When cooking for someone who is gluten-free, I always double and triple-check the ingredients just in case a bit of gluten slips through. While there are many gluten-free baking alternatives, I like to still with naturally gluten-free items for peace of mind. Which begs the question, what foods are naturally gluten-free? Grits are an American staple and are made from corn, so they have to be gluten-free, right?
What Are Grits?
Grits are made from a less sweet, more starchy type of corn. The corn is dried then soaked in lye or another alkali for a few days. That alkali process removes the hard hull of the corn kernel and you are then left with something called hominy. When you buy grits at the grocery store, you'll see labels like hominy grits and also white and yellow corn grits.
Grits can also be made from any coarsely ground grain other than corn. But most commonly, they're made from hominy or stone-ground corn and are boiled and then usually combined with butter, milk. and salt.
Cooking grits is similar to cooking rice. A general rule of thumb is adding four to five times the amount of water to the amount of grits. Use more or less water for desired thicker or thinner grits. To cook, bring grits and water to a boil, then simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes. Stir frequently so it doesn't burn and serve with butter or sugar, but that a whole other battle.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the name for the proteins called "prolamins" found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten also binds foods together like glue, giving it that stretchy doughy goodness. But that glue also goes to our guts. And for those who have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity, gluten-free options are necessary to keep our bodies healthy.
Are Grits Gluten-Free?
Traditional grits are made of corn and the main culprits in the gluten grains are wheat, barley, and rye. So corn grits are theoretically safe for a gluten-free diet! We say theoretically because we have to keep in mind the processing plants where various gluten-containing grain-based products are made. Not all processing plants have dedicated gluten-free machinery. That can cause cross-contamination to occur in and in the most sensitive of grits lovers, they may not feel so well.
If you eat cross-contaminated grits, you'll know if you are super sensitive or susceptible to the effects of gluten. The label may have simply said "corn grits" but most often it's a processing faux pas for the accidental gluten attack. Grits can also be made from barley so always read the packaging carefully.
For instance, Quaker Instant Grits is a popular brand. But Quaker does not consider them gluten-free because of all the gluten grains that are processed on the same machinery. If you or someone you know is sensitive to gluten, Quaker Instant Grits may not be the best option. Thankfully, there are brands that are noted for using separate machinery to ensure no gluten slips through.
1. Arrowhead Mills
This brand makes yellow corn grits labeled "gluten-free." Arrowhead Mills has fewer than 20 parts per million trace gluten which is the U.S. gluten-free standard.
2. Bob's Red Mill
Bob's Red Mill also has a grits labeled "gluten-free". Labeled "Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Corn Grits Also Known As Polenta" is another option from this popular brand.
3.Old School Brand
Old School Stone Ground White Grits is another brand that is gluten-free. Made from non-GMO corn grown in North Carolina, their entire facility is gluten-free according to their website.
4. Palmetto Farm
Palmetto Farm has a variety of gluten-free grits. Stone-ground yellow, stone-ground white, and stone-ground mixed. According to the company, their traditional grits have tested below 5 parts per million for trace gluten. But steer clear of the cheese-flavored grits. They are not gluten-free products. Sorry.
5. Julia's Pantry
Julia's Pantry has a slogan of being the "purveyor of naturally Southern foods, snacks, and mixes." What is more southern than grits?! Julia recognizes the demand for no gluten choices so they sell several varieties of grits among their gluten free foods and mixes. There's Moss Water Ground White Grits, Moss Water Ground Yellow Grits, Whole Grain Yellow Grits Steel Cut, and Yellow Grits Southern Style.
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