Lemon Chile Grits Cakes

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Call it polenta, call ’em grits, just whatever you do, call these UBER-flavorful little gems delicious!

You know, I’ve never really understood folks who say they do not like grits/polenta. Sweet ground corn paired with butter, salt, and pepper can never be a bad idea in my book, but I know that many folks need more complex flavors before they endorse a dish. Because of this, towards the end of grad school, I started making my grits with vegetable broth, cilantro, and chili. Sometimes I added cheese, sometimes I didn’t, but that rendition of grits converted many-a-grits haters. So when a couple of weeks ago, I had bunches of parsley and basil to use up, I did what any grits loving food blogger would do… I made herbed grits cakes using my spiked up grits recipe as a base.

What I love about these grits cakes, over and above the taste (which by the way was so good, I couldn’t refrain from eating the warm grits right out of the pot!), is that they look really elegant, even though they are super simple to make. And although I ate them for dinner (with the cabbage from my last post and beans), I can totally see eating these grits cakes for breakfast (perhaps with tofu scramble or eggs??? ;)). They’re also super versatile. I made this version with lemon, chile, and herbs, but the possibilities are endless!

Before getting to the recipe though, I wanted to share two things. First, I wanted to thank Manu and Alyssa for the blog awards they recently passed on to me!!! Thanks Ladies! And second, I wanted to tell you all (but especially my folks in The City) about a new vegan soup of the week club! My dear, dear friend Stephen in New York has started an exciting new venture, a part of which entails personal chef services. Check it out! Now… onto the grits!!!!!

Lemon Chile Grits Cakes (Printable Recipe)


1 clove of garlic–minced

1 small serrano chile–minced

1/2 cup old fashioned grits

1 cup vegetable broth

1 cup water

1 tablespoon Earth Balance (or butter or margarine)

1/2 to 1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil

1/4 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese (optional)




olive oil


*Add garlic and chile to medium pot with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Saute over medium heat until soft. Add vegetable broth and water, along with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Turn heat to high . Bring to boil. Slowly stir grits into boiling liquid (stir in the same direction for good luck!). Reduce heat to low. Cover. Cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until grits are tender. Turn heat off.

*Line a 9″ x 9″ baking pan with parchment or wax paper. Stir lemon zest, parsley, basil, Earth Balance, and cheese into cooked grits. Add grits to prepared pan. Add pan to refrigerator. Refrigerate at least 1 1/2 hours to allow grits to firm up.

*Once grits are firm, remove from pan and slice into six rectangles. Dredge each rectangle lightly in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium-sized frying pan over medium/medium high heat. Saute each rectangle until golden brown on each side. Serve warm or at room temperature!

Written by

Tiffany M. Griffin is the woman behind Como Water, Washington DC’s premiere veg-centric cuisine consulting company. Through cooking classes, demonstrations, catering, and consultations, Como Water gives people the opportunity to learn how to prepare veg-centric cuisine that boasts maximum flavor, with minimal effort. Tiffany is quickly becoming a go-to expert on the future of veg-centric cuisine, and is a regular contributor to Como Water, the blog, as well as to vegetarian and vegan sites across the Internet. For over a decade, this self-taught, entrepreneurial expert has developed a set of tried and true techniques for making simple, delicious, and sometimes decadent veg-centric dishes. Featured on the Steve Harvey Show and other leading media outlets, Tiffany was born and raised in Springfield, MA. She then earned Bachelors degrees in Psychology and Communications from Boston College and a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Michigan. She now resides in Washington DC, where she has worked in the US Senate and at a federal agency on issues around health, food, nutrition, and international food aid/development, and of course, as the owner of Como Water. Tiffany gets culinary inspiration from the food she grew up eating, and from her travels throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, Western Europe, and Sub-Saharan Africa. She is dedicated to sharing her wealth of knowledge on veg-centric cuisine with others and to help others live by her mantra—love life, live long, and eat veg-centric cuisine!


  1. These sound absolutely delicious. I love polenta even if cooked in water and salt, adding other flavours can only make it better!

  2. I love grits, and what a great way to serve them..I never tried fried though, look so good and delicious like a French bread, but better:)) Great post!!!!

  3. YUM YUM! Tiffany, these sound so good!! And you’re right, the possibilities are endless! These would be great for dinner, breakfast, or even lunch I think!

  4. Wow, these sound awesome! My mind has been going a mile a minute with ideas to top these and how to use them. Croutons in soups like corn chowder, make small ones for appetizers and top with guacamole and a spicy shrimp, etc. I could keep on going, but I will let others come up with their own ideas.

  5. Ohhhh… with the serranos I bet these are absolutely amazing. These with some black beans and tomatoes would make a great start to a fiesta-meal. 🙂

  6. Could you make these with polenta instead of grits? They sound good and I have polenta (I don’t know if it’s a mix or cornmeal or what) in my pantry and would love to use it.

  7. This is my kind of food. I love the spice factor. I also love how decadent these look.

  8. OH MY WORD….these look incredible Tiff!! I am sooooo loving these. Great job!

  9. I raise my hand as one of those that doesn’t like grits/polenta. It’s a texture thing, which is weird because I like cream of wheat. I don’t know. I guess it’s also its inherent blandness. Sure, it’s great when you add all the stuff, so just eat all the stuff without the weird texture included.

    Now, fry me up some cakes like those and I’ll be all over those puppies (which is pretty much what they’ve become, right? Hush puppies in a square? I love me that kind of corn dish.

  10. I enjoy plain fried grits, so I am sure that I would enjoy these lemon chile ones. Your picture is mouth watering. Yum!

  11. So many people are scared of grits and polenta and I think a lot of it has to do with the names. “Polenta” is kind of a gross word. Like something you’d have to eat if you were being punished. But it’s SO GOOD! And it looks amazing all fancied-up like this!

  12. Oh, I had a bad grits experience. Suffice to say that if you offered me a bowl of grits or a bowl of wallpaper paste, I’d choose the paste 🙁 However… I’m liking the look of these cakes. You might just have cured my aversion to grits.

  13. Those do look uber-flavourful, all fried up and crispy brown like that!

  14. I love grits, especially with some cheese and butter. Turning them into cakes is a wonderful idea, and I bet these would be delicious topped with some salsa too.

  15. I want these now. Please deliver by dinner. Thanks 🙂

    haha. Great recipe!!

  16. My husband is one of those grits haters. I can’t understand it and it drives me nuts. Ok, so the white grits may look plain but the yellow grits sesaoned like you’ve done, what’s not to love about it. I love them and your cakes look delish. I’ve never added lemon or chili but I am going to try that. Great, thanks!

  17. Yup, I’m with SouthernCharm. You do deliver to Alaska, right?

  18. My mouth is watering and I can totally see how a non grits lover would convert. I don’t have much experience cooking them but I do love them. My husband doesn’t but since these are cake shaped and fried, okay the fried part is the winner, he may just be a convert. Thanks for sharing Tiffany and felicitaciones on your awards.

  19. yummy deliciously done looks fabulous

  20. Very creative,,, great recipe and golden brown looks,YUMMY 🙂

  21. I’m a certified grits and polenta nut, and I’m perennially open to more and more ideas about how to cook and serve this tasty grain. I love that you thought of using up herbs in the recipe. I need to take a tip from you and do the same as far too many herbs go bad while I’m waiting to use them for a “company” dish.

    I also enjoy your writing and photographs.


  22. I LOVE grits, polenta…all of it! I have a recipe that is similar to this – but they’re grilled instead of fried. Delicious and your pictures are drool-worthy! Thanks!

  23. Elegant is right, these look amazing. Super crispy and crusty and downright yummy! I really need to catch up on my emails but I find myself just wanting to stare/drool over these grits.

  24. My hubby is one of those nutty people that says he doesn’t like grits. I, too, stepped up my grits game by making them with stock and cheese. Those cakes look great and I love the idea of additional herbs in the grits too. Great post!

  25. Ooooh I love the flavors you put in this! I love any type of polenta/grits. I need to try this!

  26. Well, if folks say they don’t like polenta they should try your recipe and it will change their minds in a jiffy. I would call this gorgeous!
    Bravo on the awards, Tiffany, and have a fabulous weekend. J

  27. Polenta season is opened! Fried polenta is delicious and your recipe looks fantastic!

  28. I don’t understand how anyone could not like grits/polenta either?? It’s awesome comfort food & yours sound divine with the serrano chile & the monterey jack cheese! Yum!

  29. Oh no, I’m probably the only one here who doesn’t know grits. It looks great from your photos though and everyone is giving very positive responses to this, and I’m sure I’ll be trying to see it by myself. 😉

  30. Tiffany…I love polenta and these DO look elegant! They would be a great accompaniment with any dinner or breakfast. But I could eat these beauties all on their own!!! : )

  31. Marvellous recipe. I’m with you on the confusion of people not liking polenta!

  32. I love grits as you may know if you’ve seen my last post with grits and green chile. These grits and chile cakes look absolutely wonderful; however, I don’t have your willpower. I could never wait long enough to let them set and then fry them! 🙂 Well maybe – there’s always another day to try. 🙂 Love these!

  33. Love it, love it, love it! And I call it polenta 🙂

  34. I’ve definitely had some cold, rubbery polenta in my time. It took me having someone who prepared it really well, aka fried, for me to change my mind about it. Now I make it all the time. Love the flavor combination!

  35. Ohhhh Tiff! Can I have some please???? Those look soooo good! I wish I could grab one through the screen… ahhh! I love some chile and lemon!!!! 🙂

  36. I love polenta and those crisp grits look amazing!

    Great photos!

  37. O lala, love this recipe Tiffany, cakes looks amazing and so flavorful:)

  38. All new to me…but I definitely love the look of it! So yummylicious in my eyes!

  39. these were soooo delicious! I made a batch last night and had to stop myself from eating the entire batch. The lemon zest in grits is pure genius! A nice twist of one of my fav breakfasts items.

  40. Looks absolutely mouth-watering. I can feel the crunch..haha!

  41. I am in love with polenta!! I dont get how people dont love it either. They must be crazy or they never had it prepared like this! Love it. Looks so yummy and delicious

  42. I LOVE grits. Sometimes I make grits cakes from leftover grits (when we have any left over!) I can’t wait to try this with the lemon zest and chiles. This looks like supper tonight!

  43. I’ve never made grits (they are not common here), though I have had polenta which is similar. These grits look delicious and I really like the flavourings you use – lemon, chile and fresh herbs – mmm… delightful!

  44. Grits can be experimented with in so many ways and yours’ is a superb example! I’d love to eat these yummy cakes…look tempting!

  45. We’ll take one right now! Yummy!

  46. I think I’m going to go ahead and call them dinner. These sound fantastic!!

  47. This will make one of my next must do recipes. Thanks for sharing.

  48. Wow, these look super crispy and delicious! I need to try this recipe as polenta has always been a bit of a disappointment to me before. I can’t fail to like this though it has chilli, cheese & coriander in it, heaven!!

  49. Those grits look so crispy and tasty! Love the first click…it makes me want to reach out and grab one to try!

  50. Wow, these grits cake look delicious…love the spicy and lemony flavor …and the crispy layers of these cakes are just so yummie!
    Hope you are having a fantastic week Tiffany 🙂

  51. Polenta is my all time favorite! Be it soft and crispy like u made

  52. These look amazing. Yum – I’ve never thought of adding all these herbs and spices to grit cakes. Great idea. Great recipe. So happy to have met you via foodbuzz.

  53. One of the local food trucks makes 4-cheese grit cakes that I love — they’re right up this recipe’s alley. I’ve been wanting to replicate them at home & now thanks to you I’ll be able to. Awesome!

  54. Ohhh so love this.. As I was looking at the photos yesterday, I was salivating so I decided to make something like this using my small pastry rings (instead of square I made small round lemon chile grits cake)… Gosh! I couldn’t believed that I made something different but absolutely delicious.. My youngsters really love this grit cake, they consume a lot of this.