Dairy-Free Vegan 'Cheesy' Southern Grits Recipe

grits cooking in pot
Livia Corona/The Image Bank/Getty Images
  • Prep Time
    5 min
  • Cook Time
    40 min
  • Total Time
    45 min
  • Yield
    8 servings

It's nearly impossible to visit an eatery in the South for breakfast without being offered grits. True Southern-style grits — made from coarse-ground corn meal — originated with native Americans and are beloved throughout the South.

It's possible to purchase instant grits, but they're just not the same — for the best results, you should take the time to use the slow-cooked variety, which retain more of the fiber and other nutrients. Grits are a good source of dietary fiber (one small serving contains about 2 grams of fiber) and can supply some of the iron you need. They're also gluten-free.

Grits are an American cousin of polenta. A popular way to serve them at breakfast is with milk and cheese cooked into them, and a little splash of Tabasco hot sauce (or your hot sauce of choice) to wake up the taste buds.

Of course, the milk and cheese doesn't work if you're allergic to dairy, or if you follow a vegan diet. So I created this dairy-free vegan grits recipe so you wouldn't have to miss out on a quintessential breakfast treat.

This version of cheesy grits uses nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor instead of cheese, and uses dairy-free, soy-free margarine (I like Earth Balance's soy-free buttery spread, which is also vegan and gluten-free).


  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups Southern-style grits (not instant)
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Dairy-free, soy-free margarine


Bring water to a boil. Holding a whisk in one hand and the measuring cup of grits in the other, whisk the water continually while pouring a thin stream of grits into the pot. This will prevent the grits from forming lumps.

Continue to whisk the grits into the water until the grits begin to thicken. Turn heat down to low, and simmer for 30 – 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent lumps or burning.

Before serving, whisk nutritional yeast into grits and add two dashes of Tabasco hot sauce to the pot.

Serve with dairy-free, soy-free margarine and additional Tabasco sauce.

Note: Nutritional yeast is a staple of dairy-free and vegan cooking, and it can add terrific flavor to your dishes. Don't confuse it with brewer's yeast — it's definitely not the same thing (don't try to substitute baker's yeast, either, as that won't work at all).

Bragg, Bob's Red Mill and Kal all offer nutritional yeast products. If you can't find them in your local grocery store, look for them online.

Fun fact: Did you know the word "grits" originates from the Old English word "grytt"? It means "bran," and proper grits do include some of the corn bran, making them high in fiber.

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