Grits Are a Super Source of Plant-Based Iron, Protein, and B Vitamins—Here Are 3 Vegan Recipes To Try Them In

Photo: Stocksy/ Cameron Whitman
Of course, it’s virtually impossible to say no when your friends call you up and demand your presence at weekend brunch. However, there are a few things that are guaranteed deal makers vs. breakers when it comes to picking the right spot.

First question: Will there be bottomless cups of cold brew available? Next, and most importantly, do they offer a side of cheesy grits? IMO, it’s about time that the humble side of grits gets its moment in the sun. (Love you forever, sweet potato toast, but you've had your 15 minutes.)

Grits—a delicious grain made from ground and boiled corn, similar to polenta or cornmeal—is the ideal gluten-free, nutrient-packed brunch dish that serves as a great source of several key vitamins and nutrients that will start your day on the right foot. Better yet, they're super easy to make at home... which means you can eat brunch from the comfort of your cozy couch, caffeine in hand, as long as you want this Sunday. Truly, what could be better?

Experts In This Article

What’s the best type of grits?

According to Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, a Miami-based registered dietitian nutritionist and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, grits offer a bevy of nutritional benefits, but not all types are the same. Ehsani says that there are a few main varieties of grits, such as stone-ground, instant, quick-cooking, and hominy.

Although you may be more familiar with the instant style of grits, Ehsani says that they’re not the most nutrient-dense option. Instead, there’s one style of grits in particular that packs the most health benefits due to its processing method. “The most nutrient-dense option amongst these varieties of grits is stone-ground, because they're made from the whole corn kernel and then milled down into a coarser texture,” she says.

The main difference between the stone-ground grits and instant or quick-cooking grits is that the latter undergoes a process to remove the germ (the nutrient-rich embryo with healthy fats) and the pericarp (the shell or hull that's filled with nutrients and fiber). By removing these two essential components of a corn kernel’s anatomy, Ehsani explains that you lose two of the most nutrient-dense parts of the plant.

Although stone-ground grits have more nutrients than the instant kind, they might be harder to find at the store and might not always be the best go-to option due to their short shelf life and long cooking time. Instead, you can opt for a more accessible product, aka grits made from hominy corn, otherwise called hominy grits. This form of grits is made from corn kernels soaked in an alkali solution to soften the other shell. Once this tough pericarp layer has softened, it’s rinsed, removed, and ground to make hominy grits, better known as a process called nixtamalization. This version still maintains most of the benefits and is easier and quicker to cook.

Health benefits of grits, according to a registered dietitian

When eaten on their own, grits may seem a tad bland. However, with the addition of a few toppings, they can easily become a soul-warming and naturally gluten-free dish filled with tons of nutrients and flavor. According to Ehsani, cooked grits have about two grams of fiber and four grams of protein per cup.

“Grits also serve as a good source of iron, an important nutrient that helps get oxygen moving throughout your body. They also contain the B vitamin known as folate, another important nutrient needed for blood health. Folate helps make red blood cells, and having sufficient levels of folate can prevent anemia,” Ehsani says. “To best absorb the iron found in grits, I’d recommend consuming grits with a source of vitamin C, as iron is best absorbed when consumed with vitamin C."

You can try sprinkling your bowl of grits with some strawberry slices or have a side of OJ to add a boost of vitamin C. "You can also top your grits with an egg, tomatoes, or some spinach to boost the iron content even more," Ehsani says.

3 super flavorful vegan grits recipes for your weekend brunch

vegan grits
Photo: A Pinch of Healthy

1. Vegan Breakfast Bowl

Who doesn’t love a healthy and easy breakfast bowl filled with tons of nutrient-packed veggies and a big ol’ serving of grits? This vegan breakfast bowl recipe by A Pinch of Healthy has it all. It’s made with mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, and heart-healthy avocados. Plus, it’s packed with tons of flavor thanks to the nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and veggie broth.

Get the recipe: Breakfast Bowl Recipe

vegan grits
Photo: Nora Cooks

2. Vegan Cheese Grits

This three-step vegan cheese grits recipe by Nora Cooks takes only five minutes to prep and transforms into thick, creamy perfection in just 20 minutes. With the help of a little vegan butter and loads of delicious shredded vegan cheddar cheese, you’ll have the most luscious grits that are golden like the sun and smooth as velvet. P.S. For an added anti-inflammatory kick, sprinkle in some turmeric for an even more beautiful color and loads more benefits.

Get the recipe: Vegan Cheese Grits

vegan grits
Photo: From The Comfort Of My Bowl

3. Vegan Grits and Greens

This vegan grits and greens recipe by From The Comfort Of My Bowl stars two Southern classics in one hearty and comforting dish. It features vegan-friendly collard greens made with delicious ingredients like onion, garlic, and Cajun seasoning. And, of course, the dish isn’t complete without creamy, dreamy grits.

Get the recipe: Vegan Grits and Greens

What do you say... corn for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

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