Creamy, smooth Instant Pot Polenta – no stirring or babysitting required! This is a simple, easy side dish you MUST have in your repertoire!
It's hard to believe that I never tasted even the tiniest spoonful of polenta until my 30s. How did I skip over this ultra-creamy, super versatile, crazy easy side dish?
It was during some hardcore research on Instant Pot Short Ribs that I came across the most beautiful picture of a pile of short ribs nestled happily into a bed of polenta.
Just like that, my previous plan of making short ribs and Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes went out the window. I had to taste this mysterious corn porridge STAT!
And let me tell you what: MAGIC!
Step aside mashed potatoes, there is a new irresistible side dish in my life and it's looking to be a long-term relationship.
WHAT IS POLENTA
First, let's make sure we're all on the same page.
Polenta is a dish that originated in Northern Italy and is becoming increasingly popular in the US as well. It's made from coarsely ground yellow corn and can be served creamy (think Cream of Wheat type texture) or chilled until firm then fried in a skillet or deep fryer.
WHY YOU WILL LOVE INSTANT POT POLENTA
- EASY/HANDS-OFF: Stovetop polenta is time-consuming and requires nearly constant stirring (not to mention the bubble bursts of cornmeal all over your stovetop while it's cooking). In the Instant Pot, you simply throw the whole party in the pot and press start. Aside from the stirring needed after it's cooked to smooth it out, you literally do nothing else but spoon it into your mouth.
- VERSATILITY: Make it cheesy, garlicky, herby, spicy, etc! Polenta loves all the flavor add-ins! Not to mention all the topping possibilities: Chicken, pork, pesto, roasted vegetables, gravy, and beyond! Dare I say, it might even win the Versatility Prize over mashed potatoes . . . okay, tie for first place, at least.
- THE LEFTOVERS: When chilled, polenta turns into a solid that can be cubed or cut into polenta cakes then fried in a little oil or butter – AMAZING!
HOW TO MAKE CREAMY POLENTA IN THE PRESSURE COOKER
- Add cornmeal, liquids, and seasonings to the pressure cooker pot and hit start
- When done, add butter and whisk, whisk, whisk until smooth
- Let sit a few minutes if needed to thicken into a super cream corn porridge
SEE RECIPE CARD BELOW FOR DETAILED COOKING INSTRUCTIONS
TIPS FOR MAKING THE BEST POLENTA
- USE THE RIGHT CORNMEAL: Make sure you grab a bag of COURSE cornmeal, not INSTANT. The package may also be labeled “polenta” or “grits”.
- SEASON: Polenta without salt is bleh. Be sure and add it before cooking so it can be equally infused into the whole batch. Also, I find the flavor is worlds better if broth is used as the cooking liquid instead of water.
- AVOID THE BURN: Upon researching polenta in the pressure cooker, I discovered that some people were getting the BURN warning. I've never had this issue, even with my newest Instant Pot (which is known for triggering the BURN warning more than older models). I believe it's important to add all of your ingredients to the pot, give it a thorough stir, and immediately start pressure cooking. If you run into the BURN issue, try adding cooking liquids to the pressure cooker, use saute to bring it to a simmer, stir in your cornmeal, and then start pressure cooking. This will make it so the pot comes to pressure quicker therefore allowing less time for it to burn to the bottom.
- NATURAL PRESSURE RELEASE: Do not try to quick release the pressure when cooking polenta! Starchy foods need a minute to cool so they don't erupt through the pressure release knob. The 15 minutes of natural pressure release is also part of the cooking time for polenta, so don't rush the process!
- WHISK TO SMOOTH: If you open your pot to discover a lumpy, stiff polenta, HAVE NO FEAR! Grab your whisk, add the butter, and beat until smooth. It won't take long to transform, less than 30 seconds, I promise.
- LEFTOVER LOVIN': Store leftovers in a flat container so you can cut shapes out of it once it's chilled to make fried polenta cakes. I like them to be about an inch thick.
- FLAVORING YOUR POLENTA: This recipe is the most basic polenta flavor. The sky's the limit on how you can flavor yours. More ideas for this below, but just know there's a beautiful flavor of polenta to match any meal.
HOW TO STORE, REHEAT, AND FREEZE LEFTOVER POLENTA
- Store: Place cooled leftovers in a flat container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Reheat: If making polenta cakes, cut chilled polenta into squares or use a biscuit cutter to make circles. In a skillet on the stovetop, heat oil or butter until hot then fry each side of the polenta until browned and crisp. Or, to return chilled polenta to a creamy state, place polenta in a pot with milk or water. Heat through and whisk until creamy, adding extra liquid if needed.
- Freeze: Polenta can be poured into a freezer-safe ziptop bag and frozen for up to 3 months. Let come to room temperature then reheat as directed above. For polenta cakes, chill the mixture, cut it into shapes, then freeze. Cakes can be fried in a skillet from frozen.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH POLENTA
- Instant Pot Short Ribs (as pictured) or BBQ Ribs
- Instant Pot Pot Roast
- Instant Pot Vegetable Medley
- Instant Pot BBQ Chicken
VARIATIONS OF INSTANT POT POLENTA
- Cheesy Polenta: When stirring in the butter, add 1/2 – 1 cup of shredded cheese. Parmesan is my favorite!
- Garlic and Herb Polenta: Add minced fresh garlic and dried herbs to cooking liquid (basil, thyme, parsley, dill, etc). If adding fresh herbs, add them after the polenta has finished cooking.
- Pesto Polenta: Stir a couple of spoonfuls of Pesto into the polenta after it's cooked.
Are you already a polenta aficionado or is this dish new to you as well?
If you're already a fan, let me know in the comments below how you enjoy your polenta. I need to make up for lost polenta time!
Three cheers for hands-off polenta and my new favorite creamy side dish! I hope you enjoy it soon!
MORE INSTANT POT SIDE DISH RECIPES
TOOLS/INGREDIENTS USED TO MAKE INSTANT POT POLENTA
Instant Pot Polenta
Creamy, smooth Instant Pot Polenta – no babysitting or stirring required!
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 7 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 6 - 8 servings 1x
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Pressure Cooker
- Cuisine: American
- 1 cup coarse cornmeal (also called polenta or grits – DO NOT use instant)
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- ½ cup water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese – optional
- Add cornmeal, chicken broth, water, and salt to the pressure cooker pot. Give it a good stir so the cornmeal isn’t in a clump.
- Secure the lid and turn pressure release knob to a sealed position. Cook at high pressure for 7 minutes.
- When cooking is complete, use a natural pressure release for 15 minutes, then quick release any remaining pressure.
- Add butter and whisk the polenta until smooth. If using parmesan cheese, stir it in now.
- Note: The polenta will thicken as it sits, but if it’s excessively runny, use the saute function to evaporate some of the liquid (I’ve never needed to do this).
- Serve hot.
- Make sure to use coarse cornmeal, also called cornmeal grits or polenta. The type of cornmeal (usually called “instant”) used to make cornbread will not work.
- I’ve seen complaints from others about polenta triggering the BURN message. I’ve never had this problem myself. If yours is burning, try simmering your broth until it’s hot, then add the polenta, then start the pressure cooker. This will decrease how much time it takes for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure, decreasing the chance that it will BURN.
- Chill leftover polenta in a flat layer. Once chilled you can make polenta cakes! Cut it into squares or circles and brown on both sides in a little oil.
Keywords: Instant pot polenta, creamy polenta, easy polenta
Welcome! I’m Marci, wife to my motorcycle dream man and mother of 3. I have a passion for creating and cooking delicious masterpieces in my kitchen and am ecstatic to share my discoveries on TIDBITS! I like my food tasty, wholesome, memorable, and always, ALWAYS followed by dark, salty chocolate.