Creamy polenta is a great side dish to serve in place of pasta or potatoes and it can be made on the stove, in the Instant Pot, baked in the oven.

Creamy polenta in a round white casserole dish with a pepper mill in the background.

Creamy polenta makes an excellent side dish for a variety of entrées, especially when there’s a savory sauce to spoon on top. Give it a try in place of pasta or potatoes – it’s easy to prepare and makes a nice change of pace.

Here are a few examples:

We’ve included three different recipes here, one for making polenta on top of the stove, another for preparing it in the Instant Pot/electric pressure cooker and a third for baking it in the oven.

Each one has its advantages but no matter which one you choose, the finished product turns out smooth, creamy and delicious.

Stovetop Method

This recipe is our go-to method for making polenta on the stovetop. It works consistently no matter what brand of cornmeal we use, and it’s a terrific side to serve with “saucy” entrées.

We’ve also included a Garlic and Cheese variation below that’s our favorite to serve with Italian-style main dishes.

Instant Pot Method

Our basic recipe for creamy polenta is easy to make in the Instant Pot (electric pressure cooker). It turns out just as smooth and delicious as the stovetop version, but the pressure cooker eliminates the need for frequent stirring.

This method frees you up to work on other parts of your meal, but it’s worth noting that the Instant Pot won’t save you any cooking time.

Oven-Baked Method

Baking polenta in the oven is an easy way to prepare this versatile side dish because it doesn’t require too much hands-on time. It works out well if you can afford the extra time it takes to cook.

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Creamy Polenta

How To Make Creamy Polenta

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Our basic stovetop method for making polenta consistently no matter what brand of cornmeal we use and it's a great side to serve with "saucy" entrées.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup medium or coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups water or milk, see specific method instructions for exact quantities
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half or light cream

Instructions

Stovetop Method (see notes)

  • Combine 3 cups of chicken broth, 1-3/4 cup water, milk or a combination, butter, salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a large saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the corn meal, whisking constantly until well blended.
  • Continue cooking until the polenta starts to bubble.
  • Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking frequently until the polenta is smooth and creamy, about 20 minutes.
  • If the polenta thickens too much during cooking, add more liquid (broth, water or milk) until you like the consistency.
  • Just before serving, stir in the half-and-half and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Instant Pot Method (see notes)

  • Press the sauté button on the pressure cooker and add 3 cups of chicken broth, 1-1/2 cups water, milk, or a combination, and butter.
  • Allow the liquid to come to a simmer, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the corn meal, salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
  • Cancel the sauté function on the pressure cooker, secure the lid on the pot and set the pressure valve to the sealed position. Program the cooker for 5 minutes on high pressure.
  • Once the cooking is complete, allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes, then open the valve to release the remaining pressure.
  • Once the cooking is complete, allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes, then open the valve to release the remaining pressure.
  • Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes, then stir in the half-and-half and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Oven-Baked Method (see notes)

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 3-quart casserole dish, preferably one with a lid.
  • Add the cornmeal, 2 cups chicken broth, 2 cups water, 1 cup milk, butter and salt. Stir to combine but don't be concerned if it separates, the polenta will come together as it cooks.
  • Cover the casserole with foil and place the lid on top. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes.
  • Uncover and bake until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Tips for Making This Recipe

Stovetop Method Notes: This is the conventional method of cooking polenta and it calls for 4-3/4 cups (plus more if needed) to 1 cup cornmeal.
Instant Pot Method Notes: Because the Instant Pot holds in steam, this method requires a little less liquid – 4-1/2 cups (plus more if needed) to 1 cup cornmeal.
Oven-Baked Method Notes: Because of the oven’s dry heat, this method requires some extra liquid – 5 cups to 1 cup of cornmeal.

Recipe Variation: Creamy Garlic and Cheese Polenta

Follow all the instructions for the stovetop method above, increasing the amount of chicken broth to 3-1/3 cups. Adding 1 or 2 cloves of minced garlic along with the liquid. Once the polenta has finished cooking, stir in 1/2 cup of shredded asiago cheese and 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese together with the half-and-half.
Calories: 187kcal, Carbohydrates: 20g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 25mg, Sodium: 316mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 1g
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