What Are Grits? Are They the Same as Polenta?

Grits are a breakfast staple everywhere, but they are especially associated with the cuisine of the American South. And, whether you like them with salt or sugar, they’re always a welcome way to start the day! Pour that coffee, that day’s starting soon! 

What are grits made of?

Grits are made from either yellow or white round corn, typically from less sweet, starchy varieties often referred to as dent corn. But we can get even more specific than that. Hominy grits are made from corn after it’s been soaked in alkaline solution. Heirloom grits are made from heirloom corn, sometimes even blue or red. And, for those who are in a hurry, there are instant grits, which are made from pre-dehydrated corn for quick and easy cooking. Any way you slice it, it’s corn across the board. 

How are grits made? 

Grits are made from dent corn, which has a softer and starchier kernel than other corn varieties. The mature kernels are processed to remove the outer hull, dried, and then ground into smaller bits. The simplest way to prepare grits is to boil them, then stir in butter and milk. But, it’s a hotly contested debate as to whether they’re better served sweet or savory. Go with your preferred method, and make sure to save me some. All this typing is making me hungry. 

Though they’re most commonly eaten for breakfast with things like eggs and sausage, grits are extremely versatile. Serve them with cheese, shrimp, beans, or roasted veggies. They’re a great pantry staple

Are grits gluten free? 

Grits are naturally gluten free, but can be cross contaminated during processing or mixed with other things that aren’t gluten free. As always, it’s best to check the label, but certain brands are known to be safe for folks who don’t do gluten: Arrowhead Mills, Julia’s Pantry, Bob’s Red Mill, Medford Farms, Palmetto Farms, and Sam Mills. 

Is polenta the same as grits?

Both grits and polenta are made from ground corn, but the main difference is the type of corn. Polenta, as you can probably guess from the color, is made from yellow corn, while grits are normally made from white corn (or hominy). Polenta is a dish commonly found in Northern Italian cuisine and tends not to yield as creamy a texture as grits when boiled.

Whether you opt for instant, or have the time to cook them slow and steady, grits will fill you up and give you energy before you leave the house. Or, just as likely these days, before you stay in and log on to Zoom or pull up a Google doc to write about food for an up and coming website.

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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