Breakfast Side dish

True grits

I did not grow up in a grit-eating family. I’d beg and beg my mother to make grits, but she’d always say, “We don’t eat grits in this family. Now go eat your porridge.” OK, I lie…I didn’t grow up eating porridge or even curds and whey, another mysterious food found only in nursery rhymes. But back to the grits: I was obsessed. And so when we took a family vacation to New Orleans to see the King Tut exhibit back in the 70s, I was in heaven. Every menu had grits and I finally could eat this forbidden food with the fantastic name. (Just say the word to yourself, “Grits, grits, grits.” You can’t help but fall into a twang.)

And what did I discover in New Orleans? Grits are gooooooood. They’re creamy with just a hint of texture to keep it interesting. And they’re a marvelous vehicle for butter. I was hooked.

It’s no surprise to me that grits are suddenly in vogue. I’m just wondering what took so long. Last week the New York Post had an article listing restaurants in New York City where they can be found. The Dallas Morning News also had a feature on grits, outlining how you can have an interactive grits bar at your next event. It’s a brilliant idea as grits go well with so many foods—everything from smoked salmon to shrimp, with artisanal cheeses, bean dip and bruschetta thrown in for good measure. And with such a wide variety of options, a grits bar is sure to please everyone. I wish I’d thought of it!

So even though I was a late convert, I’ve made up for lost time by making grits often and sharing their deliciousness with my New Yorker friends. Call me a grits evangelist. There are countless approaches to serving grits, but here’s a recipe for my favorite way: with cheddar cheese and jalapenos. The cheese adds a certain creamy sharpness to the grits with the jalapenos providing a perfect kick. And you can serve them at any meal, as they go equally well with eggs as with chicken, fish, pork, beans or savory greens.


Jalapeño cheese grits

Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 jalapeños, seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cup uncooked grits
  • 8 cups water
  • 3 cups grated Cheddar cheese
  • Kosher salt


  1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter on medium-low and add the a jalapeños. While stirring occasionally, cook until softened and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Remove the jalapeños and garlic from the pot.

  2. Pour into the pot the water and turn the heat to high. When water comes to a boil, add the grits turn the heat down to low, and stir until thick and creamy.

  3. After grits are done, stir in the cheese, jalapeños, garlic, and stir until the cheese has melted. Add salt to taste. 

  1. Grits are good. You said it sister!

  2. I recently saw a super simple recipe for classic grits in the new Lee Bros cookbook that made me want to buy the book. Just for that. Maybe I’d better try out the recipe before buying the book…

  3. Mm… I don’t recall eating grits that much growing up either. But… to my surprise, my picky boyfriend once told me that he likes grits because apparently (his equally, if not more so as I’m breaking my bf’s pickiness slowly, picky father) had made them for him growing up. The bf likes instant grits made with a crap load of salt and butter. He proudly presented me with a bowl once and I couldn’t eat more than two spoons for the buttery oil and salt combination. I think I’d like good/real grits though… someone just mentioned they’re bringing them to my holiday potluck, so I will find out then 🙂

  4. The County Clerk–Right on!

    Luisa–I would bet their recipe for grits is spot on delicious. They’re such good storytellers as well.

    Yvo–Grits are all about the butter! Too bad you didn’t like the ones your BF made, but perhaps you’ll like the ones at your holiday potluck better.

  5. Love grits. Shrimp and grits, ummmm.

  6. I am all about grits, I have converted my Bulgarian wife into liking grits and I prepare them different ways. Two of my favorites are deep fried grit cakes and sweet potato grits. Go to my site to see the Shrimp and Grits recipe if you like.

  7. LOVE grits.

    They don’t love my blood sugar level, though, so I have to only have a few bites at a time.

  8. I’ve never been a grits fan but there doesn’t seem to be any savory dish that’s not improved with the addition of cheese and jalapenos. I’ll bet these are great!

  9. Hmm… butter is definitely yum but I don’t know about drinking it ;P Seriously- these were *drowning* in butter, and I don’t mean a thin film. I mean like 2 parts butter to .5 part grit. 😉

  10. Christine–Mmmmmm, indeed!

    Chicken Fried Gourmet–I remember you mentioning your sweet potato grits–I still need to try that! And good for you for being a grits evangelist!

    Adam–I’m sorry about your blood sugar–but even a little bit of grits is better than none.

    Julie–I agree–cheese and jalapenos make anything savory tasty.

    Yvo–Um, yeah, that’s a bit too much butter.

  11. Mmmmmm! jalapeno cheese grits.. That sounds awesome. I usually eat them with too much butter, a sprinkle of salt and a veritable ton of black pepper. I’ve had some awesome cheese grits, too. This thread makes me want to leave work and go to the Awful Waffle (or the waffle house, whatever you want to call it) and get some grits, and nothing else. Just grits. 🙂

  12. I made a layered grits-cake “lasagna” of sorts when recipe-testing for InterCourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook ( Layer Chicken Fried Gourmet’s grits cakes with a rosemary tomato sauce and Pecorino,topped with mozzerella and baked– not too shabby! A little high-class for comfort food, but totally yum.

  13. Traci–Waffle House is another thing we don’t have in NYC–the closest one is in Delaware!

    Kristen–That sounds divine! And makes sense as Italians eat polenta with sauce and cheese.

  14. I wrote an article a few years ago about grits. One of the guys I interviewed was a line cook at the Huddle House. As he’s standing there pouring Quick Grits into a pot, he tells me … “The thing about grits is that you’ve got to cook ’em really slow.” I always found that amusing.

  15. Anonymous

    this isn’t a post on grits actually, but close. When I was in New Mexico there is a breakfast side that is often served that’s akin to grits… sort of. It consists of white whole hominy with a chili. Has anyone ever had this or know of a recipe? I’ve scoured the net to no avail, probably because I don’t know the exact name of the dish. I’ve tried to replicate it, but haven’t come close.

  16. Just want you to know I’m doing these for my brunch this wknd…in a crockpot so I don’t have to watch so closely. Thanks for the recipe!

    (btw, do you use the typeface “Georgia?” If so, I think that’s the funniest thing I learned all day. Georgia/Texas?)

  17. Hi! I stumbled across your blog while doing some research for my cookbook on — GRITS! It seems that we have a similar situation – both expats in NYC, missing grits.

    I’d love to post your recipe on my blog –!

  18. We eat our grits baked. It’s the only way I like them. My grandmother makes sure we have them at all family occasions. GARLIC-CHEESE BAKED GRITS….YUMMMMMMMMMM!

  19. I have a recipe for green chili and cheese grits where you roast the green chili under the broiler and use quick cooking grits. THEY ARE DELICIOUS! I got the recipe from Bonnel's in Fort Worth and we LOVE them in my house. Plus they are an excellent dish to serve for a party, they take 20 minutes start to finish and people are always so greatful!

    I love your blog. So deliciously nostalgic!

  20. Anonymous

    I've converted MANY people who would turn up their noses at the idea of grits to ones who specifically asked me to make them. Instead of water, I use milk (I do the same making polenta) and then add fire-roasted Hatch green chiles (Trader Joe's sells small cans of this wonderful item) and a big handful of either grated white cheddar, parmesan or manchego cheese and serve with two poached eggs on top–it's a wonderful Texas breakfast!

  21. I love grits!!! I remember being a little boy and eating Quaker's red eye gravy flavored instant grits with a big scoop of butter stirred in. When I got a little older, and hungrier, I would mix one package of the cheddar cheese with one package of the red eye gravy flavor. Salty cheesy bliss! Now I'm 22 and in my first year of graduate school and grits are still my go to comfort food. I bring 2 cups of chicken stock and two cups of milk to a boil and whisk in one cup of quick grits with a big pinch of salt. Once thickened, I add 4 TBS of butter, 4 TBS of mascarpone, and half a cup of shredded sharp white cheddar cheese. Who knew the flavor train ran on grits?

  22. Anonymous

    Here are a couple of grits variations I've learned here in Georgia. (This is the place I learned that I was not southern, turns out I'm Texan!)

    1. Replace the water with milk or half and half– grits turn out richer and super delish. Add a touch of cheese, cheddar or Parmesan if you like.

    2. Replace water with chicken stock. Use stone ground grits for lots of texture. Add a can of sliced mushrooms and cheese. Savory side and so yummy.

  23. Marnie bruso

    What brand of grits do you use?

    • Lisa Fain

      Marnie–I like the organic yellow ones from Arrowhead Mills. Homestead’s are good, too. Both are Texan companies.

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