My Mom’s Amazing Cheese Grits

updated Jun 4, 2023
Kitchn Love Letters
My Mom’s Cheese Grits Recipe

Serve these super-rich cheese grits for any meal you fancy. They're a must-have alongside ham and spinach casserole for any holiday brunch or as part of a vegetarian dinner.

Serves6

Makes6 cups

Prep10 minutes

Cook20 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Photo of cheese grits.
Credit: Kristina Vanni

If it’s a special occasion in my family, you can bet my mom’s cheese grits will be on the table. They’re a must-have alongside ham and spinach casserole for any holiday brunch, and when I travel from New York to visit her in Louisiana she always makes them for me — holiday or not.

I picked up the tradition of making the Southern cheese grits for special occasions, and friends who tried them at a brunch in New York more than 20 years ago still talk about them. My niece, who is carrying on the tradition at her home in Boston, has also captivated her friends with her grandmother’s cheese grits. “It’s almost always a new food for people here, but it’s always a very popular leftover that people want to take home,” she told me. “There’s nothing else here quite like it.”

How to Make My Mom’s Cheese Grits

When people ask me what makes Mom’s cheese grits so delicious, I tell them that the answer is the same as it is to the question about what makes their favorite restaurant dish so good: You don’t hold back on the salt or the fat. 

For a cup of dry grits, her recipe calls for a stick of butter and a pound of cheese. That’s a good start, but what really makes these grits extra rich and special is the fact that they’re cooked in a combination of water and heavy cream. About 10 years ago I was planning to take the grits to a potluck and emailed my mom with a couple of questions about her recipe. One of the questions was whether I could substitute some leftover half-and-half for the heavy cream. The answer was a flat-out “no”.

Credit: Kristina Vanni

The idea of skimping on anything that would make the grits taste as good as they can possibly taste would go against my mom’s South Louisiana approach to cooking — they take good food very seriously down there. And when you’re cooking a special meal for people you love, why would you hold back? 

Making It Ahead

My other question about the grits was whether I could make them ahead and reheat them the next day at a party. The answer to that question was yes, and at “whatever temperature is convenient.” I love the easiness of that answer — no fussing over inconsequential matters like temperature and timing.

If you make these grits, I advise you to do as my mom would: Use a heavy hand with the butter, cheese, and cream, and if you need to make them ahead just stick them in the oven alongside whatever else you’re cooking. They’re particularly good alongside ham, but are a welcome side with just about any protein. They’re also great for breakfast or brunch — serve them with eggs and bacon or use them as the base for next-level breakfast bowls. The only non-negotiable? Someone to share them with.

My Mom’s Cheese Grits Recipe

Serve these super-rich cheese grits for any meal you fancy. They're a must-have alongside ham and spinach casserole for any holiday brunch or as part of a vegetarian dinner.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes

Makes 6 cups

Serves 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 3 cups

    water

  • 1 cup

    heavy cream

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1 pound

    sharp cheddar cheese

  • 1 cup

    old-fashioned grits, such as Quaker

  • Tabasco hot sauce, plus more for serving

Instructions

  1. Place 3 cups water, 1 cup heavy cream, 4 tablespoons of the unsalted butter, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, grate 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese on the large holes of a box grater (about 4 cups).

  2. While stirring constantly, slowly pour 1 cup old-fashioned grits into the saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the grits are tender, about 20 minutes.

  3. Add the cheese, remaining 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, and a few drops Tabasco hot sauce. Stir until the cheese and butter are melted. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Serve immediately with more Tabasco, or transfer to a baking dish and keep warm in the oven.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The grits can be made up to 3 days ahead, transferred to a baking dish, cooled, covered, and refrigerated. Reheat uncovered in a 300ºF oven until heated through and stir before serving.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.