How to Make Your Own Polenta

How to Make Your Own Polenta

How to Make Your Own Polenta
Polenta is one of those ingredients that’s great for bulking up just about any vegetarian meal. Whether you serve it porridge-style topped with a poached egg and greens, or mold it into a sliceable shape for baking, grilling, or frying, you should try making it at home — sure, buying those tubes of polenta is convenient, but homemade tastes better and you can customize your polenta with fresh herbs, cheeses, and other ingredients. And it’s easy to do!

Homemade polenta has only 3 basic ingredients, minus any mix-ins you might add, and it comes together fairly quickly, with about 30 minutes active time. Double the recipe and have some for dinner tonight, then keep the rest in the fridge for later in the week — it will last for 4-5 days.

Here’s how to make your own polenta!

Gather your ingredients + bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

How To Make PolentaYou’ll need 3 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup of dry polenta (also known as cornmeal). You can also add butter and other mix-ins, like cheese or fresh herbs, if you like.

Bring the water and salt to a boil in a large deep pot. The deep pot is important! Polenta splatters and bubbles while it cooks, so you’ll want to be sure you have enough depth in the pot that it doesn’t splatter all over you and your kitchen.

Add the polenta to the water.

How To Make PolentaOnce the water has come to a rolling boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly add the dry polenta, stirring with a long handled spoon to incorporate.

Cook the polenta over medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes.

How To Make PolentaWhile the polenta is cooking, stir it frequently and cook it until it has become very thick — this should take 20-25 minutes, but if you’re making a bigger batch, the cooking time could increase slightly. (Note that there are instant polentas you can buy too — these require a much shorter cooking time!)

If you would like to season the polenta with more salt and pepper, or add a few tablespoons of butter, now is your chance. You can also add in additional flavorings at this point depending on what type of dish you are making:

For cheesy polenta, add 1/4-1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese to the polenta base.

For a more Italian flair, stir in a tablespoon or two of store-bought pesto.

For a hearty Mediterranean-inspireed polenta, try adding 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper, 2 tablespoons minced kalamata olives, and 3 tablespoons of minced flat leaf parsley.

Other mix-ins that we’ve tried include cheddar and fontina cheeses, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and minced garlic. Feel free to get creative with your polenta!

If you are making porridge-style polenta than you can stop here and serve it, but to make a sliceable polenta like the tubes you see at the store, you will want to complete the next few steps.

Pour the prepared polenta into a well-oiled mold.

How To Make PolentaThere’s no right or wrong mold for your polenta. It can be a bowl, muffin tins, or even a small baking dish like I used here. The only thing that does really matter is that you generously oil the surface that will be in direct contact with the polenta. Wait for 10 minutes for the polenta to cool and set in the mold.

Remove the polenta from the mold and slice.

How To Make PolentaTo unmold the polenta, simply place a plate or serving dish over the top of the mold, then carefully turn the mold and plate over so that the mold is upside down flush against the plate. The polenta should slide right out of the mold, but if it seems to be having a little trouble simply wiggle the mold back and forth a bit until you hear the suction break. Slice the polenta with a butter knife into 1-2 inch thick slices and serve immediately, or you can pan-fry, bake, or grill the polenta until it’s golden brown and crispy.

Polenta Recipes to Try

Baked Polenta Fries with Garlic Tomato Sauce RecipeBaked Polenta Fries with Garlic Tomato Dipping Sauce // Slicing the polenta into fries and baking them in the oven makes a delicious, crispy side for veggie burgers.

Sage Polenta Bowls with Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Wild Mushrooms // A creamy polenta base topped with oven-roasted vegetables — make a summertime version by using fresh basil and roasted tomatoes, zucchini, and corn.

Veggie-Loaded Polenta Bake // A dinner so easy, it doesn’t even need a recipe!

Grilled Veggie Salad with Basil-Parmesan Polenta // Grilling polenta gives it a smoky flavor that’s perfect in this summer salad.

Mexican Baked Polenta with Salsa Beans & Sautéed Veggies // Use molded polenta instead of store-bought polenta tubes in this Mexican-inspired dinner.

Chili Pot Pie // Homemade chili gets topped with a polenta “crust” to make a hearty pot pie.

Smoked Cheddar Grits with Broiled Heirloom Tomatoes // Grits? Yes! Grits are the Southern version of polenta — they’re also made by simmering cornmeal and water on the stovetop.

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Julie, polenta fries are my kids favorite and individual polenta crust pizzas make for a close second. I am glad you like the tutorial:)

When I was about really young I saw a demo of how to make polenta on a cooking show. I was totally fascinated but failed to take notes, so when I went on into the kitchen to give it a shot I ended up with a loaf pan full of slop. That came to mind as I read your instructions and I had to laugh! Wish I had this tutorial back then 🙂

Wow! I never knew it was that simple to make homemade polenta! I think I would likely eat an entire pot of parmesan, basil and sun dried tomato! Yummy! Is it ok to add that many toppings, or would that change the consistency?
Thanks for a super easy step-by-step recipe (great photos, too!) that I know I’ll be making VERY soon! 🙂

Gretchen, adding toppings doesn’t change the consistency enough for it to be a huge difference. Just make sure that if you are molding the polenta to slice you chop up your additions very small.

we do our polenta rather plain: a bit of butter, freshly grated parmesan and fresh thyme. then into a mold and store to cool down. afterwards i fry them in a pan and serve it with ratatouille or bell peppers

So glad you posted this! My one time tasting polenta you could slice was from a package and it was horrible. For some reason, I didn’t realize I could mold it myself! I’ve only made it “soft” if you will. Can’t wait to try this!

Leah, I like it SO much better when it is sliced rather than porridge style. I don’t really know why I think it is more of a psychological thing for me. Ha! I feel like polenta “steaks” are more satisfying than a bowl of polenta.

I am SO behind on blog reading and this is the first recipe I saw tonight. I’m so pumped!!! I love polenta and this post is totally my style!!! love it!!!

Yay Andrea!! I am so glad that you liked the post:) I’m behind on my blog reading too…I have to get busy!

Honestly, I could eat polenta with EVERY MEAL and be quite content. I usually make it as a porridge-y base for soaking up sauces, but I like this idea of molding and then frying it!

Every time I try to mold polenta it crumbles apart when I try to cut the mold! However I tried your suggestion of putting it in mini muffin tins and those did work. But any tips for getting the mold to hold better? I want to try cutting it into “steak” shapes, but I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. Thanks!

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