Breakfast Side dish

Jalapeño cheese grits

Jalapeno cheese grits DSC 6855

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.)

Jalapeño cheese grits | Homesick Texan

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 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.

Jalapeño cheese grits | Homesick Texan

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.

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Jalapeno cheese grits DSC 6855
4.85 from 53 votes

Jalapeño cheese grits

Servings 6
Author Lisa Fain


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 cup uncooked yellow grits
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) grated Colby-Jack cheese


  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 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Remove the jalapeños and garlic from the pot.
  2. Pour into the pot the milk and water, add the salt, then turn the heat to high. When the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat down to low, add the grits, and stir until thick and creamy, about 5-8 minutes.

  3. After the grits are done, stir in the cheese, jalapeños, garlic, and stir until the cheese has melted. Taste and add more salt if needed. 

This post was revised and updated in January 2019.

  1. The County Clerk

    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. Lisa Fain

    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. christine (myplateoryours)

    Love grits. Shrimp and grits, ummmm.

  6. Chicken Fried Gourmet

    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. Lisa Fain

    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. kristen

    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. Lisa Fain

    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.

    • I think I you’re talking about posole. Or possibly menudo. I don’t care for menudo— it’s made with tripe …. but I love posole. You can find recipes for both online.

  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. sarahmcsimmons

    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!

    • This is the way I cook them, too. I usually have roasted Hatch chiles in my freezer for at least half the year. I do skip the cheese, but serve with either scrambled or fried eggs. Buying stone ground grits makes all the difference, and I prefer the yellow. They still don’t take more than 15 minutes. They come out so creamy most folks find it hard to believe there is only 2% milk and no cream or butter until served.

      I didn’t grow up eating grits, but went to the University of Florida in the early 60s on an extremely limited budget. Girls had to live in a dorm, so cooking for myself wasn’t an option. I lived on a $.55 breakfast of 2 eggs, sausage, grits, toast, oj and coffee at 3-4 days a week–followed by a $.10 Honor Apple (they were huge) for lunch. I had $1 a day in my budget, so with $.35 left over, supper was skimpy. I didn’t gain weight, for sure, and developed a life long love of grits

  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.

  24. Michelle Bassett

    I had grits at Denny’s the other day and now I know why people say they hate grits – flavorless, watery, with a weird texture – they are probably instant. As others mentioned, creamy grits are prepared with milk and a good brand is key (I like Homestead too) and possibly cook them longer than the recipe requires so they are super creamy. Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill here in Las Vegas has delicious grits on the brunch menu.

  25. Love me some grits. Grew up in Florida eating them at breakfast and for dinner with fried fish. Love them with lots of butter, salt and cheese. Grits are the only hot cereal I eat; don’t like oatmeal or cream of wheat.

    Lisa I visited NYC for the first time this past Christmas and had Christmas dinner at The Smith near Lincoln Center. They have jalapeño cheddar grits on the menu and I ordered them just to see if one could get good grits in NYC! They were wonderful! As was the entire meal there. It was crowded and busy, but the service was excellent.

    • Lisa Fain

      Leigh–Thanks for the tip! I’ll have to visit the Smith now!

  26. 5-8 minutes? Instant Grits?

    • Lisa Fain

      Dave–I use organic yellow quick grits, but you may use instant if you prefer.

  27. I love cheesy grits. They remind me of Polenta, which is what I grew up with. Butter, cream/milk, and cheesy makes it oh so good!

  28. This recipe is SOOO good and easy. Make sure to keep stirring the grits after you add them so you don’t get a big lump.

    • Lisa Fain

      Laura–Thanks for the tip! And I’m so glad you enjoy the recipe!

  29. So, so good! Husband and teenage boys loved it. Had it with grilled chicken thighs; will do with shrimp next. Thank you for a beyond awesome recipe that was easy to follow.

  30. Made it last night with blackened salmon and it was delicious. I know it will become one of my go too recipes!

    • Lisa Fain

      Lisa–So glad you enjoyed it! I’ll have to try it with blackened salmon!

  31. These grits are fantastic! I’m a big fan of grits in general, but these are now my go-to grits recipe and have been a hit for Christmas, brunch, and shrimp & grits. My dad is obsessed with this recipe and has declared it better than what we get at a local steak house. For ease, I used chopped jalapenos in a jar and it is still so yummy! Thanks for a winner of a recipe!

    • Lisa Fain

      Jen–This makes my day! I’m so pleased the grits are a favorite and your dad’s comment is high praise!

  32. Sally Zike

    Where is the Hot sauce in this recipe? I shake hot sauce directly into grits for a full 6 seconds….not just 6 drops, but vigorously shaking bottle for 6 seconds! We love them hot here in Texas!

    I find that the grits do not “spit” as badly if you start them in cold liquid..


  33. I went to King Tutt exhibit in New Orleans, too! Long drive from East Texas to NOLA to stand in line 12 hours. But so worth it!!! Great memory. Also, grits…yum.

  34. 5 stars
    This recipe is amazing! I was really craving some good grits but I had never made them before. I cooked these for dinner tonight along with some shrimp and it was so easy and delicious. Definitely hit the spot. Thanks so much for a great recipe!

    • Lisa Fain

      Lauren–You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed the grits!

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