Are Grits Gluten-Free?

Gluten-free grits nutrition facts

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Grits are made from corn and are a carbohydrate-rich food containing thiamin, magnesium, and vitamin B6. They make a nutritious option as a grain for gluten-free dishes, provided you choose gluten-free brands. Read on for more information on what grits are and how to add them to a gluten-free diet.

What are Grits?

Grits are similar to other foods made from dried corn, such as cornmeal, and can be cooked in various ways. When cooked with liquid, grits resemble a porridge-like consistency. There are different types of grits, including hominy—grits made from corn treated in an alkali process to soften them. You can also find instant grits or mixes with added seasonings.

Grits are typically used as a base for toppings such as shrimp, roasted vegetables, fish, or greens and often include cheese and milk in the preparation. They can also be made into sweet dishes such as breakfast porridge.

Are Grits Always Gluten-Free?

Traditional grits—in their pure form—come from corn, not from wheat, barley, or rye (the three gluten grains). Therefore they are gluten-free and safe to eat on the gluten-free diet.

It is essential to check the brand of grits to see if it is actually safe for someone who has celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This is because some brands of grits are processed in facilities that also process gluten-containing grains.

So, while grits in their pure form are gluten-free, if they have been cross-contaminated with gluten during processing, they could no longer be safe for you, depending on your gluten-sensitivity level.

When grits aren't safe on the gluten-free diet, it's usually because they've been processed on equipment that also processes gluten grains. It makes financial sense for manufacturers to use shared equipment to process their various grain products, but it means the finished products may have too much gluten cross-contamination to be considered truly gluten-free.

How to Choose Gluten-Free Grits

If you eat cross-contaminated grits, you might get "glutened" even if the label on the grits doesn't reference anything but pure corn grits. Sometimes, grits are actually made from an unsafe grain, such as barley. That means you can't just pick up any old package of grits and just assume they're safe. Always check the ingredients to make certain the package you're choosing is one you can have.

To ensure your grits are considered gluten-free and safe for you to consume, choose a brand that is certified gluten-free. The legal standard in the United States is less than 20 parts per million (less than 0.002%) of gluten. While there could still be a tiny amount of trace gluten present in your grits, you may not know how you will react until you try them.

Keep a record of any symptoms you feel after consuming grits, even the gluten-free certified ones. Everyone with celiac disease will react differently to trace amounts of gluten.

How to Serve Grits

Grits can be served in various ways, either sweet or savory. You can eat them on their own with simple seasonings or use them as a base for protein and vegetables. Popular mix-ins include cheese, milk, scallions or green onions, chicken stock, salt and pepper, garlic, and butter.

Various protein choices often top a serving of grits. The most popular is likely shrimp. Other protein options include ham, fish, egg, grillades (made from round steak), shredded beef or pork, and beans.

Vegetable toppings are also a popular choice. Typical vegetable toppings include collard greens, spinach, mushrooms, whole corn kernels, okra, and peppers.

Although less common, sweet grits are also delicious and add variety to your breakfasts as a grain option for gluten-free diets. Try them topped with poached or sauteed pears, apples, or peaches with toasted nuts or coconut. An addition of butter and honey is a classic touch.

How to Cook Grits

  1. Combine the grits in a large pot with four or five times as much water as grits. Use less water for thicker grits.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 45 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure the bottom doesn't burn.
  3. Add butter and salt to taste.
2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cereals, corn grits, white, regular and quick, enriched, dry. FoodData Central. US Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2020.

  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. ‘Gluten-Free’ Means What It Says. Updated May 11, 2018.

Additional Reading

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.