Garlic Parmesan Polenta

This Garlic Parmesan Polenta was actually going to be part of a separate recipe, until I realized just how versatile it is on its own. Once I realized how many different ways the fried polenta slices could be used, I decided it definitely deserved a post of its own. These last minute photos don’t do it justice, but believe me, it’s soooo good and soooo versatile (and sooo cheap).

Two Garlic Parmesan Polenta slices in a cast iron skillet

What is Polenta?

Polenta is basically just boiled cornmeal. It can be served up as a porridge, cooled and sliced into wedges or batons, and fried until crispy. Polenta is great because it cooks quickly, can be flavored with just about anything, can be cooked to a variety of textures, is safe for all my gluten-free friends, and it’s CHEAP.

What is Fried Polenta Like?

I’m using this Garlic Parmesan Polenta as a bed for my Slow Cooker Italian Chicken and Peppers and I wanted it to have a bit more texture, so I let it cool, sliced it up, then pan fried it to give it a crispy exterior. The brown crispiness that the Parmesan and polenta develop in the skillet is to die for. The inside of the cake stays soft and luscious, while the outside is a bit firm and crispy.

Polenta is also delicious served hot and fresh, when it has a mashed potato-like consistency. You can just spoon it into a bowl and top it with whatever your heart desires (stew, chili, roasted vegetables, a soft boiled egg, sautéed greens? ANYTHING). Polenta might just be your new favorite friend.

How to Serve Garlic Parmesan Polenta?

I used my fried polenta as a “bed” for a saucy cooked mixture of meat and vegetables, but you can pair it with so many other things. You can slice it into thinner strips, fry it up, and dunk it into marinara like fries in ketchup.

Polenta is also delicious served hot and fresh, when it has a mashed potato-like consistency. You can just spoon it into a bowl and top it with whatever your heart desires (stew, chili, roasted vegetables, a soft boiled egg, sautéed greens? ANYTHING). Polenta might just be your new favorite friend.

A slice of Garlic Parmesan Polenta on a plate, a fork cutting off the end

 
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4.84 from 6 votes

Garlic Parmesan Polenta

These fast and easy Garlic Parmesan Polenta slices are the perfect base for any stew, chili, or meal of roasted meat and vegetables. 
Total Cost: $0.93 recipe / $$0.16 serving
Author: Beth - Budget Bytes
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
Servings: 6 slices

Ingredients

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal ($0.21)
  • 3.5 cups water ($0.00)
  • 3/4 tsp salt ($0.05)
  • 2 Tbsp butter ($0.26)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan ($0.35)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
  • 1 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil ($0.04)

Instructions

  • Add the water and salt to a sauce pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Once boiling, add the polenta while continuously whisking to prevent lumps. Turn the heat down to low and let simmer until thickened (this will depend on the type of cornmeal you have--mine only took about two minutes).
  • Once thickened, stir in the butter, grated Parmesan, and garlic powder until smooth. Serve warm, or spread the mixture out into a square or round casserole dish and let cool in the refrigerator, uncovered, until solid.
  • Slice the solid polenta. Add a small amount of canola or vegetable oil to a non-stick skillet and warm over medium heat. Once the oil is hot and glistening, but not smoking, add the polenta slices and cook until golden on each side. Add more oil as needed to fry the remaining slices.

Notes

Only fry as many slices as you plan to eat at the moment. The slices are best when fried just before serving.
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Nutrition

Serving: 1ServingCalories: 165.27kcalCarbohydrates: 21.4gProtein: 2.87gFat: 7.57gSodium: 387.48mgFiber: 1.03g
Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclosure here.

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How to Make Garlic Parmesan Polenta – Step by Step Photos

Water boiling in a sauce pot with a lid

Add 3.5 cups water and 3/4 tsp salt to a sauce pot. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.

Cornmeal being poured into a pot of boiling water

Once boiling, whisk in 1 cup yellow cornmeal. Make sure you whisk as you add the cornmeal to prevent clumping. Because I was busy trying to snap this photo, I didn’t whisk properly and ended up with a few clumps. It’s not pretty, but it was still delicious. :)

Butter and grated Parmesan added to cooked polenta in the sauce pot

Turn the heat down to low and let it simmer until thickened (whisking often). The size of the grind of your cornmeal will determine how fast it cooks, so check the package to see if there are directions for polenta or “cornmeal mush”. Mine cooked in about two minutes. Very fast. Once thick, whisk in 2 Tbsp butter, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, and 1/4 tsp garlic powder.

Polenta spread into a glass pie plate

You can serve the cornmeal hot as is, or if you want to fry it up into solid cakes like I did, spread it out into a square or round casserole dish or pie plate. Let the polenta cool in the refrigerator (uncovered) until solid.

Cooled polenta in the pie plate, sliced into six pieces

Once it’s chilled, the polenta will be a semi-solid cake. Slice it into six pieces (or into rectangles).

Two fried polenta slices in a cast iron skillet

Add a small amount of canola or vegetable oil to a non-stick skillet (teflon or cast iron both work well) and heat until the oil is shimmering, but not smoking. Fry the polenta until golden brown on both sides. Add more oil if needed to fry the remaining slices.

Two fried polenta slices on a paper towel

I like to drain anything that’s fried on a paper towel covered plate. I would suggest only frying the number of slices that you plan to eat at that moment. They’re definitely better when fried fresh rather than fried, cooled, and reheated.

Two slices of Garlic Parmesan Polenta in a cast iron skillet

Nommers! These are also great simply dipped into marinara!