Sweet Potato Grits: Breaking all the Rules

Sweet Potato Grits with Apples and Leeks

Do you have a strong opinion about grits? I mean aside from the very obvious fact that you can never have too much cheese in your grits. But what about other stuff? What else can you add to grits. How about sweet potato grits? Is that breaking any of your rules?

And there are rules. Lots of people have them. Paula Deen cooks hers in half-and-half and butter. That’s her rule. But another Southern chef, Amber Huffman, uses chicken stock. Chef Sarah Mastracco goes for equal parts of chicken stock and milk. The Joy of Cooking and Virginia Willis, a self-proclaimed grits evangelist and the author of an entire book on grits, prefer water alone. A lot of purists will tell that you should only cook grits in water with a little salt. But I use a 1‑to‑1 ratio of water and milk most times for both polenta and grits.

Oh, and today I’m adding sweet potatoes. Sweet Potato Grits with Apples and Leeks.

Sweet Potato Grits with Apples and Leeks

Grits are a Southern thing. Leeks are a French thing. And sweet potatoes, seem to be my thing lately. I honestly believe you can make the world a better place by eating more sweet potatoes. So why not combine three of my favorite things with some apples for a little tartness and crunch!

Maybe I’m breaking the rules, but I don’t think you’ll mind. GREG

Sweet Potato Grits
Sweet Potato Grits with Apples and Leeks

Sweet Potato Grits with Apples and Leeks 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Published
Sweet Potato Grits with Apples and Leeks


  • 2 sweet potatoes (a generous 1‑pound total)
  • 1 ½ cup water (plus more for baking potatoes)
  • 1 3/4 cup whole milk (divided)
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • ½ cup grated Cheddar cheese (about 1½ oz)
  • ½ cup grated Gouda Cheese (about 1½ oz)
  • ¼ cup cream cheese
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • 2 large leeks (white and light green parts, halved lengthwise then sliced crosswise into ½‑inch pieces, and well rinsed)
  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tart apples (such as granny smith, peeled, cored and cut into ½‑inch chunks)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (divided)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare the grits: Peel and halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise. Place them in a parchment-lined shallow baking dish along with about 1 tablespoon of water. Cover tightly with foil and bake in the oven until soft, about 30 minutes. Let the potatoes cool somewhat then mash them with a fork and add them to a blender along with ¼‑cup milk. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring the remaining 1 ½‑cup milk, 1 ½‑cup water, and a big pinch or two of salt to a boil in a large pot with a lid set over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and pour in the grits in a slow steady stream, whisking the whole time. Continue to whisk often until the grits thicken, about 10–12 minutes. Add the pureed sweet potatoes, Cheddar, Gouda, cream cheese, and a couple of big pinches of salt. Whisk until well-combined. Turn the heat off and cover the pot.

Prepare the apples and leeks: Heat 2 tablespoon butter in a large skillet with a lid over medium heat until melted and foaming. Stir in the sliced leeks and season with salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the leeks are wilted, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the apple chunks along with about half of the thyme leaves. Cook stirring often until the apples have softened somewhat but are not mushy about 3 minutes.

To serve: Spoon the gits into a serving bowl, add the apple and leeks. Garnish with remaining thyme leaves and serve immediately.