If you’re looking for the perfect southern side dish then I have the recipe you need! Classic Southern Cheese Grits go with any meal from breakfast to supper and are fabulous with anything from chicken to fried fish to shrimp. They’re always the right answer to the which side dish to serve dilemma.
If you grew up in the South, you know what a yummy, comforting thing grits are (grits is?). They’re wonderful with just butter, salt, and pepper, but add a little sharp cheddar and garlic to the mix and, oh my goodness, they’re glorious!
Now, BeeBop grew up in some faraway places like New Mexico and Colorado where they apparently do such incredible things with grits as putting (gasp!) sugar and milk on them. Don’t worry, though. Over the years, I’ve taught him to appreciate the proper preparation of grits. None of that sugar and milk nonsense in this house. No, sir.
These cheesy grits are (is? I can’t figure that out) easy, fast, and inexpensive. Of course, they’re a staple southern comfort food dish for breakfast, but you’ll also find them as an integral part of our menus for both lunch and dinner.
🤔 What Are Grits?
Some of you are scratching your head and wondering just what the heck grits are. Well, they’re just ground corn.
Actually, there’s a little more to it than that. First, though, what they are not is cornmeal nor polenta.
I’ve seen recipes where people state that you can substitute coarse cornmeal for grits. That’s just wrong. It’s a different product with a different flavor and method of processing. Cornmeal doesn’t substitute for grits nor do grits substitute for cornmeal.
Now, on to what they are. There are several different types of grits. Four to be exact — stone ground, hominy, quick, and instant.
Stone Ground Grits
Stone ground grits are the least processed. They’re ground from whole dried corn kernels with the germ retained in the final product. Stone ground grits are coarse and require a long cooking time (about 45 to 50 minutes).
Hominy grits are ground from corn that has been processed with lye to soften the tough outer hull. The outer hull is removed and the remaining kernel ground. It’s also a coarse product but doesn’t require quite as much cooking time as stone ground.
Quick (or Regular) Grits
Quick or regular grits are the most commonly used for home cooking. They’re a medium to fine grind and take from 5 to 10 minutes to cook. This is the type of grits that I use most often because they’re readily available. I also prefer to use a regional southern brand such as Jim Dandy or Dixie Lily. There are a few national brands but they’re not my first choice.
Instant grits are very finely textured grits that have been precooked and dried so that all you need to do is add hot water to reconstitute them. No decent southern cook would be caught dead making instant grits. No. Just no.
❤️ Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Creamy, cheesy, luscious texture and flavor
- Quick, easy, and light on your budget
- Lots of options for making it your own creation
- Kids love it, adults love it. What’s not to love about grits?
🛒 Ingredient Notes
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- Grits – I’ve written this recipe with estimated cooking times based on “regular” or quick grits. Check the package of grits you’re using for the recommended cooking time. If you can source some old-fashioned stone ground grits, go for them!.
- Garlic Powder – This is completely optional, but I love the flavor it adds along with the sharp Cheddar cheese. You could use very finely minced fresh garlic if you’d like.
- Cheddar Cheese – A nice, sharp Cheddar is my choice. It’s usually not too overpowering nor underwhelming, just right.
🥄 How to Make Cheese Grits
Cook the Grits
- Bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan.
- Add the grits to the boiling water using a whisk. Using the whisk ensures that you don’t get lumps in your grits.
- Cover the pot, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook the grits according to the package directions.
Add the Seasonings
- When the grits are done, stir in the butter, black pepper, and garlic powder.
👉 PRO TIP: If you want to use fresh garlic, please do. Be sure to mince it very finely. However, since we usually have cheese grits with breakfast and I don’t like to get a hunk of garlic in my mouth at that time of the day, I’ll stick with the powder.
Add the Cheese
- Finally, add the grated cheddar and stir until blended.
Some people like to get all fancy with the cheese and use Parmesan, sharp Provolone, or even Bleu cheese. Those are all really tasty. However, to me anyway, grits are (is?…still can’t decide) homey, comfort food, and messing around with a proven combination is just fooling with an already good thing. I usually just stick with the cheddar.
BeeBop read a story recently about a restaurant in New York City that had just put grits on their menu. They were selling them for $8 for a 1 cup serving. People were lined up out the door every morning to get those $8 grits. Man…I could go up there with $50 worth of grits and come home a wealthy woman.
Make some cheese grits soon. Your family will love you. And think about all those folks standing in line with $8 in their hands waiting for 10¢ worth of grits :-)
🍽 Serving Suggestions
🔀 Substitutions and Add-Ins
I can think of lots of fabulous ways to tweak this recipe.
- If you want to make your grits even more rich and creamy, use milk in place of water in the recipe.
- To amp up the spice, you could always add a pinch of red pepper flakes or some very finely diced jalapeno.
- Add some very finely chopped herbs such as rosemary or thyme.
- For a southwestern approach, maybe swap out the Cheddar for pepper jack and add a little fresh cilantro.
🍚 Storing and Reheating
- In the rare event that you have leftovers, you can keep them tightly covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- Cheese grits are easiest to reheat on 50% power in the microwave stirring every 30 seconds. Or add a splash of water and reheat over very low heat in a small saucepan stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
❓ Questions About Cheese Grits
Well, grits are ground corn. So, they taste like corn. But mild. Grits have a mild, corn flavor.
Ok, I’m not any kind of expert on specific food diets, but it is my understanding that grits themselves are vegan. This specific recipe, though? Maybe not because of the cheese?
My recommendation is not to substitute. They’re different products that require different cooking methods and will give you different results. Cornmeal is more closely related to polenta than it is to grits.
HAVE YOU TRIED THIS RECIPE?
I’d LOVE to know what you thought!
Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked it!
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The Best Southern Cheese Grits
- ⅔ cup grits stone-ground, quick cooking, or regular
- 2 ⅔ cups water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese grated
- Bring the water, butter and salt to a boil in a small saucepan.
- Add the grits to the boiling water using a whisk.
- Cover the pot, lower the heat to a simmer and cook the grits according to the package directions.
- When the grits are done, stir in the black pepper and garlic powder.
- Add the cheese and stir until blended.
- To store leftovers, keep them tightly covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- To reheat, place the grits in the microwave on 50% power and stir every 30 seconds. Or add a splash of water and reheat over low heat in a small saucepan stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.
— This post was originally published on February 8, 2009. It has been updated with new photos and additional information.