Sausage-Flavored Breakfast Beans and Grits

by on October 9, 2013
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Sausage-Flavored Breakfast Beans and Grits

In my quest to eat breakfast more regularly, I’ve discovered two things about myself: fruit-heavy breakfasts don’t really satisfy me and carb-heavy breakfasts just make me hungry for lunch earlier. Protein is a different story. Tofu omelets and scrambles fill me up and satisfy my hunger for a much longer time than oatmeal or smoothies, but I don’t want to eat tofu every day. So I’ve been experimenting with a concept that many Americans will find unusual–beans for breakfast.

Of course, in many places outside of the United States, beans are standard breakfast fare. From Baked Beans on Toast in England to Ful Medames (fava beans) in Egypt to Gallo Pinto (red beans and rice) in Nicaragua and Casamiento (black beans and rice) in El Salvador, people all over the world enjoy beans for breakfast because they are inexpensive and loaded with nutrition.

Breakfast Beans and Grits

Since I’m a Southerner, I wanted a bean dish that I could serve on top of grits. If you’ve ever had grits, you know that they’re very bland. Most people flavor them up by adding a ton of butter or margarine to them and serving them alongside bacon or sausage–veggie sausage in this vegan household. But as you know, those vegan sausages are very processed and not the way I want to start off my day. So I created my breakfast beans to taste like sausage by using the seasonings that go into Italian sausage–fennel seed, sage, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes–plus a little hickory smoked salt and smoked paprika to add that smokehouse flavor. With so much flavor in the beans, the grits no longer need any added fat.

Of course, you can serve these sausage-flavored beans over rice, potatoes, or any grain you like, or you can serve them au natural for a lower-carb breakfast. And you can eat them for dinner or lunch instead of breakfast. Just eat ’em!

Sausage-Flavored Breakfast Beans and Grits
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
The longer these beans cook, the more flavoful they are, so if you’re looking for a quick breakfast, consider cooking them in a small slow cooker overnight. Right before bedtime, get them started on the stove and then transfer them to a crockpot set to its lowest temperature. Add a little extra broth to keep them from boiling dry. In the morning, add the spinach, make your grits, and enjoy your breakfast!
Serves: 4
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • pinch of baking soda (see notes)
  • water or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups cooked cannellini beans (or other white beans), drained (or 2 cans, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (I used Imagine’s No-Chicken), plus additional, as needed
  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed (see note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy want it to be
  • 4 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • smoked salt, to taste
  • 1 cup yellow corn grits, prepared according to package instructions
  1. Heat a large non-stick pot or skillet. Add the onion, sprinkle it with the baking soda, and immediately stir in one tablespoon of water or vegetable broth. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion changes color and begins to soften, adding more water if it starts to stick to the pan. Add the chopped pepper and garlic along with another tablespoon of water or broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes, adding another splash of water if necessary and making sure that the garlic does not burn.
  2. Add the drained beans, vegetable broth, and all seasonings. Cover tightly, reduce heat to very low, and cook for at least 30 minutes, adding broth if it starts to dry out. The longer and slower you cook them, the more flavorful the beans will be.
  3. While the beans are cooking, prepare the grits according to package instructions. (I used 1 cup of Bob’s Red Mill organic grits cooked in 3 cups of water.) Keep warm until beans are ready.
  4. Check the beans, and if they seem dry, add a good splash of broth. (The beans should have a little liquid around them, but not as much as a soup or stew.) Increase the heat to medium, add the spinach, sprinkle with smoked salt if you want, stir well, cover tightly, and cook until the spinach wilts. Serve over the grits.
Baking soda speeds the cooking of the onion so that no oil and little liquid is needed.
Fennel helps give the beans the flavor of Italian sausage, but if you’re not a big fennel fan, start with 1/4 teaspoon and add more to taste.

For beans without grits: 193 calories, .9g total fat, 35.6g carbohydrates, 13g protein.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/4 of recipe Calories: 338 Fat: 1.5g Carbohydrates: 66.6g Sugar: 2.6g Sodium: 438mg Fiber: 12.2g Protein: 16.5g



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{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

1 moonwatcher October 9, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Hi Susan,

These sound great! I think cannellini beans are perfect for this recipe, as they are kind of buttery tasting on their own. I always cook my beans with 1/4 tsp of ground fennel–it helps with digestion and it gives the beans a very mild sweetness. So I think fennel is great for this–and so important for a sausage flavor. I loved reading about all the different cultures that eat beans for breakfast. I sometimes do, informally, if I’m cooking some up for later on, and you’re right, they definitely satisfy and fill up. The beautiful photo makes me want to have some right now!! I haven’t had grits very often, but I but these would also be good with polenta. Kind of similar. Italian grits. 🙂 Thanks!!




2 Susan Voisin October 9, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Thanks, Maria! It’s interesting to hear that fennel is good for the digestion. I don’t like it in everything, but I like the flavor it gives these beans. And you know, grits and polenta are really the same thing. The Bob’s Red Mill brand is called “Grits or Polenta” and has separate directions for making the two.


3 Kristin October 9, 2013 at 3:18 pm

You are hitting ’em outta the park lately, Susan! Can’t wait to make these.


4 michael October 9, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Thanks for the recipe. It worked for me. I dropped the fennel as I don’t like the licorice taste and added a 1/4 tsp of liquid smoke, which is my go-to replacement for smoked ham or bacon.


5 Susan Voisin October 9, 2013 at 9:38 pm

I’m so glad you made it already and enjoyed it!


6 Andi October 9, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Susan, these sound so good. I so look forward to your recipes – I want to try them all! One question: I’ve never heard of hickory smoked salt. Where do you get it?


7 Susan Voisin October 9, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Andi! I buy the smoked salt online from The Spice House; I get all my “unusual” spices there. Here’s a direct link to it:


8 Tami@Nutmeg Notebook October 9, 2013 at 8:36 pm

I had beans on toast when visiting England! I know I must try this recipe and give grits for breakfast a go.


9 janet @ the taste space October 9, 2013 at 9:10 pm

What a neat combination, Susan. I’ve done a breakfast bean scramble with white beans, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes… but next time, I will definitely try this out. 🙂


10 Amey October 10, 2013 at 12:40 am

oh Susan, this sounds incredible!! I totally agree with you about starting the day off with some protein. It keeps me satisfied so much longer. This meal sounds so totally up my alley. Thanks for another great recipe! I can’t wait to try it out!


11 Emma October 10, 2013 at 3:43 am

This looks fabulous Susan. I still haven’t managed to get used to savoury breakfasts for some reason- brunch I can do but first thing in the morning sadly not. I’d love this for lunch though 🙂 As a Brit, I do definitely have a soft spot for baked beans on toast!


12 Kristin October 10, 2013 at 6:56 am

Got up early and made these for breakfast this morning. I don’t normally love fennel, but went with the full amount called for, and was really glad I did. Not overpowering in the least, and definitely added something “sausage-y”. Great flavors!


13 Susan Voisin October 10, 2013 at 8:48 am

I’m so glad hat you liked them, Emma! And that the fennel wasn’t overpowering. I only like it if it’s in balance with the other ingredients, so I was playing it safe with the recommendation to start with 1/4 tsp. I’m glad to hear that the full amount worked for you.


14 Jodi October 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm

This looks delicious. I switched from fruit-and-carbs breakfasts to protein-and-veg ones a year and a half ago, eating a big salad with nuts, tempeh or tofu, and nutty dressing most days, punctuated with the odd stir-fry of greens and vegetables (mostly cabbage family). It feels amazing and, yes, I don’t get hungry again at 10am like I used to. Then my partner switched HIS breakfasts from cereal to eggs and I now have competition for the stove every morning. So things like this that can be made ahead in big batches are perfect for me to break up the monotony (it’s a delicious monotony, though) of my usual salad breakfasts.


15 Judi Sweat October 10, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I am a savory person. What I have found very satisfying for breakfast is grits with Happy Herbivore bacon bits added to give a salty crunch to the grits. I add ground black pepper which gives it a kick. I don’t eat a lot, my husband cooks 2 tablespoons of dry grits into 2/3 cup water and we add a little soy milk at the end. I add the homemade bacon bits after dishing up the grits. The recipe for the bacon bits can most likely be found on the Happy Herbivore website. I love this breakfast.


16 Chessie October 10, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Susan, you are so cool! I just printed this so I can enjoy it tomorrow morning. Thanks for a breakfast idea that isn’t the same old same old.


17 Catherine October 10, 2013 at 5:49 pm

I love baked beans. I live in England and have them frequently on toast, with butter because I am not vegan, and then on top of the butter I put Marmite before adding the baked beans. I frequently add mustard to my baked beans as well. It’s easy to pick up a good jar of baked beans here, and they are vegan as well. Can usually get one for about fifty cents or less.


18 connie October 10, 2013 at 7:27 pm

hmmm – I wonder if you could make “sausage patties” out of them. Put everything in the food processor and make oven patties. It would really remind me of breakfast then.


19 Donna McFarland October 11, 2013 at 3:55 am

…CAN NOT WAIT…to make this! Wow Susan…you’ve hit the nail on the head, AGAIN 🙂 I’ve lonnnng loved beans for breakfast, but making them actually TASTY like this will? I’m stoked! Thank you-MUCHO!


20 janae @ bring joy October 11, 2013 at 4:37 am

Susan, I’m like you went it comes to breakfast. I’m okay with smoothies sometimes, oatmeal sometimes, but many days I want something hearty so I’ll often just eat leftovers from the night before! I don’t know where we get this “only breakfast foods for breakfast” concept, but I’m totally game for beans for breakfast. Not weird at all to me.


21 Veggie Val October 11, 2013 at 8:32 am

LOVE this! Totally agree with the first paragraph reasoning, too. On a recent trip to Ireland and London, I was so excited to see the bean option available everywhere. Back in the U.S., my bean-for-breakfast offerings usually consist of leftovers. This is a new one I’ll have to try!


22 JCB October 11, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Whenever I cook dry beans in purchased broth, even low sodium broth, I find the beans take forever to soften. Does’t happen in my homemade unsalted version. Am I the only one with this problem?

The above recipe sounds really good and I can’t wait to try it.


23 Stephen October 11, 2013 at 6:26 pm

People are always weirded out by my breakfasts (big kale salad, fruit, hummus and bread). American breakfasts are so boring and unhealthy. Beans and vegetables are fine for breakfast. I will have to try this recipe.


24 Stephen October 11, 2013 at 6:29 pm

How do you crush fennel seed? I have tried, it is not easy, even with a pestle and mortar. A food processor doesn’t do anything either.


25 Susan Voisin October 11, 2013 at 7:14 pm

I just use a mortar and pestle without any trouble, but you can use a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind it to a powder if you want. I just want them lightly crushed, though, so I find a mortar does the trick.


26 Kristin October 11, 2013 at 8:03 pm

I used a mortar and pestle, too. Worked just fine. I think you’re really just going for a releasing of the flavor of the seeds, rather than grinding them fine.


27 Linda October 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Instant grits, beans and greens is our go to quick breakfast on weekdays. Made this for breakfast for family on Saturday, we loved it! The smokiness and fennel were key. Thanks for the recipe!


28 melissah October 14, 2013 at 8:28 am

This recipe was very good. It was the first time I had grit they were great. I added some mushrooms to the recipe which was a nice addition I will be making this recipe again. Thank you for sharing all of these wonderful recipes with us.


29 Karen October 14, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Made this for supper tonight. After a long busy day it was easy to get the beans simmering on the stove, start the grits then let them cook on low, so I could sit down with a cup of tea to unwind. Flavorful and filling, another keeper recipe.


30 nicole October 14, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Hi Susan, Would the flavor be thrown off if you were to use a different type of bean other than a white variety?


31 Jonathan October 15, 2013 at 4:55 pm

This looks amazing. One question, How can I prepare most of this in advanced?


32 Brenda October 15, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Printed this out to make for the weekend. I’ve had your lentil stew for breakfast lots of time, so this is right down my alley. And this post made me think of one of my favorite childhood books–Baked Beans for Breakfast. Thanks!


33 Sara Holloway October 17, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I made this with black beans (it’s what I had on hand) and used kale instead of spinach, but man o man, it turned out great! Thanks for the recipe!


34 Esther J October 18, 2013 at 9:56 am

Susan, these were fabulous!

Although oatmeal (traditional and steel cut) are a staple of my morning routine, I felt like I needed something a little more substantial for today’s breakfast. So I got up early to get these on. I had an hour for them to simmer, and every time I tasted them, they didn’t taste like the flavors had melded yet–even up till the very end of the hour. However, when I plated them, oh dear, so yummy!

These beans, grits, sweet potato, toast, and coffee. Such a week’s end (hearty) treat!

Thank you, Mrs. V!


35 Laura October 20, 2013 at 9:20 am

I can’t wait to try this! It’s cold here now – too cold for green smoothies everyday so I need to try some new recipes! Adding this to the list!


36 Mary October 21, 2013 at 2:08 am

Looks great…glad to know that there is someone besides me who does much better w/ a higher protein, lower carb breakfast (if I have fruit for breakfast I’m wildly hungry the rest of the day).
Anxious to try this; will have to leave the bell pepper out (allergic) but will up the rest of the spices.
Love both your blog and your great keep-your-head-when-all-those-about-you-are-losing-theirs style of moderating the ETL Yahoo group.
Keep up the wonderful work!!!


37 Amanda October 21, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I made this for lunches this week and it is delicious! I halved the recipe and it made 3 lunch-sized portions (for me). Thank you!


38 Kathy October 24, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Love beans for breakfast, as I am not a huge breakfast food fan! Thanks for the idea!


39 Lynda October 27, 2013 at 8:38 am

I’ve been eating savory, non-breakfast type food for breakfast since I was a child (let’s just say many years). Beans, tofu, cold pizza, soup, leftover supper, savory versions of oatmeal or cream of wheat, etc.
People used to be so surprised at this “strange” behavior. (Not so much nowadays.)
I would always say “Who set the rules for what can be considered “breakfast” food? Food is food.”

Welcome to the club, Susan! 🙂


40 Amy October 28, 2013 at 11:11 pm

I tried the beans and spinach mixture over cubed potatoes for dinner tonight. The flavor was so good! I will be sure to try it with grits very soon. Thanks for the recipe.


41 Lea October 29, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Made these last night – my son and I loved it! I had to use pinto beans since I couldn’t buy organic cannellini; the results were probably similar. I also added mushrooms (got to get those G-BOMBS) and, gasp, coconut oil (a 15 month old toddler needs the fat even if I don’t). Anyway – delicious! I love grits and beans, but had never thought to serve them together. The seasonings were perfect and I will definitely make this again. Thanks Susan!


42 Marcella October 30, 2013 at 10:14 am

I made this for breakfast this morning and it was delicious! This will def be a staple in our house. Thank you so much for the recipe!


43 Donata November 3, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Hi Susan,
you are enrichening my cooking in a wonderful way, thank you from North-Germany!
I have a quick breakfast tip for you, which is also very empowering and does not leave you with a hungry feeling (I know this problem pretty well…). I cook millet in redgrape-juice and mix in some almond and walnuts and add some fresh grapes if i have them or an apple. If the pure juice is to sweet you can mix in water as well. This has enough iron for the day (millet, almonds and redgrapes are all high of iron), not to talk about all the mineral nutrients and the micronutients and vitamins- millet is called the grain of beauty because of it, and with the almonds you get the protein in…. The redgrape juice is strengthening the immun system, and ment to be the healthiest fruit juice…. So maybe you want to try it and it carries you through the day….
Anyway, thanks again for your inspering blog!!!! Donata


44 Sara November 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm

I love this idea Susan. Like you, I’m rarely satisfied from fruit and/or carb-heavy breakfasts. While I’m also a fan of tofu scrambles, I think beans, alongside vegetables and occasionally some whole grains are the way to go. This recipe looks fantastic! Love the savory, smoky flavors!


45 Sarah November 4, 2013 at 6:50 pm

I made this for supper as a side dish, and my whole family loved them!


46 Susan Voisin November 4, 2013 at 6:52 pm

I’m so glad to hear that, Sarah!


47 Christine November 11, 2013 at 7:10 pm

OMG! This is my new fave thing. As a Texan, beans for breakfast is not uncommon so I was stoked to discover this fab idea. I absolutely loved breakfast sausage as an omni but the only meatless version I like is really not something to get into the breakfast habit with! The first time I made them in the crock pot with an extra cup of broth and cooked them on low all night. THEY WERE AMAZING!! Even my vegan weary husband loved them, and especially loved the soyless-ness. This is not only in the repertoire for good, but I am making enough seasoning to jar and have on hand to whip them up with a quickness any old time. THANK YOU! I cannot get enough of your healthy Cajun influenced delights 🙂 with grits and braised kale, or home fries and greens – a dash of Louisiana pepper sauce, this is my absolute favorite breakfast since becoming vegan!


48 Shellie November 22, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Making this for our dinner tonight. I don’t have any baking soda, and will be picking some up, but what does it do to the onions? Is it necessary? I did look for substitutes online, but they’re mostly for baking. Thanks. Looking forward to this. I bought the grits awhile ago to make this, and I’m finally doing it. 🙂


49 Susan Voisin November 22, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Baking soda speeds the cooking of the onion so that no oil and little liquid is needed. You can just leave it out. Hope you enjoy the recipe!


50 Shellie November 22, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Some day I’ll learn to read the complete recipe before posting. I see the note about the baking soda now. 🙁


51 Shellie November 22, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Delicious. I couldn’t get it nearly as dry as in the pic and had to serve it over the grits with a slotted spoon. Not sure why so wet..

Love the idea about the baking soda. I haven’t been able to get my onions to look like this in my non-stick pan.


52 andi November 24, 2013 at 7:44 am

Susan, I can’t believe how delicious this is! Finally decided to make it for breakfast this morning and I’m swooning. I didn’t have grits in the house so used Bob’s Red Mill medium grind corn meal and made polenta with it. I also by mistake doubled the fennel seeds, but I love fennel so am really happy with the result.

I love all of your recipes. They are so flavorful and easy to prepare.


53 Julie December 2, 2013 at 8:41 am

Eggs-actly what I was looked for… although for opposite reasons. I too am an aspiring southern vegan. I do fine for breakfast… oatmeal and smoothies suit me just fine, but my family loves breakfast for dinner. I usually like a poached egg on top of my grits. My kids like vegan sausage patties, but I am not a fan so I wanted another protein with some veggies that still had that breakfast food taste. I saw another recipes for shitake “bacon” I may add to this as well. Thanks!


54 Boris December 8, 2013 at 3:44 pm

I made this and it’s just what I’ve been looking for to have for a healthy breakfast. It was delicious! I never thought of using the same spices found in sausage, what a great idea. I love your blog.


55 Carol December 18, 2013 at 10:06 am

Hi Susan,
Just made this for breakfast – gosh it was delicious! The seasonings were perfect. Using a pinch of soda was a neat trick too. Thanks for all the inspiring recipes.


56 risa December 19, 2013 at 8:04 am

I truly enjoy the recipe. Who would think but love the beans with the grits. Keep the recipe coming. My daugter love recipe she is eighteen.


57 Buddy Wheeler December 22, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Made them last night, subbed dry beans (soaked) and put them in the slow cooker overnight. Ladled them over jalapeno garlic grits and they were amazing! Even my 6 year old though they were great 🙂


58 Corrin Radd January 31, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Made this today–pretty sure it was my first time ever making grits. Loved it.


59 nlh110 February 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm

I’ve made this a few times and it is delicious. Want to make so e different tasting enchiladas, so I am going to use these beans. What would you recommend for a sauce? I was thinking of Genovese sauce.

Love your blog, and appreciate your recipes.



60 Marian Gleason April 16, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Tried this for our breakfast today & we both loved it! Didn’t have grits on hand but did have frozen hashbrowns & that made a YUMBO breakfast thanks, Susan!,


61 Karen September 14, 2014 at 11:32 am

Thank you! Another great addition to our meals. We often have grits, kale and vegan sausage for Sunday Brunch. I made this recipe last night to reheat with today’s brunch. WOW. My intent had been to just use it to replace sausage for my bowl (trying to further reduce fat intake) but it was a hit! I used rounded measures of spices/herbs. I had some jarred roasted red peppers so used that instead of the fresh red bell. Learning from comments I added two medium chopped mushrooms (because I had them) and to enhance the mushrooms, I added a teaspoon on soy sauce for umami and a dash of liquid smoke. Thank you for all or your recipes and meal ideas. Your knowledge has enhanced our meals!


62 Chery February 28, 2016 at 10:45 am

Gosh I left the crockpot on high all night last night. Fortunately I got up @ 5:30, added some kale and turned it off after another half an hour or so. This is delicious but I have to admit that it’s even better with bacon fat — especially when eating with grits! My guilty pleasure…


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