Polenta: A Quick Tutorial

Polenta is one of my favorite things because it is so versatile and super tasty.  Maybe you have heard of it or you’re scratching your head right now going, “Po-whatta?”  Polenta is a fairly simple dish made of cornmeal that has been boiled into a porridge like consistency.  After it has been boiled, polenta can be served in a variety of ways.  You can eat it as is, or you can let it set and bake, fry, saute, or even grill it.  It pairs well with so many things; one of my favorite ways to eat it is to top it with a mushroom gravy. Because it is so easy to make, polenta makes a really great side dish, but it can easily be made into the main course.  I have a few different recipes that utilize polenta that I plan on sharing soon, but I thought that I would just give you the basic steps to making polenta as well as a few easy ways to “fancy” it up.


Basic Polenta

Polenta topped with my favorite mushroom gravy

Polenta topped with my favorite mushroom gravy

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 3-4 cups water/milk/non-dairy milk*
  • 1 tsp salt

*If you are going to be eating the polenta in it’s porridge like form, use 4 cups of your choice of liquid.  If you want to let it set and then use it, use 3 cups.  I like doing a mix of water and either almond or coconut milk.  Using milk makes it a little creamier than just plain water, but water works just as well.


1.  In a medium saucepan bring your water/milk and 1 tsp salt to a rolling boil.  Once at a boil, grab a whisk in one hand and your one cup of cornmeal in the other.  Slowly add the cornmeal to the water while constantly whisking with your other hand.  This helps to make sure there are no lumps.

2.  Turn the heat down to low and cook until the cornmeal is nice and thick and starting to pull away from the sides of the pot.  Stir often and watch out for polenta splatters!

3.  You can eat it as is at this point or you can let the polenta set so you can slice it and bake or grill it.  Grease or line any pan that has an edge with parchment paper and pour the polenta out.  Spread the polenta evenly and place it in the fridge for at least an hour or in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes.  Once the polenta is set you can cut it up and prepare it however you would like!


That is seriously it when it comes to making polenta.  I told you it was really easy!  Now there are a few things that you can do to jazz it up and make it even tastier.  You could:

  • Add in shredded cheese or butter to make it even creamier.
  • Try out different seasonings. I like adding in garlic and Italian seasonings as well as taco seasonings
  • Top with gravy, vegetables, meat, or any kind of sauce
  • Use it as the base for a casserole (I have a recipe for this coming soon!)

Experiment with a few different things and find out what you like best.  Polenta is a very neutral canvas when it comes to food, so it is really easy to pair with many different creations.  Go pick up a bag of cornmeal (if you can find it in bulk, it is really cheap!) and get your polenta on!

Chili-Spiced Polenta with Avocado Sauce

On Friday’s in our house, I usually try out a new recipe.  I usually have a little more time to make dinner and it’s fun to try something new!  I have made polenta before, but I forgot how easy and how delicious it really is! This is a pretty simple meal to throw together and it tastes fantastic!

Chili-Spiced Polenta with Avocado Sauce

photo (18)

For Polenta:

  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin

For Avocado Sauce:

  • 1-2 medium avocados
  • juice and zest of one lime
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp water

1.  First prepare your polenta.  This can be done ahead of time so it will be ready come dinner time! Bring the 3 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  While pouring the cornmeal into the water, keep whisking so that no lumps form.  Turn heat down to a simmer.  Keep stirring the polenta every so often scraping the bottom of the pan so none sticks.  The polenta will be done when it is nice and thick and no longer sticks to the side of the pan. Add your spices and pour the polenta into an oiled bread pan (or whatever dish you have handy.  Just make sure it has high enough sides so polenta won’t pill over) and place pan in fridge to set.

2.  While your polenta is chilling in the fridge, dice your avocados and place into a food processor or blender, I used my ninja.  Add the rest of your ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy.

3.  After about 30 min, take polenta out of the fridge.  Now you can do one of two things.  You can slice up your polenta and eat it cold or you can heat it up.  I like it heated up because it gets a nice little crisp to it.  Turn oven to 4o0 and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.  Place polenta slices onto baking sheet and lightly brush with olive oil.  Place in oven and bake for 10 min, flip them over and bake for 10 more minutes.

Once the polenta is done you can top it with the avocado sauce.  I also like to put homemade salsa on top.  I’ve also topped with pinto beans and corn.  You can do whatever you like, it will be delicious no matter what! Enjoy!