Creamy Polenta

Creamy polenta! This light and fluffy polenta is perfect for serving with ribs, chicken, pork, lamb, or veal, and is also great with roasted veggies.

Creamy Polenta Recipe
Elise Bauer

One of the tastiest, most versatile, and easiest side dishes to make is polenta. It makes a wonderful serving base for osso bucco, short ribs, or oxtail. It also makes a great base for vegetables, such as mushrooms or roasted broccoli.

What Is Polenta?

Polenta is a porridge type dish popular in Northern Italy. In Italy it is often made with various ingredients, including cornmeal, ground rice, buckwheat, and chestnut flour. Here in North America, it is generally made exclusively with coarsely ground cornmeal. Think of polenta as an Italian version of grits! But made with yellow corn instead of the white corn of grits.

You can make and serve polenta warm and porridge-like, or you can let it set and slice it to grill or fry.

How to Make Creamy Polenta

For this recipe, we are making a particularly creamy polenta, through the addition of butter and cream cheese. To make it, we first whisk polenta (coarse cornmeal) into boiling salted water. Then we lower the heat, stir in a little butter and cook the polenta for about 25 minutes. When the polenta is cooked through, soft and tender, we stir in some cream cheese to serve. Easy, right?

This polenta is so light, so fluffy, and creamy, it could almost be a dessert.

Change It Up!

This recipe is meant to be a guideline, feel free to experiment with it.

  • Swap some water for stock — We are using all water as the liquid in this recipe, you can easily swap out some of the water with chicken stock or broth.
  • Change the cheese — Cream cheese gives this polenta its creamy taste. That said, you could also use goat cheese, Parmesan, ricotta, mascarpone, or Mozzarella. All will result in a beautiful, delicious polenta.
  • Herb it up — Stir in a little dried or freshly chopped green herbs like parsley, chives, sage, thyme, or oregano.
  • Chill it and grill it — Make the polenta ahead, pour it into a loaf pan to set and chill it. Once set, you can slice it and grill the slices or toast them on the stovetop.
creamy yellow polenta in white bowl
Elise Bauer

What Kind of Cornmeal Should I Use for Polenta?

Look for a coarse grained yellow cornmeal; this will give you the right polenta texture. Fine grain cornmeal tends to cook up to mush. There are many brands that sell cornmeal specifically for polenta and say so on the package. Those are a good bet.

How to Make Ahead and Reheat

If preparing polenta in advance, cool, cover, and refrigerate it. Reheat the polenta on the stovetop or in the microwave (about 5 minutes on high), stirring in more liquid if necessary to loosen it. Stir vigorously after reheating to fluff. Serve immediately.

Here Are More Ways to Try Polenta:

Creamy Polenta

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 8 servings

If preparing polenta in advance, cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat on stovetop or in the microwave (about 5 minutes on high), adding more liquid if necessary. Stir vigorously after reheating to fluff.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or 1 teaspoon if using salted butter)

  • 1 cup yellow polenta or coarsely ground cornmeal

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup cream cheese

Method

  1. Whisk polenta into boiling salted water:

    Heat salted water (1 1/2 teaspoons of salt for 1 quart of water) to a boil over high heat in a thick-bottomed 2 or 3 quart pan. Slowly add the polenta into the boiling water, whisking while you add it to prevent any lumps from forming.

  2. Simmer and cook:

    Lower the heat to a very low simmer and add the butter. Continue to whisk the polenta until it starts to thicken. Then cover the pan and let the polenta cook for 25 minutes. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon so that the polenta doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. The polenta should be soft and tender when done. If not, let it cook a little longer.

  3. Add the cream cheese:

    Add the cream cheese and stir it into the polenta. Taste and add more salt if necessary. (You can also add more cream cheese if you want it to be even creamier.)

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
106 Calories
6g Fat
12g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 106
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 3g 17%
Cholesterol 15mg 5%
Sodium 469mg 20%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 13mg 1%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 54mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.