Spicy Pumpkin Grits with Bacon & Cheddar

by Kelly on October 24, 2012

Last month we played with apples for our 5 Star Makeover challenge.  This month we got another seasonal ingredient in the form of squash.  I’ve played around with squash a fair bit in the time I’ve had this blog.  Though pumpkin in particular takes most Americans to a sweet place, most of my experimentation has been savory.  I’ve used it in chili, pasta, and my personal favorite, as part of the filling for a crispy wonton.  So I decided that perhaps it was time I took on a sweet application as well.

Since making pumpkin cookies that are truly chewy vs. cakey can be a challenge that seemed like a fun project.  It was also a chance to play around with an ingredient that was new to me –  pumpkin powder.  Online I was told I could use it in similar ways to fresh and to replace some of the flour in baked goods to amplify the pumpkin flavor.  So in my mind I thought I could use it in the same way as I do freeze dried bananas in my Chewy Banana Tolberone Cookies.

Unfortunately, that assumption was a fail because the cookies were awful in every sense of the word.  The powder seemed to give the cookies an off smell, the texture was still cakey, and overall, they left a lot to be desired.  I may tinker with the recipe again at a later date since I love a good challenge, but since pumpkin powder is a bit pricey at around $4.99 for 4 ounces, I’m not in a huge hurry.

Thankfully squash is so abundant this time of year that I had other recipes up my sleeve (and if I can get my act together I may share two different dishes for this challenge).  I admittedly went back to my familiar savory territory for this dish.

For whatever reason I’ve been craving grits lately so I got the idea in my head of doing pumpkin grits.  The pumpkin was your standard from the can variety, though you could easily roast and puree fresh pumpkin or other varieties of squash to make this dish.

To make the grits more savory than sweet I added in some shredded cheddar cheese and Worcestershire Sauce for umami.  The cheese was Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar.  I love it because it has a great aged cheddar flavor, but still melts very well.  And because that still didn’t seem savory enough, there was also applewood smoked bacon.  As I learned when making my Pumpkin Bacon Wontons and  Bacon, Butternut and Bison Chili, squash and bacon have a natural affinity for each other so I knew I wanted to work pork into this dish.  The crumbled up bacon also provided textural contrast, a little crunch to offset the silky smooth grits.  And last but least, I added some minced jalapeno that I roasted.  Jalapeno may not be an ingredient commonly paired with pumpkin, but I think it should be.  I like how the heat added another dimension to the dish as well as a bit of freshness.  I personally love how the heat cuts through all the dairy.

For me this dish made a perfect weeknight dinner to combat the dreary, rainy nights we’ve been having recently.  And even better, leftovers reheated incredibly well so I’ve been enjoying it for subsequent cozy lunches at work.  Thanks to Natasha & Laz for another fun challenge, though I’m hoping this won’t be the last you’ll hear from me on this one.  I also have some fresh butternut squash on hand from the garden of my mother’s co-worker and plans to use them for a fusion take on Mexican Sopes.

Spicy Pumpkin Grits with Bacon & Cheddar
Adapted from Healthy Food for Living
Serves 4


-1 jalapeno chile
-2 slices bacon
-2 cups low sodium chicken broth
-2 cups whole milk
-1 cup stone ground grits
-2/3 cup pumpkin puree (from a can is fine)
-1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
-1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
-Salt and pepper, to taste


Turn your oven’s broiler. Place chile onto a sheet pan lined with baking foil. Place in the oven as close to the flame as possible. Broil until the skin becomes black and blistered. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and flip the chile over. Return the chile to the oven and broil until the second side is also black and blistered.

Place the chile in a Ziploc bag (or other airtight container) and seal. Set aside for 15-20 minutes to steam. You’ll know when it is done because the skin is easy to peel. Peel and mince chile and set aside.

In a large pot, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from the pan and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to allow the extra grease to drip off. Pour off excess grease from the pan so only approximately 1 teaspoon remains.

Add the chicken broth and milk to the pan and bring to a low boil. Stir in the grits and reduce heat to simmer. Cook grits covered over low heat until thick and creamy, stirring often, about 15-20 minutes. Crumble bacon and add to the pan along with the remaining ingredients. Cook until heated through and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Faith October 24, 2012 at 5:36 pm

I love the idea of pumpkin grits! I love pumpkin oats (savory too) and so this is a real natural for me. So interesting about pumpkin powder, I had never heard of that before!


Kelly October 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Faith – Yes. It was the first time I’d heard of pumpkin powder too. I sought it out specifically for this challenge. Believe it or not, I’ve never had pumpkin oats. May need to remedy that.


Joan Nova October 24, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Too bad you had problem with the cookies, but it brought you around to this very comforting and tasty-looking dish so all is not lost.


Kelly October 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Exactly Joan. I used to take my failures in the kitchen so personally but now I realize that if you really try to push yourself and do something different and experiment, you’re bound to have some eventually. That’s also part of what I find reassuring about watching shows like Top Chef. Even pros with so much cooking knowledge under their belt have some experiments that just flop. And yes, I’m glad it lead me to this dish. I was really comforting and one of my favorite things I’ve made recently.


5 Star Foodie October 24, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Very yummy – i like that you added the jalapeno for the spice!


Kelly October 26, 2012 at 5:23 pm

I really liked the jalapeno in it was well. As a kid I tended to avoid anything spicy so now that I have more of an adult palate I love using heat wherever it makes sense.


angela@spinachtiger October 24, 2012 at 11:17 pm

I love grits in unusual ways and I love the flavor profile with the jalepeno and the kick of Worcestershire sauce.


Kelly October 26, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Angela – Me too! I’m thinking it won’t be too long before I make some other kind of grits. This is only my third time making them at home, but I’m kind of smitten.


Ashley Bee (Quarter Life Crisis Cuisine) October 25, 2012 at 10:42 am

For whatever reason I felt compelled to buy grits this summer… they have been in my pantry ever since. Sooo I totally need to make THIS now that I have loads of pumpkin waiting to be used! It looks so freaking good!!


Platanos, Mangoes & Me! October 25, 2012 at 11:56 am

Believe it or not I have never ever had grits…maybe with this dish I will start…nice post…


Shannon October 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm

of course, bacon goes with everything 🙂 this sounds fabulous, the worcestershire is a great addition to the grits, i’ll have to remember that one.

never had pumpkin powder, but sounds like it might not be all that… will be interested to see if you can make it work well!


Sues October 28, 2012 at 7:11 pm

What a great idea! I think I’ve only had grits once in my life… I guess Boston just isn’t big on them 🙂 But pumpkin grits definitely sound like a reason I need to have grits in my life!


Kelly October 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm

You’re definitely right Sues, not a lot of grits in Boston. Though to be honest, when I’ve eaten them in restaurants it’s often been when traveling for work or or fun in the South. Now though I’m completely smitten.


Lori Lynn October 30, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Hi kelly ~ too bad about the cookies, but these grits are a real winner! Love the addition of cheddar and bacon. Sounds delicious, so homey and comforting.


Jodi November 7, 2014 at 11:55 am

I made these grits for a pumpkin cook-off at my office, and won second place! 🙂 I have to admit I was intimidated by roasting the jalapeno, so I skipped that. Instead I added a few squirts of hot sauce and some ground cayenne. (Next time I’ll try the jalapeno, it was still missing a little something without it.) A bit of ground coriander was really good with the grits too. Thank you for this recipe, it definitely goes in my potluck-worthy list. Oh, I also doubled the recipe, so ended up with delicious leftovers. I concur, they make fabulous easy lunches.


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