The Best Southern 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!
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.
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🤔 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 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.
🥄 How to Make Cheese Grits
Cook the 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.
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
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.
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
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.
🍚 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.
🧾 More Grits and Breakfast Recipes
- Chicken with Grits
- Cheesy Tomato Grits with Chiles and Bacon
- Shrimp and Grits
- Huevos and Grits, Y’all
- Sausage Gravy and Biscuits with Tomatoes
- Another Buttermilk Biscuit
- Tomato Gravy
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.
I love me some cheese grits. Try making them with milk instead of water. they turn out super creamy, and oh so yummy.
Yes, polenta and grits are different but i love them both.
To me the secrets to good grits are boiling salted water, stir while adding grits at a 4-1 ratio, and don’t overcook them or they will become starchy and pasty.
And never ever use “instant” grits.
Still perusing your site! I make my grits almost the same way! A friend of mine recommended using milk for 1/3 of the liquid, and oh my! Very good! Just be sure to watch the pan & not let it boil over! I have never added a garlic powder…think I’ll try that tomorrow a.m.! Really enjoying your site!!
This sounds interesting to me, though I don’t really have a clear idea what grits exactly are, seeing as I hail from the Great White North (aka. Canada). Which means I can’t, for the life of me, find a package of quick-cook (or instant, for that matter) grits in any store. So, my question is, what can I use instead? Or are grits one of those unique things that can’t actually be made without buying something labeled as ‘grits’?
Hi Sadie – Sorry, but there’s really no substitute for grits. I think the closest thing would be polenta but it’s definitely not the same. Polenta is created by a different process than grits and the taste is quite different. If you really want to try grits, it’s pretty easy to order them online. Lots of vendors offer them.
Thanks for sharing this – I feel this may give me the confidence to order grits and attempt them. How have I not done this?!
Lana, Oh Yes – this is an tried but true recipe. Having spent the first 20 years of my life in Louisiana, this was a staple for breakfast. When I moved to the southwest I started adding chopped green chile. Now my husband even eats grits and LOVES THEM! -:)
Lana, we would love if you submitted this recipe & any two other side dishes to this week of the Get Grillin’ event that Cookin’ Canuck and I am hosting :)
Grits are, not is. No doubt about it. Nobody would eat one grit, so it’s always plural!! It’s kind of like ramen noodles. One wouldn’t eat just ONE noodle. Nope. One would eat the whole package of noodles. From what I understand, the noodles are a primary food group of college students. Just my opinion!!
Your recipes are so similar to what I grew up eating———-I’m beginning to think we are related!!!
I just made these for my husband and when he saw the recipe online he made sure to add this to my favorites folder!!!!!! Love it! simple recipe thats perfect!
So glad your husband enjoyed the cheese grits, Maria. They’re a staple around our house. A suggestion – if you like that recipe, try the Huevos and Grits here: http://www.lanascooking.com/2010/01/18/huevos-and-grits-yall/
Fried green chili and bacon grits with REAL Maple syrup are my favorite with a side of eggs. But remember, after years of being “addicted to both” it just seemed natural to mix them together. Give them a try if you like the green chili.
Have a great day.
Well! I would have never thought of adding chilies and bacon to cheese grits, but, you know, it kinda sounds good. Might try that one day.
You had me at cheese! These sound great!
Thanks for stopping by and linking up your recipe!
Grits, the food of Southern gods! I love them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, whatever. Your pictures are beautiful. Hopefully they will entice some of our northern friends to give grits a try.
It is entirely plausible to me that the “Forbidden Fruit” may have been cheesegrits. They are so good that even the Dutch love them!
Cheesy grits are wonderful and to take grits “up a notch” try the Charleston, SC shrimp and grits. Creamy grits, ham or sausage links, brown gravy and seasonings. Full of all those things we should avoid – lots of starches, fat, and maybe salt but oh so good!
I grew up in New Mexico and never had a proper bowl of grits until we were stationed here in Florida… or lower Alabama, welcome to the good ol south… I love grits
I. Love. Grits. And these ones look sublime.
Thanks! I’m having lots of fun doing this. I’ll have a new recipe posted soon. Maybe today!
Your recipes are great! I love the visula aids. You should keep this up, you never know when someone will see it and decide they should pay you to be a blogger!