Grits are a Southern classic that became a country-wide staple. Most people just look at grits as breakfast food, but I’ve also seen some creative brunch and lunch recipes done with grits as well.
After my last few trips to the Southern states, I decided that it was time to make a quick post about grits for all of my readers!
So, are grits vegan?
By themselves, grits are perfectly vegan. They’re just ground up the corn meal. Traditionally, the grits are mixed down with hot water to form a thick mash that’s similar to oatmeal.
Unfortunately, like other Southern dishes, grits aren’t always vegan. Some grits recipes call for dairy, meat, cheese, honey, and other non-vegan additives.
Today, I’m going to give you the low-down on grits. I’ll show you which non-vegan toppings and additives to watch out for and answer a couple of diet-related questions about grits.
Can You Eat Grits On A Plant-Based Diet?
Although many people associate grits with the Southern diet, they were actually introduced to early settlers by the Native Americans in the 16th Century. Of course, the Americans were more than happy to take the credit for it. So most people associate grits solely with Southern cuisine.
Grits are an incredibly simple food. They’re made of one ingredient: corn. This means that grits are perfectly safe to eat on a plant-based diet. They are, quite literally, a plant.
Unfortunately, that’s not where the story ends.
You see, the problem with grits isn’t the grits. The problem is everything that people mix into the grits.
The popular Southern-style grits that everyone loves today are a long shot from the plain corn-and-water grits that the Native Americans introduced to settlers. Native Americans didn’t use dairy, butter, or cheese in their traditional grits.
Once they introduced grits to the European settlers (a civilization rooted in dairy farming), the Europeans figured that they would add milk, cheese, butter, and cream to their grits.
Nothing against the idea- it all sounds really good. It’s just not vegan.
When visiting Southern states, almost all of the grits recipes I came across in breakfast restaurants contained butter, milk, or cream. So, unfortunately, I couldn’t eat any of them!
Non-Vegan Ingredients Added To Grits
As a vegan, it’s almost always easier to make your own grits at home rather than relying on a restaurant. Most restaurant-style grits have at least one dairy ingredient, which makes it nearly impossible to find vegan-friendly grits while eating out.
The one exception is if you’re visiting a vegan-friendly breakfast restaurant like one of the ones I visited in Portland.
If you’re set on finding some great-tasting vegan grits, here are the main additives that you need to look out for.
Butter is a dairy additive that’s made from churned cream. The fat in the cream starts to harden once it’s churned and turns into butter. This means that butter is a direct dairy by-product, making it non-vegan.
Vegan-friendly grits recipes typically use a plant-based butter alternative or some type of vegetable oil instead of dairy-derived butter.
2) Milk or Cream
Milk, buttermilk, or fatty cream is often added to Southern-style grits. This makes them thicker and creamier, which most non-vegans love. However, if you’re looking for some vegan-friendly grits, then you need to make sure to avoid these at all costs!
Instead, look for grits that are made with water or plant-based milk. If you’re eating at a vegan breakfast restaurant, there’s a good chance that they’re already using plant-based milk. However, it never hurts to ask.
Cheese is another common ingredient that’s found in non-vegan grits. Cheese is, of course, made from milk and cream, so it’s not vegan.
However, you can use all of the vegan cheese you want! This is a great way to make your vegan grits creamier and more savory.
It’s not all that common, but I have seen a few grits recipes that include bacon bits or sausage. Unfortunately, the addition of either of these meats to grits would make them non-vegan.
Not all Southern-style grits are creamy and savory. Some are sweet and contain raisins and sweeteners like brown sugar or honey.
Honey is a problematic sweetener for vegans. Since it’s stolen from bees, most vegans consider honey to be the product of animal exploitation.
Often, bees are subjected to increased stress to produce more honey. Colonies that don’t produce enough are sometimes gassed and killed to “restart” with a higher-producing colony.
For this reason, among others, the majority of ethical vegans choose to abstain from honey.
What Can I Substitute For Milk In Grits?
As I mentioned, you don’t necessarily need milk to make some great-tasting grits. The original grits that the Native Americans introduced to settlers were dairy-free and were made with water alone.
However, I do have to admit that a bit of milk can go a long way when it comes to making the grits creamier and smoother. Luckily, plant-based milk tastes great in grits!
Of all of the different plant-based kinds of milk that I’ve tried with my grits, I enjoy oat milk the best. It has a thicker, nutty texture and flavor that blends well with the corn grits.
While I’m at it, here’s an awesome recipe for making your own homemade vegan grits:
What Are Grits Made From?
Grits are often thought of as a complicated dish or something that involves a long recipe. This is not the case. Grits, like oatmeal, are a one-ingredient food. Grits are just ultra-coarse ground corn. It’s similar to corn flour; only it’s a lot thicker.
Are White Grits Vegan?
Although many of the Southern-style grits you’ll find are made with yellow corn grits, the white corn grits are also vegan. They’re just made with a different species of corn that grows white instead of yellow.
Are Quaker Grits Vegan?
Yes, Quaker Grits, by themselves, are 100% vegan. Just watch out for the pre-mixed and flavored packets of Quaker Grits. Many of these packets contain added dairy ingredients, making them not-so-vegan.
Are Grits Healthy?
Believe it or not, grits are actually somewhat healthy! Since the corn is minimally processed, it’s considered a whole grain. This means that ground corn still has a lot of its original nutritional value.
Grits are high in fiber, which means they’re pretty filling. They’re also a good source of carbohydrates, making them a great vegan side dish to your main source of vegan protein.
Which Is Healthier: Grits or Oatmeal?
Grits and oatmeal are very similar in texture and are both considered “hot cereals.” Of the two, oatmeal is a little bit healthier. It has higher protein and fiber content, making it a bit more filling and nutritious.
That being said, the difference is minimal. If you’re just looking for a small serving of hot breakfast cereal to go with your breakfast or brunch, go for what makes you happy!
The Verdict – Are Grits Vegan-Friendly?
Grits are perfectly vegan-friendly, as long as they’re prepared without milk, cream, butter, cheese, and other non-vegan additives. Thankfully, vegan grits are fast and easy to make. They’re also filling and nutritious.
If you’re looking for the best vegan breakfast cereal to eat with your grits, be sure to check out my favorite vegan cereal brands next!