Creamy Polenta

If preparing in advance, cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in the microwave, about 5 minutes on high, just before serving. Stir vigorously after reheating to fluff.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8


  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (or 1 teaspoon if using salted butter)
  • 1 cup medium-grain yellow polenta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese


1 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, about 5 minutes. Quickly whisk in the polenta until fully incorporated.

2 Lower the heat to a very low simmer, add the butter and allow the polenta to cook, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan, for 25 minutes.

3 Finish by stirring in the cream cheese until it has melted 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.)

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  • Array RNape

    I used all chicken broth for the liquid and subbed goat cheese for the cream cheese. Amazing!

  • Array Dimas

    Polenta is a very common dish in Brazil, and we love it. A very good variation to serve with black coffe is a thicker one (I think more cooking or less liquid) fried with a film of oil,

    You cut it in 2 inchs long squared about 1/4 inch (litle bit larger than a potato for French fries) and toast it to brown in a pan. Serve hot.

  • Array CE

    I am so addicted to this dish!!! My husband requests it at least once a week. I serve it with all kinds of Italian food, but our absolute favorite is to top the polenta with braised balsamic chicken. It’s a moment in paradise!! Thank you so much for posting this recipe. Mangia!

  • Array Christina Stone

    I just made it with white corn meal and it reminds me of cream of wheat which i loved so much as a kid and coincidentally had been missing of late, except I think I’ll allergic to wheat so had been avoiding it. Now I can have it in polenta form. Thanks. Oh, and kids liked it, always nice surprise at our picky dinner table.

  • Array Mandy

    I have made this several times now and absolutely love it. Tonight I made it with mascarpone instead of cream cheese. Delish!

  • Array Rebecca

    Delicious! Used ricotta instead of the cream cheese because I had it on hand and it turned out perfectly. The first night we ate it with chicken paprikas ( your recipe as well :). The next morning my 18 month old and I finished it off for breakfast!

  • Array Anonymous

    Love, love love polenta. I use tofu cream cheese even in cheese cake (I know sounds gross but you cannot tell. I have served to many people and they cannot tell the difference) i am not vegan but love to eat rich food and have high cholesterol so try and find good substitutes. I believe the brand I use in Tofi ( I am not 100 percent sure as I am not looking at it) So after this long winded history am wondering if this would work in polenta?

  • Array Penny

    For breakfast lately I do this: add 1/4 c. polenta to 2 c. boiling water. Simmer and let thicken, then when it’s rich and bubbly, add grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and serve with sauteed mushrooms. For the deluxe version, top with a fried egg. Rainy morning heaven!

  • Array amurrayrubin

    My mouff is fool off polentha… Mmmmmmmm!

  • Array Ti

    Wow! I just made my first pot o’ polenta out of many more to come. Instead of water, I used 3 cups chicken stock and 1 cup milk. I also omitted the cream cheese as I used a blend of hard italian cheeses, 1 T honey, and a few gratings of nutmeg. Topped with a hearty mushroom sauce. This polenta could be altered several ways because the foundation is so fantastic! Thanks for such an amazingly simple terrific recipe! I have now subscribed to this tasty blog! :)

  • Array Marilena


    We make polenta in Romania similar to this a lot. We just boil it in water with salt until it is creamy as above and then we use it with sour cream and grated cheese or with yoghurt or with milk. The sour cream addition makes it irresistible!

  • Array Jerseymomof2

    Holy cow! This is fantastic! I’d made polenta years ago, but clearly I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. This is so good, I can’t wait until dinner. I keep eating it!

  • Array Melissa

    This was fantastic – super easy and delicious. Not overly cheesy or runny…just right. I used Bob’s Red Mill corn grits. Following the recipe ended up in enough for my husband and me, and maybe one more biggish serving leftover. I’m thinking of eating it with breakfast tomorrow. :)

  • Array patty

    My first attempt at polenta a while back was unremarkable, but I was finally up for trying it again and this was a huge hit! I used a bit less butter and cream cheese than called for and added pecorino for some added depth. It was so rich and delicious, we couldn’t stop eating it! Will definitely become a staple in our home

  • Array Dr. Epicure

    I absolutely love this recipe! It is also wonderful for variations…replace the cream cheese with mozzarella, use Neufchatel another time, use chicken broth instead of water, add garlic, experiment with different cheeses. You can do a little twist and have a different polenta each time, and each time it will be great!

    One thing though…always make it ahead of time! At the bare minimum, refrigerate it for 4 hours and then re-heat on the stove. You might need to add more liquid, up to 1.5 cups, as you fluff it up. Just keep sprinkling water (letting it get absorbed) and stirring until it’s the consistency you want. Each time I’ve made this, it’s been great right off the stove, but the next day it’s been SOOOOOO much better. The flavors get a chance to mingle, and the texture is heavenly (note–it will look like a gelatinous brick when you take it out of the fridge…fear not! Just keep whisking over medium heat adding water as needed, and it comes out beautifully).

    So, when you first make it, you’ll think “It can’t get better than this!” and you’ll want to eat it right away…resist temptation and put it in the fridge–you’ll be glad you did!

    Interesting that you like it better the next day. I prefer the freshly made to the leftovers myself. ~Elise

  • Array Alison @ Wholesome Goodness

    Oh, wow! This was fabulous. My husband had never tried polenta before, and I had never cooked it, but this was super easy and so tasty. I’ll definitely make this again. We love your recipes, Elise. Thanks!

  • Array Charlotte

    Wow! First time ever eating or making fresh polenta….this was outstanding! Thank you! P.S. not sure if there is a difference, but I did use “instant polenta”. Fantastic dish!

  • Array Nvrhom13

    When purchasing polenta for this recipe, could it be just yellow corn meal?

    According to the New York Times, yes, you can just use cornmeal. ~Elise

  • Array Mark

    This is my standard polenta recipe and it is foolproof if you follow the directions. We try to do a cheese tasting once a week. Then I’ll take several of the remaining pieces and put them in the food processor with 1 tbs cream, 1 tbs white wine, and puree. That will be the cheese mixture I add to the polenta along with the 1/2 the butter amount at the very end. Tonight a mixture of Rogue River Crater Lake Blue and a ripe french goat cheese (2 to 4 oz total)will finish the polenta and accompany a chanterelle and spinich stuffed pork tenderloin. Don’t count the calories, but it is an amazing combo. Thanks Elise, this is still my favorite food blog!

  • Array Penny

    You really want to make this a great dish, add a cup of each of Fontina and Parmesan (grated)Cheese. Wow it’s good.

  • Array Anonymous

    Tried your recipe tonight….I loved it! It was nice and creamy.

  • Array Joni

    I love this recipe! I have made it several times. It is like comfort food for me when I decide to eat carbs.