Is your polenta lumpy? Or maybe it’s hot to stand there stirring and stirring? Then I have the fix for you! My slow cooker polenta is lump-free, just about hands off, won’t heat up your kitchen, and tastes like you slaved over the stove.
Ready for some delicious Italian comfort food? I hope you are, because I know I am! 🙂
Polenta is both the perfect base for a cozy Italian meal and excellent comfort food just by itself. This particular batch I have in the photos here we had with roasted broccoli, extra parmesan, and some white beans. Simple and perfect!
What do you need?
- Polenta. You will want to use a medium grind or coarse grind cornmeal. It is often labeled polenta or corn grits. (Don’t use fine grind cornmeal or it can be gummy.)
- Water/Stock. I usually use water in this recipe, but low sodium chicken or vegetable stock is a nice change.
- Salt. Add less if you use stock.
- Milk/Cream. Adding more liquid at the end of cooking makes polenta softer and perfect as base for a meal.
- Cheese. Definitely parmesan. If you want a cheesy version, add another cup of shredded cheese of your choice.
How to make this
To make slow cooker polenta add coarse-ground cornmeal and water or stock to a crockpot along with some salt. Stir to combine then close the lid and set for 3 hours. Add milk or cream and set for another 30 minutes. Add cheese and eat.
This recipe is as easy as it gets! Here’s the info:
- Pour the cornmeal and some water or stock into the cooker.
- Add some salt if needed. (maybe not with stock, but definitely with water!)
- Stir everything together a few times until it’s all nice and smooth.
- Then put it on low for 3-4 hours.**
- Maybe stir once or twice while it’s cooking just to make sure it cooks evenly, but sometimes I forget and it’s still fine!
- Once your polenta is cooked through, then add in some milk or half and half and stir that in.
- Switch over to high for 30 minutes, or until the milk is absorbed
- Add cheese and serve!
**This timing is for a modern, hotter running, well sealed slow cooker. If you have an older model or one with a loose seal, your time is likely to be longer. Those models can take as long as 7-8 hours. Please keep this in mind the first time you make the recipe!
What is the best cornmeal to use?
Cornmeal comes in yellow or white varieties and fine, medium, and coarse grinds. What you want for polenta is a medium to coarse grind yellow cornmeal since fine grind can be gummy or pasty. Preferably one which is labeled ‘for polenta.’
There are many brands of cornmeal you can use, but I recommend (here in the US) Bob’s Red Mill. It is widely available and this the cornmeal I use here at home.
Can you fry it?
This recipe makes a very soft and creamy polenta and is not the right consistency for frying. However, if you skip adding the milk at the end of the recipe, it will chill up firm and ready for slicing. Just note that it’s best to coat the slices in flour or cornstarch before frying.
If you try my recipe for Slow Cooker Polenta, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
– Happy Cooking, Annemarie
Soft and Creamy Slow Cooker Polenta
- 1 cup coarse cornmeal
- 3 cups low sodium stock, vegetable or chicken, or salted water
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup half and half, or whole milk
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
- Stir together the cornmeal, water (or stock), and salt in the pot of a slow cooker. (Reduce or omit the salt if you are using stock.)
- Close the lid and set it for 3-4 hours on low. You can stir once or twice if you wish.
- Add the half and half or milk, stir and give it another 30 minutes on high.
- Stir in the parmesan until it all melts. Switch the cooker to warm and let it sit while you finish making the rest of dinner.
- Optional: You can top the polenta with more parmesan, butter or olive oil, and/or fresh herbs of your choice.
- Cornmeal: I use Bob's Red Mill Polenta/Grits.
- Timing: The exact time will depend on how hot your cooker is on low and can range from 3-7 hours. I would suggest trying out the recipe with your set up and then noting the exact time you need. My slow cooker is fairly new with an excellent seal so it runs hotter and can finish the polenta in 3 hours on low. For a cooler ones it may take 6-7 hours.
- Hold Time: The polenta can sit for about an hour on warm without any problems. If you are going to let it sit longer, it may taste a bit overdone and you will want to check to see if needs some more liquid.
- Sealing a slow cooker: If you need to improve the seal on your cooker, use foil around the lid.
- Cheese: You can add up to 1 cup of shredded cheese of your choice to the recipe in addition (or in place of the parmesan). Cheeses such as fontina, havarti, cheddar, mozzarella, or brie are all great in the recipe.
First published December 2015. Rewritten, expanded, and rephotographed.