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23 Best Polenta Recipes (All Types)

Polenta with poached eggs and a glass of juice.

As you ponder over how to eat your polenta, there are so many directions to take this grain. Polenta is, after all, a grain as it comes from corn. Ground cornmeal coarsely milled creates this creamy porridge-like consistency that can’t be beat. Whether it’s breakfast and creamy polenta, or baked or fried polenta squares with cheese and vegetables, polenta goes a long way.

This is similar to grits, by the way, which is the southerner’s version of polenta. Both contain coarsely ground cornmeal that is medium in texture compared to cornmeal used in cornbread. Learn more about how to eat polenta, even when it is time for dessert, with this recipe round up.

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1. Breakfast First! Beer Polenta with Creamy Chard & Eggs Recipe

Polenta with poach egg and a slice of butter.

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A way to start the day starts with beer. Reserve a cup of pale ale and add it to this creamy chard and eggs recipe. Corn polenta and Parmigiano-Reggiano with eggs? What more could you ask for for a breakfast or brunch dish? You are also poaching these eggs, which is a unique technique for making eggs more palatable. 

2. Try a Side Dish of a Polenta Made Creamier by The Modern Proper

Creamy Polenta with black berries and a glass of juice.

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For days when you are starting out slow and easy, and chard is too hard on the time clock, stick with a bowl of polenta. This is a very basic cornmeal recipe that takes corn grits and cooks them down with Parmesan. If you add a poached egg, like in the previous recipe, you are actually going more Italian with this dish.

That’s interesting and good to know. I will say, though, The Modern Proper is wrong about one thing. You cannot use the same cornmeal for cornbread as you use for grits; it won’t be the same consistency. Grits for polenta dishes are typically made with ground hominy, which is a lye-soaked corn, while cornmeal comes straight from dried yellow or white corn. 

3. Keep ‘Em Coming! Food and Wine’s Version of an Easy to Make Polenta Dish

Polenta dish with carrots and skillet.

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This is a very basic polenta recipe by Food and Wine that uses Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to bulk up the dish. In fact, you need two packed cups of grated cheese for two cups of uncooked polenta for this recipe. That’s a lot of cheese, but it is worth it. Using low-sodium broth for the recipe is a good move in order to reduce the salt content.

4. The NY Times Called, They Want Their Basic Polenta Back

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Next, we have a recipe from The NY Times for basic polenta. Is it really basic to make? It actually takes an hour, which is a long time for most dishes. However, the recipe only uses five ingredients, and one is optional. If you have cornmeal and butter, plus salt and pepper, you can make polenta. If you use parmesan cheese, this creates a soft polenta that is spoonable. 

5. More Boost for Lunch! Parmesan Cheese in a Polenta Ups the Protein

Polenta with cheese and olive oil.

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The creamy polenta that you want to take to lunch with you is this one. You are going to use garlic and onions to create a rich flavor followed by plenty of parmesan cheese. Using cheese in a polenta dish increases the protein amount substantially. If you want to add a protein-rich food to your lunch box, this is a great recipe as it can be kept for up to a day in the fridge.

6. Fried Polenta Squares to Make Fast at Home for a Mid-Day Meal

Fried Polenta Squares and tissue.

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Frying polenta does a few things. First of all, you are increasing the ability to carry this food with you, especially for a lunch box or picnic. A fried square of polenta will hold up super well to the rigors of a river boat ride or a train trip. When you fry food, you also add a lot of oil. This increases the fat content in the food, so don’t eat these too often or you’ll increase your fat intake as well. 

7. How Does Love and Lemons Make Polenta? For a Snack, Of Course!

Creamy Polenta on a bowl and a cloth.

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Next, this recipe by Love and Lemons brings up a lot of talk about how long traditional polenta takes on the stovetop. If you want polenta for a snack, you need to have a fast-cooked version. I personally use instant 5-minute grits, but this recipe suggests grinding coarse ground cornmeal yourself.

Either way, these are two ways to make polenta faster so you can enjoy it more often at home. Five-minute grits can easily be used for this recipe or any of the other polenta recipes you see here.

8. Let’s Make Dinner! Oven Roasting Polenta Saves Stovetop Space

Roasted Polenta with yellow bell pepper on a skillet.

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When you oven roast polenta, you are cutting down on the hands-on time you will spend with the dish. So does it work or will you have very dry polenta? Thanks to up to six cups of water, you are going to be able to cook one cup of cornmeal to a moist consistency. This reminds me of Native American spoon bread, which is like a cornbread you eat with a spoon–it is the same concept.

Here you have a polenta that is smooth and creamy, and must be scooped out to eat. Serve this with a meal of meats or veggies to give your family a full spread of nutrients and minerals. Corn alone can be high in sugar and lead to a blood sugar spike if you are pre-diabetic. 

9. Add a Side of Fries, But Healthier With Baked Polenta Fries

Baked fried polenta with cheese and a grater.

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A side of baked polenta fries is a great way to serve this dish. When you have polenta fries, you also need a fry dip or fry sauce, and this recipe delivers on that note, too. Suggestions they offer include tzatziki, mint dip, BBQ sauce, and ketchup–or blue cheese dip, which sounds super flavorful and unique.

I’m always looking for ways to eat the blue cheese salad dressing I buy, and nobody else wants to eat.  Fries that are not fried are always offputting to me, so really, I would end up deep frying these anyway. 

10. Purists Demand Creamy Polenta, the David Lebovitz Way

Creamy polenta with mushroom with cheese.

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Here I finally have a recipe that adds some herbs to the polenta. A healthy handful of fresh sage, thyme, and parsley works for David Lebovitz. He provides a nice discussion of his personal use of polenta for lunches that are in competition with pizza take-out. The author also points out that you need to let polenta cook for a while and not speed up the process.

This breaks down the corn grain and gives you a creamier texture in the finished dish. Another fun addition to this recipe is mascarpone cheese. This type of cheese is readily available in most grocery stores and at deli counters. Increase your intake of various cheeses to get a better understanding of which kinds of cheeses you prefer both raw and melted, as with this polenta dish.

11. Party Time! Grana Padano Cheese for an Italian Polenta Fondue

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If you want to fondue the next time, make it a polenta and Grana Padano cheese fondue. This is a recipe involving heavy whipping cream and milk for even more of a creamy texture. Use this dippable polenta along with crusty bread or hard bread sticks, or maybe even fried cheese sticks.

The fondue of polenta is cheesy and spreads easily across most dipped foods. You can also spoon this over toast and eggs with some bacon. The Grana Padano cheese is a high end variety that you will need to search a bit to find, so this is more of a special occasion meal. That, of course, is what fondue cheese meals typically are–a party in a pot!

12. Roasted Vegetables and Parmesan for a Full Meal of Polenta

Polenta with Poach eggs and basils in a skillet.

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Now I have a recipe for you that brings out a new meal altogether–ratatouille. This is a heavy veg meal that consists of a lot of seasonings. The vegetables, which include zucchini and tomato, hit the polenta hard with flavor. Use this meal for a full recipe focused on the zing in the balsamic vinegar for a unique flavor profile.

I personally am a huge fan of balsamic vinegar and vinagerettes, keeping a strawberry balsamic vinegarette in the fridge to use as a dip for fried tofu nuggets. If you have a balsamic vinegarette in the fridge, you could easily substitute that here for the balsamic vinegar for a more gourmet flavored dish.

13. A Gourmet Spread of Goat Cheese in Polenta With Roasted Vegetables

A bowl of polenta with over easy eggs.

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As it stands, I have a thing for goat cheese. And this recipe for goat cheese and roasted veg in a polenta bowl is all the rage. Poaching an egg and adding it to the dish creates a full, balanced meal. It also makes this dish more authentically Italian.

You are also going to be more encouraged to eat your veggies when you have a warm, smooth bowl of cornmeal polenta to eat with them. Adding the goat cheese and a poached egg is going to fill you up even more, thanks to the high amounts of protein in these foods.

14. The NY Times is Back With ‘Shrooms and Kale in a Vegan Polenta

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If you are a mushroom and kale fan, which I am not, you will fall head over heels in love with this dish, I am sure. I did not, but that just goes to show the versatility of polenta aka grits that I personally adore. Not using anything dairy, including the typical cheese, does make this dish different for most polenta connoisseurs.

It also makes it a vegan recipe, which is a winner for a lot of folks. You could, of course, use vegan cheeses for any of these recipes, and Parmesan is preferred among those who are lactose intolerant thanks to its high protein and low lactic acid.

15. Go Rich With a Tomato Sauce and Ricotta Cheese in Baked Polenta

Tomato Sauce and Ricotta Cheese in Baked Polenta.

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The use of tomato sauce and ricotta cheese with baked polenta goes up to a degree that is past just polenta for me. It’s almost a lasagna at this point. I mean, whenever I put ricotta cheese on the grocery list, I automatically think of lasagna, don’t you?

Using these two very rich ingredients gives the baked polenta a ton of punch and flavor impact. By layering creamy baked polenta squares to resemble long, thick lasagna noodles, you actually do get a version of lasagna. This is a great way to showcase Italian flavors while trying new food textures, such as the corny polenta.

16. Italian Polenta Skillet for Individual Servings to Freeze for Later

Italian Polenta Skillet in a plate and grated cheese.

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Ground turkey meat is the choice of many families looking to reduce red meat consumption but still needing animal protein. I really like the looks of this polenta skillet. You get individual portions that are made using polenta in a tube. When you have tube shaped polenta, you can cut it quite conveniently into perfectly portioned circles.

Using these in this recipe for an Italian polenta skillet controls the portions for you when serving the meal. After you slice the polenta, leave it in circles when frying, and use this to create pockets for cheese to rest upon. It actually looks like poached eggs in tomato sauce, which is another popular Italian dish often on the menu. 

17. Add Saffron and Pistachio to Polenta When You Want to Make Life More Interesting

Polenta with raspberry in a bowl.

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In the Middle East, such as in Turkey or Pakistan, they eat a lot of saffron spice and pistachio nuts. In fact, these are the key ingredients to a lot of popular Mediterranean dishes, like Greek baklava and Persian nut brittle. You don’t need a lot of saffron, which is super expensive, to make this dish.

Also, the nearly one cup full of chopped pistachios definitely gives the otherwise creamy polenta texture and crunch. I would say this dish would work wonderfully with satay meats on a stick, such as roasted lamb or chicken breast. The saffron spice is quite sour in fact, and it will hold up well to most strong flavored barbecued meats.

18. Harvest Season Demands Grape Tomatoes and Green Spinach in Baked Polenta

A bowl of polenta and cherry tomatoes.

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I want to point out that this recipe author comes from India and they did not eat polenta in their home country. However, you can find polenta in Indian cuisine, which is called khichdi or corn polenta upma. The recipe stars the Indian spice of cardamom, and I’ll share that recipe with you next.

Meanwhile, here is a way to cook baked polenta for a healthier version. You add whole red grape tomatoes and green spinach leaves to the dish. Depending on the time of the year, this recipe is a great way to highlight the foods of the harvest season. There is little I love more than popping a tiny tomato off of a vine at home during the heat of summer and adding that to a dish!

19. Indian Style Polenta Called Khichdi

Indian style polenta called khichdi.

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Using some very Indian ingredients and spices, you can create a really exotic polenta dish at home. Here you have a khichdi, which calls for ghee, black mustard seeds, ginger paste, and garam masala. The injection of Indian flavors will also bring a new type of cuisine to your family or household. 

There are also the additions of toppings like leftover curry or yogurt. You could also top this polenta with some cooked chickpeas roasted with spices for a different base than the usual white rice.

20. More Fall Foods? Epicurious Comes Up With Butternut Squash Polenta

Baked butternut squash polenta.

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As you thought recipes could not be any more crazy for polenta, this Epicurious dish by Anna Stockwell comes full of intrigue. How? They use butternut squash to create a filling and an orange toned component. The result is a recipe perfect for fall and ready to take for any potluck.

Adding sage leaves to the top also lends Thanksgiving Day meal vibes. You will need to hack into a full and fresh whole butternut squash. Also, Fontina cheese will be going on your weekly shopping list.

21. For Movie Night, Get Crunchy With an Italian Polenta Chip Recipe

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Try your hand at making Italian polenta chips. This recipe is perfect for a movie night, or to add to your lunch box during a busy week. Making chips out of polenta is not as hard as it sounds either and can be quite healthy if you bake them. Polenta chips are bound to be better than kale chips.

Can we all just be honest about that? Whatever flavors you want to use here are going to pop as well. Italian seasonings using dried herbs will certainly be a winner. However, I can see using garlic salt or lemon pepper to create a vibrant and unstoppable chip. 

22. Let’s Eat Dessert! Great British Chefs Bake Orange Almond Polenta Bundt Cake

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Now it is time to round out this recipe roundup of polenta with dessert dishes, starting with a fun and intentionally sweet recipe idea. Take your corny polenta and mix it into an orange and almond flavored Bundt cake. This requires the use of a specialized baking tin called a Bundt pan, which has a hole in the center.

The pan increases air circulation and helps the cake bake easily even though it is rich and moist. Using almond flavoring and sweet orange oil adds to the cake without taking on too much of a fake flavor. 

23. Blood Orange and Poppy Shortbread Polenta Cookies to Close the Curtains

Polenta short bread with cream and strawberry.

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This final recipe is for a blood orange and poppy seed shortbread cookie. The cookies are unique in that they use polenta. That familiar cornmeal gives the cookies a great bite and plenty of crunch. You are also increasing the fiber intake compared to the use of white wheat flour for cookies.

Blood oranges are a fun and seasonal fruit that really takes the concept of blood to a new level. You have a bloody red pulp that is almost shocking and equally as tasty as a normal orange. This would be a great recipe to bake for Halloween or any time when blood oranges are on the menu.