Creamy Parmesan Polenta

4.8 of 16 votes
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
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Bowl of a creamy parmesan polenta with thyme as decoration

Polenta is one of the easiest side dish you can make! You can cook polenta with water only, but I like to add cream and grated parmesan to give the polenta has a silky texture and a rich taste. I love that it’s made with just a handful of simple ingredients.

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If you love trying new vegetarian recipes, my easy pasta with tomato and feta, and this quiche with asparagus and broccoli are not to be missed!

What is polenta?

Polenta is a very fine, yellow-colored semolina made from corn flour. It is mainly found in Italian cuisine (Northern Italy, mostly) or in the south of France, where it is called milhàs or cruchade

Polenta is cooked to a smooth, creamy consistency. The process involves boiling water or broth and adding the cornmeal, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming. As the mixture simmers, the cornmeal absorbs the liquid and thickens into a rich, velvety texture and a soft polenta.

Polenta is also gluten-free, making it an easy choice for anyone on a gluten-free diet.

Someone stiring a creamy parmesan polenta in a saucepan

Polenta can be served hot and soft, similar to mashed potatoes, or it can cool and solidify into a firm block, which can then be sliced and grilled or pan-fried. It’s wonderful when served with toppings like cheese, roasted vegetables, and tomato-based sauces. 

List of ingredients to make a creamy parmesan polenta

List of Ingredients

  • Polenta: Use fine yellow or white cornmeal for best results.
  • Cream: I prefer to use liquid cream, but you can use crème fraîche for an even richer, creamier texture.
  • Water: Polenta needs a lot of liquid to cook, the best is water or broth. I like to use a mixture of cream and water – this makes a creamy polenta.
  • Parmesan, freshly grated: Choose a high-quality Parmesan cheese; it will season the polenta (which is mild in flavor) and give it a cheesy taste. Try other types of cheese like Gruyère or mozzarella!
  • Butter: Unsalted butter enhances the creaminess and richness of the polenta, providing a smooth mouthfeel. I love to finish with a bit of butter on top – olive oil is a good alternative.

You will find the exact quantities in the recipe card.

Creamy Parmesan Polenta: Step-by-Step

Before starting, it’s important to note that the perfect ratio of grain to liquid when cooking a basic polenta recipe is 1 part to 4 parts liquid. When making polenta, you can use water, broth, cream, or milk. I use light cream in this easy polenta recipe to make the result light, too.

  1. Saute the polenta. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the polenta in the butter for 1 minute. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon.
  2. Add the liquid. Pour in the liquid cream, stirring constantly until you have perfectly cooked polenta.

Variation Ideas

  • Herb infusion: Before adding the cream, infuse it with herbs like thyme or rosemary for extra flavor. Do this by heating the cream gently with the herbs in a saucepan to infuse it with their herby flavors. Strain them out of the cream once it has infused.
  • Tomatoes: Add finely sliced sun-dried tomatoes or fresh cherry tomatoes at the end of the preparation.
  • Balsamic-glazed mushrooms: Serve mushrooms with polenta. Sauté mushrooms in balsamic vinegar and a little honey or brown sugar until caramelized.
  • Grilled vegetables: Grill vegetables like courgette, eggplant, or bell peppers and serve them over the polenta for a hearty and healthy meal.
  • Sauteed spinach: Sauté fresh spinach with garlic and olive oil, and use it as a bed for the creamy polenta.

What to Serve with Polenta?

This creamy polenta with parmesan is a fantastic main dish or a porridge like-side dish. You could even make a small option and serve it as a starter

My favorite way to serve it is as part of a spread of beautiful vegetable dishes. Here are a few vegetable dishes I’d suggest serving it alongside:

You could also serve it with a wintery side salad. The creamy polenta is a great alternative to mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes if you’re looking for something new to try out. It’s also delicious served with grilled seafood and braised meats.

Plate of creamy parmesan polenta with roasted tomatoes on top
Creamy Parmesan polenta served with Provencal Tomatoes

Géraldine’s Tips

  • To prevent lumps, gradually add the polenta to the simmering liquid while stirring constantly with a whisk. Constant stirring will help achieve a smooth texture without any clumps.
  • Season well. Polenta has a relatively mild flavor. I recommend tasting it to check the seasoning before serving it.
  • Ensure you use the ratio of 1 part polenta to 4 parts liquid.
  • Serve immediately for the best experience of creaminess and silky texture.
  • Cook for the recommended time and taste to make sure it’s cooked. Polenta may look cooked, but it can taste raw if not cooked for a long enough time.

FAQ: Creamy Parmesan Polenta

Can I use instant polenta for this recipe?

Yes, you can use instant polenta, but keep in mind that the cooking time will be reduced compared to traditional polenta. Follow the instructions on the package and adjust the liquid quantity and cooking time accordingly.

Can I make the polenta ahead of time and reheat it later?

Absolutely! You can make the polenta ahead of time and reheat it when needed. To prevent it from becoming too thick, add a hot water or broth splash while reheating and stir until it reaches your desired consistency.

Can I use a different type of cheese instead of Parmesan?

Yes, you can. While Parmesan adds a distinctive flavor, you can experiment with other cheeses, such as gruyere or cheddar, to customize the taste.

How do I store leftover polenta?

Allow the leftover polenta to cool to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate. It will stay fresh for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or stovetop with a bit of liquid as needed.

Can I freeze creamy polenta?

Technically, you can, but I don’t recommend it as the texture may change as it thaws. If you plan to freeze it, cool the polenta completely, portion it into freezer-safe containers, and store it for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and reheat on the stovetop or microwave, adding a little liquid to regain its creaminess.

Don’t hesitate to leave me a comment, it always makes me very happy!

Géraldine Leverd, author of the cooking blog La Cuisine de Géraldine, cooking.

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Creamy Parmesan polenta

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4.8 of 16 votes
To be honest, I wasn't a fan of polenta before trying this recipe. Now, this creamy parmesan polenta recipe is a personal favorite, so I'm excited to share it with you and share my tips to obtain the perfect texture!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Course Main course, Side dish
Cuisine French, Italian
Servings 4
Calories 251 kcal


  • 1/2 cup of polenta (100 g)
  • 1 1/4 cup of water (300 ml)
  • 3/4 cup of light cream (200 ml)
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese (50 g)
  • 2 tbsp Butter (30 g)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper


  • Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Sauté polenta for 1 minute while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
  • Pour in water and liquid cream, stirring continuously.
  • Season with salt and pepper and keep stirring over low heat for 10-15 minutes until polenta comes away from the edges and follows the spoon’s movement.
  • Stir in grated Parmesan until creamy and smooth.
  • Remove from heat and serve immediately.



Calories: 251kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 5gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 15gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 73mgSodium: 170mgPotassium: 61mgFiber: 0.1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 931IUVitamin C: 0.3mgCalcium: 126mgIron: 0.2mg
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4.82 from 16 votes (14 ratings without comment)

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