How to Make Polenta

We can think of dozens of reasons why everyone should learn how to make polenta—but let’s start at the very top. Polenta is an easy-to-make dish that goes with just about anything. Serve it anywhere you’d serve mashed potatoes, rice, or pasta. It’s also economical (besides water and salt, cornmeal is all you need). And like rice and pasta, cornmeal is a shelf-stable staple you can have on hand all the time.

While polenta is a Northern Italian dish, it plays well with all kinds of flavors from other cuisines. We love it as a side to comfort-food recipes, such as a great pot roast. Polenta also makes a hearty anchor to a vegetarian meal, as in this Winter Garden Polenta recipe.

Let’s say you’re getting ready to try a new recipe for a dinner party coming up. You know you want to experiment with a dish you’ve never tried before, but you’re not sure what to go with. Do you want to test out Japanese cuisine or something Italian?

Sticking to your typical menu can get old after a while. When it’s time to try something new, you can feel overwhelmed by the possibilities, especially after seeing recipes that include hours of preparatory work and cooking time. What if you found a simple option that was easy to make and wouldn’t keep you in the kitchen for hours?

One uncomplicated dish you can prepare for your friends is polenta. This gluten-free dish can make a terrific addition to your dinner, and it’s easy to make, too. We’ll show you everything you need to know about polenta and how to prepare it. Then, we’ll talk about how we can make finding recipes and grocery shopping easier for you at Jow.

Polenta (pronounced poh-LEHN-tah) is a cornmeal mush or porridge that originated in Northern Italy as peasant food. It may not be particularly popular in the United States, but it’s a staple that many Italian Americans enjoy as a part of their heritage. Though most typically made with coarse yellow cornmeal, polenta can also be made from finely ground yellow or white cornmeal. Traditional recipes call for slow cooking in water or broth, though much of the cooking time can be unattended. Modern shortcuts include the use of instant or precooked polenta. Polenta is often served as a soft, thick mush, which may be topped with sauce, a hearty ragoût, or cheese. Cooked polenta can also be cooled until firm and cut into wedges, rounds, or other shapes, which can be baked, grilled, or pan-fried.

Fast Facts

  • There are five types of polenta.
  • The finer the grain used to make the polenta, the creamier the final product will be.

Need a quick and simple tube polenta recipe? These baked polenta rounds with creamy mushroom sauce are the ultimate 30-minute meal.

Tube polenta – i.e. the cylinder-shaped pre-cooked roll of polenta wrapped in plastic – is something I’ve always snobbishly walked past at the supermarket. Polenta is not that hard to cook from scratch, I figured. Plus, nothing beats the comforting texture of just-cooked creamy polenta.

I was proven quite wrong during this year’s camping trip, though, when one of my friends used it as a base for our dinner. Not only was it delicious, but it was ready in minutes. I’ve been experimenting with it at home since and have realized what an incredible shortcut ingredient it actually is. It warms up in a fraction of the time it takes to cook your own polenta and its versatility is boundless.

For this quick tube polenta recipe, I cut the roll into rounds and bake them. A savory creamy mushroom sauce goes on top. It’s an easy 30-minute meal perfect for midweek dinners. Let’s jump in!

Polenta is a traditional Italian dish made from boiled cornmeal. It is a versatile ingredient that can be served as a savory or sweet dish.

But have you ever thought of using polenta in baking? If not, you’re missing out on a delicious twist to your favorite recipes. In this article, we’ll explore what polenta does in baking, how to use it, and the benefits it provides. Let’s get started!

Polenta is a dish made from boiled cornmeal, which is then left to cool and solidify. The resulting texture is similar to porridge or grits. It’s a staple food in many parts of Italy, where it’s often served as a side dish or used as a base for other dishes.

What Does Polenta Do in Baking?

Polenta can be used in baking to add texture and flavor to your recipes. When used in baking, polenta adds a delicious crunch and a slightly nutty flavor. It also helps to keep your baked goods moist and tender. Here are some of the ways you can use polenta in your baking:

  • As a coating for breaded items: Polenta can be used in place of breadcrumbs to coat chicken, fish, or vegetables before baking. The result is a crispy, flavorful coating that’s perfect for a healthier version of your favorite fried foods.
  • In cakes and muffins: Polenta can be added to cakes and muffins to give them a slightly gritty texture and a nutty flavor. It works especially well in citrus-based desserts.
  • In bread: Polenta can be added to bread dough to give it a crunchy texture and a slightly sweet flavor. It’s a great addition to focaccia and other rustic breads.
  • In pizza crust: Polenta can be used in place of some of the flour in pizza crust to give it a crispy texture and a nutty flavor.

Benefits of Using Polenta in Baking

Using polenta in baking provides a range of benefits, including:

  • It’s gluten-free: Polenta is made from cornmeal, which is naturally gluten-free. This makes it a great option for people with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.
  • It adds texture: Polenta adds a delicious crunch to your baked goods, which can take your recipes to the next level.
  • It adds flavor: Polenta has a slightly nutty flavor that can enhance the overall taste of your baked goods.


Is polenta the same as cornmeal?

Polenta is made from cornmeal, but it’s a specific type of cornmeal that has been boiled and left to solidify.

Can I use instant polenta in baking?

Instant polenta can be used in baking, but it may not provide the same texture and flavor as traditional polenta. It’s best to use traditional polenta if possible.

Is polenta healthy?

Polenta is a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. It’s also low in fat and calories, making it a healthy addition to your diet.


Polenta is a delicious and versatile ingredient that can add a new dimension of texture and flavor to your baked goods. Whether you use it as a coating for breaded items or as an ingredient in cakes, muffins, or pizza crust, polenta is sure to impress. Try incorporating polenta into your next baking adventure and see the difference it makes!

Polenta is the name of both a coarsely milled yellow cornmeal, and the Italian dish traditionally made with it, which originated in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. “Polenta dates back to the beginning of cookery, pre-Roman and pre-Greek. In the Italian diaspora, polenta refers to a specific type of maize that was introduced through the Venice exchange,” says Glenn Roberts, founder of Anson Mills, who adds that he has some skepticism about the lore. For centuries, polenta was considered a food of shame, as the “corn mush” was served to slaves, he says, adding that it wasn’t until World War II that it became a respected part of Italian cuisine. Now, it’s often served as a creamy bed for braised meats or seasonal vegetables, or as a side or brunch dish. Here’s what you should know about one of our favorite grains and Italian preparations.

The difference between polenta, cornmeal, and grits

On first glance, polenta, cornmeal, and grits seem similar; after all, they’re all derived from corn. But it’s the type of corn — and how it’s processed — that really distinguishes each product from one another.

“Traditionally, polenta is made from yellow corn and grits are made from white corn. Polenta is slightly coarser than grits,” explains Debbie La Bell, Director of eCommerce for Hayden Flour Mills. Grits are traditionally a product of dent corn, which refers to both white and yellow field corn that is soft and starchy. According to Roberts, grits are not made with uniformly ground corn; in fact, he argues that grits taste better when made with a variety of textures. Italian-style polenta, on the other hand, is made with flint corn, which has a harder texture than dent corn.

Cornmeal is any type of ground corn, ranging in texture from super course to finely ground corn that practically resembles flour. The hard endosperm particles are what gives cornmeal its texture, which is especially important for making cornbread. “The US Government recognizes polenta as just another stage of cornmeal, but try to tell an Italian that and you’ll probably have an argument,” Roberts says.

How to buy polenta

When looking for a bag of polenta in the grocery store, you’ll probably notice that there are a few options: instant, quick-cooking, or traditional polenta. Some brands may call their polenta “corn grits” or just “cornmeal;” the specific name of the product matters less than how it’s milled. The difference between them comes down to the grain itself. Instant or quick-cooking polenta will be finely ground, resembling regular cornmeal, so that it can absorb the cooking liquid in just a matter of minutes. Traditional-style polenta grains will be medium- or coarse-ground for the best texture.

How to cook polenta

Polenta is traditionally cooked slowly on the stovetop in water, milk, or stock and then mixed with butter, salt, pepper, and occasionally Parmesan or another cheese. When using coarse-ground polenta, the cooking process shouldn’t be rushed; a batch will usually take between 30 to 40 minutes to cook, compared to about 5 minutes for instant polenta. But there are options if you are short on time or don’t want to stand over the stove while cooking coarse polenata.

Try making an easy polenta that can sit, unattended, while the grains absorb the liquid. You can also bake polenta in the oven. Or, you can purchase fully cooked polenta, which is typically packaged and tightly wrapped in a roll. While you won’t be able to reheat and serve this as creamy, pourable polenta, you can slice and pan-fry it into crispy pucks or make it the topping of a gratin.

Polenta grains are also versatile in the kitchen for baking and savory cooking. Use polenta to make a pound cake or a Dutch baby, or add some to the topping of a cherry cobbler to give it more texture. Polenta can also be used to bread ingredients; try using it in oven-fried chicken, and take a tip from Yotam Ottolenghi and use polenta as the crust on crispy fish cakes.

How to store polenta

An unopened package of polenta typically has a shelf life of at least one year. “Once customers open the bag, we suggest storing the polenta in the fridge or freezer to maintain the freshness,” La Bell says. After opening a package of polenta, you should transfer the dry polenta to an airtight storage container and keep it in a dark, cool place. Cooked polenta may be stored in an airtight container and placed in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Creamy polenta, enriched with a little butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, is one of my favorite Italian comfort foods. A blend of medium and finely ground cornmeal creates the best texture. I love to top it with shrimp, mushroom ragu, or serve it alongside roast chicken.

Photo Credits: Andrea Gralow

Simply put, polenta is cooked cornmeal, but in reality it’s so much more than that. As the weather shifts and spring gives us sunnier days and cool, rainy nights, a warm bowl of rich, creamy polenta makes for a welcome addition to lighter, fresher springtime meals.

With this traditional Italian recipe, I’ll show you the tricks—like starting with cold water and using two different grinds of cornmeal—I’ve acquired over my years as a chef, instructor, and cookbook author.

This method takes just a little extra time and attention. But, with just a few ingredients and simple techniques, you’ll make the richest, most luxuriously creamy polenta just like an Italian.

A highly versatile dish, polenta can be served on its own. Or, used as a bed for pork or Mushroom Ragù. My personal favorite, though, is topped with Garlicky Shrimp—a variation on Venetian Polenta e Schie.

Table of Contents

What is Polenta?

Polenta is a traditional Italian dish made of cooked cornmeal that’s typically flavored with butter and Parmesan. When it’s freshly made, it is creamy and pourable. As it cools, it becomes firm enough to slice.

Italians often cut leftover polenta into squares and fry or grill them as an appetizer. They finish the crispy polenta with mushroom ragù, roasted peppers, tomatoes, or cheese.

In Italy, you’ll find polenta made from yellow cornmeal or white cornmeal, though yellow is more common. The best polenta is made from stone ground corn, which comes in a coarse, medium, or fine grind.

Cornmeal labeled polenta is usually a coarse-grind, but you can make the dish with a medium or fine-grind. Or, use a combination of grinds, which is how I like it.

The classic way to make this recipe is to cook it on the stovetop with water. You can, however, substitute the water with chicken stock or milk for some for a richer dish. To cook polenta properly, it must be stirred often as it simmers slowly on the stovetop. This process that can take up to an hour, but trust me, it’s worth it. There are a couple of shortcuts (see “Tips and Tricks”), but the traditional way yields the creamiest polenta.

History of Polenta

Today, “polenta” refers to a dish of creamy cooked cornmeal. In fact, it is actually an ancient food dating back to the Etruscan civilization of central Italy (6th century BCE).

Early versions of polenta were made from millet, rye, and barley flour. In the 17th century, field corn, a New World ingredient, was introduced to Europe. It wasn’t until then that polenta became the corn-based dish we know and love today.

Today, Italians enjoy polenta in many variations. A few years ago, my family and I spent Christmas in Aosta, on Italy’s northwestern border with Switzerland. There, polenta is a daily ritual in winter, topped with beef stew or sausages, or stirred with lots of fontina cheese.

In mountainous Abruzzo, where my family is from, it is enjoyed with meat ragù ladled on top. In Venice, people warm themselves on a rainy day with polenta e schie—polenta and tiny shrimp from the lagoon.

No matter where you are, enjoying this dish enriched with butter and cheese is the best kind of Italian comfort food.

What is in Polenta?

You need just a few ingredients to make this recipe. Chances are you have most of these ingredients in your pantry. If not, they can all be easily sourced at your local market.

  • Cornmeal: Stone-ground cornmeal is best for polenta, as it has more flavor than cornmeal processed with metal grinders. It’s also more nutritious because some of the hull and kernel of the corn are retained during the grinding process. Most cornmeal labeled “polenta” is a coarse grind. However, to get the creamiest polenta, I use a combination of fine-grind and medium-grind, a trick I learned in Aosta.
  • Cold water: Most recipes have you boil water or broth on the stovetop and then stir in the cornmeal. It is hard to do without lumps forming.

Use cold water to make the best polenta.

Starting with cold water practically eliminates your chance of ending up with lumpy polenta. The cornmeal does not clump in cold water! The ratio for polenta is 4 parts water to 1 part polenta. It sounds like a lot of water, but it will all be absorbed in the cooking process.

  • Salt: A generous pinch of fine salt brings out the flavors of polenta and prevents it from being bland.
  • Butter: Stirring in a generous knob of cold butter at the end of cooking makes polenta even creamier.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese: Adding cheese is optional. A few spoonfuls of freshly grated Parmigiano or high quality parmesan adds depth and extra savory quality to polenta.

Tips for Buying Polenta

Many supermarkets carry boxed instant and pre-cooked polenta in shrink-wrapped logs. I may be biased, but I avoid them. I feel freshly made has the best flavor and texture.

Buying this simple ingredient can seem confusing; it helps to remember that what is labeled as polenta in most supermarkets is simply coarsely ground cornmeal.

Look for stone-ground cornmeal at your local supermarket. Most supermarkets carry several brands, and they vary from fine grind to medium to coarse. Most coarsely ground cornmeal is labeled “polenta.”

For polenta with a pleasing texture, use a mix of grinds. My personal preference is a mix of fine and medium grind. I find that combination yields polenta that is creamy but not mushy.

Check the ‘best by’ date on the package to ensure that the cornmeal is fresh. If you have a local mill in your area that sells high-quality grains, including cornmeal/polenta, give it a try.

How to Make Polenta

Start cooking polenta about 45 to 50 minutes before you plan to serve it. Polenta starts to stiffen soon after it’s taken off the heat, so you’ll want to serve it immediately.

A Clever Shortcut

Many home cooks avoid making polenta because of the time it takes and the stirring required. I personally enjoy the process when I’m not in a rush. But when time is an issue, or I just don’t feel like stirring, I use a shortcut. I bake polenta in the oven.

Lumps can sometimes form with this method, so be sure to stir the polenta well when you take it out of the oven.

To bake in the oven, simply:

  • Preheat the oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  • Whisk the ingredients: In a Dutch oven or oven-safe pot with a lid, whisk together the cornmeal, water, and salt.
  • Cover and bake: Cover the pot and bake at 350°F for 50 minutes.
  • Stir vigorously (and carefully): Remove the pot from the oven and uncover. At this point, the polenta will be a mostly solid mass with some lingering liquid. Here is where you have to watch out for lumps as you break it up. Stir vigorously—use a sturdy whisk if you have one. Otherwise, a wooden spoon or silicone spatula will do, and keep stirring to smooth out any lumps that form. Do this carefully, as polenta has a tendency to spatter and can burn.
  • Taste a small spoonful, taking care not to burn your tongue. If it’s not quite done, return it to the oven for another 10 minutes. When it is finished, stir in the butter or olive oil and Parmigiano cheese, and serve.

Make it a Meal!

Polenta’s versatility is part of its appeal. Finished with just a touch of butter and Parmigiano cheese, it makes an excellent side dish to roast chicken or fish.

But it is even better when it becomes part of the main dish. Serve it in a shallow bowl, with hearty Italian Beef Stew or Mushroom Ragù ladled over it. Or top it with a rich pork ragù, grilled sausages, or (my favorite) garlicky shrimp.

Store uncooked polenta in the pantry in a tightly closed bag or tightly sealed container.

Store cooked polenta in a shallow, tightly sealed container in your refrigerator for up to 3 days. Be sure to transfer it to the container before it cools down. It will solidify and become more difficult to manage once cool.

How to Reheat

Cold polenta is firm, so you’ll need to soften it with water, broth, or milk. Place the leftovers in a pot, breaking it up if necessary. Pour in a splash or two of water, broth, or milk. Reheat it gently on the stovetop, stirring with a whisk to break up lumps. Warm the polenta and bring back to a creamy consistency.

How to Fry Leftover Polenta: Cut cold polenta into thin rounds, squares, or rectangles, about ½-inch thick. Fry in a skillet in a small amount of olive oil, turning until brown on both sides.

How to Grill or Broil Leftover Polenta: Brush the sliced polenta with olive oil. Set the slices on a preheated grill or under a broiler. Grill or broil until browned, then turn and brown the other side. Top fried, grilled, or broiled slices with cheese, roasted peppers, sautéed mushrooms, or thinly sliced tomatoes.

Italian Side Dishes We Love

Nocellara Olive Oil

Drizzle the Italian way. Extra virgin olive oil from 100% Nocellara del Belice olives.

  • I use a combination of fine and medium grind cornmeal.
  • The polenta will bubble from time to time while you’re stirring, so be careful and watch for spatters.
  • After 45 minutes, the polenta should be thick and creamy but still pourable. If you find it is too thick towards the end of cooking, stir in a little more water.

Polenta Uses

Polenta is used in different ways depending on the meal of the day in which it is being served.

  • Serve soft polenta, either plain or with herbs or cheese, as a side dish.
  • Use polenta as the base for the vegetarian main dish, topped with sauce or a hearty vegetable ragoût.
  • Serve polenta instead of pasta or rice as an accompaniment to meat sauces, stews, or chilis.
  • Try soft-cooked polenta as a hot breakfast cereal, topped with fresh or dried fruit, nuts, cinnamon, and milk.
  • Use baked or grilled polenta rounds as a base for hors-d’oeuvres or appetizers.
  • Use precooked or homemade polenta in casseroles.
  • Use polenta to replace the biscuit or puff pastry topping on pot pies.

How to Cook Polenta from Tubes

Sold in tubes in either the pasta aisle or the produce aisle, precooked polenta is a terrific time-saver. Since it’s already cooked, it usually just needs to be warmed through before serving. Simply cut the polenta into ½-inch slices and fry in a skillet in olive oil, butter, or margarine until golden brown on each side.

As an alternative, here’s how to cook polenta from tubes in the oven:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cut a 26-ounce tube of refrigerated cooked polenta into 16 slices. Brush polenta slices with one tablespoon oil; arrange on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup grated asiago cheese, if desired.
  • Bake 30 minutes or until light brown and crisp.

And if you’re a fan of grilling indoors, check out how to cook polenta from tubes on an indoor grill in this recipe for Quick Grilled Herb Ratatouille and Polenta.

Now that you know how to make polenta, you’ll likely find yourself serving it often as a side dish to meaty foods (like these short ribs) and vegetarian dishes alike. But did you know that polenta can be a hearty main dish, too? Give it a try in these Polenta Burgers. And here’s another news flash: Polenta makes a great ingredient for desserts, too. To get started, try our Cast-Iron Plum-Polenta Cake. Indeed, you’ll never run out of ways to serve polenta.

We hope you’re getting excited about trying this famous dish that has remained tried and true through multiple centuries. There’s no shortage of ways to enjoy this dish, and learning how to make it for yourself is just the beginning.

Let’s talk about one easy way to make polenta. Then, we’ll show you a few of our favorite polenta recipes that are super easy to add to your meal rotation.

To make the polenta:

  • Add six cups of water to a large saucepan or pot.
  • Bring the water to a boil, then add two teaspoons of salt.
  • Carefully begin to gradually whisk one cup of polenta cornmeal into the boiling water.
  • Bring the heat down to a simmer and cook the polenta until the cornmeal is tender and it reaches a thick consistency without lumps.
  • Continue to stir this mixture for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat.
  • Add around three tablespoons of butter, and stir it until it melts into the polenta.

While whisking your cornmeal into the boiling water, you’ll want to go slowly to avoid accidental burns. You can also substitute water for milk or chicken stock to add more flavor profiles to the equation.

What Does It Taste Like?

Polenta tastes like a hearty corn porridge. The cooked grains should taste sweet and cooked, not bitter and raw. The better the cornmeal you start with, the better your polenta will taste.

Polenta Substitute

How you are serving your polenta will dictate the best substitution. If your polenta is for breakfast, try oatmeal, grits, or cream of wheat instead. If you’re planning on serving a hearty meat sauce on your polenta, you can swap in mashed potatoes, pasta, risotto, or roasted and pureed vegetables.

Other Italian Recipes You Can Try

Trying polenta can be the start of many delicious recipes. However, let’s say you’re in the mood to try a few non-polenta Italian dishes now. After exploring the world of polenta, you may find you’d like to learn about more Italian-inspired meals to expand your recipe book.

Here are a few of our favorites at Jow:

Ingredients for Polenta

So, what is polenta made of? At its most basic, only three ingredients are required: cornmeal, water, and salt. Some recipes substitute broth or a combo of broth and white wine for the water and salt.

While any kind of cornmeal will work to make polenta, we recommend using coarse-ground cornmeal, which brings added texture to the dish. Look for cornmeal labeled “polenta” or “coarse ground.” You’ll also note that cornmeal comes in yellow and white styles. Both can be used, but for an Italian-style polenta, yellow is the most traditional. Be sure to use the style of cornmeal called for in your polenta recipe, as it will affect cooking times. Generally, regular cornmeal requires more water and takes less time to cook than coarse-ground cornmeal.

Where is polenta in the grocery store? You’ll usually find the cornmeal you need to make polenta in the baking aisle, near the flour and sugar. However, if you’re looking for refrigerated cooked polenta sold in tubes, that can be found in either the pasta aisle (if it’s a shelf-stable brand) or in the produce aisle (if it requires refrigeration). You might also find refrigerated polenta tubes near refrigerated pasta and cheeses.

Polenta Cakes with Mushroom Sauce Step-by-Step

Bake the Polenta: Slice the polenta tube into ~12 cakes and arrange in a single layer on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Brush lightly with oil and bake in a 425ºF oven until lightly golden around the edges.

Start the Sauce: While the polenta’s baking, get working on the sauce. Cook the onions and mushrooms with oil, salt, and pepper in a large skillet until softened and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, measure out your milk and add the miso, and let the mixture stand for a few minutes before whisking to dissolve.

Finish the Sauce: When the veg are ready, stir in the flour, garlic, and dried herbs. Add the wine (if using) and cook for a few minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Then whisk in the milk, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and lots of black pepper at the end.

Divide the polenta among plates and top with the sauce.

Is Polenta Gluten-Free?

Because it only requires cornmeal, water, and salt, polenta should be gluten-free. However, as the Beyond Celiac organization points out, during its production, cornmeal can come into gluten-containing ingredients. Also, once the polenta is cooked, sometimes gluten-containing ingredients can be added to the final dish. More information can be found on the Beyond Celiac website.

Serving Suggestions

Looking for a simple way to use up that pre-made polenta you got at the store? These easy baked polenta rounds with creamy mushroom sauce are the ultimate 30-minute meal.

  • -pound tube of pre-cooked polenta
  • small white onion, diced
  • cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
  • Fine sea salt, to taste
  • milk* (see note below)
  • white miso*
  • medium garlic cloves, minced
  • all-purpose flour
  • dried thyme, oregano, or Herbes de Provence
  • dry white wine (optional)*
  • minced parsley
  • coarsely ground black pepper

Prevent your screen from going dark

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a glug of oil. Add the onions and mushrooms with pinches of salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables are softened and starting to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon miso to 1 cup of milk. Let stand for a few minutes to soften, then whisk to dissolve.
  • Turn the heat off and stir in the parsley and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
  • Serve over polenta.


  • Milk: I use full-fat oat milk, but feel free to use almost any unsweetened, unflavored plant milk here (except for almond – it’s overpowering). If you have whole dairy milk, you can use that too.
  • Miso: You can sub with an equal amount of nutritional yeast.
  • Wine: If you don’t have any, just skip it.


  • Serving Size: 1/2 of the recipe
  • Calories:
  • Fat:
  • Carbohydrates:
  • Fiber:
  • Protein:

Keywords: tube, premade, polenta, mushrooms

Polenta Recipes

Try a basic polenta recipe first. This will help you to get the feel of the dish as a base ingredient in more complex dishes. Dial-up the extras as you get more familiar with what works best for you and your palate.

What Do You Serve Polenta With?

You can make polenta in several various ways. As a result, you’ll find that there are many combinations you can serve alongside polenta. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Serve fried polenta wedges alongside an antipasto board.
  • Add creamy cooked polenta to a pork dish in place of traditional mashed potatoes.
  • Serve polenta with chili in place of rice or cornbread.
  • Prepare polenta muffins to complement tasty stews.
  • Bake Polenta biscuits to serve with fruit.
  • Add jam to baked polenta to make for a refreshing afternoon snack.
  • Cut up chilled polenta and fry it into french fries to enjoy with your main course.

How Does Polenta Taste?

If you’ve never tried polenta before, you may be wondering what to expect. Since this dish contains cornmeal, you’ll recognize a corn flavor – hearty and semi-sweet. Additionally, since it has a similar consistency to grits, you may notice that texture along with the flavors.

Hailing from Northern Italy, polenta is basically a cornmeal porridge (also known in the U.S. as cornmeal mush). Polenta is similar to grits, in that both are made from cornmeal, but grits are usually made from white cornmeal, while polenta is most often made from yellow cornmeal. While polenta is often served in a creamy form, it can be shaped and made into sturdy cakes (and yes, we’ll show you how to make polenta cakes!).

Once the polenta is cooked, it’s the stir-ins and toppings that make the dish really take off. Everything from cheese and spices to chiles, sun-dried tomatoes, and other great ingredients make their way into and onto polenta.

Ingredient Notes & Substitutions

  • Tube Polenta: You can typically find pre-cooked polenta in the fridge section of the supermarket (next to tofu, hummus, etc.). Look for one that has minimal ingredients and no freaky chemicals/preservatives.
  • Onion: You can use white, yellow, or red here – or shallots.
  • Mushrooms: Cremini mushrooms are easiest to find, but you can throw in some fancier ones like shiitake, oyster, or maitake.
  • Milk: I use full-fat oat milk, but feel free to use almost any unsweetened, unflavored plant milk here (except for almond – it’s overpowering). If you have whole dairy milk, you can use that too.
  • Flour: For a gluten-free version, use a 1:1 GF flour.
  • Miso: This fermented Japanese soybean paste gives the sauce a salty, savory bite. You can sub with an equal amount of nutritional yeast.
  • White Wine: Gives the sauce a funky background flavor; a great way to use up a bottle that’s been open for a few too many days. If you don’t have any, just skip it.
  • Parsley: Lends some herby freshness. You can sub with fresh thyme.

What Kind of Food Is Polenta?

If you’ve never heard of polenta, you could be wondering what kind of dish this is. By the looks of it, you may think it’s similar to mashed potatoes or hummus. In its baked form, it can look similar to a cake consistency. When it’s fried, it can look like a hash brown. So what is polenta, really?

When it comes to its components, polenta is ground cornmeal. Some say it tastes different depending on how fine its consistency is, and polenta can contain fine, medium, or coarse-ground cornmeal. It’s generally made with yellow maize, but that varies.

There are many kinds of polenta dishes that combine cornmeal and other grains. Many people confuse this dish with other foods, so knowing what distinguishes polenta is an excellent way to avoid confusion. Additionally, learning more about what kind of food polenta is can help you enjoy it even more.

Polenta Is Traditionally a Breakfast Meal

When you think of breakfast, what comes to mind? Some people prepare popular options like fluffy pancakes on Saturday mornings. Others may prefer uncommon (but entirely delicious) breakfast foods like roasted pears with honey and yogurt.

Many individuals prefer savory foods to wake them up in the mornings. They may reach for hearty breakfast sandwiches or eggs and toast. Did you know that polenta can be a sweet or savory breakfast dish?

Many people think of polenta as a substitute for porridge. Polenta makes for an excellent breakfast dish since it has a similar consistency to oatmeal, grits, cornmeal mush, and other warm breakfast cereals.

As we mentioned, when people enjoy polenta for breakfast, they may incorporate toppings to add different flavors to their meal. For example, many people appreciate polenta for breakfast with maple syrup, dried fruit, nuts, milk, or honey. Sometimes, people will also add brown sugar and vanilla for a sweet polenta breakfast treat.

Others enjoy savory breakfast polenta dishes. They may include avocado, potatoes, bacon, shredded cheese, and a boiled egg. Experimenting with polenta for breakfast can be fun! You can start with one of our polenta recipes or craft your own.

Polenta Is Italian in Origin

Polenta is an Italian dish dating back to the 16th century. When you think of Italian food, your mind might start filling with images of lasagna, creamy noodles, and spicy sausage. However, polenta is an authentic Italian dish, too!

The most genuine polenta comes from eight-row flint corn, or “otto file.” In Southern and Central Italy, people flock to pasta dishes at dinnertime. In Northern Italy, people tend to prefer rice and polenta for their savory meals.

Historically, many Italian families have eaten polenta prepared from a paiolo (a tapered copper pan). The families would also eat this dish family-style from a large wooden board with dinner guests helping themselves to food from the table.

Did you know polenta dates back even further? Ancient Romans used to prepare a dish called puls, which is grains boiled and sprinkled with salt. This food consisted of ground barley, fava beans, buckwheat, rye, or spelt. This dish laid the groundwork for polenta.

People first began to grow corn in the 1500s, when it quickly became a valuable food resource for many. Many people preferred corn boiled, but as corn grew in popularity, people began to create new ways to eat corn. Eventually, people started to replace grain-based puls with cornmeal. Polenta was born from that creativity.

Some popular ways Italians have eaten polenta is with butter and cheese. Others prefer meat sauce with this dish, and many more put their unique spin on this dish by grilling, frying, or baking the polenta to a different consistency. After you learn how to make basic polenta, mastering these alternative cooking methods can allow you to experience this food to its fullest potential.

Polenta Is Gluten-Free

Food sensitivities can limit some people’s diets, so they have to think creatively to enjoy traditional meals. If you’re sensitive to gluten, you’ll know that foods containing wheat, barley, and rye are out of the question for you. You may find it challenging to find Italian dishes you can enjoy since many meals contain noodles and bread with a wheat base.

One good thing about polenta is its gluten-free nature. When you’re looking for a kind of food you can enjoy in multiple ways, polenta is an easy go-to base you can try with Italian dishes and many others.

How to Make Polenta Cakes

Polenta cakes are a more solid and sturdy form of polenta. They can be made by adding just a few steps to a basic polenta recipe. The cooked polenta is poured it into a pan, cooled, and chilled. Once firm, it’s baked until heated through.

Here’s how to make six polenta cakes from the polenta recipe above:

  • Prepare the soft cornmeal as directed until cooked. Carefully pour into a 9-inch pie plate, spreading into an even layer. Let stand, uncovered, for 30 minutes to cool.
  • Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour or until firm.
  • With a sharp knife, cut the polenta into six wedges to serve.

Test Kitchen Tip: Did you know polenta cakes can be grilled? Check out our recipe for Grilled Polenta with Mushrooms recipe.


Store uncooked polenta in a cool, dark pantry for up to two years. Make sure any opened package is fully sealed. Moisture and pests will ruin your polenta. Precooked polenta that is not opened does not need to be refrigerated. Cooked polenta should be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for 2 to 3 days.

What’s In This Tube Polenta Recipe

Aside from a roll of pre-made polenta, you’ll need cremini mushrooms, diced onion, garlic, parsley, milk of your choice, a bit of all-purpose flour, dried herbs, white wine (optional), and some miso (substitutions below).

How to Make Creamy Polenta

Here are the basic steps to making six servings of polenta:

  • In a 3-quart saucepan bring 2 1/2 cups of water to boiling.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium bowl stir together one cup coarse-ground yellow cornmeal*, one cup cold water, and one teaspoon salt. (This step helps keep the cornmeal from clumping when added to the hot water).
  • Slowly add the cornmeal mixture to the boiling water, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until the mixture returns to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 25 to 30 minutes or until the mixture is very thick and cornmeal is tender, stirring frequently and adjusting heat as needed to maintain a slow boil. (Use care not to get too close to the pan, because the hot mixture can splatter as it thickens.)
  • To serve, spoon soft polenta into bowls.

* If using regular yellow cornmeal (instead of coarse-ground cornmeal), increase the water in the saucepan to 2 ¾ cups; cook and stir for 10 to 15 minutes after the mixture boils in step three.

How To Save Time on Your Grocery Order This Week

Let’s face it. You don’t always have two extra hours to curate the perfect grocery list and search around the store for all your ingredients. Making dinner should be exciting, and shopping for groceries shouldn’t take the fun out of preparing tasty meals!

On top of that, you might find it challenging to find recipes that include the foods you bought at the grocery store last week. That can take even more of your precious time and leave you scrambling back to the store for ingredients you may have missed.

At Jow, we want to help take care of the time-consuming elements of preparing food. Simply select your favorite recipes from our selection, and we’ll add all the groceries you need to a cart you can have shipped to your doorstep or pick-up locally. Then, when you’re ready to make new dishes, all you have to focus on is enjoying the process!

How to Cook With Polenta

Cooking polenta is not complicated. Bring salted water to a boil, slowly whisk in the polenta, and then cook for around 45 minutes, stirring the polenta every 10 minutes. This long cooking time and stirring will allow the grains to swell and become cooked. Once prepared, it can be topped with anything from meaty ragu, a poached egg, fruit, or some butter.

Polenta is a dish made of boiled cornmeal. Usually, yellow maize is used to make the cornmeal, but buckwheat and white maize are common too as are combinations of the three. Before the introduction of corn in the 16th century, other starches like farro, chestnut flour, millet, spelt and chickpea flour were used. To make polenta, the grain is simmered in four to five times the amount of water for a slow period until the water has been absorbed and an even gelatinization of the starch occurs within the polenta.

Polenta Variations You Can Try

You don’t have to make polenta one way. Learning multiple ways to make polenta can open up a new world of new dishes to enjoy. Whether you bake, fry, grill, or cook it stovetop, polenta is an exciting addition to your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Here are a few popular variations you can try when exploring all the ways to prepare this Italian dish.

When looking for different ways to make polenta, you don’t always have to go savory. Polenta cake is an option!

There’s no limit to the kinds of tasty cakes you can make with polenta as your base. Try fruit toppings or creamy frosting. Experimenting with this style of cooking polenta can introduce you to a brand new gluten-free dessert option.

Polenta Log

Sometimes, life gets busy. You may realize that you don’t have time to turn that ground cornmeal into polenta for your dinner. When you’re in a hurry, some grocery stores may offer polenta logs!

These logs are pre-cooked servings of polenta. They come in a log-shaped container, making it convenient to slice and fry them if you’d like a savory side to your meal.

Fried Polenta

Sometimes, eating fries as a side for your meal can get boring. When you want to try a new crispy side to enjoy with your dinner, give fried polenta a whirl.

To try this side dish, make polenta and let it cool in your refrigerator for a couple of hours. Then, cut the chilled polenta into rectangles or circles and fry them in a skillet. The fried polenta bites develop a flaky, crisp layer on the outside, making them a delicious complement to your main dish.

Polenta Recipes You Can Try This Week

Now that you know a quick way to make a variation of polenta, let’s get to cooking! At Jow, we’re happy to offer you a variety of mouth-watering recipes that are quick and easy for you to make at home.

Here are a few of our favorite polenta recipes we’ve put together just for you.

Roasted Polenta Cakes

Want to try your hand at polenta cakes? It’s easier than you might think.

Our roasted polenta cakes combine sun-dried tomatoes, herbs, arugula, and zingy parmesan cheese to create a roasted meal you’ll love. You only need a few ingredients, and you can go from preparing this dish in the oven to eating it in under thirty minutes.

Polenta With Summer Veggies

Do you ever find yourself craving fresh ingredients and creamy textures simultaneously? Our polenta with summer veggies combines sautéed zucchini, thyme, and cherry tomatoes with polenta, milk, and garlic to create a perfect blend of crisp and creamy flavors.

Enjoy this creamy polenta dish when you want a light meal that’s different from your typical menu. The preparation work is minimal, too. You can enjoy this dish in under twenty-five minutes.

Steak and Cheddar Polenta

This savory protein-rich dish includes creamy cheese, hearty steak, and of course, polenta. The prep time isn’t long at all, so you can enjoy this dish with only twenty minutes of prep time. The bell peppers on top of our steak and cheddar polenta only make this dish more exciting!


Like oatmeal or rice, polenta is versatile and can be served in a variety of ways at any meal of the day. What’s added to it and how it’s presented can make it feel part of an elegant meal or just a simple lunch. There are different types of polenta based on the preparation of the dish:

  • Coarse ground polenta
  • Finely ground polenta
  • Instant polenta
  • White polenta
  • Precooked (tube) polenta

Where to Buy Polenta

Polenta is ground cornmeal, so look for either packaged polenta or ground cornmeal in your grocery store. It’s normally in the baking aisle and sold in boxes or bags and retails for less than $5. Pre-made tubes of cooked polenta are also widely available. They are usually sold in a 16-ounce size and also cost less than $5. These can be sliced and then fried or baked. To buy in bulk, the best route would be to buy a large quantity of ground cornmeal from a club or restaurant supply store.

How Is Polenta Different From Grits?

It’s easy to get these two foods confused. Grits and polenta look a lot alike, and their consistency tends to be similar, too. To be fair, their origins are almost the same, with one key difference. While grits originate from white corn, polenta originates from ground yellow corn.

The way you cook these dishes also impacts the way they taste. While grits tend to have a jelly-like consistency, polenta is slightly thicker. Many people also eat grits as strictly a breakfast meal, whereas polenta has a more extensive range as a breakfast, dinner, or side dish.

How Is Polenta Different From Semolina?

Many people also have difficulty distinguishing between polenta and semolina. The main difference is that, while semolina is a coarsely-ground substance, it derives from wheat rather than corn, meaning it contains gluten.

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