Are Grits Gluten-Free?

A bowl of healthy gluten free grits

Grits, a soul-soothing dish that works wonders, be it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And yet, if you are among the people who wonder, “are grits gluten free?” this article is the one for you.

A homely dish enjoyed by all, grits have been a typical component of the Southern diet for hundreds of years. The Native Americans introduced the Europeans to grits in the 16th century. Although it is largely consumed for breakfast, it has now made its way into all meals.

Not only that, this popular, simple breakfast item has evolved and now has several variations. It is no more just enjoyed in the American South alone. It is now gaining popularity on all the menus nationwide. Despite this, some hesitate to have it as they wonder, “are grits gluten free?” If you are someone with gluten intolerance, then this article will allow you to add another item to your gluten free diet.

Before we dive in, let us begin by understanding what grits are.

Are grits gluten free?

Now let’s get to the real deal, “are grits gluten-free?”. This question primarily concerns individuals with gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. Since grits are prepared from corn, they are naturally gluten-free and can be enjoyed by people with celiac disease.

Although it is made from corn which is one of the gluten-free grains, it is best to check the ingredient list to verify that the product is truly gluten-free. Some manufacturers may use wheat flour or other gluten-containing ingredients as seasonings to add some extra flavor.  

If you’re a celiac patient or have gluten sensitivity, several brands sell gluten-free grits. Just double-check the labels to ensure that you’re getting something safe to eat.

What are grits?

The word ‘Grits’ originates from the old English word “grytt” which means coarsely ground. Grits is a porridge made from coarsely ground corn, usually of the dent variety. This cornmeal is ground into a coarse powder and then boiled. Although grits are traditionally made from white corn, they can also be made from yellow or blue corn.

Grits are typically boiled in hot water or milk and then served with butter, cheese, salt, and pepper. They can be served as a side dish or used as a primary ingredient in dishes such as shrimp and grits.

Grits are a good source of carbohydrates and contain thiamin, magnesium, and vitamin B6. They are also low in fat and calories. One cup of grits contains about 143 calories. As grits are made from dried, ground dent corn [1]Native Seeds: Types of Corn, they have a higher starch content than other corn varieties.

Difference between grits and other corn products 

There are several types of grits available in the market. And the main difference lies in their grind, i.e., how finely or coarsely they are ground. Depending on that, the texture and flavor also differ.

As there are several varieties of grits, the first category is according to its grind —fine, medium, and coarse. The texture of grits greatly varies based on how they were ground – either at a gristmill or factory-manufactured grits available in supermarkets. The below-mentioned list allows us to understand the other varieties.

Hominy

It is made from dried white or yellow corn kernels that have been soaked in a lime or lye solution, which softens the tough outer hull. Then, they are rinsed to remove the outer hull and germ. This process is called nixtamalization [2]CIMMYT: What is nixtamalization?. When dried hominy is ground, it’s called hominy grits. Hominy grits have a mild flavor. It is also the softest in texture and can be used in soups or as a breakfast cereal. It’s sold dried or in ready-to-eat cans.

Quick or Regular Grits

The only difference between these types is in granulation. Quick grits are ground fine. You just need to add water, milk, or both, then heat and serve. Since they’re finely ground, they only take about 5 minutes to prepare. 

Regular grits are a medium grind. They’re made from coarsely ground white or yellow corn and have a somewhat chewy texture. They take about 10-20 minutes to cook. You can find them in the hot cereal aisle of most supermarkets.

Whole-ground or Stone-ground grits

They’re made from whole dried corn kernels that have been ground between two large stones. The old-fashioned way! Because the germ and hull are left intact, they have more fiber and other nutrients than other types of grits. They also have a nuttier flavor and a rougher texture. Stone-ground grits will go bad quicker than other types of grits because they are less processed. Keep them stored in the freezer instead of the pantry. You can find them in health food stores or online.

Instant grits

They’re pre-cooked and then dehydrated, so all you need to do is add water and heat. They’re the quickest to prepare but also the least flavorful. You can find them in the hot cereal aisle of most supermarkets.

Can you eat grits on a gluten free diet?

Yes, grits are naturally gluten-free and can be a part of a gluten-free diet.

On the other hand, although grits are considered gluten-free, if you are a celiac patient or have gluten intolerances, you could be at risk. As there are several chances for these corn grits to get cross-contaminated with other gluten-containing grains. For instance, in situations like:

  1. Some brands may add wheat flour or other ingredients that contain gluten. There is also a risk of shared equipment contaminating it during the manufacturing process.
  2. You could also be at the risk of cross-contamination at restaurants, where they may use the same utensils which they previously used for the non-gluten-free items. Ensure you check with the restaurant staff about the same and inform them about your food intolerances. 
  3. Be sure to check the ingredients label to make sure the product is truly gluten-free, especially while purchasing instant grits. Instant grits or mixes usually contain seasoning, which could perhaps be glutenous.

3 Gluten free grits recipes

It is a tough task to maintain a gluten-free diet. So here are some lip-smacking, easy-to-cook,  gluten-free grits recipes to your rescue which will tantalize your taste buds. 

1. Easy homemade grits

Servings: 4 to 6 people

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water.
  • 2 cups milk.
  • 1 cup whole ground/stone-ground grits.
  • Salt and pepper (as per your preference).
  • ¼ cup heavy cream.
  • 2 tablespoons butter.

Instructions

  1. Heat the water and milk in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, pour the grits into a large bowl and cover them with water.
  3. Stir until the chaff floats to the top.
  4. Skim to remove the chaff, then drain the grits using a fine mesh strainer.
  5. Stir the grits into the simmering liquid and cook for about  20 minutes.
  6. Stir continuously until thickened to the desired level.
  7. Season the grits generously with salt and pepper and any other seasoning of your choice.
  8. Then add the heavy cream and butter. Give it a stir.
  9. Remove from heat and let stand, covered until it is nice, fluffy, and ready to serve.

2. Sauteed shrimp and Grits

Servings: 3 to 4 people

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of water.
  • 1 cup whole ground/stone-ground grits.
  • 3 tablespoons butter.
  • 2 cups shredded cheese.
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined.
  • 5 slices of bacon, chopped (optional).
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley/coriander/thyme.
  • 1 cup chopped green onion.
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Bring the water to boil in a saucepan.
  2. Slowly stir in the grits.
  3. Allow it to boil gently for 20 to 25 minutes at medium heat.
  4. Remove from heat and add the butter and cheese and give it a stir.
  5. Rinse the shrimp in cool water and pat dry with paper towels. You may also choose to marinate the shrimp in some lemon juice and seasoning for a while before you cook them.
  6. Fry the bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, then transfer it onto a paper towel.
  7. Add the shrimp to the same skillet in which you cooked the bacon so that you can use the bacon grease.
  8. Cook the shrimp until they turn pink, then add the lemon juice, parsley, green onions, garlic, and the cooked bacon.
  9. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, ladle the cooked shrimp over the grits and serve.

3. Grits in creamy parmesan 

Servings: 3 to 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of uncooked quick-cooking grits.
  • 4 cups of water.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt (may vary as per your preference)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.
  • 1 cup of shredded parmesan cheese.
  • 1/4 cup butter.

Instructions

  1. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan.
  2. Add the grits to the boiling water and stir.
  3. Add salt and reduce the heat to medium-low
  4. Cook for 5 minutes or until thickened while stirring constantly.
  5. Add garlic powder and pepper.
  6. Gradually add the parmesan cheese,
  7. Stir the cheese until it’s melted.
  8. Remove from heat, and stir in the butter.
  9. Serve immediately.

Conclusion

Summing up, “are grits gluten-free?” is a question to many, and this article allows us to understand all about it. Corn grits are not only naturally gluten-free but also easy to cook. They can be a part of your regular rotation of a gluten-free diet plan. Just ensure you buy certified gluten-free products. Double check whether it is labeled gluten-free or zero gluten to be extra safe.

References

References
1 Native Seeds: Types of Corn
2 CIMMYT: What is nixtamalization?

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