This traditional dish is the perfect sidekick for breakfast, lunch, or dinner
Grits are all-American. That’s because they’re made from corn (maize), a key crop of the New World.
Grits are traditional in the southern states of the US, where they often serve as a breakfast side dish. In recent years, though, they’ve been getting more love in the rest of the country. And not just for breakfast—we often see them served at dinner, where they make a perfect bed for rich meat or seafood dishes.
We like to add jalapeño for a bit of spice, though you can omit this ingredient if you want something less incendiary. But don’t skip the cheese—it adds creamy richness.
With or without jalapeño, these cheesy grits will fire up your taste buds.
Recipe: Cheesy Grits with Jalapeño (or not)
For this dish, we recommend using quick-cooking grits. They take only about ten minutes to cook, and taste as good as the traditional, longer cooking version. Do avoid “instant” grits, however—they really are flavor challenged.
We’ve cooked grits for years, but got the idea of adding chilies from MJ, at MJ’s Kitchen. You can use any kind of green (or red) chile in this dish, but we favor jalapeños—they have good flavor, and you can find them in every grocery store. If you don’t like spicy, feel free to omit them.
BTW, grits are very similar to Italian polenta (see our recipe for Easy No-Stir Polenta). The big difference is that American grits are usually made from hominy—dried maize that has been treated with an alkali (often slaked lime). Also, grits often are made from white corn, while polenta usually is made from yellow.
Total prep and cooking time for this dish is about 15 minutes.
This recipe serves about 3. It’s easy to double or triple—see Notes.
- 2 cups water (can substitute milk or stock—see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste; see Notes)
- ½ cup quick-cooking—not instant—grits (either white or yellow grits work fine)
- 1 or 2 jalapeño peppers (to taste)
- ¼ to ½ cup grated cheddar cheese (to taste; see Notes)
- garnish of diced or sliced jalapeño peppers and/or additional grated cheese (optional)
- Place the water in a 2-quart saucepan. Add salt, and bring to a boil.
- While the water is heating, measure out the grits. Next, wash the jalapeño peppers, cut off their stems, then cut each pepper lengthwise. Using a teaspoon or soup spoon, scoop out the seeds (the oil from the seeds will definitely be hot; keep fingers away from your eyes). Mince the jalapeño peppers finely (reserving a slice or two for garnish, if you wish), then set aside. Now, wash your hands with soap and water to remove the hot jalapeño oil from your skin.
- When the water comes to a boil, slowly add the grits, stirring with a wooden spoon or whisk. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Stir the grits every minute or two.
- Measure out the grated cheese.
- When the timer goes off, add the diced jalapeño peppers and grated cheese to the grits. Stir into the grits, cover the pot, and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Dish up the grits, add a garnish of diced or sliced jalapeño peppers and/or grated cheese, if you desire, and serve.
- We like to use plain water when we make grits. If you want a richer dish, you can replace all or part of the water with milk. You can also use chicken stock. But really, water alone gives you loads of flavor.
- BTW, we always figure on 1 cup of liquid per ¼ cup grits. This amount yields a very generous serving (probably closer to a serving and a half—and for some people, 2 servings). If you want to increase the recipe, it’s easy to scale it up.
- We use kosher salt for cooking. Kosher salt has bigger flakes than table salt, so it doesn’t fill a measuring spoon as “tightly.” Hence, it’s less salty by volume. If you’re using regular table salt, use only about half as much as we suggest.
- You can vary the quantity of cheese to suit your taste. We like ½ cup, which yields a pretty cheesy flavor. Use only ¼ cup if you want just a hint of cheese.
- We love cheddar cheese with grits (mild, medium, sharp—they all work). But you could substitute almost any cheese you like. Monterrey Jack works great. Or stir in some goat cheese—it’s wonderful with grits.
- We rarely skip the cheese when making grits. But if you don’t have cheese on hand, try topping plain grits with a pat of butter.
- Grits make a great side dish any time of day. For dinner, we particularly like shrimp and grits (that’s a recipe we owe you).
Kiss My Grits
“Umm, love this dish,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “True grits.”
“More cheesy puns, eh?” I said.
“Yes,” said Mrs K R. “Hominy times will we make our readers groan with this post?”
“They’re used to it by now,” I said. “They know the nitty gritty about this blog.”
“Yup,” said Mrs K R. “Guess they’ll just have to grit their teeth.”
You may also enjoy reading about:
Easy No-Stir Oven Polenta
Baking Powder Biscuits
Skillet Jalapeño Cornbread
Or check out the index for more recipes
Can you believe I've never had grits? These look so comforting and sound easy to make.
Hi Laura, you definitely owe it to yourself to try grits sometime. Very similar to polenta, so you know it's good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
That is a good-looking breakfast/brunch. I really like polenta so bring on the grits. :)
That sunny side up egg is making me re-think what I want for LUNCH today!
That looks like a terrific breakfast....grits do make a nice change in the usual breakfast routine. Love the picture :)
Mmm - I love your addition of jalapeno cos I love it spicy! I did not know the difference between hominy and grits - so thanks for the info and thanks for the laugh - I couldn't stop chuckling at "Hominy times will we make our readers groan with this post?” and “They know the nitty gritty about this blog.” and “Guess they’ll just have to grit their teeth.” - haha!
I sure enjoy the nitty gritty of your blog! I haven't had cheesy grits in way too long, but they are really good stuff. Love the idea of adding jalapenos!
Hi Madonna, grits are good! Polenta is a bit better, but just a bit. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi GiGi, who can resist a sunny side up egg? I could have one every single day. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pat, grits are a great breakfast side. And a nice change, as you say. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Shashi, those puns are, um, corny but fun. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Marcelle, adding jalapenos is usually a good idea in almost any dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I will NEVER forget the first breakfast we had when we arrived in North Carolina after a three day haul when we moved there from St. Louis. Exhausted, stressed and starving we hit a local breakfast joint and when our food came, I thought we had been given the wrong order. Nope...EVERYONE gets grits! That was the start of a love affair and while many prefer the fancy terminology of 'polenta' not me, there are grits doggone it!
That sounds like a good combination. I usually stick to blander breakfast food, but it would also be good for lunch.
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
I've only had grits once and I loved them. I am sure they are even more amazing topped with a yolky egg. YUM!
I love the nitty Gritty of your puns :)) Also I have never cooked grits before! Thank you for a wonderfully delicious recipe!
Now here's a dish big John Wayne is sure to approve of:) I LOVE grits, especially for breakfast. Although, I have never even thought to add a hefty dose of jalapeño peppers. I'm not sure why but now that I see yours, I'll be giving them a try.
Thanks for sharing, John...
Mmmmmm, grits. I had some just this morning. Cheese is always good and the jalapeno works for me, but my favorite way is with lots of butter and freshly ground black pepper. Thanks you for posting one of my favorites, Rocquie
I love grits. I add all kinds of savory things to mix in. One of my favorite breakfast that is not on the sweet side.
Interesting, John. Now I'm wondering if grits are like polenta? And I'm glad you said that the jalapeno is optional!
Hi Barb, good story. And I love those kinds of places where EVERYONE gets grits! Best breakfasts ever. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mae, drop the pepper and cheese and grits are actually fairly bland. Good, though. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, yolky eggs make everything better! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Anshy, those puns are out of control, aren't they? And nothing we do gets them under control! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Louise, peppers go really well with grits. Just a nice combo. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rocquie, although we love them with cheese and spicy stuff, truth be told, most often when we have them for breakfast we have them plain. Well, with lots of butter. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Holly, grits + savory work really well, don't they? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Liz, grits are very much like polenta. Typically quicker cooking, which is a plus. Thanks for the comment.
Hi John, love grits, only have had them a few times but now I can make them anytime (your recipe). I did not realize there was a difference between instand and quick cooking; good to know.
A heavenly image... I ate grits for the first time a few after immigrating to the US and fell madly in love with it. Like creamy polenta, I can eat grits by itself... but accompanied by all those amazing breakfast food items it is even better.
This sounds interesting and delicious. Something new to me and I just can't wait to try this out :-)
I've yet to try making grits. We were watching the Food Channel the other day and grits were on the menu. Mr. Mike grilled me as to why we haven't tried such a classic dish. I'll send him to your house and you can show him how it's done. :)
Hi Cheri, the "quick" grits don't take that much longer to cook than the "instant" ones, and their flavor is so much better. At least we think so! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Denise, we can eat grits by themselves too! And sometimes do. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kushi, they're good! You have a treat to look forward to. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kristi, I'll be happy to teach Mr. Mike, They're incredibly easy, as you can see from this recipe. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Oh honey! Come to Mama! And don't forget the grits! These are a staple in Manservant's world. They have become one in mine!
I have not hear of cheesy grits... It sounds like it is a nice cheesy food with yummy texture :D
Hi Abbe, these should be a staple in everyone's world! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Zoe, these are so wroth trying! Cheesy food is the best. :-) Thanks for the comment.
John....I'm embarrassed to tell you that I've never tried grits or polenta! Yikes! Though I love all things corn and I lived on cream of wheat for breakfast growing up. (Doesn't make sense, does it?) But your cheesy version looks awesome and yours will be the recipe I try when I try it! As always...love your conversations with Mrs. KR! : )
Yes, please, I'd love these grits for breakfast right now! Definitely with the jalapenos. I tend to make grits more often for dinner meals, but I need to start working them into breakfast too!
Hi Anne, if you like cream of wheat, you'll adore grits! Similar texture, better flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lisa, we usually make these more for dinner, too. Or brunch -- not really big breakfast eaters. So we have breakfast for dinner! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I usually enjoy my grits with lots of butter and some sugar for breakfast. This sounds like a nice twist on them I'll have to try for dinner. Thanks for sharing.
I have had cheese grits on the brain lately! And this is one fine looking breakfast. I'm a GRIT (girl raised in the south) and love grits! Have a lovely weekend.
I love Jalapeno's but I have NEVER had grits??? I figure anything with melted cheese would be delicious though :) YUM!
Thanks so much for sharing,
Hi John , as you know down here we eat grits for breakfast , lunch and dinner . I love your take on this dish , I do agree with you about the instant grits , the flavor is not as good . I will try your version with some shrimp , what a delightful brunch idea .
Thanks for sharing .... :)
That looks like my perfect breakfast -- a little sweet, a little savory, and just all around satisfying.
Hi SG, love grits with butter! Never tried them with sugar -- sounds interesting. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Tricia, since you're a GRIT, grits are one of your best friends! Love them! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Julie, grits are definitely worth a try. A lot of people in the US have never had them either, but it's their loss. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Nee, grits and shrimp are such a classic, aren't they? Love that combo! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carolyn, yup, that breakfast has all the food groups! Really good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I wonder how grits became so popular in the south, when so much corn is grown in the north?
Hi Jeff, good question! Maybe because it's such good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I try to have some grits the few times I have been i a more southern state when in the US. it is totally unheard of here in menus. I am glad it is getting a revival and I would do mine with jalapeño! Thanks for explaining the difference with polenta, always wondered.
Hi Evelyne, in a blindfold test, I'll bet most people couldn't tell the difference between grits and polenta. I know I couldn't! Thanks for the comment.
I love cheesy grits! I never ate grits until I was over 25 and then someone made them for me one day for breakfast and I've been hooked ever since.
Hi Maureen, aren't cheesy grits great? Nice and creamy, and so flavorful! Thanks for the comment.
With the jalepeno for sure, as you know my boys love it spicy. I have not made creamy polenta- grits since I can't tell you when. I need to high tail it into the kitchen and get busy.
Fun post! I've only had grits once or twice when I visited the south - I don't think I've even seen it one the menu elsewhere. Thanks for sharing!
I've never tried grits, I really should!
Hi Bobbi, you do need to make some of this! Better make a lot -- your boys will inhale it! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Beth, other than as a side for breakfast (in some restaurants where we live, certainly not all), the dish we most often see on dinner menus is shrimp and grits. A magical combo! Definitely worth trying sometime. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Caroline, you should! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I was sitting here figuring where we were going out for breakfast this morning and decided to divert to your site. Oh how I want to just grab a couple of those plates and put the on the table right now! I was hungry before, but now I'm starving!!! Optional on the jalapeno? Really? You're joking right? :) What a meal!!!
Thanks for including the link to your biscuit recipe. I was wanting to make biscuits this weekend. I haven't made them in years! Yours look awesome! And thanks for the link love Darlin!!!
Hope your and Mrs. KR have a marvelous weekend!
I've never tried grits either but this looks like a recipe I could sink my teeth into :) Always enjoy your punny posts, John!
Hi MJ, always happy to link to my friends! And for us, no, chilies are never optional. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Robyn, those puns are out of control! We love 'em, though. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I've never tried grits before but if you pair it with ham and egg-- it looks like the perfect meal
Hi Peachy, grits are good all by themselves. But paired with ham and eggs? Heaven! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I have never had or seen grits before!!! Your recipe looks like a comfort food for me, I would love to try this recipe. Thanks.
Hi Amira, grits are definitely worth hunting down. I'll bet you'll like them. :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a delicious looking breakfast. I have never been a real grits fan but I have probably only eaten them a few times. I think I need this spiciness!
Hi Debra, grits CAN be a bit bland. This recipe isn't. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I do love grits, having been introduced to them ages ago by a southern woman I worked with. She "adopted" me and I spent many a Saturday morning at her place enjoying breakfast with her. If grits weren't on the menu, biscuits and gravy were. A win-win if ever there was one. Your breakfast not only made me hungry but it brought to mind some wonderful memories. Thanks, John, for both.
Hi John, mmm, biscuits and gravy! I've had that on my "to-do" list forever. One of these days! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Of course with jalapeno!
Hi Taruna, no question. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Definitely with! These grits look delicious and I love the idea of having them for breakfast.
Hi Amy, with for us, too. We love spicy! Thanks for the comment.
Spicy for me, but mild for the hubby! What a marvelous meal!
Hi Liz, we love spicy, too! But have friends who can't tolerate it, so often make both versions. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Confession: never made grits. Never have eaten grits. For no reason. This makes me want to rectify that. Yes, to adding the cheddar! (Give me my dairy) and yes to the jalapeño (nothing like getting a vegetable in early in the day). Now, I need breakfast.
Hi Claudia, those early morning veggies are SO important. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I've never been too big on grits, but I've never had them with cheese so maybe that's why. And I love adding a little bit of jalapeño into cornbread so I'm sure I'd love it in this as well!
Hi Mary, jalapeño is so nice in cornbread, isn't it? We often make ours that way. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Wow John, this is such a hearty breakfast...actually as you mention...great for any meal...I absolutely love the cheesy and spicy creamy texture of this grits.
Have a great week :)
I will definitely have it jalapenos, in fact more extra jalapenos
Hi Juliana, this will fill you up! We're actually more inclined to eat this at dinner (too much food for us at breakfast), but it's good any time. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Raymund, we're always in favor of extra jalapenos too! Thanks for the comment.
I have never eaten grits, but I hear that they are yummy. I like this recipe with the cheese and jalapenos, sounds delicious.
Hi Dawn, grits are definitely worth trying sometime -- really interesting texture and flavor. Better with cheese and hot peppers, though. :-) Thanks for the comment.
You said the magic word: grits. I grew up on them and love love them with lots of cheese. I would like to have extra jalapeños on mine, please! Take care, Terra
Hi Terra, grits are wonderful. aren't they? Particularly cheesy, spicy ones. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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