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!
Why are polenta + slow cooker = 💕?
While I often make it the traditional way (on the stove top), I do think that using a crockpot is an excellent way to go. They really are the perfect match!
- No Stirring. Almost! I do like to give it a stir or two just to check on things. But certainly no standing over a hot burner.
- Gentle Heat. No worries about burning the bottom because your heat was a little too high.
- No Lumps. Okay, I make lump free stovetop polenta too, but this method does make it especially smooth!
- Hard to Overcook. You can, but you have to work at it!
- Warm Setting. And then, once it’s tender and ready to go, you just put it on warm to keep it happy and finish up dinner while it sits there, patiently waiting to be scooped out into your bowl and topped with whatever yumminess you’ve made to go with it.
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.
What to Serve Alongside
Stews, roasted meats, roasted vegetables, and really any meal you make mashed potatoes would be perfect as well. Here are a few ideas!
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.
You can connect with me by subscribing to my emails (see the form in the sidebar or below the recipe card), liking my FACEBOOK page, or by following me on PINTEREST.
– 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.
This in a crock pot works like a dream! Why on earth is this not the go-to method of making polenta?
I’ve not tried adding the cream and parmesean (just doing plain Jane polenta here), and the cook time for my slow cooker seems just right at 2.5hrs on low. Thanks again for sharing!
Is this a small cooker? I have one that is 3.5 quart. Seems to me I’d be able to make your polenta in my cooker.
I think it would work. This recipe is a bit over a quart in volume and should be fine in your slow cooker.
Yes, I used a small slow cooker and there was plenty of room to fit all the ingredients.
Great! Mine’s mid-sized so I wasn’t completely sure. Thanks for the info.
Janis Holmes says
You’re welcome. I think you’ll really enjoy this recipe Emilia.
Janis Holmes says
I made this to serve with braised beef short ribs and it was perfect. I used Bob’s Red Mill corn grits/polenta, salt, and low sodium chicken broth. I cooked it on low for two hours, stirred it, and continued to cook it on low for another two hours. I then stirred in a combination of whole milk and heavy cream, but didn’t turn the cooker to “high” because my company was running late and didn’t want it to overcook. After another hour, I added a couple of tablespoons of unsalted butter, the shredded parmesan, and a little more salt. I then turned the slow cooker to “warm.” When my company still hadn’t arrived after another hour, I added some more whole milk and left the cooker on “warm.” It remained very creamy and everyone loved it. In fact, my guests took home all of the leftover polenta to have the next day. Great recipe!!
adina gabor-gagea says
Try it with feta cheese and crisp-fried bacon or sausage. To die for (literally, from the cholesterol), but the ultimate comfort food. My low fat version is medium-soft polenta, feta cheese, fat free cottage cheese, fake bacon bits, maybe some fat free greek yogurt, and after I eat most of it, I will add a splash of fat free butter milk on top to finish the rest of the bowl. I could eat that every day and not get tired of it.
Feta and bacon sounds good to me! 😉 But not for everyday I agree.
Three hours is more than enough for this recipe. It was actually creamy and done at the two hour mark. Glad to have a basic recipe to fiddle with so I will no longer have hot polenta-lava popping all over my arms while stirring!
Thanks for the info! It turns out that there is a lot of variation in how hot slow cookers get and polenta is one of those recipes where you notice (more than chili or short ribs). And I do love the hands off nature of the recipe too. No spattered arms or cook tops. 🙂
Helen Burton says
How many servings does this polenta recipe make? We love polenta and I usually use one cup of corn grits for two of us and then have some leftover. I wonder if this were doubled would it be too much for my slow cooker?
Hi! Your comment gave me pause for a moment since I just posted a recipe for stove top polenta here last week and I knew I had added the servings. 🙂 One cup of cornmeal is generally 4 servings, though I know well it can be closer to three sometimes. As for whether a double recipe will fit, fill your slow cooker with 8 cups of water. If that fits comfortably (and doesn’t go over the fill line), you should be good. If it doesn’t, check out my stove top version and just switch to a large pot.