What is best to eat with grits?

Grits, a staple of Southern cuisine, have long transcended their humble beginnings to become a beloved dish across the United States. This versatile corn porridge, known for its creamy texture and subtle flavor, serves as a blank canvas for a myriad of culinary creations.

pairings with grits

From the classic shrimp and grits to innovative pairings with vegetables and meats, the possibilities are endless. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the best foods to eat with grits, diving into classic pairings, breakfast combinations, vegetarian options, and even sweet takes on this Southern favorite. Whether you’re a grits aficionado or new to this culinary delight, prepare to embark on a flavorful journey that will elevate your grits game to new heights.

Introduction to Grits

Grits have a storied history, deeply rooted in the American South. This corn-based dish is not just a breakfast staple; it’s a cultural icon that embodies the spirit of Southern hospitality and culinary tradition. The journey of grits, from Native American origins to a modern-day culinary staple, showcases its enduring appeal and versatility.

The History and Cultural Significance of Grits in Southern Cuisine

Grits, originally derived from the Native American Muskogee tribe’s preparation of maize, were adopted into Southern cuisine as early as the 16th century. This corn porridge quickly became a staple, providing a filling, nutritious meal that could be served plain or embellished with whatever ingredients were on hand. Over the centuries, grits have evolved from a simple sustenance food to a beloved component of the Southern culinary landscape, celebrated in festivals and featured prominently on restaurant menus across the region.

The Versatility and Nutritional Profile of Grits

One of the most compelling aspects of grits is their versatility. Whether served savory with cheese and bacon or sweet with sugar and fruits, grits can adapt to any flavor profile. This adaptability makes them an ideal base for a variety of dishes, from hearty breakfasts to sophisticated entrees.

Nutritionally, grits offer more than just comfort food. They are a good source of carbohydrates and can be enriched with vitamins and minerals, making them a nutritious option for any meal of the day. When paired with proteins, vegetables, or healthy fats, grits can be part of a balanced diet, contributing to their popularity beyond the Southern states.

As we delve into the classic pairings and innovative combinations that highlight the versatility of grits, remember that the beauty of this dish lies in its simplicity and the endless possibilities it offers for creative culinary exploration. Whether you’re drawn to the traditional flavors of the South or eager to experiment with new ingredients, grits provide a delicious foundation for a multitude of dishes.

Pairings With Grits

When it comes to enjoying grits, there are some pairings that have stood the test of time, becoming classics in their own right. These combinations not only highlight the versatility of grits but also bring out the best in both the grits and their accompaniments. Let’s dive into some of these timeless pairings and discover why they’re beloved by many.

Pork Chops and Grits

The combination of pork chops and grits is a match made in culinary heaven. The key to this pairing lies in the fat content of the pork, which infuses the grits with rich, meaty flavors, transforming the neutral base into a dish bursting with taste. To elevate this pairing even further, consider marinating the pork chops before cooking to infuse them with additional flavors. For an even more decadent experience, a creamy smothered pork chop recipe can add layers of texture and taste, making each bite a delightful experience.

Cheese and Grits

Cheese and grits go together like peas and carrots. The creamy texture of grits combined with the melty, gooey goodness of cheese creates a comforting dish that’s hard to resist. Cheddar and fontina are popular choices for their smooth melting qualities, but don’t be afraid to experiment with Parmesan for a sharper, umami-rich profile. The addition of a vinegar-based hot sauce can introduce an acid kick, balancing the richness of the cheese and the creaminess of the grits.

Seafood and Grits

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and grits is a classic Southern dish that needs no introduction. The salty, oceanic flavor of shrimp complements the mildness of grits, creating a harmonious dish that’s both comforting and sophisticated. To keep things interesting, try adding different herbs and spices, or experiment with various types of shrimp for unique flavor profiles.

Scallops and Grits

For those who love the idea of seafood with their grits but are looking for something a bit different, scallops and grits offer a wonderful alternative. Scallops, with their soft, buttery texture, pair beautifully with the creaminess of cheese grits. Adding Cajun or Creole seasoning can bring a new dimension of flavor to this dish, making it a memorable meal.

Catfish and Grits

Catfish and grits is another Southern classic that brings the best of the sea to your plate. The crunchy breading of fried catfish adds an interesting texture contrast to the smooth grits, while the fish itself offers a slightly earthy flavor that’s uniquely satisfying. Seasoning the catfish with Creole spices can elevate the dish, adding depth and warmth to each bite.

These classic pairings with grits showcase the dish’s ability to complement a wide range of flavors, from the richness of pork and cheese to the fresh taste of seafood. As we explore more combinations, remember that the key to a great grits dish lies in balancing textures and flavors to create a meal that’s both satisfying and delicious.

Breakfast Combinations

Grits shine brightly in the morning light, offering a warm and comforting start to the day that’s both versatile and satisfying. Breakfast combinations with grits can range from the simple to the sublime, incorporating everything from eggs to bacon. Let’s explore how this Southern staple can transform your morning meals into something truly special.

Eggs and Grits

The pairing of eggs and grits is a breakfast classic that offers endless variations. Whether you prefer your eggs fried, poached, scrambled, or boiled, they make the perfect companion to creamy grits. Fried eggs, with their crispy edges and runny yolks, add a rich texture and flavor that complements the smoothness of the grits. For a more cohesive dish, try scrambling the eggs with cheese and folding them into the grits, creating a creamy, dreamy breakfast bowl that’s both filling and flavorful.

Bacon and Grits

Bacon and grits is another breakfast duo that’s hard to beat. The smoky, salty crunch of bacon contrasts beautifully with the soft, creamy texture of grits, making every bite a delightful experience. For those who enjoy a bit of crunch in their breakfast, crispy bacon is the way to go. Alternatively, keeping the bacon tender allows its fatty richness to meld more seamlessly with the grits, infusing the dish with a depth of flavor that’s simply irresistible.

These breakfast combinations not only highlight the versatility of grits as a morning meal but also demonstrate how simple ingredients can be elevated into something extraordinary with just a bit of creativity. Whether you’re in the mood for something hearty and savory or light and simple, incorporating grits into your breakfast routine can open up a world of delicious possibilities.

Vegetarian and Vegan Options

Grits aren’t just for meat lovers; they offer a canvas for a plethora of vegetarian and vegan delights, proving that hearty and satisfying dishes don’t always require animal products. Let’s delve into some plant-based pairings that elevate grits to a new level of deliciousness, showcasing the versatility and adaptability of this Southern staple.

Beans and Grits

Beans and grits make for a nutritious and filling meal, perfect for any time of the day. This combination brings together the creamy texture of grits with the hearty, earthy flavors of beans, creating a dish that’s both comforting and satisfying. Whether you opt for pinto beans in a savory sauce, chickpeas, lentils, or black beans, the key is to season them well and perhaps add a bit of richness by sautéing them in oil or butter before combining with the grits. This pairing not only offers a high-protein vegetarian option but also introduces a variety of textures and flavors to the dish.

Okra and Grits

Okra and grits is a pairing that truly celebrates Southern cuisine. Okra, with its unique texture and grassy flavor, complements the mildness of grits beautifully. Whether you choose to fry the okra for a crispy addition, sauté it until tender, or incorporate it into a stew, it adds a delightful dimension to the creamy porridge. This combination not only pays homage to the roots of Southern cooking but also provides a vegetarian option that doesn’t skimp on flavor or satisfaction.

Roasted Vegetables and Grits

Roasted vegetables and grits offer a symphony of flavors and textures, making for a meal that’s as nutritious as it is delicious. The natural sweetness and depth of flavor that come from roasting vegetables like Brussels sprouts, carrots, and butternut squash pair wonderfully with the simplicity of grits. This combination not only adds a pop of color to your plate but also introduces a variety of vitamins and minerals, making it a healthy option that doesn’t compromise on taste.

These vegetarian and vegan options demonstrate that grits can be the foundation for a wide range of dishes, catering to various dietary preferences while still delivering on flavor and comfort. Whether you’re a long-time vegetarian or simply looking to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet, these combinations with grits offer a delicious and satisfying way to do so.

Sweet Takes on Grits

While grits are often celebrated for their savory applications, their neutral base also makes them an excellent candidate for sweeter interpretations. These variations can transform the humble grits into a delightful breakfast or dessert, proving that this versatile dish can satisfy a wide range of taste preferences. Let’s explore some sweet takes on grits that will surely entice those with a sweet tooth.

Sugar, Syrup, and Fruits

Introducing sugar, syrup, and fruits to grits can elevate them from a savory side to a sweet main attraction. A sprinkle of sugar or a drizzle of maple syrup can instantly transform the flavor profile of grits, adding a layer of sweetness that complements their natural creaminess. For a richer experience, brown sugar offers depth, while maple syrup brings a unique richness and intensity to the dish. Adding fruits, whether fresh or dried, introduces a burst of freshness and tanginess that balances the sweetness beautifully. Bananas, berries, or peaches can make the grits feel more like a dessert, while nuts like pecans or walnuts add a satisfying crunch.

Nuts and Seeds

Incorporating nuts and seeds into sweet grits not only adds texture but also boosts the nutritional value of the dish. Almonds, pecans, or walnuts can offer a crunchy contrast to the creamy grits, while seeds like chia or flaxseed introduce omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, making the meal more wholesome. These additions, along with a dash of cinnamon or vanilla extract, can transform a simple bowl of grits into a complex, flavorful, and nutritious meal that serves as a perfect start to the day or a comforting dessert.

These sweet variations of grits showcase the dish’s incredible flexibility, proving that it can cater to both savory and sweet preferences. Whether you’re looking for a comforting breakfast to start your day or a simple yet satisfying dessert, sweet grits offer a canvas for a multitude of flavors and textures. By experimenting with different sweeteners, fruits, nuts, and seeds, you can create a dish that not only satisfies your sweet cravings but also provides a comforting and nutritious meal.

Unconventional Pairings

Grits, with their mild flavor and creamy texture, are the perfect backdrop for a variety of unconventional pairings. These combinations may not be the first that come to mind when you think of grits, but they’re sure to delight and surprise your palate. Let’s explore some of these creative and less traditional ways to enjoy grits, proving that this versatile dish can truly embrace a wide array of flavors.

Pulled Pork and Grits

Pulled pork and grits is a pairing that marries the rich, smoky flavors of barbecue with the creamy simplicity of grits. This combination transforms the traditional breakfast dish into a hearty meal suitable for any time of day. The key to this pairing is the pulled pork itself; slow-cooked until tender and infused with a tangy barbecue sauce, it adds a depth of flavor and texture to the grits that is hard to resist. For an added layer of decadence, topping the dish with a bit of gravy or extra sauce can elevate it from delicious to divine.

Sausage and Grits

Adding sausage to grits introduces a spicy and savory element that can kickstart your morning or spice up your dinner. Whether you prefer sausage links or patties, chopping them up and mixing them into the grits ensures that each bite is packed with flavor. Don’t limit yourself to breakfast sausages, though; exploring other varieties like bratwurst, hot links, or sweet Italian sausage can bring a whole new dimension to the dish. The spices and herbs within the sausage complement the blandness of the grits, creating a meal that’s both comforting and exciting.

These unconventional pairings with grits demonstrate the dish’s incredible versatility and capacity for innovation. By stepping outside the traditional combinations, you can discover new flavors and textures that make grits an even more exciting and adaptable base for meals. Whether you’re looking to repurpose leftovers in a new way or simply want to experiment with different ingredients, these creative pairings offer a fresh perspective on how to enjoy grits.


In exploring the vast culinary landscape of grits, several questions frequently arise, reflecting the curiosity and eagerness of both grits aficionados and newcomers alike to delve deeper into this versatile dish. Here, we address some of the most common inquiries, shedding light on the nuances of preparing and enjoying grits to their fullest potential.

Can Grits Be Made Vegan?

Absolutely! While traditional grits recipes often incorporate butter, cheese, or milk, making vegan grits is quite straightforward. Substitute plant-based alternatives such as almond milk or coconut milk for dairy, and use vegan butter or olive oil to achieve the creamy texture that grits are known for. Nutritional yeast can offer a cheesy flavor, making vegan grits just as satisfying.

How Can I Prevent My Grits from Becoming Lumpy?

The key to smooth, creamy grits lies in the cooking process. Start by whisking your grits into boiling water gradually, ensuring they’re evenly distributed. Continuously stir the grits as they cook, which prevents clumping and encourages a smooth consistency. Patience and attention during the cooking process will reward you with perfectly creamy grits every time.

Are Grits Healthy?

Grits can be a nutritious addition to your diet when prepared thoughtfully. They are a good source of carbohydrates and can be fortified with vitamins and minerals. Opting for whole grain or stone-ground grits provides more fiber and nutrients than their more processed counterparts. Pairing grits with healthy toppings like vegetables, lean proteins, or healthy fats can create a balanced and nutritious meal.

Can Grits Be Eaten for Dinner?

Grits are not just for breakfast; they can be enjoyed at any meal, including dinner. Their neutral flavor and creamy texture make them an excellent base for a variety of savory toppings, from shrimp and sausage to roasted vegetables and pulled pork. Grits can easily be incorporated into dinner meals, serving as a comforting and versatile side or main dish.

These FAQs highlight the adaptability and appeal of grits, showcasing their role as a staple in Southern cuisine while also underscoring their potential for global culinary exploration. Whether you’re a seasoned grits lover or new to this beloved dish, the possibilities for creativity and enjoyment are endless, inviting you to explore all that grits have to offer.

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