Awendaw Soufflé Is The Classic Charleston Way To Enjoy Corn Grits

Grits are a classic Southern dish of hominy meal boiled into a rich, creamy, savory foundation for a comforting breakfast, lunch, or dinner. While shrimp and grits, cheese grits, or just a simple bowl of classic creamy grits are popular recipes, Awendaw soufflé is a unique and elegant grits dish you have to try.

Often described as a cross between spoon bread and soufflé, Awendaw soufflé possesses both cooked grits and yellow cornmeal. Egg whites give Awendaw its dainty, fluffiness, while milk, cornmeal, and buttery grits bestow creaminess and an utterly comforting savory flavor. Modern twists add cheese, aromatics, chiles, or fresh herbs to the basic recipe for even more depth of flavor.

While Awendaw is a popular Charleston tradition, it gets its name from the tribal lands of the Sewee Indians, encompassing a large swath of current-day South Carolina. Consequently, the name also honors the culinary exchange between Native Americans and southern settlers; hominy is a crop native to the Americas, and the Sewee taught arriving colonists how to harvest and prepare it.

The first documented recipe for Awendaw appeared in Charleston native Sarah Rutledge's 1847 cookbook, "The Carolina Housewife," as Awendaw cornbread. Rutledge describes the recipe as having the texture of a baked custard or pudding. Awendaw remains a staple side dish in households around Charleston, served alongside fried chicken or as a foundation for shrimp or sausage gravy. Even if you're not in Charleston, you can easily make this tasty soufflé at home.

How to make Awendaw

Awendaw soufflé takes a few more steps than plain grits, but the result is a far more complex and impressive side dish. You can make Awendaw as a soufflé in individual ramekins or as a casserole in a standard rectangular baking dish. You'll need a cup of warm, freshly prepared grits. If you're making individual soufflés, you'll need more eggs than a casserole; both methods require more egg whites than egg yolks. While the grits cool, separate the egg whites from the yolks and whisk them into a fluffy white foam.

Pour the warm grits into a mixing bowl along with egg yolks, yellow cornmeal, and equal parts milk and buttermilk for the casserole. You could also swap out the milk and buttermilk for three-fourths of a cup of grated cheese. Then you'll fold in the egg whites in batches to create an aerated batter that will fluff up nicely in the oven. After transferring the batter to buttered ramekins or a casserole dish, you'll bake it in the oven.

You can add more ingredients to the batter, from chives and corn kernels to green chiles, diced jalapeños, and crispy bacon bits. If baked in a casserole dish, the finished product is denser like spoon bread, while soufflés baked in ramekins will be lighter and puffier.