Vegan Cheese Grits and Barbecue Beans

When it comes to Southern food, most people are a fan. Everyone loves cornbread. Outside of vegetarians/vegans, I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t drool over fried chicken. And what kind of freak of nature would ever turn down a biscuit?

Now grits on the other hand? That is one divisive food.

I think I know the issue. Most people who aren’t from the South have only had instant grits, the icky food-like substance that’s cooked in the microwave. Take my word on it, those little packets DO NOT contain grits. I don’t know what it is, but I know what it isn’t. Their texture is mushy, not creamy. There’s no discernable corn flavor, just salt. And the flavored ones with fake cheese and bacon bits? Don’t even get me started. It’s an insult to corn, and the South, and essentially all of humanity.

Grits are made by grinding dried corn into a coarse meal. You can find both corn grits and hominy grits. The latter is made from corn treated in an alkali solution. This process removes the outer clear coating called the pericarp (aka the crap that gets stuck in your teeth) and improves the nutritional value. Mineral content increases dramatically (750% more calcium!) and converts niacin to a more absorbable form. When corn was adopted as a staple crop from Native Americans, people skipped this step in processing because they didn’t understand the value. This led to a worldwide epidemic of pellagra, a disease caused by niacin deficiency. The epidemic was at it’s worst in the American South and actually, the world’s first hospital devoted to treating pellagra was started right down the road in Spartanburg, SC. I just learned that fact writing this post and feel a little smarter for it.

So there you go, you came for a yummy recipe for grits and BBQ beans and left with a history lesson. I’m a nerd like that.

You can make this dish with any type of grits you like, either corn or hominy, as long as it’s stone ground. Stone ground grits have an incredible texture and when cooked properly, get deliciously creamy. I highly encourage you to order a bag from Anson Mills, my buddies here in Columbia (note – they don’t know me. I just love what they do so much that I consider them friends). They’re known for saving heirloom Southern grains, which are sold to some of the best restaurants all over the world! I used their pencil cob grits, but my favorite is their blue corn grits.

Vegan Cheese Grits and Barbecue Beans

Serves 4

Ingredients

Grits:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast

Beans: 

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 can white beans, drained

Instructions

  1. Bring 4 cups water, salt, and olive oil to a boil in a medium pot. Slowly pour in grits, whisking with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently, until grits are creamy, about 45 minutes, adding more water if needed. Season with black pepper and stir in nutritional yeast.
  2. White grits are cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender, about 5minutes. Add tomato puree, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, worcestershire and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes until flavors have melded. Stir in white beans and cook to heat through 2 minutes.
  3. Divide grits between four bowls and top with beans.

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