Creamy Polenta

4.75 from 4 votes
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Creamy Polenta – a delicious, creamy side dish that pairs with nearly any meal and is done in a flash!

I struggle with side dishes almost every night.  My family does not agree on vegetables unless it is Corn On The Cob or may be Side Salad.  And let’s face it that is because of the butter and salad dressing!

So when I can find something that suits all of us, it makes it into the rotation often.  This Polenta is one of those we all love! It is quick and easy to make, creamy, and can be really mixed up with different cheeses and seasonings to go with whatever we are having.

creamy polenta in a bowl with a spoon in it

 

WHAT EXACTLY IS POLENTA?

Polenta is coarsely ground cornmeal made from yellow corn, so yes, technically it is a vegetable although some would also consider it to be a starch. It is incredibly versatile and can be made into a variety of dishes to make a delicious side dish and even used as the base for a main course. The flavor profile is truly a blank canvas, so you can create whatever you’d like.

Creamy polenta recipes like this one are generally made from a dry, grainy base which is the ground corn. But you also might see some polenta packaged in a tube, almost like sausage. This is a premade polenta used for making little patties that are crunchy on the outside, but creamy on the inside. Equally delicious, but not what you’ll need for this recipe.

Polenta hails from Northern Italy where it was used as a farmer or peasant dish- quick and easy to prepare and also easy on the wallet, it could be made into bone-sticking porridge and leave you feeling full for hours. It is now used in many global cuisines.

polenta in a bowl

ARE POLENTA, CORNMEAL AND GRITS THE SAME THING?

While polenta, cornmeal, and grits are very similar, they are not exactly the same thing.

Polenta is made from yellow corn, as you can tell by the hue of our lovely creamy dish here, and is generally a fairly coarse grain. It is a little toothy and this is part of what I love about it- it isn’t perfectly smooth and has some body.

While cornmeal can be made from yellow corn as well (also white), it is a far finer grind and thus generally used in recipes like cornbread or even to dust pizza peels to prevent dough from sticking and give it a crunchy crust.

Lastly, grits are also a fairly coarse grind but made from white corn, also known as hominy, so they can be swapped in many polenta recipes, but will give a lighter appearance.

ingredients for creamy polenta

WHAT YOU WILL NEED

  • Milk– for the creamiest possible polenta, I highly suggest using a full fat milk, but if you have 2% or skim, those will work fine as well.
  • Chicken Broth– One of my favorite kitchen tips and tricks is to use broth for rice, polenta and other similar dishes where you can add more flavor than water. Vegetable broth is another option for a vegetarian version. I aim for low sodium versions so that I can control the salt levels.
  • Uncooked Polenta– This will be a dry grain, not the wet tubed kind.
  • Salt– Fine sea salt will give the cleanest flavor.
  • Reduce Fat Cream Cheese– Polenta will get creamy because it is starchy just from stirring it with a liquid, but we want this to be the best creamy polenta, so I added cream cheese. Full fat is a little too thick, but reduced back does the trick perfectly.

POLENTA VARIATIONS

This recipe is perfect as it is, but if you are wanting to make a few customizations, my favorites include adding a few grates of nutty cheese like an aged parmesan or pecorino romano or even cheddar cheese is delicious. When serving, also feel free to omit the salt and season it with an equal amount of seafood seasoning, seasoned salt, Cajun seasoning or Italian seasoning. Freshly cracked black pepper is also an excellent addition.

adding polenta to a pot of simmering milk

HOW TO MAKE CREAMY POLENTA

  1. Start by heating the liquids, simmer milk and broth over medium heat, but be mindful that milk has the tendency to over boil super fast (and make a giant mess) so don’t crank it up to high and walk away. Keep it on medium and watch carefully.
  2. Gradually add the polenta while stirring to prevent it from clumping.
  3. It will take about 20 minutes for the coarse grains to soak up the liquids and soften. Expect the mixture to bubble a little and get thick. Make sure to stir it frequently; not only will this prevent burning or scald to the bottom of the pot, but also help those starches release to give you the ultimate cream factor.
  4. Remove from the pot from heat and stir in the salt and cream cheese until it is fully incorporated. Although I think it looks pretty cool with ribbons of cream cheese throughout it too, but that is personal preference.
creamy polenta in a bowl

WHAT DO YOU EAT WITH POLENTA?

I said it before and I’ll say it again- you can eat it with just about anything! We eat this a lot with pork chops, but here are some other excellent pairing ideas.

MAKE AHEAD & STORAGE

This is such an easy dish, but if you are making a lot or a big dinner, it is also make-ahead friendly and can be stored for up to 3 days in the fridge.

To reheat it, whether it be leftovers or for the meal it was intended for, simply add it back to a pot on the stove and heat over medium-low heat along with 1/4 cup additional chicken broth or water. It will need some liquid to revive and get it back to its creamy glory!

Also, note that sometimes salt can be muted in chilled recipes such as this, so taste test it and correct the seasoning before serving.

No matter what you choose to serve this polenta recipe with, you’re sure to keep coming back to it again and again.

looking down on a bowl of creamy polenta

MORE QUICK SIDE DISHES TO TRY

Love how quick and simple this polenta was to make? Check out one of my other delicious side dishes.

If you enjoy this Creamy Polenta as much as we do, make sure you share it with your friends and family so they can try it too.

close up of polenta in a bowl
4.75 from 4 votes

Creamy Polenta

By Erin
This Creamy Polenta Recipe is a delicious, creamy side dish that pairs with nearly any meal and is done in a flash!
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup uncooked polenta
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces cream cheese

Instructions 

  • In a saucepan over medium heat bring the milk and chicken broth to a simmer. Be careful not to heat too fast or the milk with scald on the bottom of the pan and it will boil over quickly.
  • Once it is starting to simmer, gradually add the polenta while stirring to prevent it from clumping. Reduce the heat to low.
  • Let this cook for about 15-20 minutes for it to absorb all the liquid and soften. You will want to stir frequently, as it gets thick it will start to bubble.
  • Remove from the pot from heat and stir in the salt and cream cheese until it is fully incorporated.
  • Serve immediately

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 153kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 1006mg | Sugar: 1g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Author: Erin
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Course: Side Dish Recipes
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Calories: 153
Like this recipe? Leave a comment below!

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About Erin S

Welcome to Dinners, Dishes, & Desserts where my love of food meets my busy life. My name is Erin and I’m a casual home cook who loves to feed people. On this blog, you’ll find hundreds of quick and easy recipes made mostly from scratch. My days are spent in the kitchen, creating new recipes to share with family and friends.

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10 Comments

  1. I was looking for an additional side to go with my lamb chops and asparagus and came across this recipe and decided to give it a try. The polenta came out very creamy and had great flavor, the only change I will make next time is to reduce the amount of salt, as I was putting in the salt I was saying to myself this looked liked a lot but I wanted to follow the recipe as instructed, overall it is a good recipe and I will make again