What Are Grits?

Quck answer

Grits are a popular Southern dish made from ground corn kernels. They are similar to polenta or porridge and have a creamy texture. Grits can be enjoyed as a savory or sweet dish, depending on the ingredients added. They are often served for breakfast with butter, cheese, and bacon, but can also be paired with shrimp, fish, or vegetables for a hearty meal. Grits are a versatile and comforting food that is deeply rooted in Southern cuisine and enjoyed by many for its simplicity and delicious taste.


If you happen to be in the American South…and you’re feeling hungry…and it’s breakfast time…there’s a high possibility that you’ll be served a large, hot bowl of grits.

But don’t be deceived by the name. The contents of the bowl are definitely delicious!

Although grits is primarily known as a Southern specialty, it can also be considered as the first truly “American” food. When the first settlers arrived at what is now Jamestown, Virginia, their initial encounters with Native Americans probably involved discovering a traditional dish known as “rockahominie.”

This hot porridge was made from softened, ground corn and seasoned with salt and animal fat. Today, we refer to porridge made from ground corn as “grits.”

The word “grits” may have originated from either the German word grütze or the Italian word gruzzi, both of which mean “crushed or coarsely ground corn.”

And speaking of words, did today’s question — What ARE Grits? — make you wonder about our grammar? We hope it did! Grits sounds like a plural noun and should, therefore, take a plural verb, such as “are” instead of “is.”

However, grits is a unique and uncommon noun with its own grammar rules. Although grits is always spelled with an “s” and appears to be plural, it can actually be used as either singular or plural in writing and speech.

Today, grits is a traditional part of Southern cuisine. Out of the more than 150 million pounds of grits produced annually, over two-thirds are consumed in the South. Grits is even the official prepared food of the state of Georgia!

So, how does one go about cooking grits? A typical recipe calls for adding one part grits to two to three parts boiling water.

After seasoning with salt and/or sugar, the grits are usually cooked for 15 to 20 minutes until the water is absorbed and the grits become a thick porridge. Occasional stirring is necessary to prevent the grits from sticking and forming lumps.

Grits are usually not eaten plain. Various additions — including butter, salt, sugar, cheese, and gravy — are popular. Grits are typically served for breakfast, along with side dishes like ham, sausage, or eggs.

Give It a Try

Are you feeling hungry now? Make sure to explore the following activities with a friend or family member:

Have you ever prepared grits? Put on an apron, go to the kitchen, and let’s start cooking! If you need some grits, ask someone to accompany you to the grocery store for a quick trip. Give this simple grits recipe from renowned Southern chef, Paula Deen, a try. Feel free to experiment with various toppings for your grits. Do you like them with butter? Sugar? Cheese? Gravy? Or something else entirely?

If you reside in the South, then you can consider grits as a popular regional dish. If you live elsewhere in the United States (or anywhere else in the world), there are probably other unique foods that your region enjoys. Create a list of the foods that are characteristic of where you live. Which one is your favorite? Plan a meal that showcases a variety of regional favorites for your friends and family to savor.

Of course, not everyone is fond of grits. If you have tried them and don’t enjoy them, you can still have fun with corn. Try making a creative Corn Collage that you can use to decorate your home! What other enjoyable crafts can you create using corn?

Additional Resources

  • http://www.georgia.gov/gov/proclamations/archive/NATIONAL_GRITS_FESTIVAL_DAY_2003.pdf
  • http://www.nytimes.com/1982/01/31/travel/the-meaning-of-true-grits.html (accessed 28 Oct., 2022)

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