Instant Pot Polenta

Learn how to make Instant Pot Polenta! Save time and no need for constant stirring to make this Creamy Cheesy Polenta in Instant Pot. Comforting, thick, soft polenta makes a deliciously satisfying and versatile side dish.

polenta instant pot

What is Polenta

Polenta is a traditional Italian side dish. It’s made by slow-cooking grounded dried yellow corn (aka cornmeal) in liquid. It has a distinct bright yellow color with a porridge-like texture.

It’s humble, simple yet versatile, filling, and satisfying to eat.

The traditional way of making polenta is easy yet it’s a labor of love. It requires constant stirring and supervision, to ensure it comes out evenly gelatinize. No sticking and not lumpy.

Manufacturers also sell pre-processed instant polenta or quick-cooking polenta that cooks in minutes. But, they’ll differ in flavor & texture.

polenta recipe

Polenta Flavors & Textures

  • Grind Types: Coarse gritty grinds yield a firm coarse polenta, while finer grinds yield a creamy soft polenta. The smaller the grain, the quicker it cooks.
  • Freshly Cooked Polenta Texture: Warm, soft, creamy, thick, evenly cooked (not lumpy). The texture is like porridge.
  • Chilled Polenta Texture: It’ll solidify until it’s firm enough to slice. Then, you can bake, pan-fry, deep-fry, or grill the polenta.
  • Flavors: It has a very mild nutty, sweet, neutral flavor. It doesn’t have any distinct taste or flavor. This is why it’s often cooked with butter, cheese, gravy, cream, chicken stock, or vegetable stock.

Polenta vs Grits

Polenta is a traditional northern Italian comfort food. While grits are homey Southern comfort food in America. Yet, there are many similarities between the two.

Polenta is sometimes known as “Yellow grits” or “Italian grits” because polenta is made from yellow corn. While grits are usually made from white corn (or hominy).

Color: Polenta has a distinct bright yellow color, while grits are often white in color.

shrimp and grits
Shrimp and Bacon Grits from our New York trip

*Side Note: It might be a bit hard to see the creamy grits due to the restaurant’s dim lighting. But we tried our best to quickly capture the dishes without interfering with other diners. 🙂

How to Make Polenta

Traditional Method: You’ll need to consistently whisk the polenta in liquid in simmering heat. Then, whisk until it thickens to a creamy texture (no lumps) with tender grain.

Instant Pot Method: You pressure cook the polenta until tender. Then, simply whisk in the butter and cheese at the end.

Ease Level – Super Easy: You can make polenta in Instant Pot with minimal preparation, few ingredients, basic cooking skills, and simple equipment.

Cooking Time: From start to finish, you can make this polenta in Instant Pot in 40 minutes. Mostly hands-off time while you let the Instant Pot do the work!

Equipment: With this Instant Pot Polenta Recipe, you’ll need an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. Also, it’ll be great to use a stainless steel inner pot for the Pot in Pot cooking method.

What do you need to cook Polenta?

Here are the ingredients for making Polenta in Instant Pot:

polenta ingredients

Polenta: We used coarsely ground Bob’s Red Mill Organic Corn Grits to develop & experiment with this polenta recipe.

*Note: If you prefer fine-grained polenta for soft fluffy polenta, you can use this Italian Moretti Fioretto Polenta.

Bob's Red Mill Corn Grits

Liquid: You can choose between using water or unsalted chicken stock for this polenta recipe. Alternatively, you can use half water and half unsalted chicken stock.

Corn Grits to Liquid Ratio: We recommend a minimum of 4:1 liquid to corn grits ratio. Depending on how you like your polenta, you can choose to add another ½ cup of liquid.

parmesan cheese

Parmesan Cheese: This is an optional ingredient for this polenta recipe. For best results, be sure to use freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Tools you need for Creamy Polenta Recipe

Step-by-Step Guide: Instant Pot Polenta

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Method One: Directly Cook Polenta in Instant Pot

*Pro Tip: If your Instant Pot is sensitive to the “Burn” Error, it’s better to use our “Method 2: Pot-in-Pot Cooking Method” instead.

First, place all the ingredients in Instant Pot in the following order. 

Add 1 tsp (7g) fine salt and 4 cups (1L) to 4½ cups (1.125L) water or unsalted chicken stock to the Instant Pot.

salt water

Then, add 1 cup (195g) coarsely ground polenta in Instant Pot. 

add polenta

With Venting Knob in Venting Position, close the lid, then turn Venting Knob to Sealing Position.

  • Pressure Cooking Method: Pressure Cook at High Pressure for 10 minutes, then Natural Release for 15 minutes.

instant pot high pressure 10 minutes

After 15 minutes, release the remaining pressure by turning the Venting Knob to Venting position.

Then, remove the lid carefully.

Method Two: Pot in Pot Polenta

*Pro Tip: If your Instant Pot is sensitive to the “Burn” Error or you prefer a slightly easier cleanup, the 3-Quart Instant Pot Stainless Steel Inner Pot is perfect for this Pot in Pot method. Yes! The 3-Quart Inner Pot will work in your 6 Quart to 10 Quart Instant Pots as a pot in pot container.

3 quart inner pot

Why Use this Pot-in-Pot Method? Virtually nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pot with this cooking method.

First, place all the ingredients in the smaller stainless steel pot or 3-quart Inner Pot in the following order. 

Add 1 tsp (7g) fine salt and 1 cup (195g) coarsely ground polenta in the smaller inner pot.

pot in pot polenta

Then, add 4 cups (1L) to 4½ cups (1.125L) water or unsalted chicken stock to the smaller inner pot.

Add 2 cups (500ml) water, then layer a low-profile trivet in the larger Instant Pot inner pot. 

pot in pot method

Then, place the smaller 3-quart inner pot on the trivet.

*Pro Tip: If you don’t have a low-profile trivet, you can place the smaller 3-quart inner pot directly in the water.

With Venting Knob in Venting Position, close the lid, then turn Venting Knob to Sealing Position.

  • Pressure Cooking Method: Pressure Cook at High Pressure for 15 minutes, then Natural Release for 15 minutes.

instant pot high pressure 15 minutes

After 15 minutes, release the remaining pressure by turning the Venting Knob to Venting position.

Then, remove the lid carefully.

Add Butter in Polenta

how to make polenta

*Note: It’s normal for the polenta to look a bit watery at first.

Add 2.5 tbsp (36g) unsalted butter in polenta, then mix polenta with a whisk until your desired consistency. 

Optionally, mix in ½ cup to 1 cup (32g – 64g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

polenta in instant pot

Season & Serve Instant Pot Polenta

Taste and season creamy polenta with more salt if necessary. For reference, we added 1 to 2 small pinches of salt at the end. 

For Pot in Pot Method: The instructions will be the same. Here’s a photo using the pot in pot method.

pot in pot polenta instant pot

instant pot pot in pot polenta

Finally, serve this soft & creamy polenta immediately with your favorite main dishes, sauces, or veggies. Check out the tasty ideas below.

*Note: Polenta will thicken as you let it sit, so be sure to serve it right away. 

creamy polenta

What can you serve with Polenta?

Since polenta doesn’t have a strong flavor, it’s a very versatile side dish to serve with a wide variety of dishes.

For example, polenta goes great with flavorful saucy main dishes, a variety of sauces, and gravy. You can also serve polenta where you might normally serve with potatoes, rice, or pasta. It can also replace the bread that goes with your meal.

You can top polenta with your favorite baked potato toppings. Enjoy it like a hot breakfast porridge, and add toppings like nuts, seeds, dried fruits, fresh fruit. You can also eat it with butter and cheese. 

Here are some tasty main dishes you can serve with polenta:

meatballs polenta

Enjoy your Creamy Cheesy Instant Pot Polenta!

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Instant Pot Polenta

Learn how to make Instant Pot Polenta! Save time and no need for constant stirring to make this Creamy Cheesy Polenta in Instant Pot. Comforting, thick, soft polenta makes a deliciously satisfying and versatile side dish.

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Ingredients

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Instructions 

  • Method One – Directly Cook Polenta in Instant Pot: Add ingredients in Instant Pot in the following order. Add 1 tsp (7g) fine salt, 4 cups (1L) to 4½ cups (1.125L) water or unsalted chicken stock in Instant Pot. Add in 1 cup (195g) coarsely ground polenta. With Venting Knob in Venting Position, close the lid, then turn Venting Knob to Sealing Position. Pressure Cook at High Pressure for 10 minutes, then Natural Release for 15 minutes. Remove the lid carefully.*Pro Tip: If your Instant Pot is sensitive to the “Burn” Error, Method 2 is more preferable. You don’t have to worry about anything sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  • Method Two – Pot in Pot Polenta: Add ingredients to your smaller stainless steel pot in the following order. Add in 1 tsp (7g) fine salt, 1 cup (195g) coarsely ground polenta. Add in 4 cups (1L) to 4½ cups (1.125L) water or unsalted chicken stock. Add 2 cups (500ml) water, layer a low-profile trivet in the larger Instant Pot inner pot. Place the smaller pot on the trivet. *Pro Tip: If you don’t have a low-profile trivet, place the smaller pot directly in the water. With Venting Knob in Venting Position, close the lid, then turn Venting Knob to Sealing Position. Pressure Cook at High Pressure for 15 minutes, then Natural Release for 15 minutes. Remove the lid carefully.
  • Add Butter & Season: The polenta will look a bit watery at first. Add in 2.5 tbsp (36g) unsalted butter, then mix until desired consistency with a whisk. Optionally, mix in ½ cup to 1 cup (32g – 64g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Season & Serve: Taste and season polenta with more salt if necessary. For reference, we added 1 to 2 small pinches of salt. Serve this soft & creamy polenta immediately with your favorite main dishes, sauces, or veggies.

Notes

Choosing Polenta:Coarse gritty grinds will yield a firm coarse polenta, while finer grinds will yield a creamy soft polenta. Be sure to use the right grinds depending on your preferred texture. Cooking Liquid: For the cooking liquid, you can use water or unsalted chicken stock. Or you can use a mixture of water combined with unsalted chicken stock.
3-Quart Instant Pot Inner Pot: If your Instant Pot is sensitive to the “Burn” Error or you prefer a slightly easier cleanup, use the 3-Quart Instant Pot Stainless Steel Inner Pot for Method 2: Pot in Pot Polenta method. The 3-Quart Inner Pot will work as a pot-in-pot container in your 6-Quart to 10-Quart Instant Pots.
Serve Immediately: Polenta will thicken as you let it sit, so make sure to serve immediately.
*Rate Recipe: If you’ve tried the recipe, don’t forget to Rate the Recipe in the Comments Section. Thank you!

Nutrition

Calories: 165kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 13mg | Sodium: 461mg | Potassium: 46mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 224IU | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 1mg

Other Tasty Instant Pot Side Dishes

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