Grits vs Cornmeal : What is the Difference Between them?

What is the Difference Between Grits vs Cornmeal ?

What is the difference between Grits vs Cornmeal which one is best? Corn has been a source of inspiration and adaptability for people throughout history, from the American civilizations of antiquity to current kitchens across the globe. Indigenous peoples revere it not just as a basic food but as a symbol of life itself. Its golden kernels have been used to create an endless variety of meals that each reflect the unique tastes, customs, and terroir of a particular area.

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What is the Difference Between Grits vs Cornmeal ?
Grits vs Cornmeal : What is the Difference Between them?

Of the numerous variations of this adaptable grain, two have made a lasting impression on the culinary world: cornmeal and grits. Both rooted in the essence of maize, they stand for various cultural tales, textures, and flavors. To the outsider, they may appear interchangeable or even comparable, but a closer examination of their histories, characteristics, and applications uncovers a wealth of information and gastronomic possibilities.

What are Grits?

Grits are a kind of meal prepared from maize, primarily mature, dried corn, pounded into a coarse meal. Once cooked, the final product has a mildly earthy maize flavor and a creamy texture. Grits are a mainstay of Southern American cookery and are frequently connected to casual, homestyle cooking.

Grits get their granular consistency from the starchy endosperm of corn kernels that are pulverized after their hard outer shell is removed.

Various Types of Grits

Stone-Ground Grits: The most conventional type of grits are called stone-ground grits, and they are made by grinding corn between stone surfaces. Because more of the corn kernel, including the germ, is retained with this process, the flavor and texture of stone-ground grits are enhanced. Although they take longer to cook—up to an hour—their creamy texture and rich flavor are sometimes regarded as preferable.

Instant Grits: True to its name, these processed grains cook rapidly—often in a matter of minutes. The grits are precooked, dried, and then reground to accomplish this. Some purists contend that quick grits aren’t as flavorful and don’t have the perfect texture as their stone-ground cousins, despite their convenience.

Regional Differences

White Grits: These grits are gentler and slightly sweeter because they are made from white corn. They are typically found in the Southern United States and have a creamy tint.

Yellow Grits: Made from yellow corn, yellow grits have a brighter color and a stronger flavor of corn. They are frequently used in place of white grits, though the decision is frequently based on regional customs or personal taste.

Cornmeal: What is it?

One kind of flour made from finely ground dried maize kernels is called cornmeal. Depending on the variety of maize used, its texture can be anywhere from powdered fine to gritty coarse, and its color usually varies from pale yellow to deep gold. It is renowned for its adaptability, acting as a key component in a wide range of cultural dishes. Its flavor is distinctly “corn-like,” with a blend of earthiness and sweetness. Its consistency gives many dishes structure and crunch.

Various Kinds of Cornmeal

Fine Cornmeal: This type is pounded to a fine powder that resembles ordinary flour. When making dishes that call for a smoother texture, such cornbread, pancakes, or some baked products, fine cornmeal is frequently utilized.

Medium Grind Cornmeal: With a slight texture without being unduly gritty, medium grind cornmeal falls somewhere in between fine and coarse. It is adaptable and works well in many recipes, including as polenta and breads.

Coarse Grind Cornmeal: This type is perfect for recipes that benefit from a grainier consistency because it keeps its characteristically gritty texture. It’s frequently used in polenta and other rustic-style cornbread dishes.

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Cornmeal Uses in Baking and Cooking

Baking: A main component of cornbread, a mainstay of Southern American cooking, is cornmeal. Additionally, muffins, pancakes, and several kinds of cakes include it.

Frying: Fried items, such as catfish, okra, and chicken, are coated crisply with cornmeal. Compared to flour or breadcrumbs, it has a distinct flavor and texture.

Porridge: Cooking cornmeal with water or milk yields a dish akin to cream of wheat, just as grits are a sort of porridge. There are cultural variations of this, such as the Romanian “mămăligă” and the Italian “polenta.”

Thinning Agent: Cornmeal works well as a natural thickener in soups, stews, and sauces.

Pizza and Breads: A few pizza crust recipes call for adding cornmeal to the dough as well as sprinkling it on the baking sheet to keep it from sticking. It gives the crust a distinct flavor and texture. Similar to this, the base or crust of some artisan breads may be sprinkled with cornmeal to provide texture.

Tamales and tortillas: Some traditional types of tamales may contain cornmeal, but many are made with masa harina, a kind of corn flour treated with lime. In a similar vein, cornmeal can be added to tamales.

Key Differences: Grits vs Cornmeal


Grits: Made from corn, grits have a rougher consistency similar to sand particles. They give food a thick, creamy consistency when cooked, making them a mainstay in many Southern recipes.

Cornmeal: Even the coarsest cornmeal is often finer than grits, however it can range in texture from fine to coarse. The finer varieties are used in a variety of dishes to add structure and a little crunch, and they have a consistency similar to ordinary flour.


Grits: The hard outer hull of dried corn is removed, and the starchy endosperm is ground to create grits. Grits are typically ground while retaining a greater granular size.

Cornmeal: Dried corn kernels are ground into a fine, medium, or coarse meal to make cornmeal. The kind of corn utilized and the intended result can affect the milling procedure.

Uses in Cooking

Grits: Mostly used as a foundation for many recipes, grits are typically boiled in milk or water to give them a porridge-like consistency. They go well with flavors like gravy, cheese, and shrimp. They essentially take center stage in recipes, frequently acting as the primary source of carbohydrates.

Cornmeal: With much more uses, cornmeal is widely used in frying (as a crispy coating for meats and vegetables), baking (think cornbread and muffins), and even as a thickening agent for soups and sauces. It can also be used as a substitute base for pizza and other breads, and it forms the foundation for meals like polenta.

Nutritional Profile

Grits: Generally speaking, a serving of grits has few calories and few vitamins and minerals (before any additives). They do, however, offer a rich source of certain B vitamins and carbs. Grits sold in stores are frequently enriched or fortified, which means that after processing, vitamins and minerals are added again.

Cornmeal: Due to its widespread use in baked and fried goods, cornmeal has a higher calorie density than grits. It provides proteins, dietary fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, such as iron, magnesium, antioxidants, and B vitamins. The kind of maize utilized and its processing method can affect the nutritional profile.

Applications in Culinary

Popular Grit-Based Recipes

Shrimp and Grits: A Southern American favorite, this dish mixes creamy grits with shrimp sautéed in a mixture of onions, garlic, and bell peppers, frequently with a touch of smokiness and spice from bacon or sausage. The dish is harmonious in terms of flavor and texture thanks to the wonderful contrast between the smooth grits and the salty shrimp mixture.

Cheese Grits: This recipe, which combines the richness of cheese with grits, can be served as a side dish or as a stand-alone dinner. To give the grits a creamy, tangy edge, different cheeses can be blended in, ranging from gouda to sharp cheddar.

Grits Casserole: A filling dish for breakfast or brunch, grits casseroles often include ingredients like eggs, cheese, and occasionally meats. After baking, the flavors blend together and the top becomes deliciously crispy.

Cornmeal Recipes That Are Popular Using Grits

Cornbread: A common food in many homes, cornbread comes in both sweet and savory varieties. It’s usually baked in a baking dish or skillet, and its crumbly texture and golden color define it. Some variations include adding cheese, jalapeños, or even corn kernels for more taste and texture.

Polenta: A cornmeal-based Italian dish, polenta is prepared similarly to grits. When cooked to a creamy consistency, it can be sliced, grilled, or fried and served soft or left to set. Rich sauces, braised meats, or sautéed veggies are common accompaniments with it.

Hushpuppies: A blend of cornmeal, flour, eggs, and seasonings are used to make these deep-fried balls. They have a crispy outside and a soft, tasty within, and are frequently served as a side dish in Southern dinners.

Tips Preparing Food Using Both

Stirring is Key: Stirring is essential for ensuring a creamy texture and preventing lumps, particularly when cooking polenta or grits. If clumps do form, they can be broken up using a whisk.

Season Well: Grits and cornmeal may both be somewhat flavorless by themselves, so seasoning is crucial. The right amount of seasoning, whether it be cheese, herbs, or salt and pepper, improves the food.

Watch the Water Ratio: Keep an eye on the Water Ratio and modify the liquid to achieve the appropriate consistency. Use less liquid to make a firm polenta or thicker grits. Add extra for a creamier texture.

Avoid Sticking: Make sure your pans are well-oiled or greased before frying or baking with cornmeal to avoid sticking.

Try Different Flavors: Cornmeal and grits are both like blank canvases. To make the recipe truly yours, don’t be afraid to experiment with other cheeses, herbs, spices, or accompaniments.

Cooking Time: Coarse cornmeal and stone-ground grits take longer to cook than quick versions. When using traditional types, be prepared for lengthier cooking periods and always read the instructions on the package.

Recipe Substitution: Grits vs Cornmeal

Grits and cornmeal can be substituted for one another in several recipes. But before you make such a change, there are a few important things to remember.

Is it possible to substitute one for the other?

In general, sure. Particularly in dishes when the ingredient’s granularity and texture are less important. Grits, for example, could substitute for grits in a recipe that asks for a thickening made with cornmeal, and vice versa. But the difference will be more noticeable the more specifically either component is used in a recipe (like in cornbread or polenta).

Recipe modifications that might be necessary

Liquid Ratios: Because grits are coarser than cornmeal, they usually absorb more liquid. Should you be replacing grits with cornmeal, you may need to add a little more liquid. On the other hand, if you use cornmeal in place of grits, you might require less liquid.

Cooking Time: Grits take longer to cook than most cornmeal, especially the stone-ground types. In case you’re substituting directly, modify the cooking duration correspondingly.

Texture Adjustments: If a recipe calls for fine cornmeal but you only have coarse grits, you might be able to lessen the granularity of the grits by pulsing them briefly in a food processor or blender.

What effects could the change have on flavor and texture?

Texture: This is where you’ll see the biggest change. Grits will impart a more noticeable granularity to the dish, whereas cornmeal, which is typically finer, will give it a smoother texture throughout. The change will be seen in foods like cornbread or polenta where texture is crucial.

Taste: Both have the basic “corn” flavor, although there may be a few subtle differences in flavor because of the different processing methods. Particularly if they are stone-ground, grits may taste more whole-grain. Cornmeal may have a somewhat milder flavor, especially if it is ground finely.

Final Product: Using grits instead of cornmeal in some recipes, like cornbread, may produce a denser, grittier loaf. On the other hand, if you were to substitute cornmeal for grits in a dish like shrimp and grits, the result might be less robust and more smooth than the original.

FAQs on Grits vs Cornmeal

What is used to make grits?

Grits are prepared from dried corn, more especially from dent corn, which has had the inside kernel pulverized and the outer hull removed.

Is grits and cornmeal the same thing?

No, even though they are both made from corn, cornmeal, which is typically used in baking and frying, has a texture that spans from fine to coarse, whereas grits are coarser.

Is it possible to replace cornmeal in a recipe with grits?

Depending on the recipe, yes. You can in certain circumstances, but you may need to make changes to the liquid ratios, cooking periods, and processing (such as fine-tuning grits). The texture of the finished product will also vary.

Grits vs cornmeal—which is better for you?

Both provide nutritional advantages, however they are not quite the same. More dietary fiber, proteins, and a variety of vitamins and minerals are often found in cornmeal. On the other hand, a lot of commercial grits come fortified with minerals and vitamins.

When I prepare my grits, why do they become lumpy?

If the grits are not stirred regularly or the cooking liquid is not hot enough when they are added, lumps may form. Make sure the milk or water is boiling, and whisk constantly, especially when the grits are initially added.

Is cornmeal and polenta the same thing?

The dish and the variety of cornmeal used to prepare it are both referred to as polenta. Similar to grits, polenta typically has medium-to coarse-grained cornmeal, though the type of maize used and how it is processed can vary.

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