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Warm, creamy, cheesy polenta — it doesn’t get much better than that. Pair it up with something you love, or eat it plain and simple. Either way, it’s delish!

Bird's eye view of Polenta topped with mushrooms on a white plate.


Polenta is a dish common in Italy, consisting of boiled, coarsely ground cornmeal. Originally, it was made of other grains as well. It is often confused with or compared to grits. Grits are made with a more finely ground, white corn, called hominy and is common to the southern United States. Polenta is often eaten hot, like a really thick soup or cereal. It is also cooled and solidified so it can be sliced and fried.

This easy polenta recipe calls for cornmeal to be boiled and then combined with milk and cheeses, making it a creamy, delicious dish with the consistency of mashed potatoes. Comfort food? Um, yes. The beauty of this recipe, too, is that it can be simple or made with added flavors and spices. This recipe is pretty simple, but will pair well with almost anything. Give this versatile grainy food a whirl—you will love it!

  • Can I make fried polenta from this recipe?

    Yes. Follow the instructions for this recipe but do not add the milk at the end. Transfer the polenta into a greased baking pan and allow to cool by placing it in the refrigerator for 2 hours. The polenta will be solid at that point, and can be sliced and fried. Cut it into 2 inch by 1 inch pieces and pan fry until edges are golden brown. You can place these on a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm while you fry all of the sliced polenta.

  • What should I serve with Polenta?

    Polenta makes a great side dish for other Italian dishes or can be topped with different foods to make it more like a main dish. I love it with caramelized onions or even just with salt and pepper. This recipe would pair beautifully with some Italian sausage and Arugula Salad. Chopped jalapeno and bacon, chives and a dollop of sour cream would be a perfect topper for this cornmeal dish as well. Who’s getting hungry?

  • Can I use instant polenta in this recipe?

    Yes, but it will not have the same rich, nutty and sweet flavor that emerges from regular polenta. If you are in a hurry or only have instant polenta on hand, you can make it according to the package directions. Once it is done cooking, you can add the butter, cheeses and milk.

  • Can I make polenta using regular cornmeal?

    Polenta is traditionally made from a coarse ground cornmeal. It is fairly common to find coarse ground yellow cornmeal in grocery stores in the United States and it is generally found in the baking isle. It may even be labeled as polenta. If you can’t find coarse ground cornmeal, you can make it with regular cornmeal  as well (like the kind you’d use to make cornbread).  Simply reduce the cooking time by about 5 minutes.

If you like this recipe or need some comfort food in your life, you may also want to try out some of these comfort food recipes:

Watch the video below where Rachel will walk you through every step of this recipe. Sometimes it helps to have a visual, and we’ve always got you covered with our cooking show. You can find the complete collection of recipes on YouTube, Facebook Watch, or our Facebook Page, or right here on our website with their corresponding recipes.

Close up of Polenta top with parlsey on a white plate.
Creamy Cheddar Parmesan Polenta
Servings

6 servings

Bird's eye view of Polenta topped with parsley on a white plate.
Warm, creamy, cheesy polenta—it doesn’t get much better than that. Pair it up with something you love, or eat it plain and simple. Either way, it’s delish!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Ingredients
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup milk
Instructions
  • In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Salt it with salt. Once it is boiling, whisk in the cornmeal.
  • Reduce the heat to low and let the cornmeal simmer until it is tender about 15-20 minutes. It will be really thick.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the butter until melted. Next, stir in the cheese until melted. followed by the milk.
  • Pour in the milk and stir until combined.
  • Taste and season with any additional salt and pepper needed. Serve hot.
Notes
If using regular yellow cornmeal instead of coarse ground, reduce the cooking time by  5 minutes. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 398kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 56mg | Sodium: 747mg | Potassium: 232mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 620IU | Calcium: 287mg | Iron: 1.6mg
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Polenta
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Erika
November 24, 2020 6:59 pm

5 stars
This is my now favorite recipe for polenta. So delicious! Easy & basic recipe but turns out restaurant quality polenta. Perfect flavor.

toots
November 16, 2020 3:17 pm

I have never made polenta before but was excited to give it a try (esp with cheddar in the name!) I poured in the cornmeal to start whisking (which is what it looks like you did in your picture) and it immediately turned into huge clumps. It ended up a little lumpy but really good. Next time I will try whisking as I slowly add in the cornmeal instead of dumping it all in at once to see if that helps.

Susan Gillette
August 28, 2019 5:46 pm

Super yum! Hubby and I in a food coma. I made this to go with short ribs. Next time, I’ll cut this recipe in 1/2, made enough for 8 servings anyway.

Edna Beynon
November 17, 2018 6:53 am

My mother would add ground up cooked liver to the making of mush and called it ponhause. Poured into a crock to set up. Sliced it and fried it for breakfast. Loved it. But I can’t seem to duplicate it. Maybe this recipe will help me.

July 27, 2013 3:19 pm

I love polenta! My grandma used to make a sweet version for me on winter mornings. Yum!!

July 27, 2013 1:01 am

I totally thought that pile of onion was bacon and got super excited. haha

Anonymous
September 9, 2013 4:57 am

This is absolutely not polenta! Italian polenta from North Italy is made with cornmeal + water + salt. nothing more,nothing less.
But it's a clue! This remind me of another italian recipe from Veneto,North Italy called Pearà:
breadcrumbs, beef marrow, butter, broth , Grana Padano(not "Parmesan")and a lot of pepper.
In Italy it's ALWAYS match with boiled meat called "lesso".
It's weird reading around of people who think they can really cook italian food and call it ITALIAN.
Anyway cool food blog

September 9, 2013 5:16 am
Reply to  Anonymous

I'm sorry if it offends you to call this a polenta. While you are correct that a basic polenta calls for cornmeal, salt, and water, my favorite part of being a chef is being able to create derivatives of the classics. I would consider this recipe to have very little in common with peara, especially since peara is a sauce. I would love the chance to work with grama padano someday though. Holy yum! I hope you are able to find an Italian food blog you like! I can't think of any off the top of my head that are… Read more »

SKYE
September 23, 2019 6:03 am

Sounds like “Anonymous” googled their response! Nothing wrong with doing modifications to classic recipes. And you are correct, Peara is sauce. My stepmom is from North Italy and pairs polenta with peara.

Britt
December 19, 2013 4:50 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

Can't wait to try this recipe over the Christmas holiday. I'm good with derivatives. 🙂

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