What is polenta and how to make it

There are lots of differing opinions about what polenta actually is, as trends and understanding of food evolves. Polenta is in fact a dish, and it is not a grain or pulse. Polenta can be made from a variety of grains such as semolina wheat. As an example, polenta in certain parts of Italy is made from semolina wheat (so coeliacs beware), which if you didn't do your research and you were a coeliac, could have serious consequences if you ate it.

The most common form of polenta is made from cornmeal (dried ground maize). The coarseness of the flour varies from fine to rough. This flour is used widely in America as maize is a staple crop, so cornbread or polenta bread is a popular product.

You can make your own Polenta (see separate recipe), however this has become less and less popular, as to get the best results it needs continuous stirring, so off the shelf products have been developed to make life easier. This could be where the confusion has arisen about what exactly polenta is.  

Homemade polenta ingredients:

  • 1 lb medium ground cornmeal
  • 4 pints boiling water (have more handy)
  • a heaped teaspoon of salt.


1. Use a wide boiling pot and wooden spoon, add the water and salt, bring to the boil.

2. Add the cornmeal flour very slowly (this prevents cooling of the water, as you want it to remain boiling).

3. Constantly stir to ensure no lumps form. Stick to the same direction.

4. You will notice that the mixture begins to thicken. Generally, after 30 mins or so it will start to look like mashed potato. If it gets too dry add a little more boiling water from the kettle.

5. When the mixture comes away from the side of the pot easily, that is an indicator that it is done.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Faversham ME13 & Folkestone CT19
Written by Victoria Shorland, Nutritionist, Allergy Testing, Phlebotomist, Faversham, Kent
Faversham ME13 & Folkestone CT19

Victoria runs her clinic from Faversham and Hythe Kent, and also works with OneHealth and Spire Hospitals.
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