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