Do you want to know how to make polenta? I’m going to make you into a polenta pro with this post. You’ll learn how to make Creamy Polenta, how to make Grilled Polenta, and how to make Fried Polenta!
What is Polenta?
What is polenta? Polenta is a pretty simple food — it’s boiled cornmeal. You can make Creamy Polenta (the first polenta recipe in the list), which has a porridge-like texture. You can also let it chill in the refrigerator until it takes on a firm texture and then grill it (recipe #2) or fry it (recipe #3). Polenta is filling and versatile!
Should Polenta be Made with Water or Another Liquid?
“Polenta purists” insist that if you’re learning how to make polenta, you should only make it with water (and that’s what you’ll do with these recipes) because that gives you the strongest cornmeal flavor. However, as with any popular recipe, the basic polenta recipe has been modified many times, and people make polenta with other liquids such as:
- Chicken stock
- Vegetable broth
- Half and half
You can also add ingredients like butter, herbs, spices, and Parmesan cheese to your polenta recipe. A basic polenta recipe like the one I’m going to show you is a wonderful foodie blank canvas. Modify it to suit your preferences!
What to Serve with Polenta
Polenta can be served with a variety of foods:
- Savory main dishes like Baked Pork Chops with Garlic and Broccoli or Orange-Glazed Salmon with Asparagus
- Marinara dip (grilled or fried polenta)
If you would serve corn with a recipe or food, then serving it with polenta is fair game!
How to Make Polenta: Creamy Polenta
If you want to know how to make Grilled or Fried Polenta, you have to know how to make Creamy Polenta. That’s because the Creamy Polenta recipe serves as the base for Grilled or Fried Polenta. You’ll make Creamy Polenta, refrigerate it, and then move on to the additional steps for grilled or fried.
Here is how to make Creamy Polenta:
Step #1: Over medium-high heat, heat water in a large saucepan until it is almost boiling. Once the water begins to bubble, whisk in polenta. Stir continually until it begins to thicken. Season with salt to taste, then stir to combine.
Step #2: Reduce heat to just below medium. Then continue to cook, stirring every 4-5 minutes, until the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pan and becomes soft and tender. This will take approximately 40-45 minutes.
Step #3: Remove pan from heat. Stir in butter if using it, and add salt if desired. Serve immediately as a side dish, or you can top it with your favorite savory main meal.
How to Make Polenta: Fried Polenta
To make Fried Polenta, follow the instructions to make Creamy Polenta. Then, you will follow several additional steps (in the recipe card) to firm up your polenta and fry it in a skillet.
How to Make Polenta: Grilled Polenta
To make Grilled Polenta, follow the instructions to make Creamy Polenta. Then, you will follow several additional steps (in the recipe card) to firm up your polenta and grill it on a regular grill or gas grill.
You’re Now a Polenta Pro!
Now that you’ve learned how to make polenta, you’re a polenta pro! You can make this quick, convenient, and delicious dish anytime you’d like.
- 5 cups water
- 1 cup medium or coarse polenta or cornmeal
- Sea salt, to taste
- (Optional) 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Over medium-high heat, heat water in a large saucepan until it is almost boiling. Once the water begins to bubble, whisk in polenta. Stir continually until it begins to thicken. Season with salt to taste, then stir to combine.
- Reduce heat to just below medium. Then continue to cook, stirring every 4-5 minutes, until the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pan and becomes soft and tender. This will take approximately 40-45 minutes.
- Remove pan from heat. Stir in butter if using it, and add salt if desired. Serve immediately as a side dish, or you can top it with your favorite savory main meal. (Succulent Braised Pork Roast or this Tuscan Meat Ragu are good choices.)
- Using olive oil, grease an 8” by 8” glass baking dish. (Alternatively, you can spray it with a non-stick cooking spray.) Spread Creamy Polenta into a baking dish in an even layer. Cover and refrigerate until the cooked polenta is firm to the touch.
- Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator. Using a butter knife, gently loosen around the edges. Put a paper towel on top of the polenta and use your hand to hold it in place. Gently turn over the dish, supporting the paper towel and polenta with your hand. Tap the bottom of the dish until the polenta fully releases.
- Transfer (carefully) the solid piece of polenta to a cutting board. With a knife, cut the polenta into quarters, then cut each quarter piece in half diagonally so you end up with 8 wedges.
- Next, over medium-high heat, add a little olive oil to a large, non-stick skillet. Add the 8 polenta wedges to the pan. Cook until golden brown on each side, which will take approximately 1-2 minutes per side. Remove the fried wedges from the heat and serve immediately with marinara sauce to dip or your favorite toppings.
- Using non-stick cooking spray, spray a grill pan or the grates of a gas grill. (If using a gas grill, clean the grates with a stiff wire brush before you spray the cooking spray.)
- If using a regular grill, heat the grill pan over medium heat. If using a gas grill, pre-heat to medium. Take a little olive oil and carefully brush each side of the 8 polenta wedges with olive oil before placing them on the hot grill surface.
- Cook each polenta wedge until they’re golden brown and grill marks appear. Flip and repeat on the other side. Remove the grilled wedges from the grill and serve immediately with your favorite toppings, with a hot bowl of soup, or in salads.