Polenta and Grits: The Differences and How to Substitute
by , August 27, 2017
Even though authentic Italian polenta and grits usually come from different types of corn, they're very similar in flavor and texture. Polenta and grits are both made from cornmeal, but they might differ slightly in texture because of the different types of corn they're made from. Southern grits are made with dent corn while authentic Italian polenta is usually made from flint corn.
Flint corn is also known as Indian corn, and has a hard outer layer. It is often multi-colored, and has a low water content. Flint corn is also commonly used for popcorn and hominy (posole), and its flour can be used to make tortillas and corn chips.
Dent corn, also known as field corn, has more soft starch content and gets its name from the dents in the kernels.
Most corn grown in the US today is dent corn or related to dent corn. It is used for cornmeal, grits, corn chips, tortillas, and taco shells.
The two grains might differ slightly in texture, but the flavors are nearly the same. Basically, polenta and grits are both medium to coarsely ground cornmeal and may be used interchangeably.
The real thing is always best, but If you can't find any products labeled "grits" or "polenta," substitute regular or coarsely ground cornmeal. Avoid finely ground cornmeal.