10 Polenta Possibilities For Healthy Hearty Meals

by Ani Manukian, RDN, LD

Last Updated: September 16, 2020

With the uncertainty and intensity that 2020 has brought, many people may be searching for comfort, particularly within the food they consume. Nothing says comfort like a big bowl of pasta, but it’s important to watch the quantity when indulging. As a healthy alternative, polenta is one of our favorites, and gives a wider range of options to incorporate comfort food into every meal. Here’s what you need to know:

What is polenta?
Polenta is a classic Italian dish of boiled cornmeal that is served as a hot or cooled cereal. After it is cooked, you can allow time for it to become solid, then slice, bake, fry, or grill it into a fascinating array of tasty dishes. Polenta is a hearty “comfort food” with something to offer for everyone.

Are grits the same as polenta?
Polenta and grits are often mistaken since they have a similar look and texture, but they certainly have subtle differences. Classic polenta is made with flint corn, which originated from Italy, whereas its cousin, grits, are made from dent corn. Flint corn is heartier and less starchy than dent corn, which results in a coarser (but still delicious) product.

Is polenta nutritious?
With the popularity of gluten-free eating on the rise, even non-gluten-free folks are reaching for alternatives, giving grains like corn a seat at the table. Nutritionally, 1/2 cup of cooked polenta offers just 100 calories, 0g fat, 22g carbs, 1g fiber, and 2g protein. The cornmeal from which polenta is composed also offers the electrolyte magnesium, as well as a handful of B vitamins – vitamins B1, B6, and B9. These vitamins are vital for many of the body’s daily functions. Its nutrient profile makes polenta a smart grain choice for your next meal, snack, or even dessert.

How to make polenta:
  1. Boil four cups of water or stock.
  2. Whisk in one cup of cornmeal and one teaspoon salt for two minutes.
  3. Continue to stir occasionally for forty minutes to prevent sticking or clumping, until smooth.
  4. Any number of seasonings and flavor enhancers can be whisked in after! Salt, pepper, and even cheese are common add-ins.

Polenta can be enjoyed similarly to grits – topped with a variety of meats or vegetables for a warming meal or can be formed into a loaf then used for endless dishes. Cooked polenta can be spread evenly into a loaf pan or flat on a rimmed sheet pan and cooled in the refrigerator for two hours. Once cooled, the polenta is easily sliced and can be fried as a crispy appetizer to be dipped into marinara, baked or fried for croutons, used as a pizza crust, or made into cakes (similar to Columbian arepas) which can be topped with meats, vegetables, and sauces.

Polenta is savory and delicious in its classic hot cereal form, but don’t underestimate this comfort food – it can be transformed into a surprising array of dishes. Try a simple polenta dish or get adventurous with one of the many polenta recipes on Kroger.com that put a twist on family favorites.
  1. Try Mushroom Polenta Burgers for a hearty meatless option.
  2. Try Polenta with Seafood and Herbs for a savory rice alternative.
  3. Try Skillet Polenta Pizza for a great game-night meal.
  4. Try Italian Sausage Polenta Lasagna for a twist on your favorite comfort food.
  5. Try Corn Polenta Chowder on those chillier fall days.
  6. Try Corny Polenta Breakfast Pancakes which may become a new school day favorite.
  7. Try Pan-fried Polenta Sticks for an alternative to the classic french fry.
  8. Try Polenta and Sweet Sausage Casserole for an updated dinnertime favorite.
  9. Try Polenta with Broccoli for a light and healthy option.
  10. Try Polenta with Broccolini, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Pine Nuts for a fresh and hearty dinner.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Ani Manukian, RDN, LD

Ani Manukian, RDN, LD

Ani is living her dream as a real food dietitian, helping her patients merge the science of nutrition with the art of creating tasty, balanced meals. She competes in the sport of weightlifting and has personal and professional experience in sports nutrition, flexible dieting, and weight loss.