Cornmeal, Polenta & Grits

While you can find pre-cooked polenta in the grocery store, cooking cornmeal or polenta from scratch is incredibly easy.

You can find ground cornmeal in most grocery stores. It comes in coarse, medium or fine varieties, and it really doesn’t matter which you choose. Coarse cornmeal will have a more crunchy cornbread-like consistency, whereas fine cornmeal is smooth and creamy.

Here’s how to cook cornmeal, along with three recipes that feature this delicious grain.

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Simple Cooked Cornmeal

(Cook Time: 20 minutes)

This simple recipe for cooked cornmeal can be flavoured in all sorts of different ways. Replace the water with broth to add richness. Add diced onions or garlic during the cooking. Or flavour it after cooking with fresh herbs and grated cheese.

1 cup cornmeal

4 cups water

3 Tbsp butter

3⁄4 tsp salt (to taste)

1. Mix the cornmeal, water, butter and salt in a medium-sized saucepan.

2. Bring to a boil, and simmer until the cornmeal has thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir a few times during the cooking process to prevent the cornmeal from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

3. Serve immediately or use it in one of the recipes below.

Polenta Pizza

(Prep Time: 15 minutes; Bake Time: 5 minutes)

Polenta makes a super simple gluten-free pizza base. While it isn’t as solid as a traditional pizza, the rich delicious flavour will certainly make up for it. I recommend making individual pizzas that can be eaten with a knife and fork.

1 batch of cooked cornmeal (fine ground is best)

1⁄2 cup of grated cheese

A selection of your favourite pizza toppings

1. Spread the cooked cornmeal on two baking sheets, making several small pizza crusts about 1 cm thick. I recommend cooking the cornmeal ahead of time, if possible, then leaving the pizza crusts to cool and firm up. However, if you’re short on time, then you can cook the pizzas right away, they just won’t be as firm.

2. Prepare your pizza toppings. I like simple topping combinations like: tomatoes and onion, or sauteed mushrooms and pesto.

3. Broil the polenta pizzas in the oven until the cheese is melted (about 5 minutes). Serve immediately with a side salad.

Buttermilk Cornbread Muffins

(Prep Time: 10 minutes; Bake Time: 20 minutes)

These cornbread muffins are delicious served next to a bowl of chili or as a healthy snack. Cornbread tends to get dry as it ages, so I’ve included a few recommended mix-ins that will keep these muffins fresh and flavourful.


3⁄4 cup cornmeal

2 cups buttermilk

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp salt


1⁄2 cup of grated cheese.

2 Tbsp of finely diced sun dried tomato

1⁄4 cup of diced spring onion

1⁄4 cup of bacon bits

1 Tbsp of pickled jalapeno peppers, diced

1⁄4 cup of fresh sweet corn kernels

1. Preheat the oven to 450˚F. Line a muffin tin with liners.

2. Mix all of the cornbread ingredients together in a large bowl.

3. Stir in whatever mix-ins you would like to add. Don’t feel limited to using just a single mix-in, they all work well together.

4. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

5. Bake until cooked through and starting to brown on the edges, about 15 to 20 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Tamale Pie

(Prep Time: 15 minutes; Bake Time: 30 minutes)

Vegetable Layer

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

1 small onion

1 green pepper

1 cup of mushrooms

2 tsp chili powder (or smokey paprika for a less-spicy option)

1 tsp ground cumin

1⁄2 tsp salt, to taste

Remaining Layers

1 batch of cooked cornmeal

2 cans of refried beans

1⁄2 cup of grated cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400˚C.

2. Start by preparing the cornmeal. It can cook while you make the vegetables.

3. Finely chop the onions, pepper and mushrooms. Dice the garlic.

4. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the onions and sauté for 2 minutes, then add the rest of the vegetables and spices. Sauté until well cooked, about 5 to 7 minutes.

5. Spread the refried beans out in the bottom of a baking pan. This recipe makes about 8 cups, so either a 9” square pan or a 10” pie plate.

6. Spread the cooked vegetables over top of the refried beans, then pour the freshly cooked cornmeal over top.

7. Sprinkle on the grated cheese.

8. Bake, uncovered for 30 minutes, or until the beans are bubbling and the polenta has started to brown.

9. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Emillie Parrish
Emillie Parrish
Emillie Parrish loves having adventures with her two busy children. She lives in Victoria and is the author of the fermentation-based blog