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    Creamy Polenta Recipe

    Published May 22, 2019. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

    Creamy polenta is an amazing Italian recipe of cooked yellow cornmeal in a seasoned broth and finished with butter and parmesan cheese for the perfect side dish.

    a bowl of creamy polenta with parmesan cheese

    This is such a staple in Italian cuisine.  Polenta is incredibly easy to make and can be made in a variety of ways, from soft creamy polenta like this recipe or even fried up and served as a cake.  Regardless this recipe will give you perfect polenta every time and make for an amazing side dish to any main entree.

    Polenta

    It is essentially the Italian version of the southern classic, grits.  This polenta recipe is made from cornmeal; That’s it.  The cornmeal used in this dish is a different breed of corn cut differently, so it’s not a perfect 1-to-1 comparison.  However, the flavor profiles are very similar, and the method is just about the same.

    So the next time you see a package of cornmeal at the grocery store, that is your first step to making a creamy polenta recipe.

    Is It the Same as Grits?

    They are both very similar, but classically grits are made from white corn hominy, while polenta is made from yellow corn.  Also, I think you’ll find the yellow cornmeal cut specifically for polenta to be much more coarse in texture.

    What is Polenta Made Of?

    It’s simply two ingredients, but there are countless ways to enhance it to make it taste better.  The two most simple ingredients are chicken stock and cornmeal.  The other ingredients you can add to help enhance the flavors are:

    • Onions
    • Garlic
    • Butter
    • Cream
    • Cheese
    • Herbs

    Is It Bad For You?

    In its simplest form containing only chicken stock and cornmeal, polenta is relatively healthy, with a good amount of fiber and protein.  It’s when you start to add in all of the fats that it can begin to become unhealthy.

    What Is the Ratio of Polenta to Water?

    If you want this to be a super creamy polenta, use a ratio of 4:1 liquid to cornmeal.   If you want the regular version, then it is 3:1 liquid to cornmeal, which is actually what I used in this recipe.

    How to Make Polenta

    Making this creamy polenta recipe is so incredibly easy that you’ll wonder why you haven’t made it before.

    It starts with caramelizing up some chopped yellow onion and finely minced garlic cloves in a small amount of olive oil in a 6 or 8-quart pot.  This can take up to 10 minutes or so but will be well worth it when it comes to the result.

    Once the onions and garlic are brown in a medium-size pot in olive oil, add the chicken stock and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.

    step by step procedures to make creamy polenta

    When the stock is boiling, pour in the cornmeal while vigorously whisking constantly to ensure there are no clumps in the polenta. Turn the heat down to medium-low.  This is the most important stage of the entire cooking process because the cornmeal needs to be cooked without any chunks in it.  This process can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes.

    Once the creamy polenta is finished, it should be smooth with no crunch.  At this point, stir in some whole butter, Parmesan cheese and salt, and pepper.

    How to Serve Polenta

    It’s not only delicious as a side dish, but it is also a recipe that works great as a main component of the main meal.  For example, you can fold roasted vegetables and chicken into it, or you can put some creamy shrimp all over the top of it.

    I recommend trying and using polenta as the base of the main entree or as a side dish or eating it as it is because this recipe is delicious all by itself.  Try serving it with these recipes:

    Make-Ahead and Storage

    How To Reheat: Add the desired amount of polenta back into a medium-size pot over low heat with a 1/2 cup of chicken stock.  You may need more chicken stock.

    Make-Ahead: You can make this recipe up to 1 day ahead of time.

    How To Store: Store it covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

    Chef Billy Parisi

    chef notes + tips

    • I prefer medium coarsely ground cornmeal to make the creamy polenta because I like it to be a bit more grainy.
    • In my personal opinion, I think onions, butter, and cheese is the perfect addition to a basic recipe.
    • It is ok to sub unsalted butter for olive oil when cooking the onions.
    • You can substitute the chicken stock for vegetables or water when cooking the polenta.
    • If you wanted to kick it up even more, you could caramelize some mushrooms or root vegetables during this cooking stage. The point I’m trying to get at is that this creamy polenta recipe is malleable; customize it to your tastebuds!

    More Amazing Side Dish Recipes

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    Let's Cook - Chef Billy Parisi

    Video

    Creamy Polenta Recipe with Parmesan Cheese

    5 from 13 votes
    Enhance your main entree by serving this tasty and easy to make Creamy Polenta Recipe with Parmesan Cheese as a side dish for your next meal.
    Servings: 8
    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Cook Time: 30 minutes
    Total Time: 35 minutes

    Ingredients 

    • 1 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
    • 1/2 small diced small yellow onion
    • 2 finely minced cloves of garlic
    • 6 cups of chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
    • 2 cups of medium ground cornmeal
    • 2 ounces of unsalted butter
    • 2/3 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
    • sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

    Instructions

    • In a medium-size pot on medium-high heat add in the olive oil and cook the onions and garlic until they are browned about 3 to 7 minutes.
    • Pour in the liquid and bring to a boil.
    • Once boiling pour in the cornmeal while continuing to vigorously stir with a whisk to ensure no clumps are formed, about 15 to 20 minutes. When the cornmeal is poured in, turn the heat down to medium-low.
    • Finish off the polenta by stirring in butter, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper until completely combined. Cook for a further 5 minutes over low heat. Garnish with parmesan and parsley.
    • Serve hot, enjoy!

    Notes

    CHEF NOTES:
    • How To Reheat: simply add the desired amount of polenta back into a medium-size pot over low heat and add in about a 1/2 cup of warm chicken stock to reconstitute it and loosen it up.  You may need more chicken stock. 
    • Make-Ahead: You can make this recipe up to 1 day ahead of time. 
    • How To Store: Store it covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 
    • I prefer to use medium ground cornmeal to make the creamy polenta with because I like it to be a bit more grainy, but that’s just me, so feel free to use a finer ground.
    • In my personal opinion, I think onions, butter, and cheese is the perfect addition to a basic recipe.
    • It is absolutely ok to sub unsalted butter for olive oil when cooking the onions.
    • You can substitute the chicken stock for vegetable stock or even just water when cooking the polenta.
    • If you wanted to kick it up, even more, you could caramelize up some mushrooms or root vegetables during this cooking stage as well. The point I’m trying to get at is that this creamy polenta recipe is malleable, customize is it to your tastebuds!

    Nutrition

    Calories: 328kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 12gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 444mgPotassium: 335mgFiber: 4gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 242IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 111mgIron: 2mg
    Course: Side Dish
    Cuisine: Italian
    Author: Chef Billy Parisi