This classic recipe for Blueberry Grunt is one of the most famous traditional desserts in Atlantic Canada. This version is made Nova Scotia style, with fresh blueberries and fluffy dumpling dough. Top it off with a scoop of ice cream for the ultimate east coast experience!
What is Blueberry Grunt?
Blueberry Grunt is a stewed fruit dessert that is popular in much of the Coastal Northeast of North America (including the Atlantic provinces and New England). It includes fresh, seasonal blueberries that have been cooked down into a jam-like consistency. The dish is then topped with dumplings and steamed (or baked) until cooked through.
Blueberry Grunt is often served with a scoop of ice cream, but can also be served as is, or with a drizzle of cream.
Marie Nightingale, the queen of Nova Scotia cookery, says this about Blueberry Grunt:
"The majority of early desserts were made from the fruits that grew wild and in abundance. A common method was to stew them and add dumplings. Most often referred to as “grunt”, sometimes as “slump” or “fungy”, it often constituted the entire meal. Made with apples, rhubarb, strawberries, and most popular of all was blueberry grunt."
The Difference Between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Blueberry Grunt
Both Bluenosers and Newfoundlanders lay claim to Blueberry Grunt, and you'll even see some areas in New England stake claim to the original dish. As a Nova Scotian, I hold firmly to the fact that it belongs to us, but I'm willing to give some leeway when it comes to Newfoundland.
There are two basic ways to prepare the dish, one is more popular in Nova Scotia, and the other is more popular in Newfoundland.
The Nova Scotia Way
The first method is made by simmering the blueberries in sugar on the stovetop, then dropping basic dumpling dough on top to steam until cooked through. The fruit and dumplings are scooped into bowls and topped with cold vanilla ice cream to serve.
This is the method I grew up with here in Nova Scotia and is the most popular form you will see across the Internet and in cookbooks.
The Newfoundland Way
The second method is to make a very thick, very rich dumpling-style dough (including eggs). The blueberries are stewed (but not sweetened) and then added to the baking dish. The rich, thick dumpling dough is placed on top and it is baked in the oven. This method is more popular in Newfoundland.
I had Newfoundland-style grunt one time at Sunday Dinner, and it was quite delicious, but it was more cake-like and sliceable compared to the one I grew up with.
The Newfoundland version can be found in Fat-back and Molasses, which is a very popular cookbook featuring many traditional Newfoundland dishes.
- Blueberries: The best possible option is to use fresh blueberries, wild and picked in season. Cultivated blueberries (high bush blueberries) or frozen wild blueberries work well in a pinch.
- Flour: This is for making the dumplings - regular all purpose flour works great.
- Butter: Make sure you keep this nice and chilled! If you don't have butter you can use chilled lard or shortening.
- Liquids: You'll need some water for stewing the blueberries, and some milk for adding to the dumpling dough.
- Pantry staples: Baking powder, salt, and ½ cup sugar.
- Cinnamon (optional): This isn't often included in blueberry grunt, but we love the addition of it. Cinnamon and blueberry are a match made in heaven!
Note: Some people use a little bit of lemon juice to contrast the blueberries and add acidity. I've always left it out, but include a light squeeze if you prefer the touch of lemony flavor.
See the recipe card for quantities of the ingredients listed.
- Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan with a lid: This prevents scorching or burning on the bottom of the dish or saucepan, and the lid keeps the heat in for a perfectly steamed dumpling.
- I recommend this 6-quart Dutch oven from Lodge, although the blueberries can stain the enamel.
- A triple-ply stainless steel saucepan (like this one from All-Clad) will heat evenly and will not stain.
- If you do not have a heavy-bottomed pot, use a regular lidded pot and try lowering the heat to reduce the risk of sticking and scorching.
How to Make Blueberry Grunt
Step one: Wash the blueberries and dry them gently with a clean kitchen towel. Place them in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Step two: Add ½ cup of sugar, ½ cup of water, and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (if using).
Step three: Stir the blueberries, sugar, water, and cinnamon mixture until the fruit is well coated.
Step four: Bring the sweetened berries to a low simmer over medium-high heat, or until the blueberries have released their juices.
Step five: Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until they have a watery jam-like consistency.
Preparing the Dumpling Dough
The dumpling dough that is used for Blueberry Grunt is very similar to biscuit dough. Just like biscuits, you cut cold fats into dry ingredients and add milk until it comes together.
Step six: Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
Step seven: Add ¼ cup of cold butter (or lard) that has been cut into cubes. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut the fat into the flour mixture.
Step eight: Once the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, add the milk (a little at a time) until a soft dough forms.
Drop Dumplings Into the Berries
Now that the biscuit topping is prepared, it's time to add it on top of the blueberry sauce. They are then covered and steamed until fluffy and perfectly cooked through.
Step nine: Use a heaping tablespoon or cookie scoop to drop balls of dumpling dough on top of the simmering blueberry mixture.
Step ten: Continue to drop dumplings all over the surface of the blueberries until it is used up.
Step eleven: If the blueberries are spitting a bit, lower the heat. Then cover the Dutch oven or pot with a lid and steam the dumplings for 15 minutes - no peaking!
HINT: Make sure to maintain the blueberries at a low simmer. If the dish is spitting and splashing, try reducing your heat gradually until you get a gentle simmer.
How to Serve Blueberry Grunt
Once the dumplings have steamed through, remove the pot from the heat and open the lid carefully. You should see a thick, blueberry base with berry-stained biscuits on top.
NOTE: The most accurate way to check if your dumplings are cooked through is by checking the internal temperature. Biscuits and breads need to reach a minimum of 210ºF or 99ºC.
Gently scoop out a portion, including both blueberries and dumplings, and transfer it to bowls for serving.
We always serve blueberry grunt with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and I recommend that you do the same!
Blueberry Grunt is meant to be eaten in a single sitting, but you can definitely store the leftovers and reheat them if you have just a small group of people you're serving.
Transfer any leftovers to an airtight container (glass if possible - so the blueberries don't stain it), and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Microwave: Reheat in 45-second intervals until completely warmed through.
- Stovetop: Transfer the leftovers to a lidded pot and add a splash of water. Heat over medium-low heat until warmed through.
- Butter - If you don't have any butter on hand, substitute it for cold lard, cold shortening, or baking-style chilled margarine (the kind that comes in 1-pound blocks).
- Gluten-Free - Substitute the flour for a 1:1 gluten-free baking flour like Bob's Red Mill.
- Milk - This is for added richness. If you don't have milk on hand you could use nut milk of your choice, cream, or substitute it for water.
- Other fruits - a grunt can be made with pretty much any stewed fruit! Try rhubarb, strawberries, apples, or whatever fruits are in season.
- For serving - While it is most common to serve Blueberry Grunt with a nice dollop of ice cream, a drizzle of cold heavy whipping cream is a delicious treat as well.
- Lemon Blueberry Grunt - To make it ultra Summery, try adding in some freshly squeezed lemon juice with the simmered blueberries, along with some fresh lemon zest.
Slow Cooker Instructions
I haven't personally made this in the Slow Cooker, but I'm willing to bet it would work extremely well! These are the steps I would take if I were to make Blueberry Grunt in a crock pot:
- Place blueberries, ½ cup sugar, ½ cup of water, and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon in a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Stir to combine.
- Cover and cook on "high" for 2-3 hours, or until the blueberries are well broken down.
- Prepare the fluffy dumpling dough, and drop heaping tablespoons onto the simmering blueberries.
- Cover and cook for 30-60 minutes, or until the dumplings are steamed through (minimum internal temperature of 210ºF/99ºC).
- Serve with ice cream and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
This dessert is called blueberry grunt because of the noise the blueberries make during simmering and cooking along with the biscuit dough. It has been referred to as "blueberry slump" or "blueberry fungy" by some.
A grunt is a dish of stewed or cooked fruit (often foraged or purchased in season) that has been topped with a dumpling or biscuit dough, then covered with a lid. The dish continues to simmer, steaming the dumplings until they are cooked through. A grunt was traditionally prepared over a fire, but it is most often prepared on a stove top today.
Blueberry Grunt and Blueberry Cobbler and two dishes that are very similar, but do have a few significant differences. First of all, cobbler is often baked with fresh fruit in the oven, while grunt is made with stewed fruit on a stove top. The second difference has to do with the dumpling or biscuit topping: Grunts feature a very lightly sweetened biscuit dough (if sweetened at all), while cobblers use a very sweet biscuit dough.
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Traditional Blueberry Grunt
- Dutch Oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan with a lid
- 4 cups blueberries wild preferred, fresh or frozen
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 2 cups flour spooned and leveled
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup butter cold and cubed (or lard)
- ¾-1 cup cold milk
- Add the blueberries, ground cinnamon (if using), granulated sugar, and water to a saucepan with a lid or a dutch oven.
- Bring the mixture to a low boil over medium-high heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar.
- Once the blueberries have released much of their juices, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, and sugar into a large bowl. Add the cold butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter or two forks until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (with butter pieces pea-sized).
- Add in a small amount of milk and mix to combine. Keep adding a small amount of milk until the mixture comes together into a soft and sticky dumpling dough that can be easily scooped.
- Drop the batter on top of the simmering blueberries using a heaping tablespoon, distributing the dough evenly over the surface.
- Place the lid on your saucepan (or dutch oven) and allow it to simmer for 15 minutes without lifting the lid.
- Once the time is up, lift the lid to check and see that the dough is cooked through.
- Serve immediately with a generous dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.