Grits are an interesting food and, let me tell you, reading Sporked‘s explainer on what grits really are was an educational experience for someone who didn’t grow up eating the dish. Grits—aka boiled cornmeal porridge—aren’t as popular in the Midwest as they are in the South (I’m from Minnesota), and, I gotta say, they’ve never seemed very appealing on their own. But, hey, maybe the key to developing a later-in-life appreciation for grits is finding the best things to eat with grits. I enlisted the help of Sporked managing editor Gwynedd Stuart, who grew up down south, to put together this list of the best toppings for grits and, in my novice opinion, it’s a good one.
- Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter with Sea Salt
When you’re wondering what to eat with grits, there is one ingredient that should always come to mind first: butter. Grits are made from corn and as anyone who has ever enjoyed fresh corn on the cob drenched in butter or movie theater popcorn knows, butter and corn just go together. This butter may seem like a weird pick in terms of toppings for grits given that it’s from Vermont and all, but trust us on this one. Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter with Sea Salt is so flavorful that it adds a creamy, fatty dimension to anything you melt it into. As Gwynedd said when she tried it, “It fills your mouth with flavor.” And since grits aren’t exactly known for having a big, bold flavor on their own, this butter is a perfect complement.
Read the full ranking of the best butter
- Wright Hickory Smoked Bacon
As an American Millennial who grew up in the Midwest, I firmly believe that bacon goes with everything and has the power to make any dish better, be it porridge or pie. And since we’re rounding up the best toppings for grits, this smoky, tasty bacon was a shoo-in. Wright Hickory Smoked Bacon was recommended to us by readers, and when we gave it a try in our second bacon taste test, we understood why. It’s so thick and so, so smoky. Fry this until it’s nice and crispy and then crumble it over a piping-hot bowl of grits. The smoky, salty, greasy goodness will work its way into every bite.
Read the full ranking of the best bacon
- Kraft Deli Deluxe American
I have it on good authority from Gwynedd that you should be making your cheese grits with American rather than cheddar cheese, and she grew up in the South, so who am I to question her? It’s really hard to argue with Gwynedd (I mean, I would never), but when you look at the meltability of Kraft Deli Deluxe American cheese slices, it just makes sense. Do it Waffle House style and just toss a delicious, orange square of this creamy, melty American cheese on top of your bowl of grits and let it get all gooey. American cheese is one of the best toppings for grits and this American cheese is the best you can buy.
Read the full ranking of the best American cheese
- Tillamook Sharp Cheddar Farmstyle Shreds
If you insist on cheddar over American cheese on your grits, sharp cheddar is the way to go. You get salt and that wonderful, nutty depth of flavor that really brings a bowl of boiled cornmeal to life. We recommend these thick-cut Tillamook sharp cheddar shreds, which Sporked editor-in-chief Justine Sterling described as tangy and super flavorful. “It tastes like a block of aged cheddar you’ve shredded into thick shreds,” she wrote. We get it. American cheese isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so grab this if cheddar is more your style.
Read the full ranking of the best shredded cheddar
- Whole Catch Black Peppercorn Shrimp Poppers
Our list of what to eat with grits just got fancy, y’all. If you’ve never had shrimp and grits, we truly cannot stress enough what a wonderful dish it is, especially when you go for these black peppercorn fried shrimp from Whole Foods. They’re so crispy and flavorful—the black pepper flavor really comes through big time and even adds a little heat. And since freshly ground black pepper is absolutely one of the best toppings for grits, you’re killing two birds with one stone here. Any excuse to eat seafood for breakfast is a good excuse.
Read the full ranking of the best fried shrimp