The Easiest-Ever Way to Make Perfectly Creamy Polenta
Polenta has a reputation for being unruly and high-maintenance to make at home, which couldn't be further from the truth. Cooking polenta is easy, and contrary to popular belief, you don't need to stand over it continuously stirring for ages. Follow this creamy polenta recipe and you'll see just how approachable a dish it really is.
Before you hit the grocery store, know that polenta is made from yellow corn kernels that have been dried and ground. We recommend buying medium- or coarsely-ground cornmeal— the better the cornmeal you start with is, the more thick and creamy your polenta recipe will turn out. In a pinch, instant polenta will do the trick.
Polenta is a super versatile ingredient that you'll find endless use for. It can be served in sweet or savory dishes, but pairs particularly well with rich, cheesy, salty ingredients. For an easy-to-make vegetarian main, we love mixing polenta with parmesan or mushrooms and tomatoes. You can also serve it with sausages and chard or broiled shrimp—they're comfort-food classics the whole family will love.
These super simple instructions should give you the best results for homemade polenta. (Pro tip: extra polenta will form into solid blocks as it cools. These leftovers can be cut and used to make delicious grilled or baked polenta, or you can drop bite-sized pieces into a deep cast-iron skillet or fryer filled with oil for polenta fries.)
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, but be sure to taste before you remove it from the heat. You can keep cooking it on low for longer (even 15 minutes more) for a deeper corn flavor and thicker consistency. Finish with a pat of butter, if desired.