I say grits, you say polenta.
That’s because I’m a southerner. I would say polenta if I were lucky enough to have Italian blood coursing through my veins.
But is it really that simple? Are both of these dishes essentially the same? Can you use the same grain to make parmesan grits to make polenta? The not so easy answer is yes and no.
What Do Grits and Polenta Have in Common?
Grits and polenta have a lot in common on a basic culinary level.
Both grits and polenta are a porridge made by boiling coarse ground cornmeal. So it may be a stretch to say they have a lot in common.
But while corn is the primary connector it is also the primary differentiator; the type of corn traditionally ground and used for each dish is very different.
The Primary Difference Between Grits and Polenta is the Type of Corn Used For Each Dish
This staple of the southern table is made from dent corn. Its name comes from its characteristic single indentation on the crown of each kernel that looks a bit like the bottom side of a horse’s tooth.
Dent corn isn’t that ear of corn you find in the produce section of the grocery store that you eat right off the cob. Dent corn requires milling to be edible and is used primarily in food manufacturing – think tortilla chips, corn chips, and crispy taco shells. Of course, grits too. Dent corn has a high starch content which gives grits its wonderful creaminess.
In Italy most milled corn is from flint corn. Native Americans also cultivated this corn. When you see those small, dried, colored ears of corn at the holidays, that’s flint corn.
And, when the hard outer layer of the kernel is soaked and removed, it becomes hominy. Flint corn has a low water content and is resistant to freezing and it has a lower starch content than dent corn. That means when it cooks it retains more of a toothy texture than traditional grits. If you do end up with a package of true flint coarse ground cornmeal, it can take a bit longer to cook than grits.
Let’s Put Aside Our Differences for Supper
Unless you buy your milled corn from an artisan miller, most of the milled corn you will find in the grocery store will be dent corn. Cook it like grits but call it whatever you like.
Use this recipe to make yourself a beautiful dish of grits paired with Cajun Shrimp for a taste of the south or for a taste of Italy make polenta and pair it with a Juniper Berry Roasted Pork Tenderloin.
Whichever you decide your taste buds are gonna love it.
Interested in cooking this dish for a team building event? More info here.
Make yourself a beautiful dish of grits paired with Blackened Cajun Shrimp for a taste of the south or for a taste of Italy make polenta and pair it with a Juniper Berry Roasted Pork Tenderloin. Whichever you decide your taste buds are gonna love it.
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup grits (polenta)
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup cream
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- squeeze of lemon juice
- olive oil
- Heat a 2-qt. pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add a bit of olive oil to the pot and swirl to coat the bottom.
- Add the onion and reduce the heat.
- Sauté until onion begins to turn translucent.
- Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute or just until the garlic releases its aroma.
- Add the water and the grits.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.
- Cover and cook 5 minutes, or the length of time indicated on your grits packaging.
- Once the grits have finished cooking stir in the butter.
- Once the butter has melted add the parmesan cheese and cream; stir to combine.
- Add the thyme, rosemary, and a squeeze of lemon.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.