Garlic Parmesan Polenta

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

It’s no secret that I’m not a low-carb person. I find carbs useful for bulking up recipes while keeping the cost low, but I do try to keep them in check or in balance with my protein and vegetable content. For that reason, I’m always looking for new ways to use grains creatively and add them to my meals. Polenta is great because it cooks quickly, takes on just about any flavor, can be cooked to a variety of textures, is safe for all my gluten-free friends, and it’s CHEAP.

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. I just love the brown crispiness that the Parmesan and polenta develop in the skillet. The inside of the cake stays soft and luscious, while the outside is a bit firm and crispy. If you don’t want to do the pan fry step, the polenta is just as 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.

Garlic Parmesan Polenta -

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4.84 from 6 votes

Garlic Parmesan Polenta

These fast and easy Garlic Parmesan Polenta slices are the perfect snack or bed for any stew, chili, or 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


  • 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)


  • 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.


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

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclosure here.
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Garlic Parmesan Polenta

Garlic Parmesan Polenta -

Step by Step Photos

Boil Water

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

Whisk in Cornmeal

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. :)

Whisk in Butter Parmesan Garlic

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.

Let Cool

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.

Slice Polenta

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

Fry Polenta

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.

Drain Polenta

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.

Garlic Parmesan Polenta -

Nommers! These are also great simply dipped into marinara!