Side dishes don’t get easier than this Instant Pot Polenta! This basic polenta recipe takes just 3 ingredients, and it can be customized with butter, cheese, herbs and spices. It’s naturally gluten-free and it’s perfect served with marinara sauce, meatballs, roasted vegetables and more!

Instant Pot polenta in a bowl with parmesan

When I started cooking school back in the fall of 2013, I had extensive experience cooking and baking with a wide variety of foods. In spite of my experience, I was immediately humbled by how much I had to learn.

I was exposed to new cooking techniques and tried many foods for the first time during that program. Learning how to pressure cook food opened a whole new world to me. I marveled at how quickly I could get short ribs and pulled pork on the table with my old pressure cooker, and the Instant Pot has made it even easier.

I tried polenta for the first time in school and fell for it at after the first bite. We made it the authentic Italian way on the stove top over a double boiler, and it took hours to prepare.

An Italian chef demonstrated how to make authentic polenta, which included a lot of whisking. He also claimed that once polenta had finished cooking that it should continue to cook (or steam) gently in a double boiler to allow the polenta to become even more tender.

I’ve tried this method, and it works well, but I don’t always have the luxury of cooking my polenta for hours.

This Instant Pot Polenta combines my love of pressure cooking and polenta. The Instant Pot is my favorite cooking method for foods that require a lot of stirring on the stove top like risotto and polenta.

It’s a foolproof, fuss-free way to prepare two of my favorite side dishes, and I’ll never make them any other way again. 🙂

Polenta in Instant Pot

Why you’ll love this recipe:

  • Instant Pot polenta is soft and creamy, and comes out perfectly every time.
  • It’s the easiest way to prepare it — simply whisk everything together briefly and cook!
  • This is a basic polenta recipe that takes just 3 ingredients, and it can be customized with your favorite liquid, butter, cheese, herbs and spices.
  • It’s a naturally gluten-free and vegan side dish that’s extremely versatile.

Recipe ingredients

This polenta recipe is very basic, but it can be changed up a variety of ways depending on how you plan to serve it.

Uncooked polenta in a bowl next to Instant Pot

Ingredient notes

  • Polenta. Basically, polenta is ground cornmeal, and the package may not always contain the word “polenta”. It may be also be labelled as corn grits, or simply cornmeal. There are many varieties, which includes coarse ground, fine ground and instant polenta. Using coarse ground results in a thicker polenta, and fine ground results in a much creamier texture. You may use either coarse or fine ground polenta, but do not use instant as it won’t work in this recipe.
  • Water. For this basic recipe, I chose to use water. It may be substituted with vegetable or chicken stock for added flavor, or substitute half of the liquid with milk for a richer polenta.
  • Salt. I added 1 teaspoon of kosher salt to this recipe which seasoned it perfectly. If you’re using regular table salt, decrease the amount to 1/2 teaspoon and add more as necessary.
  • Customizations. If you’d like to add herbs or spices, whisk them into the pot before cooking. After cooking, you may stir in a few tablespoons of butter, 1/4 – 1/2 cup of your favorite cheese, chopped fresh herbs and salt and pepper, to taste.

How to make polenta

Cooking polenta on the stove top requires a lot of whisking and babysitting, but making it in the Instant Pot eliminates all that.

This is the hands-off approach that results in perfect polenta every single time!

Full recipe instructions are in the recipe card below.

How to make polenta in Instant Pot
  1. Whisk the water, polenta and salt in the Instant Pot.
  2. Cook at High Pressure for 10 minutes, then allow the pressure to naturally release for 15 minutes before quick releasing the pressure.
Instant pot polenta in the Instant Pot

Recipe FAQs

What is polenta?

Polenta is a cornmeal porridge that originated in Italy. It’s soft and creamy right after cooking, and makes a great base for marinara, meatballs and roasted vegetables. Once it’s cooled, it can be spread into an even layer and cut into squares, rounds or rectangles, then fried or grilled until crispy and warmed through.

What does polenta taste like?

Polenta is made from cornmeal, therefore it tastes like corn. It has all the flavor of cornbread with a very different texture.

What’s the difference between grits and polenta?

Grits and polenta are both made from corn, but the difference is that grits are made from white corn (hominy), while polenta is made from yellow corn.

Is polenta gluten-free?

Yes, polenta is gluten-free. It’s made from corn, which is naturally gluten-free.

What to serve with polenta

This Instant Pot polenta recipe is extremely versatile and may be served a number of ways.

Recipe tips

  • Pro tip:  Coarsely ground polenta will yield a firmer, more coarse texture, while fine ground polenta will result in a creamier texture.
  • Polenta thickens very quickly, so serve immediately for best results.
  • This polenta recipe may be customized a number of ways.  Whisk in a teaspoon of your favorite dried herbs or spices before cooking, or stir in chopped fresh herbs after cooking.  For extra creamy polenta, stir in 2 tablespoons of softened butter and/or 1/4-1/2 cup grated parmesan after cooking. For a rich polenta, substitute half of the water with milk.
  • Leftovers may be reheated (add water if desired to thin if necessary).  You may also spread leftovers into a 1″ thick layer, chill until solidified, then cut into squares, rounds or rectangles and fry or grill until crispy and warmed through.
Instant pot polenta topped with meatballs

More side dish recipes you’ll love:

Did you try this recipe?

If so, be sure to leave a comment and star rating below, and don’t forget to tag @flavorthemoments on Facebook and Instagram!

Polenta in Instant Pot

Instant Pot Polenta

Instant Pot Polenta is soft, creamy and perfect every time! It's an easy gluten-free side dish that can be easily customized with your favorite cheese, butter or herbs!
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Ingredients

  • 4 cups water or sub with broth for added flavor
  • 1 cup polenta also known as corn grits; do not use instant polenta
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon regular salt

Instructions 

  • Place the water in the Instant Pot, then add the polenta and salt and whisk to combine.
  • Secure the lid on the Instant Pot and set the sealing valve to the sealed position. Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes, then allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes. From there, quick release the pressure and remove the lid. Note: It will take about 10 minutes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure and begin the cooking process.
  • Whisk or stir the polenta and serve immediately!

Notes

  • Pro tip:  Coarsely ground polenta will yield a firmer, more coarse texture, while fine ground polenta will result in a creamier texture.
  • Polenta thickens very quickly, so serve immediately for best results.
  • This polenta recipe may be customized a number of ways.  Whisk in a teaspoon of your favorite dried herbs or spices before cooking, or stir in chopped fresh herbs after cooking.  For extra creamy polenta, stir in 2 tablespoons of softened butter and/or 1/4-1/2 cup grated parmesan after cooking. For a rich polenta, substitute half of the water with milk.
  • Leftovers may be reheated (add water if desired to thin if necessary).  You may also spread leftovers into a 1″ thick layer, chill until solidified, then cut into squares, rounds or rectangles and fry or grill until crispy and warmed through.

Nutrition

Calories: 147kcal, Carbohydrates: 32g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 594mg, Potassium: 55mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 85IU, Calcium: 8mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.

Did you try this recipe?Be sure to tag @flavorthemoments with the hashtag #flavorthemoments on Instagram so I can see what you made!

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