Wondering how to make polenta from cornmeal? Follow this easy polenta recipe and tips for delicious, creamy polenta every time!
Do you have cornmeal in your pantry? How about salt?
That's pretty much all you need to whip up this easy polenta recipe, making it the perfect thing to cook while groceries are limited during COVID-19.
Polenta is such a versatile side too. It's great for breakfast as well as lunch or dinner. Warm and comforting, it makes the perfect base for anything with a delicious sauce you want to soak up.
If it's not already in your repertoire, I have a feeling polenta is one of those things that will stick around long after “pantry cooking” is a thing.
I hope you love it!
Easy Polenta Recipe
- 1 cup medium grind cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 cups water
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil.
- Add 1 cup cornmeal, whisking constantly.
- Add 1⁄2 tsp salt and reduce heat to low.
- Continue to cook for 30-35 minutes. Whisk occasionally, making sure to scrape edges/bottom of pan to avoid sticking. Remove from heat.
What is polenta?
Polenta is a porridge made from cornmeal. It originated in Italy, though it's super versatile in terms of flavor profile.
While traditionally served as a porridge, it can also be chilled and cut into rounds or squares, which are then baked or fried into polenta cakes. You may see polenta sold in tubes at the grocery store – this variety is meant to be sliced and baked or fried.
Is polenta gluten free?
Polenta is made from corn and thus is naturally gluten free. If you have an allergy, make sure your cornmeal was processed in a gluten free facility.
However, just because corn is naturally gluten free, does not necessarily mean it will agree with you if you have a gluten intolerance or celiac.
Corn contains a type of protein called zein which can cause inflammation in people with celiac. The reaction to corn is generally much more mild than to gluten though.
If you do have a gluten intolerance or celiac, it's worth tracking how consuming corn makes you feel so you're aware if you do have an intolerance.
Is polenta Paleo?
No, polenta is made from corn which is considered a grain so it is not strictly Paleo.
Is cornmeal a whole grain?
Whether or not it's a whole grain totally depends on the type of cornmeal you choose.
Just like other grains, dried corn can be degerminated or it can be ground with the hull and nutrient-dense germ (whole grain).
Most cornmeal you find at the grocery store will not be whole grain. This is because grinding with the hull and germ makes the cornmeal go bad much more quickly.
Whole grain cornmeal is available at specialty sites like Bob's Red Mill. If you do buy whole grain cornmeal, make sure to store it in the fridge or freezer so it lasts longer.
What type of cornmeal should I use?
Polenta is super simple to make, but choosing the right cornmeal is essential, and can be a little confusing.
You might see packages specifically labeled as “polenta,” but all this means is they contain the right grind of cornmeal for the dish. If your grocery store doesn't have polenta, no problem! All you really need is a medium or coarsely ground cornmeal.
Most importantly, make sure you don't use finely ground cornmeal, also called corn flour, which won't result in a good texture for your polenta.
How can I add flavor?
This basic polenta recipe is intentionally simple to allow you to use it as a base for just about anything. BUT you can definitely add some extra flavor right into the polenta if you wish.
Try cooking with vegetable or chicken broth instead of water (reduce salt as necessary).
Add some minced garlic or garlic powder when you add the cornmeal.
Add herbs such as finely minced rosemary to the mix.
What can I do with this easy polenta recipe?
You can use polenta any way you would use pasta. Serving with a meat sauce or a hearty vegetable ragu easily turns polenta into a main dish.
Don't be limited to an Italian flavor profile though! Once you learn how to make polenta, it really is super versatile. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Top with wilted spinach and fried or poached eggs
- Replace sweet potatoes with polenta in our healthy sloppy joes recipe
- Use instead of rice with anything Tex-Mex inspired like carnitas or chicken verde
- Serve in place of noodles / zoodles and top with shrimp and mushrooms
What are some other recipes with cornmeal?
Looking for more ideas on how to use the cornmeal in your pantry? Here are some of my favorite recipes using cornmeal!
For ideas on how to use pantry and freezer ingredients, make sure to download our full Prep Dish-style pantry / freezer menu here!