Grits are a staple of Southern cuisine, but they’re also popular in other regions. As with many foods, the word “grits” can mean different things depending on where you live.
In general, grits are made from ground corn and water, but they can also be made with oats or rice flour instead of cornmeal. They’re served up either as porridge or as part of a breakfast dish (typically alongside eggs and bacon).
Whether or not grits are gluten-free depends on the grits. Quaker Grits are not gluten-free, but Arrowhead Mills yellow corn grits are.
What are Grits?
Grits are made from dried corn that has been ground into a coarse meal. As a side dish, they can be served with meat or vegetables. Grits are most commonly associated with the southern United States, where they’re often eaten at breakfast alongside eggs and bacon or sausage.
You may also see them on menus as polenta–a term that refers to any kind of cooked cornmeal (not just grits). Polenta is often seasoned with cheese or butter before being cooked until soft and creamy in texture.
While polenta is not grits, the origins are similar. Grits date back to the 16th century and were originally made by boiling dried corn into a creamy dish. It’s a great substitute for cream of wheat!
Are Grits Gluten Free?
Grits are made from corn, so they’re naturally gluten-free. However, there are some brands that add wheat flour or other ingredients to their grits that make them not gluten-free or store their corn with other grains that aren’t gluten-free.
If you’re looking for a certified gluten-free product, look for one with a label stating “Certified Gluten Free” or “Made in a Certified Facility.”
You can’t count on the boxed grits being gluten-free despite what they’re supposed to be made out of. There are two reasons. One, some companies mix wheat products in with the corn to adjust the flavor and texture. Two, many of the factories have the potential for cross-contamination.
Are Quaker Grits Gluten Free?
No. None of the Quaker brand grits are considered gluten-free. Despite the grits being white corn, yellow corn, and white hominy, they store their corn with gluten grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Because the corn and gluten grains are stored together there’s too much cross-contamination for any of their grits to be considered gluten-free.
What are the Brands of Grits that are Gluten Free?
Wheat-free facility. Palmetto Farms offers the best gluten-free protection with non-GMO corn and a facility that doesn’t process wheat products so there’s no cross-contamination. They currently sell gluten-free stone-ground grit products in white, yellow, and mixed.
These stone-ground grits are made with 100% American corn and therefore certified gluten-free. They’re also sugar-free, dairy-free, and fit a vegan and vegetarian diet. The company currently sells grits in blue, white, yellow, red, and sampler packs.
Bob’s Red Mill
Bob’s Red Mill sells coarsely ground grits which gives the finished product a creamier texture. They sell certified gluten-free yellow corn grits/polenta and corn polenta
Another company that promises certified, gluten-free grits is Weisenberger. They pride themselves on the old-fashioned flavor of their white and yellow stone-ground grits.
Another company with old-fashioned stone-ground grits. Linney’s Mill produces both white and yellow grits that are certified gluten-free.
This Southern Foods company carries a lot of different items for that Southern palette, one of which is steel-cut yellow grits. These are labeled gluten-free.
You may not find these looking in the normal place. Medford Farms grits are in the refrigerated section and come in a tube. There’s a self-explanatory and clear label stating that they’re gluten-free. This certifies that they carry less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
Sam Mills is a Romanian company that self-proclaimed itself as the “Corn Master”. Their corn grits are not only gluten-free but also labeled as 100% non-GMO.
House Autry’s red bag of stone-ground white grits is labeled as gluten-free.
Some people don’t like corn grits, or can’t eat corn, but that doesn’t mean you’re left out. There are rice grits. Made from chopped up grains of rice, they cook differently and have a slightly different texture (and flavor) but will work as a substitution. This substitute is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free.
Look for a bright yellow box of corn grits by Arrowhead Mills. There should be a very clear label stating that they’re gluten-free. These grits are certified to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
How Do You Shop for Gluten-Free Grits?
Don’t simply grab a box labeled grits and assume they’re safe for a gluten-free diet. Some grits are now made from barley which is high in gluten!
- Always check the ingredients and make sure those grits are made from corn alone. You’re going to want pure corn grits for a gluten-free diet.
- Look for the certified gluten-free label. In the US, legally there needs to be less than 20 parts per million of gluten to be certified gluten-free.
- After you’ve consumed the grits (even the certified gluten-free) keep notes on any symptoms. Even the certified gluten-free could have traces of gluten that can affect you depending on your sensitivity.
- Avoid packages with ingredients like wheat, rye, barley, or oats
Frequently Asked Questions
How do grits differ from other corn-based products?
Grits are made from dent corn which is a coarser, sweeter corn than that used in things like cornmeal. Dent corn can come in white or yellow. Cornmeal can be made from almost any type of corn and can come in white, yellow, red, and blue.
How do you serve grits?
That depends on your preferences. They can be used as a breakfast porridge or a side for your sturdy bacon and eggs. You can use them as a lunch dish with beans or roasted vegetables. Dinner dishes are often savory with light meats like shrimp.
If you’re looking for a tasty, nutritious breakfast that’s easy to prepare and can be eaten on-the-go, grits may be just what you need.
They’re also great as an alternative to rice or potatoes in recipes like casseroles or salads- just make sure your grits brand is gluten-free! Keep track of any adverse effects you may feel and find the right gluten-free brand for you!