Dairy-Free Grits Casserole

My annual family gathering always revolves around plenty of wonderful food. Generally we plan to try new recipes while also including a few family favorites. One dish that always appears on the brunch menu is a cheesy ham and grits casserole originally from Southern Living Magazine. The “crust” is made up of pre-baked cheesy grits and topped with sautéed ham, green onions, and eggs. This breakfast casserole is so tasty that we just can’t seem to bring ourselves to try anything new for brunch. That said, as our family grows and changes, we are finding that we have more diverse diet preferences to keep in mind. Since welcoming someone with a dairy allergy who also does not eat meat into our fold, we knew we needed to modify our beloved brunch casserole to fit the bill. The result is just as amazing as the original, and is now a staple of our holiday brunches right alongside the original cheesy version.

This casserole freezes well and can be made ahead, which makes it the perfect dish for lazy vacation mornings spent with family. I always prepare the grits crust ahead of time, and finish the rest just before serving. Begin by combining water, coconut creamer, garlic, Earth Balance, salt, and pepper in a saucepan. If you have a different dairy-free creamer or milk that you prefer, feel free to use that instead! The most important thing to remember is to use an unsweetened, plain milk/cream substitute. Once your mixture is boiling nicely, add the grits. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Once the grits are cooked, add the nutritional yeast, and stir until combined. Take the mixture off the heat. If you haven’t tried it before, let me be the first to tell you that nutritional yeast is an amazingly delicious cheese substitute. It’s actually a really fantastic topping for popcorn. Allow your grits mixture to sit off heat for about 10 minutes. Then, beat one egg and add it to the grits. Spray a 10 inch pie plate, and pour the grits into the bottom. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes.

While the grits crust is baking, go ahead and sauté the diced tofu and green onions. Really, you should feel free to substitute the tofu and green onions for any items you might like in a breakfast casserole. Chorizo, or soy chorizo, with peppers and onions sounds good. Or maybe even mushrooms, spinach, and caramelized onions. Think combinations that you like in an omelet, and you won’t go wrong! If you are making this dish ahead of time to be eaten later, this is where you should stop. Layer your tofu mixture over the grits, cover with saran wrap, or tin foil, and call it a day.

Once you are ready to serve the casserole, pull your casserole out of the freezer or refrigerator and allow it to sit out for a bit. Preheat the oven to 400°. Whisk the 5 remaining eggs with 1/3 cup of coconut creamer. Pour over the pre-baked grits. Bake casserole for 35 minutes, or until the egg mixture is solid. I know it will be challenging, but you will need to allow the casserole to cool a bit before serving. We usually have croissants with various jams and mimosas alongside the casserole. Enjoy!

3/4 cup cups water
1/2 cup plain unsweetened coconut creamer
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter substitute
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
1/4 cup Nutritional yeast
6 large eggs, divided
1/3 cup plain unsweetened coconut creamer
1/4 pound smoked tofu, diced
2 green onions, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine water, ½ cup coconut creamer, garlic, Earth Balance, salt, and pepper in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil; gradually whisk in grits. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes. Add nutritional yeast, stirring until combined. Remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes. Lightly beat 1 egg, and stir into grits mixture; pour into a lightly greased 10-inch pie plate. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes; remove from oven. Increase oven temperature to 400°.

Sauté tofu and onions in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Layer tofu mixture evenly over grits crust. Whisk together 1/3 cup coconut creamer and remaining 5 eggs; pour over tofu mixture. Bake at 400° for 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes, and cut into wedges.

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