Garlic Parmesan Polenta

$0.93 recipe / $0.16 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.84 from 6 votes
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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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Garlic Parmesan Polenta

4.84 from 6 votes
These fast and easy Garlic Parmesan Polenta slices are the perfect base for any stew, chili, or meal of roasted meat and vegetables. 
Servings 6 slices
Prep 5 minutes
Cook 25 minutes
Total 30 minutes


  • 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.

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


Serving: 1ServingCalories: 165.27kcalCarbohydrates: 21.4gProtein: 2.87gFat: 7.57gSodium: 387.48mgFiber: 1.03g
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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!

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  1. My polenta stuck to the pan and the crispy outside pulled off. Any suggestions?

    And it looks like there’s a paragraph that repeats in the recipe. 

  2. Hi Budget Bytes team,
    there used to be a recipe for polenta bowls on here, but now it seems to have disappeared? It was basically polenta topped with sauteed mushrooms, spinach and crumbled feta. It was my go-to recipe to make polenta, so it’d be nice to have a copy of the recipe if you still have it somewhere :)

  3. In a couple of days I want to make this as a side with lamb chops for a crowd of 40. I thought I would make the polenta a head of time and then cut and brown for the meal. instead of pan frying, which would be very time consuming for so many, do you think I could put them on a sheet pan in the oven? or in the broiler?

    1. The sheet pan might work if oiled, but you’d have to flip it to get crispy on both sides (the side touching the pan will get the nice golden crispy texture). I think the broiler would give it a different texture.

  4. Your dish looks so amazing. I love the color of it so much. So how long will it last in the refrigerator?

  5. I can’t eat cheese but would it still taste good without Parmesan? Even if I adjust the salt ratio?

    1. I think that would just be a matter of personal taste. :) I think the Parmesan adds a lot to the recipe.

  6. I wish I could see the nutritional information. It makes me decide to try it or not.

    1. type the ingredients into google.
      1 cup of cornmeal = 420 calories. 1 tablespoon of butter = 100, etc. add the total, divide by 6 (if doing six slices in a pie container as beth did.) done. this is an old comment so this is more for future visitors, this is a rudimentary skill to learn. if you want full nutrition like carbs and protein, myfitnesspal is the most accurate in my opinion.

  7. I made this on Monday and fell in love with how easy it was to make and how versatile it is. After eating it baked for breakfast and again with marinara sauce for lunch, I made another batch last night plain so that I could play it savory AND sweet. I added slightly more salt and one more tablespoon of butter to make up for the lost cheese and garlic powder… and it’s still great. What a great idea. Thanks for posting this.

  8. This polenta recipe is simple to make and so delicious and rich! Tastes just like the polenta at my favorite restaurant.

  9. This looks so good! Do you think it would be good with shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese instead of the parmesan?

    1. Cheddar would be awesome, but I don’t think mozzarella will melt in well. It tends to be stringy when melted.

  10. this is a good platform for a great Gulf of Mexico breakfast: shrimp and grits… i make my yellow grits cooled and cut into rectangular cakes, then mince garlic and onion, add diced peppered bacon and peppers to a saute, add big honking Key West pink shrimp and pour over the polenta squares… very nice with a chelada or bloody mary!

  11. Oh, I’m dying to try this! Though, I’m curious how you think it would fare less the cheese. My lactose allergy isn’t super thrilled about that aspect.

    1. Well, the Parmesan does add quite a bit of flavor and that umami richness, but plain garlic flavored polenta wouldn’t probably be pretty tasty too. You might need a touch more salt to make up for the salt that is in the Parmesan.

  12. so i just made this last night and let it set up, and when i tried to slice it and pan fry a piece this morning, it turned back into mush :( it didnt come out in one clean slice, either, it was still super loose! my bag had no cooking instructions for polenta, so i cooked it until it thickened, but after about 5 or 6 minutes it wasnt getting any thicker, so i figured it must be done. its also a much paler yellow than yours. anyone know where i went wrong? or how to fix this and make it solid? neither me or my boyfriend like the porrigey consistency of it right now, but i dont want to waste it. the only thing i did differently was add some leftover shredded cheese from our fridge (maybe half a cup? not a ton) because we needed to use it up and because i wanted more cheesy-ness to the polenta cakes. if i re heat it and cook it longer will it tighten up? should i re heat it and add more cornmeal? maybe i can bake it for a while?

    1. Hmm, it sounds like your cornmeal requires less liquid than mine, so it stayed loose. I wouldn’t suggest cooking it on the stove again because of the cheese (it will probably scorch), so the oven might be your best bet. Hopefully that will help some of the moisture evaporate.

      1. i tried cooking it on the stove for the last 15 or 20 minutes, and its actually gotten thinner, not thicker O_O the cheese thankfully hasnt scorched, but im thinking it wont be getting thick any time soon. i might try the oven if cooling it down this time still doesnt work, but i think its probably a lost cause. what a shame! the flavor is good, i just cant get behind the texture of it when loose.