Cheesy Polenta

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Creamy and cheesy polenta is an easy, comforting side dish for any season. It pairs beautifully with zesty pesto shrimp, grilled chicken, or a hearty ragu sauce.

I love a good comfort food, no matter the season. 

Sometimes comfort food means a big bowl of American goulash, and sometimes it means a slice of snickerdoodle cake. There’s really no rules when it comes to what makes you feel cozy.

For me, some of the best comfort foods are the ones that are super simple to prepare. After all, when you need a pick-me-up, who wants to cook for hours?

Overhead bowl of cheesy polenta sitting on a kitchen towel.

This cheesy polenta is an easy dish that goes with so much, but it’s also delicious all by itself.

Uncooked polenta keeps well in the pantry too, so you can whip up this dish any time you feel a craving for something creamy and cheesy.

It only takes about 30 minutes start to finish, so let’s get cooking!

Ingredients for cheesy polenta

You’ll need:

Ingredients for cheesy polenta on a white surface with labels.

Polenta – This recipe uses dry polenta. Do not use the precooked polenta, which comes in a tube, or instant polenta. 

Polenta is a ground corn product with a flakier texture than the cornmeal used for baked items like corn muffins.

I use yellow corn polenta, which is the most common variety, but white corn polenta is also sometimes available.

Note that grits are similar to polenta, but grits are usually more coarsely ground.

Milk and water – Use a combination of milk and water to cook the polenta to give the creaminess without making it too rich. However, you can use more milk than water if you prefer.

I use 2% milk for this recipe.

Salt – The cheese will also add some salty flavor, so I add just a small amount while the polenta is cooking.

Butter – Use salted or unsalted butter. This is added after cooking the polenta to make it creamier.

Parmesan cheese – Make sure to use freshly grated parmesan, which melts much better than bagged shredded parmesan. You’ll need 1/2 cup of grated parmesan, which is approximately 1/2 ounce, plus more for serving.

Ground black pepper – Use freshly cracked pepper for seasoning to serve.

Close up of bowl of cheesy polenta.

How to make this recipe

In a medium saucepan, combine the water and milk.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then add the polenta and salt. Whisk to combine.

Turn heat to low and continue to whisk to remove any lumps.

Cover and let cook over low for 20-25 minutes, until thickened.

If the mixture gets too thick, you can whisk in more milk or water.

Once the polenta is the desired consistency, remove from heat.

Stir in the butter and cheese until both are completely melted and polenta is smooth.

Serve with additional cheese and cracked black pepper on top.

Bowl of cheesy polenta with a spoon stirring.

Recipe suggestions

Swap the parmesan for your favorite cheese, such as a sharp cheddar.

Add a bit of spice with ground chile pepper or smoked paprika.

Try with herbs like rosemary, basil, or oregano. Both fresh and dried herbs can be used, but remember to use 1 teaspoon of dried herb for every 1 tablespoon of fresh.

Serve with meatballs and sauce, pesto shrimp or spicy New Orleans BBQ shrimp, pulled pork, or sautéed or roasted vegetables.

Overhead bowl of cheesy polenta with a spoon and a small red bowl of cheese nearby.

Storage and reheating

Leftover polenta can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. However, cooled polenta loses its creamy consistency, so you have a few options for reheating it.

First, if you want it to be creamy again, warm the polenta in a saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking in milk or water to loosen the polenta.

I find it easiest to turn the polenta into fried patties, which are delicious dipped in marinara or served with your favorite mains.

When storing the leftover polenta, press it into a flat layer in a shallow container. Then when you are ready to use it, slice the chilled polenta into wedges or sticks, or use a round biscuit or cookie cutter to cut into rounds.

Fry the polenta in a small amount of olive oil until browned on both sides and serve. 

Spoonful of cheesy polenta held close up.

Make this easy, cheesy polenta side dish today!

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It means so much when you enjoy my recipes, so let me know how it goes and leave a comment if you have any questions.

Overhead bowl of cheesy polenta sitting on a kitchen towel.

Cheesy Polenta

This simple and comforting side dish takes only a handful of ingredients and 30 minutes to prepare. Enjoy on its own or with your favorite mains.
Author : Megan Myers
5 from 48 votes
Print Pin Recipe Review
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 206 kcal


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry polenta
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Ground black pepper, to taste


  • In a medium saucepan, combine water and milk. Bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, whisk in salt and polenta. Reduce heat to low and continue whisking to remove any lumps.
  • Cover and cook 20-25 minutes, until thick and creamy. If mixture is too thick, stir in more milk or water until loosened.
  • Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and butter until melted.
  • Serve immediately with additional cheese and ground black pepper on top.


Calories: 206 kcalCarbohydrates: 20 gProtein: 7 gFat: 11 gSaturated Fat: 6 gCholesterol: 31 mgSodium: 585 mgPotassium: 135 mgFiber: 0.3 gSugar: 3 gIron: 0.3 mg

Nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate based on online calculators. Any nutritional information found on Stetted should be used as a general guideline only.

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About Megan

I focus on fresh ingredients and easy methods, with spins that keep meals interesting. Dinnertime shouldn’t be stressful or complicated, and I’m here to help you enjoy the time spent in the kitchen. Read more…

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