(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Every corner café or coffee shop probably has a stack of beautiful yogurt parfaits layered with fruit and granola, ready for you to grab and go. But what about people like me, who like savory instead of sweet for breakfast? Loaded with sausage, cheese, and spinach, this grits parfait is just as gorgeous as its sweet counterparts.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

I know that grits aren't quick-cooking and need lots of time and attention to get soft and creamy. Yes, there are instant grits, but to me, they're just not as good as their slow-cooking counterparts. Making grits for breakfast probably isn't appealing to you on a weekday morning, but take some time after dinner, turn on some music, and make these while sipping a glass of wine. You can also make these on the weekend to start your week off right.

While the grits cook, make the filling of sautéed spinach and sausage, and layer everything together in canning jars or your favorite microwave-safe container. In the morning, throw one in your bag before heading off to work. All you have to do is heat it in the microwave for a few minutes before you have a hot, satisfying breakfast to dig into that'll keep you going for hours.

And while these are gorgeous little breakfast parfaits, you can also make them on a lazy weekend morning and just serve them straightaway in your favorite bowl instead.

Savory Grits Breakfast Parfaits

Serves 4

For the grits:
2 1/2 cups water, plus more as needed
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup grits
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

For the topping:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
Salt
8 ounces uncooked chicken, turkey, or pork Italian sausage, casings removed
1 (5- to 6-ounce) bag baby spinach
Shredded cheese, thinly sliced green onion, or minced fresh chives, for topping (optional)

For the grits: Bring the 2 1/2 cups water, milk, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Slowly pour in the grits while constantly whisking. Reduce the heat to medium-low and whisk frequently until the grits and liquid are completely incorporated together, about 5 minutes.

Switch from the whisk to a wooden spoon and cook, stirring every minute or two (make sure to scrape down the sides and get into the corners of the pan), until the grits are thick and creamy, about 45 minutes. The grits will go from a grainy texture to a very smooth texture when you taste it. If the grits start to look dry and clumpy, stir in more water a tablespoon at a time until it smoothes out. Meanwhile, make the topping.

For the topping: Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking the meat up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until cooked through and no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted and the liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

To assemble: When the grits are ready, stir in the cheese until completely melted and incorporated. Taste and season with salt as needed.

Spoon half of the sausage-spinach mixture into 4 (1-pint) mason jars. Spoon half of the grits over the mixture (about 1/2 cup per jar). Repeat with layering the remaining sausage-spinach mixture and grits. Sprinkle with the toppings of your choice. Let cool completely, then seal and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

To reheat, remove the lid and cover the jar with a damp paper towel. Microwave until heated through, gently stirring it every 30 seconds.

Recipe Notes

  • These parfaits can be eaten immediately — just skip topping each grits layer with milk when assembling, or make grits bowls.
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