Cheesy Baked Grits with Blue Hokkaido Squash and Bacon

Add some seasonal flavor to your grits.

Cheesy Baked Grits with Blue Hokkaido Squash and Bacon
Photo: Jennifer Causey; Food Styling: Melissa Gray; Prop Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller
Active Time:
35 mins
Bake Time:
20 mins
Cool Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs

As the leaves begin to change colors, butternut squash tends to get lots of attention, but this fall, we're highlighting some of the fantastic ways to use lesser-known squash varieties. This recipe for baked cheese grits highlights Blue Hokkaido squash. Similar in appearance and flavor to Kabocha squash, Blue Hokkaido have a blue-grey skin, are sweet in flavor, and slightly drier than a typical Kabocha squash. In this dish, the sweetness of the squash brings out the sweetness in the corn grits, while adding minimal moisture. If you can't find Blue Hokkaido, Kabocha squash works well as a substitution here.

Our Cheesy Baked Grits with Blue Hokkaido Squash and Bacon are made just how we like our grits: super rich, creamy, and full of cheese. The stone-ground grits bring a nice coarseness and the grated squash almost dissolves into the grits while cooking, imparting a subtle sweetness and nuttiness without completely stealing the show. The crispy bacon provides little pops of saltiness, while the cheese topping sends this over the top. The sage and thyme are present in every bite, and the crispy sage on top provides additional texture and visual appeal.

Enjoy these grits for brunch or for dinner. These baked cheesy grits can be made a day ahead—just store in the fridge overnight and bake in the morning.


  • 1 medium (4-lb.) Blue Hokkaido or kabocha squash

  • 4 thick-cut bacon slices, chopped 

  • 8 cups whole milk

  • 2 cups uncooked stone-ground yellow grits

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for greasing

  • ¼ cup crème fraîche

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage leaves, plus whole leaves for garnish

  • 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper

  • 8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups), divided


  1. Using a sharp knife, remove stem and base from squash and discard; slice squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and pulp with a spoon, and discard. Using a vegetable peeler, remove and discard skin. Cut each squash half into 2 pieces. Grate, using large holes of a box grater, to yield 4 cups grated squash. Wrap grated squash in paper towels, and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Transfer grated squash to a medium bowl; set aside at room temperature.

  2. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium. Add bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels, and set aside. Reserve 1 tablespoon drippings.

  3. Preheat oven to 375°F. Bring milk to a gentle boil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Whisk in yellow grits and grated squash; return to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low; simmer mixture, whisking often, until grits are mostly tender and thick, about 15 minutes. Whisk in butter, crème fraîche, thyme, chopped sage, kosher salt, pepper, 1½ cups of the cheese, and reserved bacon drippings. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally, over low until well combined and creamy, about 5 more minutes.

  4. Grease a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with butter. Pour grits mixture into baking dish, and smooth top with a spatula. Sprinkle bacon and remaining ½ cup cheese evenly over top; arrange sage leaves on surface. Bake in preheated oven until cheese is melted and golden brown and sage leaves are crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; cool 5 minutes before serving.

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