Use leftover grits to make these delicious, crispy cheesy grit fries. Seasoned with sea salt, they’re great served with a shrimp po boy sandwich, a gourmet BLT, fried chicken or your favorite southern dish. Dip them in a spicy crema sauce or a gourmet homemade ketchup.
When we go on vacation, we love to try out local restaurants. And I often return home inspired to recreate some of the delicious dishes we enjoyed during our travels. That’s the story behind these cheesy grit fries.
If you love grits, these crispy, cheesy grit fries are a great way to use and serve the leftovers. My son, who until now has resisted trying grits, begs me to make grit fries and sausage.
It did my heart proud the first time he asked me to make them. As a southerner, there are just certain foods you have to love.
Let me get back to the topic at hand — grit fries.
What are grit fries?
Y’all know what grits are, right? Or do we need to start there, in case some Northerners or West Coast folks who haven’t had the pleasure of a bowl of cheesy, buttery grits for breakfast are reading this.
Simply, grits are ground corn boiled to create a mush. But it’s a little more nuanced (and delicious!) than that because lots of things are made from ground corn, including cornmeal and polenta. But grits are different.
They are made from coarsely ground dent corn, while polenta is made from flint corn. Wide Open Eats has a detailed explanation of the differences in grits, cornmeal and polenta that you’ll enjoy if you’re a foodie .
Now back to the question, “What are grit fries?”
Similar to grit cakes, these fried grit sticks are made from leftover ground corn grits that have been deep fried until crispy and then immediately sprinkled with sea salt. I prefer the fries to a traditional grit cake because there’s more crispy surface area.
When we visited Charleston, S.C., for my birthday, we enjoyed lots of great meals in between the sightseeing and shopping. After spending the morning on the beach at Sullivan’s Island, we stopped at The Obstinate Daughter for lunch and ordered a shrimp po’ boy sandwich with a side they called geechie fries.
The name refers to the coastal island Gullah and Geechee cultures that are descended from West Africa.
You just came for a recipe, and here I am giving you a lesson in Southern culture and foodways. I promise we’re getting to the eating soon. (You can always scroll to the end of this post to grab the recipe. But you’ll miss my sparkling commentary and lots of good tips on how to prepare grit fries.)
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What kind of grits should I use to make grit fries?
I prefer using yellow stone-ground grits to make grit fries or when I’m making a bowl for breakfast or for a shrimp and grits dinner.
If you’ve only ever eaten instant grits, then you haven’t really had grits. Not the way we love them here in the south.
Do not use instant grits for this recipe or the standard grocery store brand. Seek out the real stuff that are more coarsely ground.
This is important, not only for the sake of flavor, but because these grit fries do not have a breading.
My favorite brand of grits are from a local 18th century grist mill, The Historic Old Mill of Guilford. I use the Old Mill of Guilford Yellow Southern Style Grits, which you can buy from Amazon or the Mill’s online shop. I’ve also used Carolina Plantation Stone Ground Grits.
Many grocery stores, including Trader Joe’s, carry stone-ground grits. You can use yellow or white grits for this recipe. Yellow grits just happen to be my preference.
How should I cook the grits for grit fries?
When I’m making grits, I start out by adding 3 cups of chicken broth to a pan. (You can use water, but I like the added flavor the broth adds to the grits. Some people use heavy cream to prepare their grits. If you have a way to cook grits that you love and swear by, you can use that recipe.)
Bring the liquid to a boil, then whisk in 1 cup of grits. Lower the heat and simmer the grits slowly, stirring regularly, until the liquid has been absorbed and they’re creamy.
If you’re making grit fries, it’s OK to overcook the grits a bit — something you don’t want to do if you’re serving them the traditional way.
Remove the grits from the heat and stir in some black pepper, butter and a handful of cheese, stirring until melted.
Smooth the grits in an even layer, about an inch thick, and allow to cool and congeal before covering and placing them in the refrigerator. I usually make extra grits for breakfast and make grift fries a few days later, using the leftovers.
Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut the leftover, congealed grits into fries. Try to make sure each fry is about an inch in width; thinner fries don’t hold their shape as well.
Transfer to a plate or platter. Place the sliced grits back in the refrigerator until you’re ready to fry them.
What is the best way to cook grit fries?
I’ve tested multiple different ways of frying grit fries, making a greasy mess of the kitchen in the process. While grit cakes fry up well in a cast iron skillet with just a little bit of butter or oil, I found that deep frying works best for grit fries.
The fries keep their shape better as they heat up, and they get crispy all over.
To fry grit fries, fill a heavy bottomed pan about halfway with vegetable oil and heat to 375 degrees.
Fry in batches, for 3 to 4 minutes until the grit fries are a light golden brown, then use the strainer to remove the grit fries. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle immediately with sea salt or kosher salt.
Can I make grit fries in an air fryer?
I tried. But they just kind of turned to hot grits and did not keep their shape once the air fryer heated up!
However, you can use your air fryer to reheat deep-fried grit fries, if you have any leftovers. Just reheat for a few minutes at 300 degrees, being careful not to crowd the air fryer basket. You can also reheat leftover grit fries on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the oven at 300 degrees, until heated through.
What can I serve with grit fries?
You can follow the lead of The Obstinate Daughter and serve your homemade grit fries with a shrimp po boy sandwich. They’re also good with fried chicken, a gourmet BLT, a fried green tomato sandwich or a fried chicken sandwich.
Crispy Grit Fries
For the grits
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup yellow stone-ground grits
- ½ cup cheddar cheese shredded
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- salt and pepper to taste
For the grit fries
- 3 cups leftover grits
- 2 cups vegetable oil for frying
- sea salt
To Make the Grits
- Add 3 cups of chicken broth to a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
- Whisk in 1 cup of stone ground grits.
- Lower the heat and simmer the grits slowly, stirring or whisking regularly, until the liquid has been absorbed and they're creamy.
- Remove the grits from the heat and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Add butter and shredded cheese, stirring until melted.
To Make the Grit Fries
- Line a shallow baking pan with parchment paper, overlapping the sides.
- Smooth the grits in an even layer and allow to cool and congeal before covering and placing them in the refrigerator. Refrigerate overnight or for several days.
- When you’re ready to make the grit fries, remove the grits from the refrigerator.
- Use a chef’s knife or pizza cutter to cut the leftover, congealed grits into fries. Transfer to a plate or platter. Place the sliced grits back in the refrigerator until you're ready to fry them.
- To fry grit fries, fill a heavy-bottomed pan about halfway with vegetable oil and heat to 375 degrees.
- Use a spider strainer or skimmer strainer to place the grit fries in the hot oil, being careful not to crowd the pan.
- Fry in batches, for 3 to 4 minutes until the grit fries are a light golden brown, then use the strainer to remove the grit fries. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle immediately with sea salt or kosher salt.