Recipes » Side Dish Recipes » The Best Southern Cheese Grits

The Best Southern Cheese Grits

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5 from 20 votes
Classic Southern Cheese Grits go with any meal from breakfast to supper and are fabulous with anything from chicken to fried fish to shrimp.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
A white serving bowl filled with cheese grits.

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!

A white serving bowl filled with cheese grits.

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 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 stated that you could 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 or grits 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

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.

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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

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

Photo showing all ingredients needed to make the recipe.

Grits (I’ve written this recipe and estimated the cooking times based on “regular” or quick grits. Check the package of grits you’re using for the proper 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.)

You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

My Yall is Authentic Southern T-Shirt
My Yall is Authentic Southern T-Shirt

from: Etsy

How to Make Cheese Grits

Cook the Grits

A small saucepan containing cooked grits.

Bring the water and salt to a boil in a smallish saucepan. Add the grits to the boiling water using a whisk. Using the whisk ensures that you don’t get lumps in your grits.

Now cover the pot, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook the grits according to the package directions.

Printable Art Southern Foods (Digital Download)
Printable Art Southern Foods (Digital Download)

from: Etsy

Add the Seasonings

Small saucepan with cooked grits and seasonings added on top.

When the grits are done, stir in the butter, black pepper, and garlic powder.

COOK’S 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

Small saucepan with cooked grits and grated cheese on top.

Next, add the grated cheddar. 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.

Dump in the cheese and stir until blended.

Yum.

A white bowl filled with cheese grits.

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

A white plate with a serving of cheese grits and over easy eggs.

Cheese grits are always good for breakfast. Serve them alongside eggs, bacon, and toast or biscuits. Or make a breakfast bowl with cheese grits topped with a fried egg and crumbled bacon or sausage!

For supper, serve them with some savory grilled pork chops, seasoned grilled fish, or a delicious pork rib ragu. Or use them as a side dish with a topping of sauteed peppers and onions.

You might try making some Parmesan cheese grits to serve as the base for a beefy tomato sauce with garlic bread on the side.

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. 

FAQs

What Do Grits Taste Like?

Well, grits are ground corn. So, they taste like corn. But mild. Grits have a mild, corn flavor.

Are Grits Vegan?

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?

Can I Use Cornmeal In Place of Grits?

My recommendation is not to substitute. They’re different products that will give you different results. Cornmeal is more closely related to polenta than it is to grits.

How do I Store Leftover Cheese Grits?

In the rare event that you have leftovers, you can keep them tightly covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

How Do I Reheat Grits?

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 low heat in a small saucepan stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

Have you tried this recipe? I’d love for you to give it a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card and/or in the comments section further down. You can always stay in touch on social media by following me on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest and Sign Up to Get my Newsletter, too!

Customized White Ceramic Shallow 11-inch Serving Bowl
Customized White Ceramic Shallow 11-inch Serving Bowl

from: Etsy

Recipe

A white serving bowl filled with cheese grits.

Cheese Grits

Classic Southern Cheese Grits go with any meal from breakfast to supper and are fabulous with anything from chicken to fried fish to shrimp.
4.95 from 20 votes
Print It Rate It Text It
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: Southern, Vintage
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 280kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

Ingredients
  • Grits (I’ve specified “regular” grits for this recipe. The estimated time given is based on quick, or regular, grits. Check the package of grits you’re using for the proper cooking time. If you can source some old-fashioned stone ground grits, go for them!)
  • Garlic Powder (Completely optional but is a great flavor combination with sharp Cheddar cheese. You could also 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.)
Substitutions and Add-Ins
  • 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.
FAQs
Can I Use Cornmeal In Place of Grits? My recommendation is not to substitute. They’re different products that will give you different results. Cornmeal is more closely related to polenta than it is to grits.
How do I Store Leftover Cheese Grits?
Keep them tightly covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
How Do I Reheat Grits?
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 low heat in a small saucepan stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1 | Calories: 280kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 860mg | Potassium: 80mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 531IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 265mg | Iron: 1mg

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.

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41 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hi Lana, I am new to your blog and I love it. I was looking for a nice, simple cheese grits recipe and came across your blog and this recipe is delicious! It is super easy to make and was ready in time to pair up with eggs and bacon. My taste buds are rejoicing! Thank you for sharing your recipes; I will certainly be back for more ideas!

  2. My first time making cheese grits, they turned out pretty good. I have ordered them,
    and always like them with shrimp. Since my husband was cooking fish, I decided to do something special. I chose your recipe because I did not have milk, I had all the other ingredients. A new favorite!

  3. Hi, well I have never eaten grits here in Canada. They sound delish! Are grits the same as cornmeal one uses to make cornbread? Thanks.

      1. The recipe says 4 – I assume the nutritional info is for 4? For me, the bigger the serving, the better! My mother always grated in a little onion.

  4. Speaking of $8 grits, I read before Thanksgiving that Neiman Marcus had frozen, “perfectly seasoned” collards, enough to feed 8 to 10, for $66 plus $15.50 shipping, and they sold out! I’m so thankful to be Southern, aren’t you?

  5. Ahhhhh …. cheese grits. Cheese grits ARE (yes, grits is a plural, and there is no singular) wonderful, comforting, delightful and make-you-remember-your-mama. If you don’t feel good, one little taste is enough to give you all the warm and happy happy you need to get going.

    Thanks for all of these years of memories, instruction, gentle persuasion and down right good cooking.

    Can’t wait to see what happens next.

    Miss P

  6. I made these last night for dinner and I could not get enough!!!! So good, thank you for a new easy favorite.

  7. We love Grits! Years ago on PBS Was a B&B show highlighting a recipe from one of inns featured. I salivated watching a 80 year old sweet cook saying to bring Heavy Cream or Half and Half to a gentle boil…add your Grits…as soon as they are cooked put the pan over a double boiler and let them cream up some more! I now always make ours with half and half..butter and the Vermont sharp Cheddar!! MOST DELISH AND FATTENING…

  8. My secret ingredient in grits is a little cream cheese. Stir in well when grits are soft then add the regular cheese. Enjoy!