Perfectly Creamy Polenta Recipe

Cornmeal, water and butter make a polenta that’s thick and slightly sweet in flavor. Top this creamy polenta recipe with roasted veggies, shrimp or ragout.

bowl of creamy homemade polenta

When we started getting into cooking, polenta sounded very glamorous. I didn’t even know what polenta was! Alex and I found a bag of cornmeal at the store, but our first attempt at making a polenta recipe was a total disaster. It tasted more like glue than anything else and was practically inedible! Since then, we’ve had a lot more practice making polenta and I’m pleased to report that this Italian dish is not only easy to make, but it also tastes incredible too (when you follow the right instructions, that is!). Keep reading for our favorite polenta recipe.

How to make creamy polenta

After much trial and error, we’ve created a simple, creamy polenta recipe that requires few ingredients and very little effort on your part. Learning how to make polenta is easier than we initially thought, and we’ve figured out that it all comes down to the ingredients you use. Cornmeal, water, and butter make for a polenta that’s thick and slightly sweet in flavor. For added flavor, you can stir in some shredded cheese when you mix in the butter. The cheese adds a delightfully savory note to the polenta and makes it taste like a much fancier dish than it actually is.

This creamy polenta recipe makes about 4 cups, so you’ll likely have leftovers. Cooked polenta gets hard in the fridge, but you can make it soft again by mixing it with a little milk or water on the stovetop and whisking until it reaches your desired consistency. Alternately, you can slice the hardened polenta and cook it in a little olive oil or butter until golden on both sides. The outsides will be slightly crunchy, while the insides will be gooey—comfort food at its finest!

One thing to keep in mind when making this homemade polenta recipe is that you cannot substitute grits for the cornmeal. Grits are coarser than cornmeal, which won’t give you the texture you want.

What to serve with polenta

Understandably, it’s a little confusing figuring out what to serve with a polenta recipe if you’ve never had it before. Because polenta is naturally sweet, it pairs well with rich, savory dishes and is a good alternative to pasta. Try serving polenta with dishes like sautéed greens or mushrooms, vegetable ragout, and so forth. If you eat fish, salmon would go well with polenta as well. You can also adjust which spices you add to this creamy polenta recipe depending on what you’re serving it with. A dash of garlic and onion powder in the polenta would pair well with sautéed greens, for instance.

how to make polenta

Want to know what to make with this best easy polenta recipe?

This recipe is…

This creamy polenta recipe is vegetarian and gluten-free.


Creamy Polenta Recipe

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (32 votes, average: 4.31 out of 5)

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


Cornmeal, water and butter make a polenta that’s thick and slightly sweet in flavor. Top this creamy polenta recipe with roasted veggies, shrimp or ragout.



  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Bring 4 cups water to boil in a medium sauce pan. When the water boils, whisk in the 1 cup corn meal in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Continue whisking until the polenta begins to thicken (around 1 to 2 minutes). Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
  2. Reduce the heat so that the polenta bubbles slowly. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until the cornmeal loses its raw flavor (taste every so often to check).
  3. When the polenta is complete, turn off the heat and add 1 to 2 tablespoons butter, and more kosher salt and pepper to taste. You can cover it to keep it warm before serving. If the polenta becomes too thick, you can stir in a bit of milk or water to loosen it up.


For even more flavor, you can stir in some cheese with the butter in Step 3. For example, add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, or both 1/2 cup Parmesan and 1/2 cup ricotta.

Inspired by Jack Bishop in The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook

  • Category: Side
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: creamy polenta recipe

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.


  • Reply
    Marie E. Noble
    January 27, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    Fantastic recipe for introduction to the world of Palenta !
    Never made it before. Used the recipe. Pleased. Worked well. Tastes great.
    Will recommend. ?

    • Reply
      January 27, 2019 at 3:49 pm

      So glad to hear it! Thanks for making it!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    My husband and I are also Italian and I have been on the hunt for a great polenta recipe. I made your recipe with our steak Marsala for dinner tonight and it’s FANTASTIC!! Buttery, smooth and the cheese adds makes it creamy with a subtle kick to the flavor. Also a hit with my two boys! 5/5 stars! Thank you!

    • Reply
      March 23, 2019 at 9:16 pm

      Wow this is high praise coming from Italians! Thank you SO so much! We are so glad to hear that your boys loved it too. Thank you for making our recipe!

  • Reply
    July 21, 2019 at 12:03 am

    I just made polenta recently for my very first time and I followed this recipe to a T and it turned out PERFECTLY. I made it a second time and same results – perfection.

    Then I thought I’d try someone else’s recipe, just to branch out. Bad idea. I don’t know why, but they called for the same amount of polenta but HALF as much water. As you can imagine, 10 minutes in I had polenta burned to the inside of my pan. That was not fun to scrape out.

    As my great grandmother always said, “don’t fix what’s not broken.” I’ll be sticking with your recipe from now on! Thank you SO much for sharing it!

    • Reply
      July 21, 2019 at 10:43 pm

      Haha! So glad you love it!

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