Creamy cheese grits are a simple southern side dish, great with smoked meats or seafood. Learn how to make grits for a tasty holiday brunch!
Grits are a staple dish in many parts of the southern U.S. Whether they’re creamy and cheesy, stone ground, quick-cooking, or hominy grits doesn’t matter as much as how well they’re prepared.
If you’ve never eaten them, grits are a hot porridge made from ground cornmeal. On their own, grits don’t have much flavor, but they’re rarely served without any seasoning. Actually, most recipes call for adding lots of butter, salt and pepper, and many grits recipes call for add-ins like cheese and cooked meat.
This grits recipe is great for breakfast or holiday brunch, and equally perfect as a dinner side dish.
Creamy cheese grits
I enjoy southern grits for breakfast with biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, or country ham. For dinner, there’s nothing finer in my mind than New Orleans shrimp and grits. As a side dish, cheese grits are fantastic with a holiday ham or boneless rib roast.
Although it doesn’t take rocket science to make this grits recipe, there are definitely do’s and don’ts to keep in mind. We’re aiming for super creamy cheese grits. Keep reading… I’ll show you exactly how to make them like a pro!
Ingredient notes and substitutions
- Milk – Using whole milk will give you the creamiest grits, but really, any type of milk works. If you need a non-dairy option, soy milk and nut milk are fine.
- Yellow cornmeal grits – Be sure to use coarse yellow grits, or white grits, which are what many recipes for southern grits call for.
Don’t use instant grits (they’re processed and partially cooked), and definitely do not use stone ground grits for this recipe. Stone ground grits are also known as hominy grits. and they take almost an hour to cook.
Did you know?
The same variety of yellow cornmeal that’s used to make grits is also used to make polenta. Some brands even label the package as “cornmeal for polenta”.
- Butter– Salted or unsalted butter will work. If using salted butter, you may want to omit adding any extra salt when you cook the grits. If you need more seasoning, you can always add it later.
- Shredded cheese– For the creamiest and cheesiest grits, I recommending buying a block of cheese to shred yourself at home. Pre-bagged shreds have a preservative coating that prevents the cheese from clumping in the bag. Unfortunately, it also prevents the shreds from melting well.
I use sharp cheddar cheese, but feel free to use any variety of cheese that melts well. If you want a spicy kick, jalapeno cheddar and pepper jack are great options. You could even add goat cheese or Mexican Oaxaca cheese to your grits.
Tips for making creamy cheese grits
- Incorporate the grits slowly.
To avoid clumpy lumps from forming, it’s important to whisk the cornmeal into the pot a little at a time. Start with 1/4 cup, whisk until it’s completely incorporated, then add another 1/4 cup.
- Whisk vigorously.
You can count the hand workout as your morning exercise. You’re welcome. 😉 Seriously, though; continue whisking until all of the grits are incorporated.
- Stir occasionally to prevent sticking
After the cornmeal grits are incorporated, the porridge needs to cook for about 30 minutes. Stay close to the kitchen and stir your grits every 5 minutes or so. Not only does this give them a creamier consistency, but it also prevents them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Keep in mind that grits will thicken as they sit, so you may want to remove them from the heat when the consistency is still a bit loose. The same can be said for reheating leftover grits; they definitely thicken when refrigerated. As they warm up, they’ll thin out, but you can add milk or water to thin them more if needed.
If you like the consistency and flavor of creamy cheese grits, you’ll probably enjoy my recipe for cheesy Instant Pot polenta, too!
Yes, cooked grits keep well for up 5 days in the refrigerator. Just be sure to keep them in an airtight container. To reheat, cook them in a saucepan over medium heat, adding water or milk to thin, if necessary.
If your southern grits are thicker than you’d like, thin them by stirring in 2 tablespoons of water at a time until they’re the consistency you want.
This post, originally published on Kevin is Cooking Aug. 13, 2013, was last updated with new content on Dec. 13, 2021.
Creamy Cheese Grits
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal grits See Note 1
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup milk any variety of dairy or non-dairy milk. For the creamiest grits, use whole milk.
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp cayenne powder (cayenne pepper)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- In a large saucepan add water, milk, salt, cayenne pepper and butter. For creamier grits. Bring contents to a boil over high heat.
- Add grits to the boiling water 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming.
- Reduce heat to low and cook grits for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Whisk in shredded cheese a little at a time until completely incorporated (See Note 2). Cook on low heat for another 5 minutes.
- Serve with a sprinkle of shredded cheese and black pepper on top.
- Be sure to use regular yellow cornmeal grits, which are sometimes labeled as polenta. Do not use quick-cooking grits or stone ground grits for this recipe.
- At this point, feel free to also add crumbled bacon, cooked diced ham, or other cooked protein of your choice.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.