Southerners know that a breakfast spread isn’t complete without a healthy supply of grits. We love our grits creamy, cheesy and — of course — when paired with shrimp. Simple grits are not only a part of any good Southern menu, but they’re also an open canvas that many cooks add their own twists to.
The same adaptation also applies to home cooks. However, before you start adding cheese and spices, you need to know that the grits themselves are great. And who are we to just trust what we see clearly repressed in the grocery store? We wanted to try a handful of different easy-to-find grits to see which are actually the best. Which grits have the best texture and taste overall? Are more expensive, stone-ground groats really worth it? You can probably guess the answer to that last question, but some of our favorite brands might surprise you.
Our testing process and criteria
For our taste test, we cooked each grits as usual with a mixture of butter, cream, water and a little salt. Sure we could have boiled them in plain water, but we wanted to make sure we taste the grits as – in our opinion – they should be eaten in our homes. We have selected six different grits, all of which are easy to find in stores or online. Some were stone ground and required more cooking time while others were quick grits so we whipped these up right before serving.
We asked our tasters to rate each brand of semolina on a scale of 1 to 5 for creaminess, grits texture (were they smooth or chunky?), corn flavor and overall appeal. We added up the scores of our ten judges and the highest possible score a brand could receive was 150.
Here are the results of our grits taste test, from least enjoyable to our favourite:
Miller’s unicorn groats
Unicorns and pastel-colored “millennial pink” are all the rage when it comes to trendy food products. So when I stumbled across these so-called “unicorn” groats, I had to see if they were just another gimmick or if they really were worth buying regularly. These slightly pink but more lavender-colored grits come from Millers All Day, a new restaurant in Charleston. I was delighted to learn that the grits didn’t get their color from food coloring, but instead were made from a specific type of Appalachian red corn that Greg Johnsman, owner of Millers All Day, stumbled upon. Johnsman told Garden and Gun that the pink groats also have a distinct flavor. “Blue corn is very floral, Jimmy Red is nutty, but Unicorn is sweet and soft,” Johnsman said. A new shipping service allowed us to get our hands on the grits, which were used at the restaurant in various dishes such as a sweet and savory biscuit and as the base of a cabbage and brisket semolina bowl.
Luckily our order arrived in time for the taste test and we were able to include it in the summary. The coloring gave her away immediately; However, we weren’t sure how they would taste compared to the other grits. One taster described the grits as having “a strong popcorn flavor,” while another taster commented, “It has a nutty note.” The judges were dazzled by the color, but the grits lacked the deep corn flavor. “[The grits] are a little grainy and not flavorful enough,” noted one taster. “[They’re] VERY PRETTY! Purple is my favorite color but the taste could be better,” said another. “Meh” was pretty much what each taster felt. Maybe it was because they cooled quickly or had to be prepared with varying proportions of grits to liquid, but it definitely lacked in the creaminess department. At Miller’s All Day, chef Madison Tessener soaks the grits in water overnight and cooks them in the soaking liquid. She also adds a squeeze of lemon juice to keep them nice and pink. We’ll have to try this technique next time we make it.
- Creaminess: 31
- Grit Consistency: 32
- Corn flavor: 28
Quaker Quick 5-Minute Grits
Creamy grits in five minutes? That’s what Quaker promises with these groats. With this quick cooking technique, the resulting grits made us question what we had consumed. The texture was unattractive and, to put it simply, “lumpy”. The lack of creaminess also put us in a bad mood. “It’s too thick and not creamy,” remarked one taster. Another wrote: “Too fat. Too sweet. Yuck ☹.” The judges agreed that these weren’t the worst grits they’d ever tasted, but they weren’t keen on trying them again. “They’re not bad,” commented one taster. “The grittiness of the grain takes away the corn flavor.” Another taster was able to tell that these grits were of the quick variety. “Looks like a microwave, so it’s meh.” Even though we cooked them on the stove, this taster could tell something was wrong.
- Creaminess: 31
- Grit Consistency: 32
- Corn flavor: 31
Aunt Jemima Quick Grits
The taste and texture of this grits were an improvement over Quaker, but they were still okay. Our tasters thought they were “solid grits” but otherwise had nothing spectacular to say about them. To put it simply, “It tastes like grits,” said another. Perhaps with a little more butter or even some cheese, these grits could pass the pattern—and would be a great time saver if stone flooring isn’t an option.
- Creaminess: 35
- Grit Consistency: 36.5
- Corn flavor: 30
Geechie Boy Mill White Groats
Our tasters didn’t have many problems with this batch of grits. The taste was clearly a winner in our heads and tummies. Tasters found the flavor not overly cheesy and slightly buttery, making for an overall good bowl of grits. One of the biggest flaws the tasters found was the texture. Some of them found the texture “slightly rough” but they liked it. Another thought the texture was more like wheat cream and that they were “touch al dente.” Another didn’t mind: “You’re pretty much perfect.”
- Creaminess: 37
- Grit Consistency: 34
- Corn flavor: 38
Bob’s Red Mill grits
Unlike some of our other competitors, Bob’s Red Mill grits are yellow instead of white. Our tasters loved the coloration, noting that they were so yellow they “look[ed] like cheese.” Upon tasting this grits, our judges found the texture was very creamy and the different grain sizes provided an interesting bite. “Very creamy ❤ Can be sticky but very good,” said one judge. These grains were thicker than the others we’ve tried, but not in an unappealing way.”A bit thick but I like it,” said another taster. One taster commented, “Overall amazing. Interestingly yellow. Nearly perfect.”
- Creaminess: 41
- Grit Consistency: 38.5
- Corn Flavor: 36.5
Palmetto Farms Stone Ground White Grits
As one of the best-selling grits on Amazon, it’s really no surprise that these grits come out on top. Smoothness, creaminess and a great taste are what you will find when eating this grits. “SO CREAMY! Great,” said one taster. The taste was bland – one taster even called it bland, “but not in a bad way”. Another wrote that the grits overall were “ultra creamy with a lovely texture.” A+ for this one.”
- Creaminess: 41
- Grit Consistency: 41
- Corn flavor: 39