When traveling through the American south, you will find grits on offer in almost every eatery, from fancy restaurant through to roadside diner, or at least it seems that way. Simple cheesy bacon grits are easy to make and full of flavor! Gluten free too!
For an Australian, and with name like grits, this is surely an ingredient to avoid at all costs! I mean what are grits and what is it with that name?
One of the great joys of traveling is to pose such questions and then uncover the answers. I am pleased to say the answer was fairly obvious and tasty, now having enjoyed grits in both Charleston and Savannah. And it is indeed a meal that features quite heavily in Low Country Cuisine.
Indeed, I was so happy eating them that I just had to highlight this simple cheesy bacon grits recipe.
It is so simple that it will only take a few minutes of your time to have an inexpensive, warming and filling breakfast ready for the family.
Read on to find out more.
Grits – A Scary Name but if You Love Polenta You Will Love Grits
To cut to the bottom line grits equals polenta, plain and simple. Indeed, I used Bob’s Red Mill White Corn Grits (we have no commercial relationship we just like their product) for my simple cheesy bacon grits and lo and behold, right there on Bob’s label it tells you “also known as polenta”.
Grits and polenta (as they are called in Italy and most other places in the world) are just cornmeal, or ground maize. Grits are generally boiled, they are gluten-free and healthy for you. They are filling and inexpensive to buy.
If you like, they are the corn version of oatmeal (porridge) and congee (rice), both also extremely healthy and inexpensive.
If you are new to cooking with grits or polenta, you shouldn’t fear them. They are delicious and easy to deal with.
Grits are Almost a Religion in the American South
Now back to our American road trip. I don’t believe we entered any restaurant, café or any other eatery anywhere in the American South that did feature a grits recipe. It is a staple throughout the low country.
You will see grits available there for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And there are some classics such as shrimp and grits that that should demand your full attention.
When shopping around for grits, you will find many different brands and varieties available for purchase. White corn, yellow corn, instant, quick cooking, stone ground and so on.
And make no mistake, southerners have strong opinions about grits and many of them believe you should only cook with “stone-ground grits”. Stone ground grits are not as fine as quicker cooking varieties and therefore require longer cooking. But many southerners think the extra effort pays off with a better texture on the finished product. Rumor has it that proper, southern restaurants only use “stone-ground grits”.
Well, with all due respect to my southern friends, I did use a quicker cooking variety and I was wrapped with the result.
So, to discover the wonderful world of grits (and polenta), here is a simple cheesy bacon grits recipe that delivers a great result.
Simple Cheesy Bacon Grits
When you cook with a new ingredient there is always a little consternation that we all experience. Will it turn out? Am I cooking it correctly? Did I buy the right variety for the recipe?
I certainly experienced all of that and more but, as is usually the case, it turned out perfectly. So, if you live outside the US or you live in the American north, try this recipe out. Simple cheesy bacon grits are a highlight and grits are not to be feared any more!
|Servings||Prep Time||Cook Time|
- 1/2 lb bacon diced
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 tsp salt, ground sea
- 1 cup grits, white corn feel free to substitute with polenta
- 1 cup cheese, grated a sharp cheddar is delicious
- In a small pan over moderate heat, saute the bacon until browned, about 5 minutes. Reserve.
- Meanwhile in a saucepan, bring the water to a boil and then add the salt. Add the grits, and when boiling again turn the heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the grated cheese and reserved bacon pieces. Continue to simmer stirring occasionally until the cheese is melted and the cheese and bacon are well incorporated into the grits. Serve immediately.
Hanady | Recipe Nomad
I love grits! I had them in Louisiana once upon a time and I fell in love! The addition of the bacon will add a nice smokiness to it! Yummy!
Like you, I have fallen in love with grits. And super cheap, gluten-free and filling. Lots of advantages there.
Gloria @ Homemade & Yummy
I love polenta….so YES I do love grits. I have eaten corn meal since I was a kid. I can eat it as a meal on its own. The addition of cheese and bacon…well how can you go wrong with that. Perfect side dish for so many things.
Gloria, Or add a poached egg and you have the perfect breakfast!
Would you believe I’ve never had grits? You’re right. It’s totally the name. It scares me. But add to cheese to a carb and I am so down.
Jenna, Based on the other comments you are not alone in never trying grits! Ddonn’t be intimidated- the cheese and bacon make this a great dish!
I love cheesy grits but suck at making them. Thanks for the recipe
Nicole, I think you should give it one more try!
Kylee from Kylee Cooks
Grits are one of my favorite quintessential American dishes – people seem to fall into 2 camps – sweet or savory – and won’t be convinced otherwise. For me – you add bacon, and that’s kind of everything….
Kylee I haven’t tried sweet grits. I am so totally satisfied with the savory options, that I can’t see me cooking the sweeter options. They are very quintessentially American aren’t they?
I’ve only now started eating grits. I did not like the taste at all when i started eating it but now, I can’t get enough. This one looks delicious. Added cheese… yes please
I love how the grits pick up and inherit the flavor of the added ingredients, like bacon and cheese. Also, really good with mushrooms.
I have never been to the South, but these sound like pretty perfect grits to me and a great way to “visit” without getting on a plane. The cheese and bacon are the perfect things to go with your grits! I bet this would be amazing with a smoked gouda as well.
Amy, I have come to the conclusion that the grits pick up the flavor of whatever you are adding to them. So a smoky gouda would be a nice touch. So many options. Fun to find the perfect accompaniments.
Julie | Bunsen Burner Bakery
I’m fascinated that grits and polenta are the same thing — every time I’ve had grits, they have always been much more — well — grittier than super smooth polenta, and generally white, versus yellow. You learn something new every day!
I think Bob’s Red Mill brand packaging gives it all away. Regardless of whether they are yellow or white, his grits packaging is quite up front, grits, “also known as polenta”. The stone-ground grits are just a courser variety requiring longer cooking time and resulting in a courser finished product.
My southern raised husband has been asking me to make grits from some time now. I’ve never made them before. I love the idea of adding bacon to them. YUM! I will certainly try your recipe! Thank you for sharing!
I was very pleasantly surprised as to how easy they were to cook with. Ideal for a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner. I think mushrooms are also a great accompaniment with them.
Oh grits are so good! These look great, an easy recipe I can make at home.
They are so easy to make at home. They are also good value, as they go a long way. They are hearty, filling and you can basically add whatever accompaniments you might have. Also great with a soft-poached egg on top. The yolk and the grits are a great combination.
I must say l did wonder what grits actually meant, so it was nice to read your post about it. It sounds like a comforting dish, and the addition of cheese and bacon makes it so flavourful. We do eat polenta quite a lot back home, so such a dish would be fully enjoyed by everyone.
Indeed. It is clear to me that even many Americans (from the North) are unaware of what grits are. It is such an unusual name and it does make me wonder why it’s just not called polenta (both white and yellow corn versions) as it is known in the rest of the world. I think more folks from the North would eat it if it was called polenta!
Marlynn | UrbanBlissLife
I am a big fan of grits but have never made them at home yet. And I LOVE bacon, so this a great combo for me!
I couldn’t believe how quick it was to make and hardly any preparation. Good for a quick breakfast or lunch or supper.
Jessica (Swanky Recipes)
Loving how simple this recipe is to prepare. Growing up in the Midwest, we never ate grits. However, after moving to New Orleans a few years ago, we love it. We always order grits for breakfast when friends and family are in town visiting. Loving the bacon and added cheese on this dish, too!
So pleased to read this comment, Jessica. Like you, once you have tasted them and see how versatile they are, it does make you wonder why they are not so popular in the north of the USA, where they totally suit the climate.
We were in the south last summer and the first time I ever tasted grits! Now, I have a yummy recipe to try!
Trust me it is yummy. The addition of the cheese and bacon gives it a big lift.
Hanady | Recipe Nomad
Years ago I had a delicious grits and shrimp at a Louisiana restaurant. It was amazing! This recipe sounds just like what I had that day- I’ll just need to add some shrimp to it!
Go right ahead. I wanted to use shrimp in my recipe but was unfortunately situated in a place where there was no real option to buy fresh shrimp. However, the bacon and cheese grits are also good and are more suited than shrimp at breakfast time.
Sarah | Away From the Box
So, I’ve lived in the South my entire life and I’ve never tried grits. It is my secret shame. But I think this recipe sounds amazing enough that I’m ready to give it a try!
I’m sure it is the name that is a bit off-putting. Grits certainly provoke strong opinions in the North as well as the South.
Silvia @ Garden in the Kitchen
Okay. This just answered a LOT of my questions haha. Being from the North I hear so much about “grids” (totally agree with the awkward name) and had some vague idea. But you my fellow, just answered every-single-one-of-them! In this case, I think I will like grids (agh, that name!) and in fact I think I’ll try it too 🙂
Silvia, grits have bothered me for years. It’s such an aggressive sounding thing. But there you go, it is just polenta. And they are yummy, especially with the cheese.
Even i get all the doubts about new ingredients and its out come. After whole family approval i post my recipe 🙂
I will look substitute for bacon.
Hi Uma, thanks for your comment. Shrimp or prawns are a great substitute if you like seafood and mushrooms would be perfect.
I could actually eat grits anytime and since I follow a gluten free diet they are a great option. I often forget about them but looking at this recipe makes me want some now.
They can be quite gourmet. Some of the more up-market restaurants in Charleston and Savannah had versions which were deliciously gourmet. Elizabeth is gluten-free so we are always on the lookout for non-wheat options.
Sarah @ Champagne Tastes
I love grits! Grits are usually white and polenta is usually yellow corn, and grits tend to be a bigger grind. And I’m with the stone ground camp on this one! Trader Joe’s is my favorite kind of stone ground ones.. so good!!!
Thanks for contributing to the conversation. We used Bob’s Red Mill brand and yes we used white corn grits. But Red Mill also has a yellow corn version of grits as well. I haven’t yet cooked with stone ground grits yet but I love slow cooking so they should be right up my alley. I would imagine they are even better.
Amy Katz from Veggies Save The Day
It never occurred to me that polenta and grits are the same thing, but you are so right! I think some people think of the instant grits that come in a little bag like instant oatmeal. And I love Bob’s Red Mill, too!
Well I was little hesitant about making this dish for the blog having never cooked with them. But honestly, they were delicious. We have used other Bob’s Red Mill products – they are reliable.
I agree wholeheartedly – the term grits is certainly offputting, but the taste is usually amazing; especially if you’re lucky enough to have a bowl of grits in the south. I haven’t been so lucky as to eat grits in Savannah, but I’ve had them in Florida and they were delicious. It was a breakfast dish, actually. Grits with bacon and cheese – reminded me of this one. Looks wonderfully delicious!
Thanks Byron. My wife is American (from the north) and she was a little dubious about grits (maybe from bad experiences from early childhood years). But when we recently visited Charleston and Savannah we had grits which were just out of this world and she has totally changed her tune. She prefers to be gluten-free so now we have a good substitute for a lot of wheat-based ingredients.
I feasted on shrimp and grits visiting family in North Carolina (a terrific option since I need to eat gluten free) and now regularly eat them with eggs in the morning! I’m going to have to try this bacon version, too – looks delicious.
Anne, we are always after gluten free options and grits are cheap to buy. I love how they pick up the flavors of what you add to them. Yes, the bacon is an indulgence, but this is a breakfast recipe right? Thanks for your comment.
Liz @ I Heart Vegetables
I had never had grits until recently! (Now that I live in the south, I see them all the time!) These sound yummy!
I must admit I was surprised how easy they are to cook with and how great they taste.
I have not eaten grits before but it certainly sounds like an interesting dish.
If you have ever eaten polenta, they are the same thing. I think that name grits must be to scare people off.
Matt @ Plating Pixels
I’ve recently visited a few southern states, including SC, and love their food. Is that Dayton Hall?! Such a cool place. Yum btw!
Matt you have a very good eye! That is indeed the staircase at Drayton Hall. We loved visiting the plantations and that was one of four that we enjoyed around Charleston. Thanks for your comment.