Learn how to make creamy Southern grits — these are rich, super thick, never runny, and melt in your mouth! They’re perfect as a base for shrimp and grits, with cheese melted in, or just topped with a little salt and pepper.
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If you want to make Southern food (especially brunch!), it’s essential to know how to make a good, creamy pot of grits. These grits never turn out runny, are packed with flavor, and melt in your mouth! Perfect as a base for shrimp and grits or with a heaping serving of pimento cheese stirred in.
What are grits?
If you’re from the Southeastern United States, this question needs no answer. However, if you’re not from ’round these here parts, you may need a little primer.
Simply put, grits are a porridge made from cooking ground corn in liquid. They’re a staple food in the South, typically eaten for breakfast or brunch, but also not out of place at the dinner table. While similar to Italian polenta, which is made from finely ground corn or cornmeal, grits are typically made with a slightly coarser grind.
Grits can be made from a medium grind (like Quaker old-fashioned grits) or coarser, like stone-ground grits, which add a lot of nice toothy texture. If you want seriously smooth and creamy grits, though, I’d recommend using Quaker old-fashioned grits rather than stone-ground.
While you can make grits from just the ground corn and water, for truly rich and creamy grits, we’re going to use a mixture of water, milk, cream, and butter to cook them in. Plus a little extra cream for good measure.
About the creamiest ever grits
When I was in elementary school I was the youngest person, by decades, in several demonstration-only cooking classes at a place called Charleston Cooks (which sadly, closed a couple years ago). Just imagine nine-year-old me, surrounded by a classroom full of middle-aged women, listening attentively and taking notes on the recipe printouts the instructors gave us as they showed us how to cook delicious dishes at the front of the room.
I can’t tell you how excited I was when one of my cooking classes featured none other than the chef from The Old Post Office restaurant on Edisto Island.
For several summers, my family (complete with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandmother) had spent a week at a beach house at Edisto Island, and dining at The Old Post Office was a much-anticipated treat during our stay. I was intimately familiar with their shrimp and grits, which were the best I had ever tasted. I had never tasted grits so rich and creamy. They just utterly melted in your mouth.
So when their chef was teaching one of the cooking classes I attended, you can imagine my excitement. And he told us the secret to their mouthwateringly creamy grits.
Y’all, it makes you want to have a heart attack just listening to it. But it’s soooo good.
Now, let me add a disclaimer to this. I could be wrong, since I am recalling this from 25 years ago. But this is what I remember him telling us.
He cooked his grits all day in a big pot. And he cooked it with equal parts water, milk, cream, and butter. And when it was all soaked up? He added more water. Milk. Cream. And butter. Just like a risotto.
I mean, no WONDER it was so good.
So whenever I’ve made grits throughout my life, I’ve kept his secret in mind. Now, I don’t make mine quite as rich as he did. Something that decadent would be saved for a once-a-year special occasion. But I do cook my grits in water, milk, cream, and butter — just not an equal ratio. And they do come out oh-so-creamy and delicious.
How to make super-creamy grits
To make grits, you bring all your liquids — water, milk, cream — and butter to a boil. Then add grits, lower the heat, and simmer about 20 minutes or until all the liquid is soaked up, stirring occasionally. If they get too thick, you can add a little more liquid (I usually do milk) and let it cook a bit more to even out the consistency.
I also found if you stir in a little extra cream at the very end, just before serving, it really really adds to the smooth, creamy texture.
Help! My grits were too thick and I added too much liquid to thin them out. Now my grits are runny!
A lot of times simply cooking them longer will allow the grits to soak up the new liquid you added. However, they do get to a maximum saturation point where they just won’t absorb any more.
That’s happened to me before and I just added some more dried grits to the mixture (they can absorb 3-4x their volume in liquid, so you don’t have to add much!) and let them cook some more. That way the new grits can soak up any excess liquid, and the consistency will even out with a little time.
What goes well with creamy grits?
Stirring pimento cheese into your grits adds so much creaminess and extra flavor! These creamy grits also make a perfect base for Lowcountry shrimp and grits, or you can top them with savory Brussels sprout hash!
More savory Southern sides
- 1.5 cups water
- 1.5 cups milk
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup cream divided
- 1 cup grits old fashioned
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a medium saucepan, bring water, milk, butter, and 1/4 cup cream to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer and add grits. Simmer over medium low heat for about 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and grits are very thick. Grits should pull away from the side of the pot when you stir it.
- Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of cream until fully incorporated.
- If grits get too thick (they thicken as they cook further and as they sit), you can stir in more water, milk, or cream to thin them out to your desired consistency.
- Serve with butter, salt, and pepper; cheese; or shrimp and gravy.