coming to you from Food Network’s Alton Brown.
You will only need about 35 minutes to bring this recipe to life, and you won’t even need a ton of ingredients.
Outside of the grits, you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen.
You will need some milk, water, kosher salt, ground black pepper, butter, and cheese.
You have all the things to make these delicious and creamy looking cheese grits.
Fajita-Style Shrimp & Grits
Now, we’re adding some real flavor to these grits with a fajita-style shrimp and grits recipes from Taste of Home.
And while this recipe has an abundance of flavor, you still only need about a half hour to get it done.
A combination of fajitas and shrimp and cheesy grits, this mouthwatering recipe that features a Mexican cheese blend and salsa is definitely one to try.
Easy Fried Grit Cakes
Everyone is used to seeing grits as a porridge-looking dish, and we wanted to switch it up.
This recipe for Fried Grit Cakes comes from The Spruce Eats.
With a total preparation time of a little under an hour and a half, this ingredient list is simply, easy, and worth it.
To spice it up, feel free top it off with chives, cheese, or bacon.
If you are looking for a simple, classic grit recipe, this is the one to try.
Available on Food.com, this recipe contains the bare bones of water, milk, salt, grits, and butter.
Just remember our previous tip to always add the butter in last, and you’ll be good.
Also, feel free to top this dish off with fruit if you would like.
Shrimp & Grits
We couldn’t include recipes for grits without including the staple of Shrimp and Grits.
This recipe might take a bit more time because it calls for making your own creole seasoning.
With a combination of onion and garlic powders, dried oregano, basil, and thyme, black and cayenne peppers, paprika, and kosher salt, you can be sure that this recipe is loaded with flavor.
Creamy, Cheesy Grits With Curried Poached Eggs
Our last recipe is a cheesy grits dish with a twist.
Served with eggs and cheese, you will also find tons of flavor through other ingredients like curry powder and cream cheese.
Plus, the added touch of bacon on top is always a good idea.
What Are Grits Conclusion
While seemingly plain on their own, grits are a food that are highly versatile and are at the base of tons of great dishes.
Clearly, South Carolina agreed when they made grits their official state food in 1976.
Grits can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but what about dessert?
If you’re looking to finish off your meal, check our post of 26 African desserts that will have your mouth watering.
Newsflash, mine already is.