Are Grits Gluten-Free? Yes, But Only Certain Brands

Eating Gluten-Free? You Can Have Grits ... But Only Certain Brands

most grits are gluten-free, but not all
Many grits are gluten-free, but not all. Getty Images/Nell Redmond

If you're following the gluten-free diet, you may see lists of allowable foods that include grits. This makes sense, since most traditional grits — in their pure form — come from corn, not from wheat, barley or rye (the three gluten grains).

However, some brands of grits aren't actually safe for someone who has celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, usually because they've been processed on equipment that also processes those aforementioned gluten grains.

It makes financial sense for manufacturers to use shared equipment to process their various grain products, but it means the finished products may have too much gluten cross-contamination to be considered truly gluten-free.

Sometimes, grits are actually made from an unsafe grain, such as barley. It goes without saying that you should avoid these, but it means you can't just pick up any old package of grits and just assume they're safe.

So what does all this mean for someone who just wants to enjoy some basic grits with breakfast? Fortunately, the gluten-free community has multiple different choices of truly gluten-free grits.

List of Brands Offering Grits, Plus Their Gluten-Free Status

Here's a rundown of the various brands of grits and what they say about gluten:

  • Bob's Red Mill. Another well-known producer of various grain products, including many labeled "gluten-free," Bob's Red Mill makes several different types of grits. Only one is labeled gluten-free: Bob's corn grits. Steer clear of barley grits (for obvious reasons), organic polenta corn grits, white corn grits, soy grits and millet grits. If you're sensitive to oats, be aware that Bob's processes its gluten-free products on the same equipment as its gluten-free oats (more on ​whether you should include oats in your gluten-free diet).
  • Julia's Pantry. Julia's, purveyor of "naturally Southern foods, snacks, and mixes," sells organic steel-cut yellow grits, which are labeled gluten-free (to less than 20 parts per million). According to Julia's representative, the grits are processed on equipment that also processes gluten grains. Products are tested periodically to make sure they meet gluten-free standards. (Learn more: Should You Consume Products Made in Shared Facilities or on Shared Equipment?)
  • Medford Farms. These grits come in a tube that looks more like it would hold breakfast sausage than a corn product, and you find them in the refrigerator section. They also carry a prominent "gluten-free" designation, and have less than 20 parts per million of gluten in them.
  • Palmetto Farms. These very traditional corn grits come in three varieties: stone-ground yellow, stone-ground white, and stone-ground mixed. The company says its traditional stone mill grinding method preserves the natural oils found in the germ of the corn. Palmetto Farms says it has tested its traditional grits (not its cheese varieties) and they tested below 5 parts per million, well below the "legal" gluten-free standard of 20 parts per million.
  • Sam Mills. This Romania-based company, which bills itself as "The Corn Master," makes corn grits that are considered gluten-free (to less than 20 parts per million) and 100% GMO-free. Sam Mills grits can be found online and in some stores in the U.S.
  • Quaker Instant Grits. These grits are the most ubiquitous in U.S. supermarkets. But unfortunately, even though they have no gluten ingredients, Quaker does not consider them to be gluten-free due to the possibility of cross-contamination. Therefore, you should steer clear of Quaker grits — there are better choices out there.

Okay, You've Found Your Gluten-Free Grits. Now What?

Cooking grits is easy (sort of like rice). It's likely your grits came with a recipe, but if not, here's a good one:

In the South, grits often are served with ham, which is a great idea -- just make sure to use ​gluten-free ham (not all brands are safe). Enjoy!

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