If you dine out in many southern restaurants chances are you’ll find grits on the menu. While this porridge like breakfast is a southern staple, it actually gets its origins from the Native American Muskogee tribe. The tribe would use a stone mill to grind corn until it had a “gritty” texture. The new comers to the land (colonists) enjoyed this wonderful new dish and it soon became a beloved southern breakfast staple.
Grits (known as polenta in Italy) can often be extremely rich, filled with ample amounts of dairy, cream, and/or butter. They’re also often paired with other animal products like bacon and eggs, neither of which are healthy or compassionate. And unless one is at a vegan restaurant, it’s pretty close to impossible to actually to find grits made without all that dairy.
The idea for this recipe came about after my dad served served shrimp and grits (a common southern dish) around the holidays last year. He was so gracious as to prepare my husband and me our own little batch of vegan grits (cooked in water), separate to the dairy filled ones. I did a little doctoring with nutritional yeast (gives a cheesy flavor and has lots of health benefits), salt, and pepper; they were delicious! However, this prompted the idea of creating a super creamy vegan version, using rich coconut milk and flavorful vegetable broth. Below is what I came up with, luscious, creamy, and full of flavor!
My grits, which are shown with roasted portabello mushrooms, can also be served with Tofurky sausage. While I’ve never been a fan of sausage myself, my husband does like to indulge in the vegan version from time to time. Real sausage of course should be avoided at all cost, as well as bacon. Seriously. Avoid them like the plague. Just as one probably avoids cigarettes (for obvious reasons) processed meats should also conjure up the same amount of opposition. These “foods” are classified on the same carcinogenic list (Group 1) as tobacco and asbestos by the WHO (World Health Organization). This means there is significant enough evidence linking their consumption with health issues like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune ailments.
Another reason to avoid these types of meats is of course on the ethical side. The intelligence of pigs is superior to dogs and rivals that of chimpanzees. They can solve puzzles and can even play video games. An adult pig has the intelligence of a 3 year old child! But regardless of intelligence, these animals, like all other animals on the planet, are sentient beings. Their intelligence is irrelevant. What is relevant is that they have a central nervous system, therefore they feel pain as well as emotions such as love, joy, and sadness.
On the environmental side, hog farms produce immense amounts of waste. This manure is collected in vast waste ponds that contaminate the soil, waterways, and air, devastating the nearby communities. Countless lawsuits have been filled (and won) on companies like Smithfield (the largest hog producer in the world), citing direct correlation between residents illnesses and the pollution produced by these operations. And on top of that, most of these “farms” are located in impoverished rural areas and disproportionally affecting people of color.
If you’re transitioning away from these types of products (which you might already have), a good alternative, like Tofurky or Beyond Meat, can make the transition easier. Other fun options are tempeh or tofu.
Ingredients for Grits:
- 1 cup grits or polenta
- 2 cups vegetable broth (See notes below)*
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/2 – 1 tsp salt (amount of salt will depend on vegetable broth used)*
- 1/2-1 tsp garlic (optional for those garlic lovers)
- pepper to taste
- 2 cups mushrooms, sliced (shiitake or portobello are my favorites)
- Cooked greens (kale, spinach, or collards)
- Preheat oven to 400º. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Add vegetable broth, coconut milk, grits, and salt (start with less salt, you can always add more) to pot. Cover with lid and bring to boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Add in nutritional yeast and taste test to adjust seasoning.
- If you want to cook some toppings now’s the time! Slice mushrooms and toss with tamari sauce. Line on baking sheet in single layer and cook for 10-20 minutes, depending on preference. Flip halfway. Cook your choice greens accordingly. (pictured here are my collards, but sauteed spinach or kale works wonderfully too)
- Once grits are cooked, serve hot. Add with desired toppings or eat as is!
Notes: Keep in mind that flavor can depend on the vegetable broth brand you use. Also, sodium content will play a role in how much additional salt needs to be added.
Here I choose to add cooked collards and roasted shiitake mushroom to my creamy vegan grits!