Food & Drink

Coconut Grits

A Puerto Rican staple elevates classic grits to new comfort-food heights

Photo: Cybelle Codish

There’s nothing I wouldn’t eat over grits and nothing I wouldn’t put in them. They are, to me, a perfect food,” writes Von Diaz in her new cookbook, Coconuts & Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South. The author, who was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Atlanta as a young child, first experienced grits at day care, where a teacher served them in a plastic bowl—instant and mushy. Only after a friend’s mother made proper grits slowly on the stove and let Diaz experiment with toppings—black pepper and cheddar cheese were her favorites—did she learn to love them.

Here is Diaz’s take on a Southern standard and a fusion of both cultures. She notes: “Whenever possible, use fresh homemade coconut milk. The grits are wonderful topped with Coconut-Braised Collards.”


    • 2 cups chicken stock

    • 2 cups coconut milk, homemade or canned

    • 1 cup stone-ground grits

    • ½ tsp. salt, or to taste

    • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

    • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a medium-heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, combine the stock and coconut milk, then slowly whisk in the grits and salt until well incorporated.

  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer, lifting the lid to whisk often, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, adding more water or stock as needed until the grits are creamy and thick.

  3. Stir in the butter and season with pepper and more salt if needed.

From Coconuts and Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South by Von Diaz. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2017. Reprinted by permission of the University Press of Florida.