Creamy Grits

January 8, 2019 ยท 3 minute read

Posted in: food recipes grits

Grits with butter: Ernesto Andrade [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

It has come to my attention that some people I interact with do not know how to cook grits. This is a matter of the greatest seriousness, which must be remedied immediately.

This is a recipe, or more just guidelines or instructions on how to properly cook grits. It will assume you are lacto-ovo-vegetarian, but will offer vegan substitutions where possible. If you do not like grits, it is probably because you have never had them properly prepared; you may be familiar only with instant grits, or the next-to-instant grits served by Waffle House or university cafeterias. This recipe is for creamy grits, the correct form of plain grits. Shrimp and grits are another level, which I won’t attempt here.


The grits should ideally be yellow, coarse-ground, and fresh. You can get away with as few as one of these properties if you have to; yellow is the easiest to come by in most grocery stores. The butter should be real butter. If you are vegan, Earth Balance is good enough, and will do. I don’t know of a satisfactory vegan alternative for the cream; you’ll have to experiment with it yourself.


Salt the water and bring it to a boil in a 1 quart saucepan. When it boils, turn it down low and add the butter and the grits. You’ll need to stir the grits a lot at first to avoid lumps. A wire whisk would even be warranted, but a fork will do. The grits are going to have to simmer on low for a while. Depending on how fresh and how coarsely-ground they are, they may have to simmer for 15 minutes to an hour. There are two things that need to happen: they need to soften, and they need to thicken, and the balancing act is getting these to happen at around the same time. If they thicken before they soften, they’ll cook onto the bottom of the pan and the grits in the top won’t soften (plus you’ll have a harder time cleaning the pan). You can gradually add water to prevent this if you have to. If they soften before they thicken, you might be able to boil them down (turn the heat up a little, but not too much) to get them to thicken, but you may just be stuck with soupy grits. Ideally, you’ll end up with grits that are thick enough that you could put them on a plate, not only in a bowl, but not so thick that they pile on top of themselves or seem solid in any way (that’s polenta).

Once the grits are thickened and softened, take them off the heat. When they stop boiling, stir in the cream. This is the secret step that distinguishes excellent grits from run-of-the-mill ones. Once the cream is added, you can’t bring the grits back to a boil, so serve them right away, or keep them covered in a warm place.

Serve with poached eggs and fried tempeh.

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