31 July 2022

The 9 best corn substitutes for your recipes

By Killian

When it comes to hominy, many people are confused about its origin. Is it corn, or does it just look like it? Grits is indeed corn, but not the regular kind, as it includes dry field corn whole kernels known as corn.

Whether you prefer it as a garnish, or use it ground in the dough for your tortillas, corn semolina is a delicious addition to many recipes. However, preparing it raw can be a little tricky, and canned grits may not be available right now.

No matter what recipe you have in mind, there is a suitable substitute for grits.

The best substitutes for grits

As we’ve already mentioned, grits is corn, but it doesn’t look like the “regular” corn we’re used to seeing. Rather than coming from the cob, grits are actually whole kernels of field corn that have been dried and nixtamalized.

This means that the dried kernels of corn (field corn) have been cooked and then immersed in an alkaline solution, usually consisting of water and edible lime. After this process, the corn is drained, rinsed and used or ground, depending on the form.

This type of processing removes the husks from the corn and makes the inner kernels tender, while significantly improving their overall nutritional profile. The beans also become softer and more aromatic, and the flavors are enhanced.

If you decide to make the grits dry and raw, you will need to soak it before using it to further soften the grain and prepare it for cooking. However, if you don’t feel like making it yourself, you can always get the canned product that you can use immediately.

In addition, hominy also comes in ground form, which you can use for different types of dough. Ground grits are usually found in two forms: grits and masa. Grits are ground more coarsely, while masa is ground more finely.

The dough is commonly used in Mexican cuisine, especially in tortillas, arepas, tamales, and similar dishes. Being so finely ground, it is an ideal substitute for flour, especially if you have an intolerance.

When it comes to raw grits recipes, the possibilities are practically endless. You can prepare it alone, as a main dish or as a side dish, with the right combination of seasonings. It’s also a great garnish, especially with other vegetables.

You can combine it with garlic, onion, tomato, avocado and peppers. It’s also a delicious addition to soups, stews, sauces, chili, and posole, especially because it enhances both texture and flavors.

Flavor-wise, grits are quite similar to sweet corn, but are slightly more complex. It tastes sweet, but it’s not as overbearing as it also has a unique earthy flavor.

If you don’t like grits or need a quick substitute, read on to find the best grits substitute for your dish.

1. Chickpeas

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are usually beige in color, thin-skinned, and large. However, there are other varieties of this grits substitute, such as green, black, brown, and red. With different colors, you can also expect different flavors.

Speaking of flavors, chickpeas typically have a mild, nutty, earthy flavor, with an extremely buttery texture that allows for different cooking methods and techniques. The most popular uses for chickpeas are hummus and falafel.

Depending on how long you cook them, you can expect different textures and results. They can be fully cooked (for dips and seasonings like hummus), but they can also retain their outer shell and stay crisp in baked dishes.

2. Sweet corn

Sweet corn is definitely a safe bet when it comes to a substitute for white grits. Since grits are also corn, the taste differences are negligible. The main difference is in the texture, but with the proper cooking method, you can retain the firmness of the sweet corn.

Sweet corn is also available canned, and is a great substitute for canned grits. It is great to accompany dishes, seafood salads, soups, tortilla fillings and any combination of vegetables you can think of.

It can also be a great substitute for grits in posole, as they are quite similar flavor-wise. Combine sweet corn with ham shank and red beans for the most delicious posole dish.

3. Buckwheat semolina

Buckwheat semolina is produced from finely ground buckwheat grains. Therefore, buckwheat grits are a great substitute for corn grits, especially in its ground form.

Buckwheat grits resemble cereals, and are often referred to as buckwheat cereal. When soaked in water, similar to semolina, they become softer, and also multiply in size. They are often used in desserts, especially pudding and porridge.

Buckwheat is also available as a finely ground powder, similar to the grits “flour” known as masa, and can be used for many different types of dough. Buckwheat is a great overall choice as it is high in fiber and very nutritious.

4. polenta

Polenta is another great substitute for grits when it comes to stone-ground grits. It has a texture very similar to that of ground white corn grits, plus it gelatinizes in your dishes creating a thick, creamy consistency.

In many cuisines, polenta is simply served on its own, and can even be the main dish. However, if you find it too simple, you can always improve it by combining it with different types of sauces, seasonings, meats and vegetables.

Like flour, polenta can also be used to make different types of dough, such as tortillas and tamales, but it can also serve as a thickener for some dishes such as soups.


Sampon is quite similar to corn grits in terms of its production, texture, and uses. They are also dried corn kernels that have been chopped until broken, but the pieces are not as fine as rice, but rather larger.

It is generally used in different types of meat dishes as it pairs well with poultry, veal, and lamb. The sampon is also a great and convenient solution if you are looking for a substitute for grits in different types of filling.

When the sampon pieces are split, the outer shell is removed, allowing the grain to become tender and mushy in the cooking process. The sampon is very popular in African cuisine, but it can also be found in some American recipes.

6. Dried beans

Although it is possible to use regular white beans in place of the white corn beans, you will find that the dried beans have a more suitable texture. Like grits, dried beans should also be soaked in water so that the cooking process does not take too long.

Dried beans are also a good substitute for corn in posole, as they don’t get mushy or mushy when cooked longer. So, if you like texture in your posole, you can’t go wrong with dried beans.

These types of beans are often sold in packages as dried beans, but you can also find canned dried beans.

7. Rice

Although there is a significant difference in flavor, rice can be used in place of corn in dishes that lack texture. Being a fairly neutral ingredient, rice has many uses in countless recipes, both sweet and savory.

Rice is an ideal substitute for corn grits in soups, posole, and fillings. With the right combination of seasonings and herbs, you can easily develop flavors, especially if you combine rice with meat or fish.

8. Grits

Grits are actually ground corn, but not fully ground as it has a distinct texture that turns to jelly when cooked. They are usually made with white corn, but you can also find yellow grits.

The stone-ground grits you’ll find typically have a coarser texture and, as we’ve said, haven’t been ground as finely. Plus, with the coarser texture, you’ll also get more flavor, and this usually means the grits aren’t overly processed.

9. Adzuki beans

Adzuki beans are very popular in Asian cuisine, both in savory dishes and desserts. Since they are quite sweet, they are often found in sweet recipes, although you wouldn’t imagine kidney beans in a dessert.

Due to their unique sweetness and firm texture that can soften during cooking, adzuki beans may be the best choice of all beans to replace grits in your recipes. Plus, they’re earthy and nutty enough to elevate any dish you add them to.

How to Choose a Substitute for Grits

Depending on your personal preferences and the recipe you follow, you may decide to stick with the corn options. However, don’t be afraid to experiment and give other alternatives a try, especially if you want to try something different in your dishes.

When it comes to playing it safe and sticking to corn options, go for sweet corn or sampon, as they are similar to grits in all important ways: texture, flavor, and origin.

Texture-wise, you’ll find that chickpeas, dried beans, and adzuki beans can substitute for grits in most of your dishes.

On the other hand, ground grits can be substituted for buckwheat grits, polenta, and grits, while rice can also be used to thicken the texture of your dishes.