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.
So delicious!!! Perfectly seasoned! Doesn’t even need additional salt! If you like cheese grits, this is your recipe! I’m going to try the stone ground grits next time! Thank you!
Thanks, Lisa! So glad you enjoyed the recipe!
Great recipe! Definitely improved today’s breakfast
Grits and poached eggs are a go-to comfort food for my hubby and I. Usually just make plain grits, but thought I’d spice it up a bit. I agree with the commentator who said the amount of garlic powder is a bit much. I would definitely half next time. Also, I forgot to add the butter! Still creamy and rich!
I was wondering do you have a cheese grits recipe where they have Cheese It’s in or on top of the grits. I lost my recipe that a fiend gave me a long time ago. I can’t remember the recipe other than it had crumble cheese it’s.
Thanks for asking, Tricia. Sorry, I’ve never heard of making grits with Cheez-its crackers!
Really great cheese grits. Great with ham, too.
Yes, you’re right! They are great with ham
This turned out pretty good! I think next time I’ll reduce the amount of garlic, just personal preference.
I ended up using 2 cups of grits (so thankful for the easy serving site adjustment on this site!!) and it made way too many. Never made them before but yep they expand! LOL Flavor was awesome even thought I had 2 tbsp less butter than called for and not quite enough cheese. I put this in my “keeper’ cookbook of recipes I print off. :)
Wow! Two cups of grits!? That would make 2 quarts cooked. But I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe :-)
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!
I’m so happy to know that you enjoyed the cheese grits! They’re just about my favorite thing for any time of day :-)
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!
I’m so glad they turned out good for you!
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.
Hi Mimi. They are similar but not exactly the same. Here’s a link to a good post explaining the differences https://www.thespruceeats.com/cornmeal-vs-grits-vs-polenta-1328613
Hi! Can this be made ahead of time and cooked in the oven?
Hi Jeannie. Grits are best when cooked and eaten right away. They’re not a great choice to make ahead. Can they be cooked in the oven? Not this recipe, no.
How many servings does this make?
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.
The entire recipe makes 4 servings. The nutritional information is for one serving.
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?
Oh my word! You are kidding me!! $66 for collards…I just can’t stop laughing.
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.
Congratulations!! Thank you for all the wonderful recipes in the years past and all the years to come.
Thank you for being a reader, Linda!
I made these last night for dinner and I could not get enough!!!! So good, thank you for a new easy favorite.
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…
My secret ingredient in grits is a little cream cheese. Stir in well when grits are soft then add the regular cheese. Enjoy!