How to Cook Polenta

You don’t have to stir it constantly. (Yesss!) And if you use these tips, it’s hard to mess up. Enjoy your creamy masterpiece in this Polenta Bake With Shrimp.

Cornmeal is marketed under many names, including polenta, yellow corn grits, and masa harina. Any variety will do, as long as it says “medium ground” or “coarse ground” on the label. Skip “instant” or “quick-cooking,” which yield bland results.


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Add the polenta to boiling water in a slow, steady stream, whisking as you go. This step is important. (Dump it all in at once and you’ll get a lumpy mixture that’s hard to fix.)


Whisk the polenta until it starts to thicken and spit (bubbles gently popping on the surface), then reduce heat to low.


Now you can walk away and whisk the polenta every 5 minutes or so. You just want to make sure that it doesn’t crust on the bottom and sides of the pan and that a skin doesn’t form on top. Stirring a skin into the pot creates lumps. If one develops, skim it off.


The polenta is finished after about 15 minutes—it will be thick and creamy. You can keep cooking it on low for longer (even 15 minutes more) for a deeper corn flavor. Finish with a pat of butter, if desired.